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Category Archives: Autism: Out in Public

Autism: To Dream Again

This morning was “The Summit” church service at the wharf – were once a year all three campuses and five services of our church get together for church, worship, and lunch after.

It rained a lot yesterday – which is kind of a big deal since we had a drought all summer with only half an hour of rain in about 2.5 months. Today was sunny and the skies were clear (which also hasn’t happened for much of the summer.) It was a nice day for outdoor church.

While I was there I once again noted something that surprised me. I was watching the parents with young children, and the older children at the awkward stage, and was surprised once more to acknowledge that I don’t want children.

Stressful, exhausting, difficult…

It is a foreign concept to me to not want children. Until a little over a year ago, even after years of infertility and a traumatic failed adoption, having children of my own was the main desire of my heart – even though I did have, and raise, and still have, my now adult son.

I would see other parents with their children and felt… envy, and sadness, and… lost, alone, forgotten. Other people had families – why couldn’t I?

It was another, and a major, characteristic that separated me from them – and I hated that separation. I still hate it, maybe, but at least I can see what I couldn’t see then: Children are overwhelming.

Beautiful, and fun, and worth the effort? Yes – but…

Children call attention to their parents. Always. You see the children, you see the parents – and there is advice, and there is judgement, and there is a lot of stress that comes with the job.

And I can’t be watched.

As I sat watching the parents dealing with the children I remembered that. I can’t be watched, and children call attention to their parents. Always.

I can’t be watched, for when I am watched I operate from a different part of my brain which significantly drops my functioning level to the point where I pretty much always fail. So having children – no matter how much I wanted them and loved them (and I did) – was a recipe for failure. There was no way beyond it for I can’t function when I am watched, and parents are always being watched.

As I began to accept this revelation – which has come to me in the past, but I always fought against (“if I could only try harder, or do things different, or research more, or… maybe I could” – but no, I can’t function when I am watched, and whatever else a parent faces in raising a child, they are always watched – and if they don’t want to be watched, there must be something really wrong with them, and they shouldn’t be trusted with their children to begin with; right?)

As I began to accept this revelation I began to realize that if it weren’t for the memory of the trauma of losing ‘my’ children, and without the fixation of a lifetime of wanting children (possibly because that, in my eyes, was the measure of success and ‘normalcy’ – to be a ‘good parent’) I might even be able to admit that I am happier and calmer with my life as it is now.

The traumas are there, and they do cause me to struggle a lot of the time – but this thought that I could live okay without children… it is mind blowing. It is to turn completely in the other direction, and accept that it might be possible to dream again.

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Autism: Morbid Humour

Most of the time I guess I would agree that I don’t have the best sense of humour. I don’t ‘get’ jokes; I hardly even like them. I am too anxious or depressed most of the time to be anything other than serious; the world scares and hurts me. Every once in a while however, I get this uncontrollable urge to laugh in what might not be the most appropriate of circumstance.

Like the other day when I went to get my license renewed.

“Are you an organ donor,” the person asked, “Would you like to sign up for that?”

“Yes,” I told her, and suddenly got flooded with many thoughts about this. Not so much that I wanted to die in an accident or anything, but if something happens to me, and my husband has me cremated (his family does that, mine doesn’t) at least parts of me might still be around for… Okay, I am not sure about cremation, though I did have my dog and my son’s cat… done.

I have buried so many of my pets – rabbits, guinea pigs, and a couple of cats – here in my yard. Not only did I feel I was running out of room, but… it kind of traps me to this property. It really is the only hesitation I have at thoughts of moving. Kind of morbid, really. Cremating makes it… easier, somehow – as anywhere we go, they could come too.

Not that I exactly believe they are tied to their bodies or their box or… the thing is, I really don’t know what happens to animals when they die. That lack of knowledge has been painful for me. The problem with cremation, though, is that DNA is destroyed, and… I think a lot about these things. I probably shouldn’t. I am sure it can’t be healthy. Still I do.

So if I was cremated, and I was an organ donor, parts of me might not be cremated – and therefore when the resurrection came, there might still be something to resurrect. So I signed.

Of course, while I was signing, that is what I was thinking of: “What if the resurrection comes and my ‘parts’ are made suddenly into a ‘new me’ standing outside of the person.” I pictured this and had to fight really hard not to start laughing hysterically in front of this complete stranger – who would not understand.

But as I was fighting laughter, it turned to sadness as I realized the tragedy of this – the person who had my ‘parts’ would probably need those parts to survive, and what would happen to them if they were suddenly removed?

I wonder if the worker perceived any of these struggles in my mind as I was signing the card, and thought there might be something not quite right with me. I kind of wonder if she might have been right with that perception.

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Autism: Gone Camping

We were packed and on the road by 8:20am. The weather was almost cold, and the skies were blue! (if you have been following about our summer, it is the worst year on record for wildfires throughout the Canadian province of BC, and our skies have been so thick with smoke we haven’t been able to see the lake or the mountains around our home most days.) On the drive, we saw many eagles sitting on trees, or gliding through the air.

My husband stopped at McDonald’s and got us Vanilla Chai Frappes (so delicious, though I am not supposed to have dairy – but it was worth it!) We were up at the lake, and unpacked by lunch time. It was probably the best day for travelling.

We got the truck camper this time. I requested a camper… my back, my husband’s knees, fears over the dogs and wildlife… packing things in, setting things up, worrying about weather… overwhelming. Other times I have been up I have noticed that the people we have been there with go expecting to use the campers or the dome; even the young people. And we are expected to use a tent. I don’t know why that is.

So I asked my husband to ask for a camper, and we were given the truck camper for the week.

I can’t sleep in a narrow bed – I toss and turn, and have to spread out. If I can’t, I don’t sleep. It is as simple as that. So I got the ‘high’ bed, and my husband took the lower one (he stays still through the night, and often chooses a couch to sleep on… oh – having my ‘girls’ meant it wouldn’t have been good for us to be in the same bed, plus… we both sleep better when we have separate beds.)

I worried because the bed is so high, but brought different sized suitcases and bins that could make a bit of a ladder for my girls. They even have steps to get to my bed and my chair, there is no way they would be able to get onto that bed by themselves, and jumping down would have been dangerous.

As it turned out, we didn’t need the steps. Our niece and her husband have two young children, and had left a bed rail in the camper. (They weren’t up that week.) It was perfect, and there was only one moment through the whole week when I worried about my girls being up so high – Clara decided in the night she had to go to the bathroom, and was running around the bed trying to find a way down (she had a bathroom pad at home, but there was no room for it in the camper – besides, she doesn’t often use it during the summer.) Anyway, I took her outside, she did what she needed to, and we went back to bed; all good.

The bed was very comfortable. It had three windows on each side, and the girls and I really enjoyed spending time there (when we could; it would get hot during the day.) The girls liked being right there with me – which is normal at home, but when we are outside while camping, they are in their pen, or on a leash, or in their crate… and don’t get so much time to come so close to me. They loved being able to look out the window on the three sides, and spent a lot of time watching the birds and squirrels and such through them.

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One thing I really liked about being up at the lake this time was that we had people around us the first night, and the last two nights – but in between, even the neighbours weren’t around. Though I did enjoy my time visiting, I really liked the quiet while my husband and I were up there alone. Plus, without anyone around to chase or bark at, I was able to let my girls run around on the property off leash (while I could watch them, of course) and so didn’t feel bad about the time they did have to spend in their pen.

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I really hope we can get the camper during future trips. I think that my husband and I are both past the tent camping stage.

PS – the campers were all old ones that the owners gave, or practically gave for use up at the lake. They are not new campers and most don’t actually belong to anyone – so… Well, maybe we should ask around if anyone has an old camper that we could have so that we would always have one when we go up there, too (especially now that my husband is reducing his days at work and will have three day weekends from October on – so it is more likely we will go up often.)

 

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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: Powerless to Help

There was a Facebook post: A 13 week old puppy, who carried a stuffed toy with him wherever he went was at a shelter. He loved the toy so much, the workers would have to take it away from him so he would eat.

But the shelter is a high kill shelter, where the animals are given just weeks, sometimes even days, to find a home – before they are ‘humanely’ put to sleep.

No one showed any interest in him, so he was moved to the back – to death row.

He took his stuffed toy with him. His only source of comfort as he sat in the cage waiting to die.

I don’t know what happened to that puppy. I know there are many young and old in a similar situation. I can only hope the word got out on time, and he was saved.

I cried when I read about him. I am crying still. The world is a cruel and evil place, and I feel powerless in it – nearly as powerless as that puppy, sitting in that cage, holding his stuffed toy for comfort.

I cannot save them all. I couldn’t even save that one. And it destroys me.

Maybe that is why it is so hard for me to live in this world: I can’t block these things out. I can’t NOT see – and I am powerless to help.

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Autism: Successful Trip

In spite of a real scare at the beginning of our trip, I am glad that I decided to go camping with my husband – even if I had little notice, and my plans were changed last minute when a large dog crate came into the thrift store where my husband works, and a neighbour offered to lend us their portable dog pen.

This year, I even did pretty well with food. In fact, I don’t think I have ever had a better prepared trip (and often I spend weeks trying to figure out what to eat.) Unlike other years, where ‘in order to not be difficult’ I would agree to eat what I could with other people, there was no way I was going back to eating meat this trip. That meant separation right at the foundation of the meal.

Instead I opened up three cans – black beans, chickpeas, and refried beans. I mashed up the black beans and added oatmeal, onion flakes, hot peppers, capers, garlic, ground flax seed, broth, salt and pepper. That made 6 ‘bean burgers.’ I mashed up the chickpeas and added onion flakes, garlic, Kala Namak (black salt with an ‘egg’ like flavour,) hot peppers, ginger, and parsley. That made 6 ‘chickpea salad’ meals. The refried beans, mixed with taco seasoning, made five ‘taco salad’ meals. I froze the beans and chickpeas in aluminum foil (I might just freeze them next time in my silicon baking cups to take out and heat.) Then I brought up a couple of cans of lentil soup.

It worked!

I must admit, I did get tired of bean burgers on bread after a few days – especially as the buns started to get stale. But then I wasn’t really hungry, or needing vegetables (I brought up home made kale chips and had a vegan breakfast shake mix with ’27 different fruits and vegetables’ which helped a lot with that – plus, they did have salad, and I ate that.)

When I didn’t want the beans, I could easily make myself granola mixed with yogourt, or coleslaw salad mixed with assorted nuts and corn chips.

So aside from one moment asking someone not to add his eggs to the grill until my pancakes were done cooking – and another moment where I had an allergic reaction when the frying pan used for my food hadn’t been cleaned well enough after other people had eggs on it (not as bad as it could have been, since I am loaded up on allergy medications this time of year – my throat, mouth, and tongue started to swell, itch, and go numb; I took more allergy pills, and had Pepsi (which somewhat neutralizes it,) and the reaction went down) I did okay with food.

As I have said, that has never happened before, and was a huge breakthrough.

So I was able to get my time in nature, swimming every day, watching sunsets with ‘my girls’ from my tent as I wrote my journal. And I really enjoyed it.

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Transitioning to go home was another story – and one best saved for a different post.

 

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