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Autism: Change of Perspective

Speaking of age, my husband said something to me one day that caught me off guard.

We were talking of things that need to be done around the house: water heater, window, passports… I said the passports weren’t exactly a rush as we had no plans to go anywhere, and the earlier we had them done, the earlier they would expire.

I mentioned that I thought they only lasted five years (as that is how long we had our last ones.) My husband said he thinks we can get them for ten years now and “that’d be my life.”

Ten years.

Ten years ago my youngest ‘foster’ daughter was sick and falling over. Ten years ago we were told about ‘our’ children’s youngest brother, and were asked to adopt him.

Ten years before that my cousin died from complications with her Cystic Fibrosis, and my grandfather had a heart attack and cancer, and died a few months later.

Ten years is nothing.

I focus on the idea that the world might end in a few months – just to keep going. Anything I do, however, is with the consideration that I have as long left as I have lived so far – so renovations, and even habits, are important considerations for carrying me through the future.

When I get overwhelmed with the renovations that need to be done, or the skills and habits I would like to form (all of which I fixate on often) I get a strong impulse to move to a home that would make these things easier for me.

My husband’s statement sent me into another perspective which I haven’t seen before.

It isn’t so much that I thought he would live forever, but… the idea of his death was in how it would affect me – and such thoughts placed a sense of urgency on getting things in place that would help me and my son to endure it (for thoughts of him dying bring me to a place of panic – how will I keep going on my own?)

But this thought, spoken from his mouth as such a fact, transformed that perspective to what he might be considering as a result.

With ten years left, there is no benefit to moving (even if he were someone okay with change; which he isn’t.) With ten years left, what is the point of altering his diet or his habits and thereby making his life harder and less enjoyable?

And the things around the house? Some – like the window (which has cracked in many places and is held together with tape) and maybe the water heater are necessary. Others – flooring, paint, decluttering, updating, or even getting a wood stove – I suppose would not be so important at this point in his life.

They matter to me, but of course they wouldn’t matter so much to him: Ten years is nothing.

Obviously he could live longer, and that is the hope – but it isn’t like he will pass a certain date and the danger will be gone. Instead things are likely to become less important to him with time.

A complete change of perspective in just a few words, “that’d be my life.”

Easter 2015

 

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Autism: Candy Crush

I spent the entire morning, or just about, playing Candy Crush Saga on Facebook. They gave me unlimited lives for two hours, and at that moment it became absolutely essential that I distance myself from the person just behind me (who caught up while I was away at the lake both times.)

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I kept going and caught up with the only person on the board ahead of me. She passed me several months, or more likely, over a year ago.

When I passed her, I wanted to distance myself from her as well.

It becomes a compulsion. I just have to do it, and much as my mind is screaming to stop, I keep going. I am not competitive. Not at all. The thing is, though, that I don’t like seeing other people on the board with me. I don’t know how I managed in the beginning when the board was filled with people around me, but at some point I found my icon alone on the board, and felt like I could breathe again.

It irritates me to see other people there. I don’t know if it is the clutter of the board, or… More likely when people – or even icons – are around me, I feel watched. I can’t function well when I feel watched, and it always leaves me feeling anxious and irritated. It is like having someone in the kitchen when I am in there; I just can’t.

Only I am not competitive. It didn’t bother me after she had passed me far enough that her icon wasn’t on the board with me. It was only when it was there that I had to get past.

So I spent the morning playing Candy Crush on Facebook. It is such a waste of time, and most of the time, I don’t even enjoy playing. I keep telling myself that I will stop playing – someday. But there again is one of my fixations that I can’t seem to overcome.

I am on something like board 1900 (higher, really, but I don’t want to open it right now to check, or I likely won’t complete this post.) So I think, knowing me, is the only way I will give up the game is if either I complete it or it stops working on my computer.

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2017 in Experiences of an Autistic

 

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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: Learning to Can Part 2

I have heard (and this is the reason I decided to go with the pressure canner to begin with) that once you start canning, it becomes addictive. I now know how true that was.

I canned the plums, and it took a long time. My back was sore, and I was very tired. There was the added bonus of, having this huge pot of boiling water that needed to be dumped, being able to take a bath (we have an extra wide bathtub and not enough water in our hot water tank to ever use it.) I needed that bath then with my back hurting so much. I really enjoyed that.

After that, my husband brought home a huge zucchini and some cucumbers. Of course, they needed to be pickled (especially since I am the only one in my house that eats them and the zucchini alone was over 4lbs.) Then, too, I also had a fresh head of cauliflower, some carrots, lots of onions, some garlic from the garden… They could be pickled, too! I made 12 pints of Italian flavoured zucchini pickles, and 12 pints of mixed pickles.

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And that is when my pressure canner came in. Of course, I had to try that out, too.

I must admit that I have been afraid of pressure canning. I mean, it seems everywhere you turn on the subject people are saying how dangerous it could be – but then… mostly it seemed the danger in the canning itself was involved in the older style of equipment (the new ones have safety features built in) and the rest is about not following directions.

I can follow directions… if they are written down, that is.

So I made white bean soup. White bean soup (very much like the chicken stew with rosemary I used to make in my pre-vegan days) is one of my favourite meals – but it makes way too much considering I am again the only one here who eats it; same with most of the food I eat. I made 10 pints. One didn’t fit in the canner – I guess my pint jars are the same width as wide-mouth would be or something; I could only fit 9. One jar didn’t seal – there was a new lid which was slightly bent. I meant to save that for something I would just refrigerate, but I unbent it, washed it, and couldn’t tell it apart from the others. The others all looked great!

So much fun!

Then a couple of days ago, having bought some dried black beans, I decided to can some more. I made black bean soup and vegetarian chili – 8 pints each (I forgot I could fit 9 in, but 8 was a good number and the jars were all just filled with the amount I had made in the slow cooker.)

I learned that day that pressure canning two batches in one day was too much for me. My head hurt from the amount of concentration I had to keep. My back hurt, and my girls were stressed out since I wasn’t able to sit with them until after 7pm that night. Yet looking at those 16 jars, and hearing the pings (I have learned to love that sound!) of jars sealing was incredibly satisfying.

Course, here I am two days later, aching to do more canning. I suppose it isn’t really worth the time. 16 jars worth maybe about $11 after factoring the cost of the food for a whole days work – when an eight hour shift would have paid quite a bit over $100 if I could have kept working, yet… this calms me and brings value to my life, where working caused me panic, stress, burn out, and an overwhelming feeling that whatever I did didn’t matter.

There is more to life than money, and I think… I think I really like canning.

Oh – and in response to my mother’s question when I spoke to her the other day, “how does it taste?” Better than I could have imagined! Really, there is no comparison to store bought canned vegetarian soups.

 

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Autism: Learning to Can Part 1

It started out with plums. Lots of plums. Our tree was full this year and… I had to start somewhere, so – plums!

The pressure canner I ordered back in August never came in. I waited and waited, and then went camping – but my son was still home and he watched for it. It was in Edmonton, and was supposed to arrive here the next day, but never came.

Did someone steal it? Ugh people!

It isn’t like we live in a poor neighbourhood. We likely live in one of (if not the) oldest and least expensive homes in our area. We are surrounded by doctors, teachers, nurses, business owners… We may not have much, but the people around us do – so if it got here and they stole it??? I don’t understand that.

Perhaps it never made it this far – but then… it was fed ex that had it (I think; might have been Purolator.) Did one of their workers take it?

So I got back from vacation and was stressed out to find it had not come in. I emailed Amazon about it, and they said they would send another. Then I learned of ‘my baby,’ and everything else dimmed in comparison. I struggled for many days and then one day woke up deciding this was the day I would harvest plums and try canning for the first time.

I guess when most other people learn such things they turn to people who know what they are doing and learn from them. That isn’t me. Working with other people presses on my heart and mind that I am not good enough. I don’t belong. They may not be thinking the same thing; I will allow for that. When I am with other people, however, I get attacked – in my head, in my heart, all around me – and I just can’t.

Though I am sure most other people don’t understand this level of anxiety or isolation, I am sure that if they experienced anything similar – like perhaps they received an electric shock every time they got something right, they would be afraid to keep going, too. Not that I get shocked – but it is like that. I get attacked through thoughts and feelings. It makes it so hard to function that when other people are around, I really can’t function. Not won’t. Can’t. I drop things, I spill things, I make mistakes. I can’t think for the shouting in my head (that I am working so hard to silence) telling me how stupid I am to think I belong there, or could do… anything.

So I don’t. Other people work, and serve, and do things with other people – and when I am there, I sit, or I try to hide in a corner and become invisible.

It has to be this way, it seems, for I am not strong enough to silence the attacks – and the attacks always come.

This means that if I want to learn anything, really, I have to learn alone. I seek out ideas, research, study, spend an inordinate amount of time fixated on the subject, and then one day I will just try.

Well, knowing I was interested in canning, my husband brought a huge water bath canner home from the thrift store where he works. I mean, it was huge! It took up two burners on the stove. I had all these plums, so that is where I started. Over a couple of days I made 24 jars of canned plums (and got at least that amount again in fresh plums, some of which we brought to my husband’s work and gave away.

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Autism: Rather Than Feed The Greed

After years of consideration, and many days spent going back and forth between being absolutely sure this is what I wanted, and fearful that it would only add to the number of experiences I had failed at, I finally gave in and bought my pressure cooker.

With research, I chose the smaller model – despite only about $2 difference for the larger capacity one which would hold 7 quarts more! After all, it would be used mainly for myself and my small dogs – and I would likely be overwhelmed doing large batches. Plus, aside from holding a few less jars at a time, the determining factor came down to whether or not I wanted to use it to hot water bath can quart jars, since that wasn’t an option in the smaller size.

While my husband and son might share some things if I canned them – cherries, pie fillings, etc. It is highly unlikely we would want to open a quart of anything at one time. We just don’t eat a lot of the same things.

Besides, the larger model would take a lot more power, and a lot more time to operate – which in the long run would end up being a lot more than the original $2 difference.

Even then I wasn’t sure. I have failed at so many things… not so much because I was really bad at it to begin with (or any worse than any other beginner) but more because the longer I try to do something, the more guaranteed it is that my confidence and energy will give out on me.

Short projects of a few days to a couple of weeks, with a definite end in sight (and no further obligation after) are much more likely to be met with excitement and success than something I have to do week after week for long periods of time – and anything without a clear end is pretty much doomed to failure from the beginning.

But there was still more to the decision than a matter of failure. I am not one to just spend money – I know that since my bankruptcy pre-marriage, many people still respond to me as if I were bad with money. Yet I have never been a big spender, and every purchase is given much research and consideration both before and after the purchase. My challenge isn’t that I have a problem with spending, but much more that on my own, I am not capable of making enough money to live on (no matter how thrifty I am.)

Now, it may be somewhat different with items I get from the thrift store – especially during bag sale – but I still have to think about everything I bring into my home (for clutter weights me down, and is a constant source of stress for me.)

And whatever I choose to do, and whatever I choose to buy, it must be in line with who I am.

Since the capitalist society in which I find myself appears to be built on encouraging and measuring success on greed – which lies, and cheats, and allows people who haven’t the money to pay for food or medical treatment to die – is the complete opposite of what I believe, I really must make my choices based on something that doesn’t feed that greed.

So while I am enjoying (if it can be called that) the ability in this society to earn gift cards towards ‘something for myself’ I still feel an obligation to spend those gift cards wisely.

Now what is ‘true to me’ is that I feel we’ve drifted far from what is important, and to live well, I need to get back to that – back to the basics. And in the end it was that which made the decision. The money and time spent now learning to grow and preserve my own food can only help me to live in a way that is good, and honest, and true.

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Autism: To Can or Not To Can

It has been one of my strong interests for a number of years now, and so it makes sense that it comes up again and again – after all, I do seek out information on the subject. Really, not just information, but… everything I can find.

Pictures, books, documentaries, movies… they are some of my all time favourite ways to pass the time; to make me think.

I love to be inspired, and nothing inspires me quite like stories of people who… can.

There is a person in my church who draws comic like pictures based on the sermons each week, and they share them online with the rest of them. The last one I saw was about two different ways of ‘carrying your cross;’ as in, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

They entitled this picture “the tale of two crosses” or something like that. There was one person, carrying what appeared to be a heavy wooden cross up a hill. The other person was driving an RV filled with lots of ‘stuff.’

I could understand the point – much like my pastor says, “It is dangerous to live (where we live),” because things are easy, and we get… complacent or something. Like the saying, “you don’t know God is all you need until God is all you have.”

In a way I agree with that, only for me, life is more like a battleground than a vacation – though I live in a place where everyone seems to be experiencing life here as if it were some sort of tourist destination. I suppose my experience is much like a soldier returning from particularly brutal experiences at war, and trying to fit in to a society that can’t even imagine what that might be like. I may have never been to war, but my own traumatic experiences have strong, painful, frightening triggers in every day life which affect me in much the same way.

So I appreciate that I live in a land that is not at war – yet I have no trust, and much fear, that this so called peace will last. In fact, I am nearly always on heightened alert that society as we know it is on the brink of collapse – and fully aware in that fear, that I haven’t the skills needed to survive, and most of the people around me are… asleep.

So comforted by the ‘knowledge’ that food comes from the grocery store (and will always be available,) water comes from the taps, heat and power come from automated systems in our homes, and we are basically ‘safe.’

Part of me so longs to be like them. This fear? It is exhausting. And yet the subject captures my thoughts so well that I will spend months of every year, and much of the time in between, watching, researching, considering, planning for this very thing.

For me, I am neither the person carrying the heavy wooden cross, nor the person driving in the RV filled with lots of stuff – for me it feels more like I am carrying the RV filled with ‘stuff.’ It is a burden, and I dream of ‘putting it down.’ For the weight of all of this unnecessary stuff takes so much of my attention that I can’t focus on what is really important.

So I consider: if something happened (and it is very possible that it will to some degree) would I be able to survive?

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We are so dependant on electricity, natural gas, cars, money, grocery stores… most of us have no idea how to survive without them – and I must admit, I really have no clue for all the research I have done. I thrive off ideas, but I couldn’t live off them; for that I need skills.

Through the year I have been taking surveys and such every day to earn money towards gift cards. Finally I had enough to cash in, and want to trade them for something that would be useful now, and would help me to feel confident that I could survive should something happen to change the world as I know it.

And that search led me back to the thought of ‘canning.’ If I used it to buy a pressure canner, and equipment for it – though I have never canned before – would that fit my desire to use both my time and my (gift cards) towards things that would build on the skills I would need to survive; or would it increase the burden of ‘stuff’ that I carry, which takes me away from what is important?

Would I be able to learn to can safely – and would I be able to find enough recipes of the type of food I would use (vegan soups, for instance) to make it worthwhile; or would it be another failure on my part which just takes up more storage space… and if so, what would be a better option?

First world problems? Ye-es, but for one who is always concerned that we are all right on the edge of some disaster that will lead us to being completely dependant on our own skills to be able to survive… but then I think, I couldn’t fight. I couldn’t kill animals for food. I couldn’t defend myself. If it is some type of illness, I wouldn’t likely survive it. So if something does happen – I probably wouldn’t be alive long enough to use any of these skills if I did have them.

Which brings me back to the question: To can, or not to can?

 

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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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