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Autism: Fatal Flaws

This morning I am panicking, and I don’t even know why. I have nowhere to go. I did my cleaning yesterday, so don’t have anything today that must be done. My animals are healthy. My environment is tidy. Though I am not working at this time, I have enough to live on. Christmas is coming, but there is still time – nearly a month as I write this. I haven’t had recent social interaction that I am pulling apart and analyzing. Yet I am really anxious today.

I have been for quite a while in fact. Sick (nauseous), achy, exhausted, anxious, and not doing all those things that help me to feel better – like my lessons. Last week, Thursday I think, I did my devotional and about 1/3 of the final review lesson in Latin. It had been about two weeks since I had done any at all. I have felt too busy, though most days I am still at home. I have been too exhausted.

Even the good things don’t get done when I feel like this, and it can last such a long time. On my best days, I wonder what I am doing home, and feel guilty. It is as if I could conquer the world… well, not quite, but possibly I could do my old job okay. And then times like these come, and I wonder how I ever managed at all.

Except I didn’t manage; not really. For a time, I was able to hide my struggles, and suffer the fears and exhaustion alone – but in time it always showed up. I am not a great actor. I wasn’t even exactly trying to act, just… I knew that with enough time, I would heal, and be able to do this well again (whatever this was.)

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I told myself that if I could just get past this moment, and was able to come up with the right plan, I would be able to do these things that I loved (or at least felt good about doing – when I was doing them well.) For a while, I could lie to myself, but the lies couldn’t be believed forever, for always I would crash.

When I crashed, I knew that I have given more than I had to do this well – and failed. And I hated that I failed. It isn’t like I looked at it like an illness, or disability that made me incapable of doing even the minimum of what I saw others doing – I looked on it as a fatal flaw in myself: a failure. Others could do it. I wanted to, but couldn’t. Why was there something so wrong with me.

It didn’t help that when that failure came out, the judgment of others said, “you could have done that well, with some effort.” People were angry at me for failing. I was angry with myself. And the shame of that was overwhelming. Yet… they had no idea how hard I tried, or how much I longed to succeed. It isn’t like I let things go, and allowed the failure – I gave more than all of me, and I failed, and I hated myself for it. I didn’t need them to hate me, too.

So I sit at home these days supported by disability payments that come from public taxes, and I feel guilty. Guilty again that I can’t do what they think I should: work, and succeed, and do it well. I can’t.

But today at least my eyes are opened. This is can’t. This is not won’t. I would work if I could, but I can’t. I would succeed if I could, but I can’t. I would do well, I would have kept my children. I would have kept babysitting, or working at the motel, or something if I could, but I can’t. And this is why.

Sometimes I get so anxious, and so exhausted, and so sick, and I crash. It happens a lot! It happens more than not. But it isn’t because I don’t try, and it isn’t because I don’t put in the effort, and it isn’t because I am a horrible person… I have to remember that. For until I let go of the: “This is all my fault. I am no good. I hate me,” thoughts, it is unlikely I will ever be well enough to… do even part of what they expect I should have been able to do all along.

Go easy on people. You never know what battles they are fighting.

 

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Autism: Feeling Slow

When people speak of Autism, one of the positives that are often spoken of include some savant skill, or some amazing ability to memorize incredible, detailed information on a specific subject. It is as if… “yes, you have all of these struggles, but then this gift kind of makes up for it.” Only I don’t have that gift, and am left with…

Even as I write this post the words won’t come out right. My son is gifted when it comes to computers, and understanding programming language (or even picking up languages in general.) My friend seems to be gifted in understanding English (grammar, vocabulary and such.) Even my husband, who is not Autistic, has a mind full of trivial facts about just about everything. When I am in their company, though they are some of my favourite people in the world, I feel quite… slow.

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It isn’t that I can’t memorize facts. When I had ‘my’ children, I could from memory explain everything there was to know about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Focal Cortical Dysplasia, and Large Vestibular Aqueducts. Both when I was taking my Early Childhood Education and years later my Residential Construction programs at college, I also held a head full of knowledge on these subjects, and was top of my class in both courses.

And very much as is true of other people with Autism, I bored other people spewing off far too many facts, and even apparently overwhelmed the social workers involved by telling them too many details of what was happening with my children, and why. I do that.

Also very much like Autism, I participated too much when I was in my college courses (and not at all through grade school as I was selectively mute) in answering questions, asking questions, and sharing my experiences – so much that most of my classmates became annoyed with me; yet I could not stop. I had to know. I had to share.

The thing is, though, when I move on from such fixations, I don’t retain all of the knowledge that I gained in that time. I remember some things, but the time spent – even when that time is years – becomes more like a dream that fades over time, and with it, my knowledge on the subject.

I have no real gifts. I would love to be able to sing, or play an instrument, or be gifted in drawing, painting, or some other artistic pursuit. I would love to have something that I was really good at. But I am not.

Last night my husband and I were at Life Group, and we watched a video on Origins. Basically it was scientists explaining how they spent years trying to prove theories that life on Earth happened by random chance, and many became Christians when they found that to have life start from nothing was impossible, and therefore life must be the result of intelligent design.

I have been reading The Case for Faith (Lee Strobel) which in parts talked about that very thing. It is something that interests me. Yet here I was in a room full of intelligent Christians, and all of them had much to say on the subject, yet I felt completely inadequate in speaking in that group. As the only Autistic individual in a group speaking on a subject that interests me very much, shouldn’t I have at least been able to keep up my part of the conversation? Surely I should have had something to say.

Nothing. Not one word. And once more I was feeling really slow, and as if I had nothing worthwhile to offer to the group. If only there was something I was good at…

 

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Autism: Overwhelming Empathy

Last night, I got three hours of sleep. It wasn’t even all together, either, and I am really feeling it today. The thing is that I have been so nauseous lately that I end up eating all the wrong foods just so I can eat something. Yesterday that included English muffins with peanut butter. I know that wheat gives me insomnia, but that is my ‘go to’ food when I am nauseous (which has happened more often than not throughout my life) and I didn’t know what else to eat. If I didn’t eat, it would have just made things worse. It is pretty bad when one of the main activities for staying alive makes it so hard for me to live.

Anyway, as a result, I am hardly accomplishing anything today: A couple of loads of laundry, my lessons, and hopefully this blog.

I picked up a ‘new’ book to read last night, and for the fifteenth time in as many years read the chapter that hurts every single time I read it. About one hundred and forty years ago, someone’s dog died. The tears began before I even read the words – after all, I have read this book fifteen times: I knew it was coming. It wasn’t just a few tears, either, but such a deep heartache that I felt in every fiber of my being.

The dog died. That is just so wrong.

It doesn’t matter that he was old, or that he had walked so very far, or that he survived several books earlier when they thought he had been lost. I mean, yes, I was thankful he survived back then. I was thankful to read that he had lived many years after… the thing is, it is never enough.

This wasn’t my dog. She wrote well, and I felt that I knew him, but it wasn’t my loss. Still it hurt. It hurt a lot!

The tears started, and grew, and grew, and pretty soon I was near hyperventilating.

Her dog died, and she knew that she was grown up, because now she had to move forward alone. I cried for her being alone. I cried for the dog who was buried by the path he loved so much, but who would not be moving along with them. I cried for them, despite the fact that they lived so very long ago.

I cried for my dog, who died suddenly four and a half months ago. I cried for the dog that I read about in the news, who died in a house fire beside a young boy, who also died in the fire. I cried for the boy. I cried for the dogs in shelters, and the ones abandoned or abused. I cried for all my dogs who have died, and for my cats, too. I cried for my dog who is alive, but won’t always be.

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I cried for all the losses I have experienced, and I cried for all the pain that is in the world. I cried for hungry people, and broken children, and broken adults, and all who are lost and will never find their way home.

I cried for about two hours, and then I washed my face, and said goodnight to my husband. As he fell asleep, I started crying again – for the pain of nearly one hundred and forty years ago is just as real, and felt just as strongly today. And I feel the pain of the world, and I feel it so deeply that I can hardly move on.

So you see why I have to block it out? You see why I might struggle to respond well to the pain of another? It isn’t that I don’t feel, but that I feel so much, and so deeply, that I become overwhelmed.

 

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Autism: Great Inventions

After a few days of meltdowns over my birthday, I thought I would write a more positive post. For though there are many days when I feel… discouraged, to say the least, that is not all of my experience. It may even seem that my moods swing so far, and so often, that I could be said to have bi-polar disorder. I don’t. It just happens that I have been given strong doses of sensitivity and empathy, which means I am strongly impacted by life as it happens to me, as well as when it happens to others.

As I have mentioned in the past, I am not great at doing reviews. This isn’t even my purpose. Yet I wanted to share this because it fits so well with who I am. About a week ago, I ordered this off of Amazon, and received it in the mail.

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It is called a Wonderbag. Basically it was developed for women in Africa, who were spending hours every day cooking over a wood fire. Not only was this time consuming, but dangerous. Fumes from the fuel were being inhaled, as ventilation was not adequate. Many children, often under the age of 5 were dying from this. Even those who didn’t die were strongly affected with poor health. Burns. Fires. Hours spent cutting and gathering wood. Something needed to be done.

This was not a new concept. In the depression times, in order to conserve fuel, ‘hay boxes’ were used. Basically they would dig a hole in the ground, fill it with hay, and put in a pot full of boiling food in order to finish cooking without fuel.

For this, it is a cloth bag, with foam pellets for insulation in between the layers. So what I do, is start the food cooking on the stove (stews, soups, grains… things that can be made in a slow cooker) and boil it for about 10 minutes, depending on the type of food. Then I take the entire pot, with a tight fitting lid, and put the whole thing in the wonderbag. It has a separate section to cover it, and the drawstring is pulled to fit it tightly over the pot. Then I leave it for up to 12 hours.

That is it! I don’t touch it. I don’t need any more fuel to cook it. It doesn’t plug in. Just a bag insulating a pot to cook my food.

I love the idea. Anything that conserves energy. Anything that helps the environment (less fuel, less wood, less transportation, “less is more!”) Anything ‘off grid’. Anything that helps other people. Anything that saves money. I love it!

What I especially liked about this particular item was that for every purchase, the company would donate one wonderbag to a person in Africa who needs it. So great! Technically I could have made one for myself – but then I wouldn’t have been able to donate one. I liked the idea, and so decided to back the company up.

True, it wasn’t exactly cheap, but not bad compared to the price of appliances. Besides, I had a gift card that I had earned from things I was doing online. I thought this was a good way to use it. But would it work?

That part always makes me nervous. I can really get excited about an idea, but will it work?

The first thing I made in it was vegan quinoa chili. This is something I would make on the stove, and often have cooking for close to an hour. In fact, many of the foods that I cook for myself take about that long to cook. I boiled it for 10 minutes, put it in the Wonderbag, sealed it up for about 5 hours, and when I opened it it was steaming! I could actually see the steam pouring off of it, and I had to use oven mitts to take it out of the bag. And was it good! So good. I ate that for supper, and froze the rest for quick meals later.

That same night I was going to a potluck dinner (I ate early, because potluck!) and made a peach crisp. Though the Wonderbag says ceramic, or Pyrex dishes aren’t a good material to use, I just wanted something to carry it in, and keep it warm. I put it straight from the oven at 6pm, and again had to use oven mitts to take it out close to 8pm, it was that hot!

I think that we are going to have a great relationship, my Wonderbag and I. Right now I have a coconut, cashew, millet curry cooking in my Wonderbag, and I can’t wait to try it!

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2016 in Experiences of an Autistic

 

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Autism: Residual Pain

Residual effects of yesterday.

I am still struggling with overwhelming sadness and a sense of worthlessness. Other people write on their birthdays how blessed they are to do things and celebrate with their family and friends. Does that mean I am not blessed? We did nothing. I feel cursed. Broken. Alone. I prayed that it would be different, but many of my prayers are met with silence. I can only conclude that God is angry with me.

It isn’t that I believe He shouldn’t be, but… if I could do better, don’t you believe I would? And didn’t He come to save the broken and lost? Does anyone want saving more than me? Has anyone prayed as often for the evil to be taken, and to be made good, as I have? Maybe others have, and so have I, but years later and I am still broken. My life, my family, my heart – all broken.

This is reflected in the children I couldn’t conceive, and the children I couldn’t keep, and the family who abandoned me to their own activities on my 40th birthday. Not blessed. Cursed. And though I know I deserve this, it hurts just the same.

Once again I have to explain to the child I was, who held on for the belief that things had to get better, that things really don’t get better. And I try to hide from her the fear that all those years she lived in pain and terror were really the best she would ever get. And it breaks me, as much as if I were having to tell a child standing in front of me that this would be their reality. It breaks me, over and over, like a near drowned shipwreck victim being smashed against the rocks by the waves.

I want to write to you about success and healing, but what comes out is pain – for that is the experience I live with. Moments of happiness surrounded by weeks of pain. To write anything else would be a lie.

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Autism: Happy 40th:(

My head is pounding and I am struggling to stop crying. I don’t know why I hoped for anything better. I set my alarm to wake up for 7:40am so I would have time to get ready for church. My husband had the fire going, and bacon cooking in the kitchen. I was in a good mood to start out. I took my dog outside, then fed her.

When I came in, the fire was nearly out. Just burning paper, I guess. The bacon, which despite eating mostly plant based foods, I would have eaten today, was for my husband alone. Arrogant of me, I suppose, to believe they were for me (even if it was my birthday.) I got ready for church, but by then there was no time for breakfast.

I don’t do well even missing one meal. At church I was so hungry it was hard to stand… so weak it was hard to pay attention. One person said, “Happy Birthday!” He seemed to mean it. I didn’t feel well. When I got home, I had oatmeal and cappuccino, and felt more awake after.

It was 10:30am. My husband went to his chair to read, so I went on my computer. The time went by. My dog was sick (I found out later that night she was walking from my couch, across my end table, over to the cat stand to eat Finn’s food. Oy! I put her baby gate between the table and stand, and she felt better after that.) I took her out many times, and had to clean her up several times, too.

At 2pm, an hour before I usually start it, my husband put the chicken on. I had agreed that for birthdays, holidays, and when away from home, I would eat meat so we could eat together. He wanted an early supper so we could go to a missionary event at our church that night. I agreed to eat at 5pm instead of 6.

I had planned on making the meal that night, despite it being Sunday, because it was very important to me that everything was done the way I like it (and he tends to change things with food.) Only he was in the kitchen, and I can neither go in when someone is there, or hover to ensure he does it ‘right’ (because he gets offended) so I stayed on the computer, and at one point took my dog for a walk.

They knew I was going for a walk, for I had trouble finding the leash and harness (after her surgery, we weren’t able to go for a while, and things were out of place.) Yet despite being my birthday, no one offered to come with me.

At 4:10pm, I heard my husband mashing the potatoes. They shouldn’t have even been turned on until then. At 4:20, I smelled sweet peppers (not the vegetable I like with roast chicken.) I started crying. At 4:38, he announced it was ready, and I went into full meltdown. Everything was wrong. Everything was different. The potatoes were cold. The chicken was upside down, so instead of enjoying the crispy skin (pretty much the reason I agreed to this meal) it was soggy, and I cried more for the chicken who lost its life for this. The vegetable was the wrong type. The spices in the gravy were in different amounts, so tasted different, and it wasn’t thick enough (I had him thicken it.) It was just wrong!

It took me twenty minutes (a record for me, maybe) to fight the meltdown and come out to eat. I know he was trying. I know he didn’t mean to ‘get it wrong.’ I know this, but it hurt just the same. I cried the whole night. After all, this was my 40th birthday. It should have been different.

My son made me a cherry cheese pie (I can’t eat cake – and shouldn’t be eating dairy, but I do like it, and so asked for this.) It is what he does. When they brought out the candle, I tried to make a wish (Yes, I still do that, and it still matters) but Clara growled at my son, who sprayed her with water, making her growl more. I cried for her. I cried for him. I cried for Gryff, my dog that died leaving me heartbroken, and needing to find another. I cried for me.

I sent my husband out to the meeting. Though I fully intended to go that morning, I couldn’t stop crying that night, and leaving the house was no longer an option. He would have stayed, but there was no point. Had I been near my mom, things would have been different – but she is 4,000km away. His family is here to plan things like this for him, but I only have him, and this wasn’t enough.

I am not angry. I am sad. I needed this to be a really good day – different from the others – and it wasn’t. It hurt. It piled on the pain from all of my losses, and said, “This is all you deserve, and this is all you will ever get.” My head and my heart are full of pain.

Happy 40th Birthday to me.

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Posted by on October 14, 2016 in Experiences of an Autistic

 

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Autism: Under the Surface

Though I tried very hard, still I could not think. I read my devotional without an issue – but then it was mostly reading. I was able to get through penmanship, but then that is just copying. I did my grammar, but it was just answering simple questions, which I learned in grade school to do. Then I got to Latin.

It was a review lesson, and the work up until this point has not been difficult. Still I was unable to think. I couldn’t even translate one simple word, my anxiety was so bad. Not one. Not difficult stuff, but I couldn’t do it.

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The reason? I had to go out that night.

Not an unusual place. Not with new people. It was a potluck dinner, but I had already planned to eat ahead of time. I did have to bring a dessert, but it was not something new, or difficult. Just so, so anxious. It is always hard on me when I have to go somewhere, but this was a bit much even for me… at least for an evening that is pretty much routine through the year. True, we took a break for about four months, but I still saw them in church most weeks. It shouldn’t have been so hard, but it was.

I couldn’t think. I couldn’t function. I couldn’t do any cleaning. Even the very things that calm me became impossible at that level of anxiety.

So maybe it wasn’t just that I had to go out that night.

Think again. Analyze again. Take it apart, and make the picture bigger. Look at it in context. Of course I would have been anxious about that night:

  • First time in months.
  • Potluck dinner.
  • Not eating with the group (eating would have been worse, but still.)
  • Bringing a dessert.
  • Visiting.
  • Leaving my house.

Each of those things individually cause me anxiety. Together, of course they would cause high anxiety. Even still, there must have been more. Look bigger.

  • First time leaving my dog since her spay 10 days prior.
  • One day after the anniversary of the day ‘my children’ were taken.
  • Dark, rainy days.
  • Frequent upset stomach in the days leading up to this (struggling with food again!)
  • Frequent headaches (mostly from the weather.)

Okay. So all of these things, for me, are huge. Together? Too much. The moment is beginning to make sense, but might there be anything more?

  • I have been completely fixated… perseverating… overwhelmed by my house, and the needed renovations.
  • My mind feels like it is about to snap as I try to make sense of all the losses in recent years.
  • My mom was planning to phone the next day (a good thing, as it is years between visits, and I like to talk to her, but… phones!)
  • My upcoming birthday tomorrow (September 25) which is always a time of reflection.

And now I pretty much understand why I couldn’t understand my simple Latin lesson. Autism: There is always so much going on under the surface. So much more than what is actually seen.

 

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Autism: Memories That Haunt Me

Well, the day is here. Seven years. It hasn’t always been this hard, but hard enough. Today I think of my children, and what might have been. I think of how quiet my house is. How empty. How large. Perhaps that is why each year at this time it becomes really hard to live here.

Last night I fought my way to sleep through tears, hopelessness, and an overwhelming sense of how broken the world is, and how broken my life is. I feel every loss, and every failure. Each and every one.

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I see my daughter at four, leaning in for a hug before she left for preschool with my husband. Achingly I hear my self deny her. I know why – I didn’t want her leaning across her sister, who had been sent from school despite spending the weekend treating her lice at home. I was overwhelmed. I would see her in a couple of hours, but was anxious about the appointment we were about to go into. I had my reasons. None of them good enough. I wish I had taken my baby in my arms – for three days later, when they let me see her for the last time, she had already been turned against me and wouldn’t come close.

“It is okay, Mommy,” she said. “They will let me come home.”

But they never did.

I see my daughter at six. Happy and smiling despite all of her struggles. Allowing us to change her plans, and drag her to an appointment (because she wasn’t allowed to go to school) even though we knew how hard change was on her. I see her relax as I assured her we would pick her up from the play room at the ministry when our appointment was over – but we never did.

I see my son at ten. Afraid, and vulnerable, and wanting so much to believe he would never be moved again. Wanting so much to be liked, and to fit in, that he would do and say anything. I see this child, who always surrounded himself with people – yet always seemed so alone.

I see my son at thirteen. Bravely coming to a strange place to watch his sister, while we went into an appointment – and being told he wasn’t allowed to go in with her. Awkward, and uncomfortable, and trying so hard to do the right thing despite all of this. I see his face as I walked out, and told him she wouldn’t be coming home with us. None of them would be coming home with us ever again. And I hear his words, and see his response these past seven years. “Family doesn’t matter,” he says. “People don’t mater.” “I would rather be alone.” And he is. That is the moment he stopped wanting to visit people. That is the moment he started hiding in the basement.

And I hate them for what they did to my children. And I forgive them, and think, “Maybe they were right.” Because I am broken now. And I hate myself for losing them. And I hate myself for trying. And it is so much easier to forgive other people – even when they took my children away.

The tears flow. Seven years, and that is enough pain for a lifetime. Yet the memories don’t end there. Over and over again I see those moments:

  • The last, struggled breaths of my dog – and how he looked lying dead on the table once he was gone… and the box that now takes his place.
  • The last pained breaths of my cats, my rabbits, my guinea pigs – and the very tears I cried as I held them in the end.
  • The last look at my Grandmother before I turned the corner in her apartment building, and left her for the last time.
  • My Grandfather, two of my cousins, my father, my mother’s mom…

And I think, as the losses pile up, and the memories haunt me like ghosts – I don’t think I can take any more. My mind will break. My heart will break. I can’t. I can’t. And I remember that thing that people say, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Is that biblical? I wonder. Can it possibly be? But what about those whose minds do break? What about those who snap, and take their lives, or take the lives of others – was it not too much for them?

I don’t know. Seven years. Seven years, and the pain remains. A hard, hard day.

 

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Autism: This Week Broken

This is the week. The most difficult week in all the year, and I am feeling it. By the time I post this, it will be over – but that makes it no less difficult to get through. I can feel it coming, like some dreaded experience, though the experience of it happened seven years ago. Seven. Such a Biblical number, don’t you think?

Seven years should bring rest. While my body pretty much is at rest (my dog is still recovering from her surgery, and I don’t like to move from her, for she wants to follow) my heart and mind are not. I am full of anxiety, irritation, and depression. I feel anything but restful. Not grateful. Not content. Not calm. I know I am supposed to be, but I am not, and that only makes me feel worse.

Seven years of “after.” Seven years of “since.” It happened so long ago, that I should have healed. But I haven’t. In moment I think I have, but so many things are triggers, that so quickly I realize that I haven’t really healed at all. I should have healed. I haven’t. Another failure to add to my list. I begin to think that I was never resilient to begin with – that word that they like to throw around to help them feel better for the things they feel they have to do. “People are resilient,” they say. “Children are resilient.” Whatever helps them to sleep better at night, I guess, but not all of us are. Not all of us. Probably in their line of work, the majority of the people (adults and children – who are not that different, really) are likely not resilient.

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So maybe I shouldn’t have tried to adopt in the first place – being one of the not resilient ones. Maybe they shouldn’t have approved me. Only I was taught (as if it were fact) that if I tried hard enough, I could… and if I worked hard enough, I could succeed. Never was it even suggested that this might not be true. Those who fail are those who don’t try hard enough, or work hard enough.

Besides, I was feeling pretty good at that point in my life, and fully believed I was healed of those issues in my past (at least in the moment… perhaps if they had asked me on a different day…) and I was already (successfully) working with children.

I had the desire. I had the education. I had the empathy, and the mercy, and the love. I had the time. I had the space. And most important of all, I tried hard. I worked hard. Every day I worked to succeed at this. I tried enough. I worked enough. But somewhere along the way someone was flawed in their thinking.

Maybe if some people work hard, and try hard, they can succeed. Some. Not all. Not all.

So I failed, seven years ago – and above the trauma, and above the loss and the pain, and my own shame over not being able to succeed at something that so many others manage to succeed at (for I compare myself with all parents, and not just those who try to adopt through the foster care system – I can’t help it) but I also still feel the judgment of so many others who seem to believe if I had only tried hard enough, or worked hard enough, I could have adopted those children. I want to shout out, “I did!” Though I know it wouldn’t make a difference.

Seven years. And what is more, I am also turning forty this week. Another biblical number. Forty days and forty nights of rain. Forty days in the dessert. Forty years in the wilderness. Forty. Another number promising an end to suffering and pain, and the beginning of hope. Seven years and forty years, both in the same week. Will things get easier after this?

I am trying. Trying not to think of it – though my days are filled with fear, pain, sadness, hopelessness… My nights are filled with tears, and insomnia. I am struggling through with headaches and exhaustion. This week. Trying, trying, always trying… yet though I try so hard to think of other things, and find positive ways to spend my time, it does no good. This week, I am broken.

 

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Autism: Dogs, Birds, and Squirrels, Oh My!

Warning!!!

I read the news, and I was certain to remember. After all, though I know there are cougars in the area, and though I think about that fact most times when I am out, it isn’t often that one is seen.

But that day, I read the post on Facebook. A cougar was spotted beside one of the nature trails not too far from my house. The warning, since cougars can travel a large distance in a day, was for the whole area. The people had been walking on the trail near our closest beach. The cougar was on a different path, following along above the. Scary!

We have black bears. I saw one in town behind a daycare a few years ago (when I was picking up my ‘daughter’.) My neighbour has frequently seen them along the property line in between our houses (mainly due of the plum and apple trees we have growing there.) I know they are around. I think of them often. Yet, I am not really that concerned most of the time.

There are coyotes that live close (after all, the nature trail a block up the street is called coyote park for good reason.) We have raccoons, wolves, moose, possibly even grizzly bears up in the more forested areas (not that ours isn’t.) We see deer frequently. The eagles and osprey are an issue for pets. And there are cougars (or mountain lions as they are sometimes called.)

They are here. I know people who have had their pets taken by them. Yet most of the time, walking on the nature trails, I am not concerned. Not too much.

But the warning came up, and I took it seriously. It was out in the daytime (not shy.) Following a family (not too scared.) Beside a nature trail close to home. I told my husband and my son, “we might want to avoid the trails for the next little bit.” That was the warning. Be careful. And I am. I am a cautious person by nature.

Until I have too much else to think of, that is. I was downtown, wanting to go to the fair, but overwhelmed by all I had already done that morning, and missing my dog so much it hurt. I had the van, and could have driven home – but that would mean going back out again to pick my husband up (and at a time when I needed to be making supper.) I was panicking.

So I turned the van away from the fair, dropped it off with my husband, and just before I left his work to walk home along the trail, he said, “watch for bears!” Cougars! Oh no, I thought. “It should be pretty safe now,” I said questioningly to him, “right?” He didn’t think it would be an issue. So I took a deep breath, prayed for safety, and started walking.

It was pretty empty when I started out, and I was walking along, watching everything, when a large black animal came towards me around a corner. My heart started thumping, and I turned away. “Check,” I told myself (at least see if it is following you.) It was a dog. Just a large dog. The owner was right there, only I couldn’t see him before he came around the bend.

I walked past trying to look confident (which I was anything but) and carried on. A loud rustling came through the tall grass on the lakeside. “A cougar is going to pounce me,” I thought as pictures of Simba in The Lion King learning to pounce went through my head. “Please Lord, take care of my dog and son,” I thought. But it wasn’t a cougar, of course. It was only a little bird.

The trail got pretty busy at that point, and while I struggled with ‘people’ I felt a bit more protected from sudden cougar attacks (after all, it might choose to eat one of them instead!) About halfway through (a 4km trail) it was kind of muddy. No one else was going in that direction, as the only people who would go through – like me – happened to live on the other side.

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught movement on my right hand side. Now, to be honest, the grouse usually scare me when they are near. You don’t see, or hear them, when all of a sudden they burst out in flight (scared by the person walking by, when we wouldn’t have noticed them otherwise.) This time, however, she just stood there – and her presence, with my mind per-occupied with cougars and bears, was enough to set my heart racing until my mind had the time to label – “Grouse. Just a grouse.”

Not too long later, there was movement in the tree above me. “Does it hurt when the cougar tears out your throat,” I wondered, before I heard the chattering. “Is there enough time to feel pain before it kills you?” But it was just a squirrel.

I tell you, I have never, in all the time we have lived here, been so happy to reach the steep hill at the end of the trail. Seven houses (up a high hill) later, I was home. Thankfully, wonderfully home.

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