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Monthly Archives: August 2017

Autism: People Watching

Last night my husband took me into town for a free music concert which happens every Wednesday throughout the summer. It was unexpected, as it was only the second time we went down this year (the first time was while my mom was visiting, and wanted to go before she left.)

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Since I wasn’t expecting it, I had prepared a large meal for my husband and son that night, and was holding off on my shower until just before bedtime as usual (when I am going out, I will have it in the afternoon.) As a result, I had 45 minutes after supper to have my shower and get all of the dishes done. For a while there, I was quite overwhelmed.

I did end up getting all of this done, and was only about 5 minutes later than I had hoped when I was ready to leave – but I also had a large wet spot on the clean shirt I had just put on, from doing the dishes. I can’t seem to wash dishes without some of the water getting on me. At least this was clean water – but it still made me quite self-conscious, and I didn’t really have time to pick out a new shirt.

Anyway the weather is still very hot and dry, and my shirt was dry by the time we got down there.

The band was… well, my husband described them as bluegrass. The music itself was fine, but I really didn’t like the lyrics. My husband thought they were ‘fun.’

There were a lot of people there, and I very much struggle in crowds. We did sit near the back, on a short ledge, with a garden behind us. We sat beside someone I went to school with for my building trades program at college a few years back. I didn’t talk much to her – I am not good with people – but I did enjoy visiting with her dog!

Most of my time there, at the music concert, was spent in ‘people watching.’

People really confuse me. This has been true my entire life – and I have spent just about my entire life, as I was last night, on the outside observing.

There were children dancing, and some adults too. Some people sat in place, tapping their feet to the music. Others were talking, visiting, hugging, laughing.

Some parents were playing with, laughing at, or dancing with their children.

People were… living.

Fully present in the moment, and (maybe it just appears that way to me, but) not even self-conscious about what they were doing, or how they were interacting, or how they were coming across to others, or…

The thing is, no matter how hard I try, I could never come across as being spontaneous, or… free. For no matter where I am, or what I am doing, every detail is being analyzed in my mind, and I am aware of… everything.

All I do is forced for it seems nothing comes naturally to me. And when I watch people – not just at the concert last night, or at church, or… but everywhere – I see that a lot of life for most people seems to be just that – natural. And maybe that is what people have been calling me on my entire life, while I believe that I am doing things the same as they are: they are natural, and for me, it is all forced.

So they don’t trust me for seeing that my responses are forced, they believe I have something to hide – when in truth the only thing I am trying to hide is that I don’t belong here. Not just in that place, or this city, or that church, or… but in the world.

Nothing is natural – except maybe, just maybe my interactions with dogs. Nothing is natural, and it makes me really sad – for I really do want to be free like them.

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Autism: I Don’t Eat Meat

There is this site I visit often in order to earn some points that can be redeemed for gift cards. Every day they have a poll which, upon answering, earns 1pt (which translates to $0.01.) Not very much, I’ll admit, but there are also other ways (such as taking surveys) to earn points, and they do add up.

Lately there have been many polls around food. It appears the states have a ‘national day for…’ just about every day – and a lot of it is food: donuts, chicken wings, seafood…

Anyway all of these polls come up, and many have been specifically asking what our favourite type of meat is. How do you like your chicken wings? (Don’t eat meat.) Which is your favourite burger place? (Don’t eat meat.) What is your favourite seafood? (Don’t like seaweed, don’t eat meat.)

Each of the polls has a list to choose from, and ‘vegetarian’ or ‘vegan’ has not been an option.

So for each poll, those of us who are vegan or vegetarian have been responding on the comments section, “don’t eat meat,” or “I am vegetarian,” or something like that.

What really got me, though, was how upset all of the non-vegetarians got with those responses.

“How do you know if someone is a vegetarian? They will tell you.”

And why shouldn’t we.

Someone even went as far as to say that vegetarians – especially people who used to eat meat – are a lot like ex-smokers in that they are very vocal about their distaste for something they used to consume.

Well… yeah!

For a couple of years in my teens, I was a smoker. I quit when I was pregnant with my son – and aside from 6 weeks during a very stressful summer a couple of years later, I never went back. I hated the smell of smoke before I was a smoker (I suppose I could write a post about what happened there,) and aside from the time when the cravings were still strong, I have had an even worse reaction to the smell of smoke (not just while someone is smoking, which is really bad, but also the smell that follows them after) ever since.

A person makes a choice to move away from an addiction, puts a strong effort into denying the cravings, and comes out the other side disgusted about the things they once enjoyed. But if a person has made a decision to move towards a kinder, healthier, more environmentally friendly, more sustainable lifestyle – why should others be upset at them for sharing their success?

“But that isn’t it,” they say. Today I read something about a person who had gone to a vegetarian restaurant. They were impressed with the food, but saw the servers and cooks as having an attitude of “we are better than you,” because they were vegetarian.  They left unhappy and disgusted.

That might be the case with some vegetarians – like it might be the case with some Christians, or ex-smokers, or… But did he ask them? My initial thought would be that perhaps that wasn’t what they were feeling at all. Maybe they were proud to work in a place where they are able to inspire people towards a kinder lifestyle. Perhaps they were happy that people were enjoying their food so much – when that isn’t always the case with any food that is different.

All I know is that I am vegetarian (almost vegan). I am Christian. I am an ex-smoker. I am many things that set me apart from ‘most’ people – but I have never felt “better than,” and if people ever thought that about me, it would be their mistake, not mine. Though I do believe these are kinder, healthier, better choices – but that doesn’t make me a better person (or less of a sinner) for choosing them.

People express their opinion that Vegetarians are trying to push their views – yet everywhere I go, and many of the things I see, people are celebrating around meat, and trying to feed it to others, and…

I don’t believe that Vegans or Vegetarians are better people – but I do believe we were given an extra strong dose of empathy to the point that we are unable to block out the pain, and the cruelty, and the… evil that exists in the meat industry. We can neither block it out, nor can we stand by without saying something,

  • as people spoke out against slavery
  • as people spoke out against the holocaust
  • as people spoke out against child abuse
  • as people spoke out against rape

As people have spoken out against all the pain that people bring to the world, those of us who have this in our hearts and minds must speak out; we must.

And really, is it more cruel for vegetarians to say, “I don’t eat meat,” or for meat eaters to mock, and joke, and exclude, and get upset with someone who is doing their best to be ‘a little bit kinder?’

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Autism: On Taking the Initiative

“Just get in there and try,” he told us. “It doesn’t matter if you make a mistake (though you are sure to hear about it) so long as you are actively participating.”

But I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to do it. I had never seen it done before – and even if I had, I needed to ensure I understood it completely before I tried to do it in front of a group of people… or even just one if he was prone to yelling or criticizing.

So I held back. Again and again I held back and let everyone else try first. I learn first by observing. It isn’t until, through that observation, I understand it that I will try to do it on my own.

Such was always the case.

The most common comment on my report cards growing up was, “Does not participate.”

fireplace me

Of course I didn’t participate. First of all, I get paralyzed when other people are watching me – so a classroom of kids was not the place for me to try anything. Maybe if they showed me how, then left me to work on it alone, but that isn’t often how things are done.

So I was seen as incapable; maybe I was. I sure came to believe over time that their assessments were correct.

Or maybe I just couldn’t learn the way they were teaching – or maybe I just couldn’t demonstrate that I understood what they were teaching because, well… I get paralyzed when people are watching. That hasn’t improved in time.

So I can’t learn well in groups, and I can’t just ‘jump in and take the initiative.’

There is the word: initiative.

I have been thinking about this quite a bit over the past few years – especially since I was in my Residential Construction course at the local college; for ‘taking the initiative’ was strongly… not even encouraged, but expected.

This is something I am not at all good at. I need to know exactly what my job is, what is expected of me, how I am supposed to do it, where things belong, how things are supposed to be, what the rules are… I have to know.

If initiative is what is expected, I am overcome with anxiety, and can’t move – or think – or act – or…

I have also come to the realization that although I know ‘initiative’ is valued throughout society, it is not something I value in other people. I mean…

While I am thankful if people try to do things that are helpful to me, just… mostly when people do things ‘for me’ it really seems to be based on who they are, not who I am. So it comes out… wrong. All wrong for me. And I get… thrown off… and they get upset because they were trying to help, but it didn’t help. So I think, “why didn’t you just ask?”

Just ask.

I think that a lot of the reason I struggle in ‘taking the initiative’ is because I am sure that what I chose to do, or get, or… whatever, would not be what they had in mind – just as when others jump in without asking me how I would like it, it isn’t what I had in mind; and therefore I then have to find some tactful way to tell them (without offending them) that what I needed was different than what they did; and I struggle to communicate good things, and feel completely incompetent in communicating harder things like this.

 

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Autism: Something to Help

The thing is, I have been super panicky for close to three weeks now.

I keep thinking: if I just get caught up on my blog posts; get the housework done; clean up the yard; get rid of the clutter; find some purpose… then I will calm down.

And I go to do… whatever, and I start of okay, but very quickly grow overwhelmed because, well… I am panicky. So I get a little bit done for the day, and can’t do anymore – which of course feeds my guilt.

So I look around, completely hating myself because other people (all around me) get these things done. And here I am – no job, no children, hardly any social life to speak of – maybe just among the least obligated people I know; and I am so overwhelmed, I am in shut down mode just about all the time.

I have crashed so frequently in the afternoons that my dogs now come to me early every afternoon begging for ‘nap time,’ because… I don’t remember the last time I didn’t go in my room for a nap – and even then the panic won’t let up enough for me to sleep most of the time. And when I have gotten to sleep in the afternoon, I just wake up feeling worse.

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In determination I walk over to my computer, completely convinced that I will get my blog posts written this time. I sit down, and am again overwhelmed by the anxiety, and instead go on a Netflix binge watch – because my mind won’t settle enough to think.

Trying…? Not the best solution to this. The harder I try, the more incompetent I feel, the more I panic. In fact, the panic grows the moment I try – before I have even failed yet.

So I ask myself what it will take to get through it this time.

For this is not the first unexplained severe anxiety episode I have experienced. Sometimes it lasts hours, sometimes it lasts months. While I am in it, my functioning is drastically reduced. I feel… scattered. I worry about my sanity. How long can one person’s mind endure such levels of fear before it breaks?

And I think that the hardest part is, I don’t even know why I am so anxious. I just want it to end.

Feeding into this anxiety is night after night of very vivid dreams in which I am trying to repair some situation in my past – and I wake up not quite oriented to the world I now find myself, saying, “yes, please let me do that.” And day by day the panic grows.

I suppose that since I am so badly effected by all anti-depressant/anti-psychotic/anti-whatever medications – not just with bad side effects, but the fact that they have the opposite effect on me to begin with – that I will just have to endure it. I just wish I could find something that would help.

 

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Autism: Fair Trade

The weeks go by, and still the sky is filled with smoke. There has been no rain. The fires continue to burn. Many days, I can’t even see the mountains or the lake from my house – yet the lake is only about 7-8 houses down the street. For much of the rest of the year, we have a wonderful view of both.

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Last year, it was the spring that was hot, and the rain came all summer. It was great!

This year there was so much rain in the spring we had mud slides and flooding. And then the rain stopped, and now there are fires.

The fires are close, but they’ve been closer other years. Because of that, every time summer comes around again, I consider what it would mean to us if it were our town on fire; our town being evacuated; our home burnt to the ground.

I consider those things, and do what I’ve always done – seek out the positives that might be brought about from that. I think maybe I could have been an optimist… if only I could block out reality.

The consolation from these thoughts is rarely equal to what I would be giving up – but they do help me to avoid meltdown (before I am alone, at least.) Like when I was dating my husband, and never knew if he would ask me to do something with him, or turn and walk away. I don’t handle the unexpected well – but didn’t want him to see that (as much as possible) so I would comfort myself with this:

“If he doesn’t take me out, I can go home and have a Pepsi.” Not exactly a great trade, but as I said, it did help. Of course it meant I always had to ensure I had pop in the fridge at home. It also meant really working to savour that pop until my mind was calm enough to move on – which also fed an addiction to Pepsi that I still frequently have to fight some 16 years later (even though I am rarely bothered when I stay home now.)

In fact, some things become so frightening to me that the things my mind creates to get through are much bigger than a can of pop – and I fixate on the consolation to the point that people on the outside begin to believe that is what I want; when in fact ‘that’ is only masking the very real fear of what I have to lose:

  • my dog
  • my children
  • my confidence
  • my job
  • my house
  • my husband
  • my family

In my earlier days, those around me became so convinced that what I was fixated on was what I wanted, that they also convinced me it was true (though I fought and denied it for a time) and caused it to become a reality. I think that is what they call a self-fulfilling prophecy? Only the idea came from me – they just didn’t understand at all that it was hiding a fear rather than revealing a desire.

People around me are still convinced now that what they see is desire – and it still costs me. It still brings those fears into reality. And it is still not enough to cover the pain of the loss.

So the smoke fills the air and I think, “if our house burns down, at least the renovations will get done, and I won’t be overwhelmed by all the stuff we are storing, and the things that need cleaned, and…”

And for a moment it calms me. For a moment. I think of a fresh start, and it eases the burden. For a time, I might even be convinced this is what I want.

And then I remember the cost. I look at my animals, and remember that when my grandma’s house burnt down, her 5 cats were killed in the fire – and upon returning home and seeing the smoke, she burnt her hands trying to save them. I can’t lose my babies – especially not like that. So I pray, “Please Lord, if our house is going to burn, let us be warned so we can all get out on time.”

But then I look at the box of my dog’s ashes. And there are the pictures of my son from before we got our digital camera. And there are the dolls that sometimes seem so real to me. And there are boxes of artwork and schoolwork from my children. And there are my journals, and my books, and…

“Wait,” I cry, “I don’t want my house to burn!” And that is when I remember that my fixations are more likely to reveal my fears than my desires. Not what I want. Not what I want! Like trading a relationship for a Pepsi – because of course that is a fair trade!

 

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Autism: How the Story Ends

“Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither.” (Psalm 37:1-2)

I read that in my devotional this morning, and it was so needed; for I frequently find myself full of pain and fear over the evil that is in this world.

The greed.

I guess I have known this for a long time, but the older I get, the heavier the weight it carries: capitalism feeds greed.

It isn’t even about wanting more and more, and working hard to get it. That, I suppose, is what capitalism is about: the hope that if you work hard enough, and give enough of yourself, your circumstances (will?) improve.

But that isn’t the reality for most people – and even that isn’t what bothers me most.

It is the greed that says, “I will do whatever it takes to get ahead,” and either doesn’t take into account, or doesn’t even care what it costs to others.

Like pet food companies that work for profit, and keep products on the market even when they know it is killing animals.

Like clothing companies, or toy companies, or shoe companies, or… just about everything that uses slave labour to create products at the cheapest cost to sell in richer markets for a huge profit – not caring what they are doing to the people on the bottom.

Like people who cut down rain forests to grow crops to feed animals, so people in the developed world can feel rich eating much more meat than their bodies require – while people are starving in other parts of the world, and plants and animals that should have been left alone, become extinct.

Like people who buy multi-million dollar vacation homes that are left unused much of the time while children are dying of hunger, and for lack of proper medicines and clean water.

So much evil! So much greed!

And it overwhelms me most of the time; I can’t block it out.

How could we?

How could we keep doing this year after year, and decade after decade, and think it is okay?

And I guess if it weren’t for money, people would seek power in its place – and people would be abused, and used, and killed for others to get to the top. And I ask myself, why is it so competitive? Why can’t we work in cooperation instead? Why can’t we make it better?

But the world is full of evil, and sometimes it seems that evil will win.

But evil doesn’t win – and that is what this verse reminded me of today. “In the end it will all be okay; and if it isn’t okay, it isn’t the end.”

I read the book. I know how the story ends. If only I could remember that when I look around and see how bad things are right now.

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Autism: Sad Research

The things I heard, and the words I read were…

  • Painful.
  • Disgusting
  • Frightening.
  • Discouraging.
  • Upsetting.
  • Lacking Hope.

How was I to find an answer, when the so called ‘options’ were so full of…

  • Greed.
  • Cruelty.
  • Corruption.
  • Evil.

The challenge was that I had to find a new brand of cat food to feel to my cats. Cat food! I expected to have to pay a little more to get a better product. You get what you pay for, right? And really, the main reason I was searching for a new food was because the one they were eating could only be found in the weight control formula, or a flavour they didn’t like. They didn’t need the weight control formula anymore – and in fact, it would have been an unhealthy choice to keep them on it.

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So, true to myself, I spent many hours researching what would be the best (and preferably not too expensive) food to try next.

And during those hours, my eyes were opened to the absolute greed that a capitalist society feeds.

And it broke my heart.

Six years! Six years a food was left on the shelves, and the company knew it was killing animals. They knew it, and still they left the product on the shelves, and assured people again and again that it was safe.

And when they were sued? They had to compensate the people for the cost of the pet and vet care. That is it! They traded lives and loves for profits, and in the end, it didn’t really cost them anything at all.

But you read something like that, and shake your head, and say, “horrible!” But surely it is an isolated event, right? Yet the more I read, and the more I researched, the more I understood: This is nowhere close to rare. Nowhere close.

They make their money, and they don’t care that what they are selling causes so much sickness, death, heartache. They don’t care. Pets are property; nothing more. They aren’t even legally obligated to report these things in a timely manor. Some aren’t even sure they have to report it at all. And the animals die, and the family’s hearts are broken – and if it can be connected, the courts say, “how much did it cost?”

But these are my babies! Not property – family. And the cost of losing them is so, so much more than the money I paid to try to save them, or the cost to bring home another. Irreplaceable. Priceless.

As I read these things, and watched the reports, I thought of my dog who died of heart failure in the spring of 2016, and I wonder. I wonder because he was not even 8 years old. I wonder because a lot of dogs in the area died young from similar things at that time.

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What can’t be proven hurts still. What can be proven is not compensated enough – not nearly enough – for the pain they caused.

Powerless. What could I do?

So I got them the best food I could find – one where right at the top of the list were actual meats, organs, eggs for a long way down, followed by fruits and vegetables I recognized, and no corn, potatoes, grains, chemicals, poisons…

And then I went to the grocery store and bought them real food: Chicken, liver, salmon, eggs.

And my babies were very pleased.

 

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