Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Reflections On Maintenance ; Gel Nails, The Musical Wicked, and I

She took an hour of her time to shape them, layer them and colour them. I found myself watching a romantic comedy on my worn purple couch with laundry piled on one side. The air outside was smoky from forest fires a country away and the inside with polish fumes. She smiled and made comments about life in general. I felt some of my anxiety melt away. She gave and in her gift I was thankful. I had asked because she loves doing it. It's her love language. She's my new sister. Too often I say no and I had an occasion I could use them for. It was a comforting sort of moment even though I was a little uncomfortable.

The truth is I hate having my nails done. Memories surface of a grad long ago that was both hard and beautiful. Followed by a trip to the Nicaraguan mountains. We cut off my gel tips with blunt scissors because they just were not right up there in the beautiful grit. It hurt. My nails were misshapen and scarred for months after.  A symbol that more of my life was not fitting and needed to be bluntly cut and life would be slightly misshapen for awhile. 

Memories of stinging hands secretly passing my plate through the wires to starving little mouths. We were not supposed to but how could I not? 15 pounds lost in ten days. It was hard on my soul which turned to my body. That was the moment I had to choose between my old life and the one my husband was going to give me. I had one phone call and I chose my husband despite a few misgivings. He answered in a bright, yeasty smelling Subway across the equator in delighted exclamations. I could hear his smile and picture him in his cap and green shirt. I felt calm with relief. I chose right. I still feel a tightening of my chest thinking of the what ifs. What if I hadn't?

The second time my nails were professionally done I was in a wedding. The day of rehearsal we announced our plan to move out of the basement suite so lovingly made.  I was four months into my post partum depression with a little muffin depending on me. I was yelled at. For months I found silence, long letters and accusations. Selfish. The trump card  so often thrown by extended family to beat all arguments; You. ARE. Selfish. That night I went to the rehearsal shaky and broken. I FELT selfish. So often that is the accusation after I have to set boundaries. I know deep down it's untrue but I do question myself for a moment. What if I had given in to please or believed the lies of perspective? What if I had not followed my husband to that little shack where we would raise the rest of our family before we found our forever home? What if I had not made that physical separation that set the tone for the rest of our lives? I loved that home until it was time to leave. It was a different sort of haven. One I would not go back to but am thankful for all the same.

When my nails are done, I dislike the reminders of a part of my body I am used to ignoring. I don't realize how much I pick at the skin on my shoulders and arms, scratch my head or rub the black eyeliner under my eyes. My fingers feel weighted down by the polish. Like they can't breathe properly. They look pretty but they are not fully me. I often wish they could be but they simply aren't. The colour on the tips of the nail hide the skin and eyeliner that somehow live under the depths no matter how much I wash. I eat with my hands a lot. I rip the meat off of bones instead of cutting it for my children. I separate food with my clean hands during mealtime. I simply wash after. It's easier than using utensils all the time. But with polish I feel I shouldn't. I start to rip the skin off of the drumstick and I pause. I see the nails that are mine yet are not. I go to the drawer to get a rarely used knife. I feel I should be one of those girls who manages to keep nails immaculate. The ones who complete a polish of their entire being on a daily basis. I wonder with awed curiosity how they live? 

As much as I lived under that illusion in my past or can create it for photos; I am NOT. That. Girl. Perhaps that is why Elphaba is one of my favourite roles? Perhaps that is why I cried through all the songs in Wicked's musical the first time I heard it 8 years ago? Perhaps it is why I play the songs in my darkest times to remind myself who I am? Perhaps many school mates thought high maintenance when my name was brought up? Truthfully, I am the green girl born into a white world. The one who does good deeds only to be accused of being the witch. No good deed...The only factor of high maintenance on me was the self inflicted time constraints of the illusion I created. While dusty memories were created by these illusions that won't be traded, I still wonder how many more could have been without it? Maybe it would have been worse? Illusion can also bring beauty. Beauty can hold inspiration. But not all the time. Sometimes a hazy sort of lovely bliss is also in the messy. The undone corners. 

That time my crush tried to comfort me with the words, "If it was on looks alone I would go for you- you are the hottest girl here but your personality while kind, is very odd. We just wouldn't work." And I knew he never saw me. I also felt the deepest wound because like being green, a inner way of being can not magically change. Also, being the "hottest" girl in the room is not comforting- it was a small room. There will always be someone prettier or younger. That was something I was not willing to hold my value on because of it's fickleness. Plus, I knew that I had my flaws, that I will age, that things will happen and that I don't want to maintain for looks alone. Of course, I could enhance my looks but my personality could only go so far under the chameleon affect. I didn't know why, no matter how much I assimilated, that I still managed to stand out, be odd, or different. At that time I felt it was a shame. Now I realize it was simply being an undiagnosed Aspie in an NT world. Now I love it mostly, but when I didn't know WHY it pulled at my soul and blurred my soft edges into sharp corners.

All in time. My time right now involves waking and rolling into the most comfortable clothes, smearing on some eyeliner because I can't seem to live without it, mascara, dabbing the moisturizer and pulling back my hair into a pony. I wash after I brush the night taste out of my mouth but I prolong showers until I can't go without anymore. I don't brush my hair until I shower again and it's rare that I put on extra make up for anything other than special dinners, trips to the city or a photo I KNOW will be taken. I don't like perfume or unnatural deodorants. Sometimes I lament to my husband that I don't have an enticing smell because I don't want one. He laughs and starts kissing and smelling my skin next to my armpits and says that he loves my natural smell and that it reminds him of the many ways we love. I cringe for a moment and then wonder why am I cringing? This is love, this is beauty, this is natural. If he is my lover, why should any other's opinions of what I entice matter? My kids love me, I like me this way, and my husband does. Enough.

Pretty nails remind me that everything comes at a cost and beauty is fleeting. Soon the colour will peel off or start to chip and I will either have to maintain or be comfortable with the half specks for months. I always chose the later. As much as the wannabe in me begs to maintain, it's really not in the real me to follow through. I spent too much of my life maintaining. I maintained kindness at all costs and gentle response. I maintained the 'appropriate' conversation (mostly). I maintained the elaborate hairstyles, hour long make up routine and immaculate (uncomfortable) business/preppy clothing. 
I remember some moments brought on by these decisions that were wonderful. I also remember moments filled with scratchy, dirty, sick feelings. It came with both. My current lifestyle also comes with both. Yet, I find that more often than not I feel at peace. The contented sensations matter more. I surround myself with beauty. I love beauty- both made and raw but now I live in the raw a bit more myself.

Perhaps it is a rare magic to be loved like the velveteen rabbit? To be assured that at the most raw you are the most loved. But at most moments I know I am by the most important person in my world; Myself.  It's even rarer to find a counterpart who also believes in this magic and finds a way to not only love himself but to love his partner. Luckily, I have three littles who are also living in both the maintained version of life and the overgrown. I may not be THAT girl but I am the one who ends up Defying Gravity and ends up with the guy at a cost. The cost of reputation and perhaps much of the world. I am the girl who can't grovel in submission to feed ambition. The one who has a brief temper at injustice and changes on a regular basis in response to these injustices. I can't play by the rules yet I can respect them if they make sense. I trust my instincts. I am the girl who no longer steals to the land of might of been or does so only for a moment to be thankful for the land that IS. I'm the girl who is kissed tenderly and held tight. As long as he is mine. I am the girl who leaves disasters in the wake of well meaning or a need to BE true but also the girl who has changed some for good and been changed for the better by a select few.

These are the reflections that happen once a year when I cave into my illusions and decide to paint my nails. Maybe it's a good thing I give into the illusions from time to time to only become a more real version once again? They are my nails yet they are not. I am a different sort of me. I'll take that version until my nails start peeling and then once again I will go back to the home that I am naturally.

While these aren't all of the amazing songs of Wicked these are the songs I referenced in my post. Enjoy!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Playing "FakeBall" (AKA Fake Baseball.) Lessons on faking Life to make Life.

*Post Edit: If you noticed I took this post down- it was to reconstruct and edit most paragraphs because I felt the idea I was trying to communicate needed some refining. I read it to my NT counterpart and he understood where I was going but mentioned that most NT's who do not know me would not get it. I still don't think that the essence of what I wanted to convey is fully captured, but I do feel that now it reflects a bit more of what I was trying to write. Thanks for your patience.*

Every year my cousin arrives and we play at unprofessional, fun, "photo shoots." Basically we dress up in themed outfits and take hundreds of photos. We pick the best photos to put into a summer montage video set to peppy music. It's a quick keepsake of the good times to share. Because I am old Skool and do not participate in Facebook or have large social media platforms besides Blogger and Pinterest I do this instead. I watch the videos on rainy days to remind me of the love infused in my life and to see the growth of each year.

For the pictures I try to think of themes that we already have outfits for. This summer my sister and cousin were teasing me because I mentioned that there was nothing hotter than a woman in a baseball tee and cap. Yes, stuff like that does come out of my mouth and apparently the way I emphasized that point had them on the floor in giggle fits. I am happily married to a man by the way. I chalk these sort of comments up to the fact that most Aspies can (obviously each of us has our own preferences) be pansexual. Many of us Aspies don't often see gender lines. Attraction is attraction. Anyway, that was two months ago but as an inside joke I decided we should go with the baseball theme. I had five casual baseball tees to share around anyway and normal shirts on the kids would work. My life is currently about comfort; plaid in the winter months and baseball tees and tanks in the summer, so this worked well.

I am severely Dyspraxic (link) so sports are NOT my thing. My sister had to show us all how to hold a bat. I still don't think I got it right...and it was a toddler bat. My cousin and I were laughing as we attempted the baseball stance. It felt so awkward. She also had to show us how to pitch a ball which is funny because she can't really play either. We staged an entire game on an actual baseball field at one point. It was the most fun I have ever had 'playing baseball'. While I like the concept of baseball my childhood memories of this sport are the worst. Many involve being picked last, clumsy falls between bases, witnessing two broken bloody noses, and getting hit in the head. "Fake ball" (as I lovingly dubbed it) was much more fun!

I would have loved to have been an actress. I had to pretend a role most of my life to fit in. So I tried to make it fun when I could. I had to act to survive. It sounds dramatic but it's actually true. I thrived because I could mimic. Sometimes, oddly to me, the act of acting CAN also be genuine.

"Genuine or real" are words often thrown around to judge an experience. I find this particularly ironic in our current social media age. Yet it begs the questions; "What is real? What is genuine? Who decides what makes an experience authentic? What about 'something' makes it 'fake'?" Our 'fake' playing was the best sporting experience I have had in years. It was real in it's unreality.

I had to lay down, due to health, for a few hours after to recover from the full hour of photos, and yes, I faked some of the energy during the time, but what would my life be like if I DIDN'T sometimes force myself to play a role for awhile? In "reality" I can't engage in much activity in my current condition. I DO have an experience I would otherwise not have.

I believe in authenticity. Over the years I have worked hard to discover my personality, my inner workings and my genuine thoughts, beliefs and abilities. But I also believe there is something to imaginative play. Imaginative play is different from being fake and untrue to oneself. I know many people who are fake. They do not know themselves but they know concepts of what they THINK will make them happy, so they play at it, all day. They judge themselves and others and levels of happiness based on outer concepts or societal rules. This is not what I am speaking of.

In order to have an imagination, to play a role, one has to have a genuine belief in their authentic self. Good actors leave a role once it is done but immerse themselves in it while they play it. Why? Because they KNOW themselves enough to see where they begin and end. They are not confined by themselves OR the role.

I know I am not a baseball player but I DID play ball. I didn't play by all the rules nor did I participate in a standardized team game, but I had the makings of the game with me. I had a bat, a ball, the shirt and tights, the cap, and the attitude. The props made the experience seem real (ish- our attempts did not look professional. They included a toddler bat after all and Hollister Tees) but one could also argue that props make up life.

Was my experience fake? Was I not in a genuine moment because it was staged for photos? Did I not play ball? Did I not laugh even though inside I was wondering how many more steps I was capable of?

I do not believe in pushing oneself to get a result. If I really felt sick I would have had no issues walking away. I don't believe in the evangelical cultural concepts of sticking it out or the sole virtue of determination. I was brought up to believe that anyone worth their salt would not give up. Giving up was seen as failure. An interesting thought process full of complex ironies. Practice, patience, determination, grit...those words were thrown around a lot. I was led to believe that I could only have a full life if I stuck to something. And for what? Most adults teaching these concepts believed that if one practiced they would BECOME something great at whatever they were practicing at. As if they weren't already something that was good enough and of great value. It was about a goal. It was about achievement. Achievement defined existing. Existing became about what one accomplishes. A good full life was defined as what a person DID.

It's interesting...the blind faith we put into what we think equates a good person, a good life, or a good way of BEING. Sometimes walking away is the bravest thing one can do. Walking away from a fight, walking away from abusive relationships, setting boundaries, quitting an experience that could be substituted for something more enjoyable. The reason we don't want to believe that walking away can be good is because the fabric of society is based off of people willing to stick it out. Our institutions would fail and the way society runs would go into chaos for awhile until people figured out how to exist without a cultural concept of Being and how to create a safety net of reliable people without the drilling in of 'losers' being the 'quitters.'  I have no idea how that would turn out and there are many books dissecting the topic better than I. It's just something I have been thinking of. I don't label us quitters. I label our family as boundary seekers and boundary pushers that can not be confined to a box. I see us as changing our minds in flexibility. I believe we base all our decisions on living in the current context with the future in mind but not using the future as the sole factor. One decision with one person could be the opposite of what we do with another in a seemingly similar situation.

(This photo was taken by my daughter when we were supposed to be working on our library renos. See, despite thinking women look hot in baseball tees, I think my man is hot too:)

While sometimes sticking it out is the best thing to do and determination can be a virtue, it's the goal of the matter that bothers me. I really do believe that we need to commit to things and follow through on our vows. I am an Aspie- forever commitment to my spouse for example, is not a problem because of my inner moral commitment. However, my thoughts are- if we really KNEW ourselves and if we really KNEW what makes us tick, the good and the bad, most times we would not need to have the grit to stick out. The majority of what we do would be either neutral or good. Bad things would happen, but even then we would have such a strong sense of self, that we would be carried through. We would know what we need to be happy and be happier to those close to us that we love. This would create a trickle effect, spreading out to others. Most of our influence would be small. If each person influenced their small world, this health would gradually encompass the world. Perhaps I am an Idealist? But could we  use a tad more dissection of why we "stick things out" or why we are not comfortable with something that seems "fake" when it's just a different sort of real?

I faked it to make it during photos because I wanted to. I knew where I began. I knew my limitations. I knew what I needed to BE but also what I could pretend to BE in order TO BE. I had a blast. That was genuine. The reason why I did it was just as important as doing it.

I spent most of my childhood doing things that made others happy. It was the fabric of our religion, my education and society. I was an Aspie who felt uncomfortable 98 percent of the time. It was awful. No longer do I confine myself to those standards. I am judged for it but at least I no longer feel that judgement from myself. I have bad times and horrid moments, like everyone else, but I try to own them and when I fail- I fail. If I can quit something to pursue more beauty and to infuse a more comfortable way of Being if its unhealthy and causing ill health around me- I will. Sometimes it takes more creativity, grit and stubbornness due to the cultural concepts of those around me to quit the activity but it's worth the effort and the judgement. I know who I am.

Why can't we teach our children and ourselves how to quit healthily? Why do they have to finish the season of soccer? Because others depend on them? Perhaps those others can learn flexibility and creativity? Perhaps it depends on the circumstance? IF our children are truly miserable why are we forcing them to participate? Life has enough miserable moments on it's own to build natural resilience and character, why do we feel we need to add more? As adults we choose experiences or avoid ones that will make us feel less than human- Why can't our children have that freedom too? Perhaps our children can learn how to say no with consideration and be dependable to those that really matter instead of people pleasing and society pleasing through life? Is it about image of the family? Image of the child? Can we teach them how to hone in on their talents be Being instead? Can we teach how to choose what they love so that they will do it even when they are uncomfortable because of the love of it? Why is a genuine experience based on cultural norms? Isn't it mostly circumstantial anyway?

I can't even begin to cover this crossover of philosophy, sociology, theology and psychology in this post but it was worth a little dip into the water. This complex thought process and way of being based on decades of previous collective decisions obviously can not be undone with a post but it can be questioned lightly. I have more questions than answers anyway.

Fakeball was the best sport I have played. Determination was worth the photos because I wanted the photos and the experience of the photos so thus it was worth the exhaustion. Yet, within my belief of determination I have let my children quit structured piano and culturally expected organized sports. I am a paradox I realize, but I know why I AM. I am trying to teach my children the same sort of thing. They will fail. They are still finding out who they are. Importantly they are conversing about why they do not participate or why they do. THEY are choosing. Sometimes they lose out, but more often they are learning how to win at being content or just simply BEING. I hope they are learning within that BEING is worthy on it's own.

I still feel like the life is being sucked out of me but within that I also have life. I fake some interactions that matter to me at times but at others I actually have some energy to give. I avoid the rest, but I know that by faking my energies at times at least  I am BEING with them. By avoiding the ones that take up extra energy I am giving love to those put directly in my path. That matters. It's not profound but ordinary in it's extraordinary of the daily...which makes each second profound.

Play ball! Ha. Even it it may be a game of fakeball. Enjoy the paradoxes, oddities, and general absurdities of the drama called life...at least that is what I hope I am doing and thus hope for you. I hope we can value BEING more than doing. I hope I continue to have more questions than answers and that we value each other simply because we ARE together in LIFE.

These photos made me think of this fun song- my favourite part is from 2:20 onward:
And this reminds me of summer magic. "We go together like a wink and a smile."

Saturday, August 15, 2015

My Summer: An Existential Crisis Caused By Health Issues

(Picture Caption: The only thing I seem to do well this year- Snuggle my nephew to sleep.)

A fellow Aspie and I were discussing how we tend to have an existential crisis once a year or more. Most people in their lifetime average 1-2, if that. My husband can verify that in these moments I re-define the very fabric of my self, beliefs and the foundations of my life. Autism already creates isolation in the way we perceive and understand the world. Rae, my friend, gets it because she also has Autism/ Aspergers. My husband travels often with me into the odd way I see the world and so does my best friend. They get me because I am constantly explaining and I share everything with them. I count this as a huge beauty in my life. Sometimes, though, it is so nice to talk to someone who shares my brain perceptions without having to explain. While Rae and I have different Keirsey temperaments and very different ways of living in the world our brains share the commonality of Asperger's Syndrome. The regular intervals of existential crisis are rough on us, but each crisis brings us further into enlightenment, understanding and questioning. The refreshing bit of it is that we are never stagnant. We are constantly re defining our value, purpose and meaning. It's hard and seems unfair at times but it also has it's own beauty. No one makes life harder on us than ourselves.

This year's crisis started out in January when I knew I could no longer ignore my looming health issues. Bloodtests would be on the horizon with results I was familiar with and treatment that would be long and slow. However, I did not realize how far gone I was and how much more serious my blood levels were than usual. Currently, I am eight months into treatment without a current end in sight. I was threatened with transfusions a couple times but with the help of a few different people (doctors, naturopaths and friends) I managed to raise my levels these four months enough to keep "improving." My Ferritin went from a 2 to a 5 in eight months. I no longer feel like I am dying with every step but this took a toll on my physical self and my inner self. Google a level 5 Ferritin, which is my "IMPROVED" self, and a long list of symptoms and severe exhaustion is the norm. This is me feeling "better." Amongst rapid hair loss and greying, brittle yellow nails from loss of blood to my extremities, heart pain, bad skin from lack of oxygen and weight loss in all the wrong places, I have also had to face a level of stagnancy that even a cat personality finds annoying. I love languishing. I have the capacity to stay in bed for hours in bliss or curl up in a corner and not move until my bladder pushes me out of my relaxation mode. I have found that even for my feline self, eight months of "taking it easy" has taken it's toll.

The worst part of it is, it feels like it should be nothing. I look at my beautiful fulfilling life with many of my dreams coming true and I beat myself up for feeling so crappy. When my naturopath saw my blood results two months ago she asked, "How are you sitting here right now? Most people with these levels would be hospitalized or in bed all day? I have had borderline low levels before and I felt like crap but it was never as low as yours. This affects everything from the way your hormones work to your inner organs to your heart which is your very essence of health, to your skin and bones. Your body is going through deprivation. No wonder you feel like weeping all the time." When she said that I felt relief. I tend to be a trooper even if I know something is wrong until the facts are staring me in the face. Then I allow myself to feel it for a few hours. It took all my strength not to break down into gulping sobs which would not have done me any good anyway because then I would not have been able to breathe. I can't even cry properly.

Her statement was validating but the story I tend to tell myself is different. "It's just blood," I tell myself, "I just look old. It's something that can IMPROVE. It's not like I have a condition that can't be cured. It's something on going but temporary in it's extremity. It's a good lesson in patience perhaps? I still have all my body parts functioning. It's slowly improving. It is only affecting your looks and your capabilities...it could be so much worse. Get. A. Grip. Everyone is sick of hearing about it. When they ask if you are doing better they want to hear a yes. After 8 months they deserve a resounding YES. They don't want to hear that while you are steadily climbing up in degrees of improvement it is not enough to warrant much of a change in you. Just pretend. You are thirty- one not eighty. You at least have youth on your side to recover. Focus on the positive." That is basically what I tell myself but deep down I know I can't pretend with those I love. While focusing on the positive is good practice, it sometimes also contributes to a lack of facing what is flawed in front of us.

This summer has been especially hard in the fact that it's not hard at all. That doesn't make sense does it? It has been a beautiful summer with beautiful people and wonderful distractions. Inside I feel dead. Not in a emotional way, but in a energy seeping "I want to do this but I really can't" sort of way. Usually in the summertime my cousins show up. My sister and cousins are around a decade younger than me. Because of my Asperger's Syndrome I can usually relate to them very well and we have tons of fun together. This summer I was excited because my one cousin is living here over the summer with my sister.  I pictured many moments of us sharing time at each other's homes. I pictured conversations over good food and sharing my kid's beautiful daily. I pictured our old energetic city trips with immense laughter and moments so high with enjoyment they felt chemically induced.  However, how it has played out has been different then what I was expecting. I can't do what they can. I can't go on small walks let alone hikes. I can't go to noisy concerts (on my best of days I couldn't before either but I REALLY can't now) or cheer at marathons they participate in because the heat takes the last thready bits of my breath away. I can't "Just Dance" and giggle with them and my kids. I feel like an outsider. They are doing their own thing, being twenty somethings and topping the summer off with a week in Victoria together. Some things I wouldn't do anyway because of Autism, but when it's all off the table it feels so much more poignant. I am not an envious person over other's lives. I like mine. However, this year I feel the pangs of wishing to be more. I feel like a party pooper because the small ways I could relate in before are robbed.

It's hard to understand when you don't have a mind that causes being an observer in other areas of life  on a regular basis. Having Autism causes me to be a spectator in many areas of life due to sensory overload or a different approach to life. So having the few areas I can relate to people in taken away due to other factors brings on a deep sense of failure and disappointment.  Why do I feel like a failure? Because I can't be perfect or normal. What a ridiculous standard for even the most ordinary, "normal, seemingly perfect" person! I see my contradictions but it doesn't help.

Something as simple as conversing takes up a lot of energy. I laugh less even though in my heart I feel happy. I can't express it as much because it takes that which has to go elsewhere in my body. I can't cry excessively because it would hurt my heart literally. I can't laugh hard without feeling panicky after. My friend who had a heart ablation understands this. She said she could not express any emotion pre- ablation without triggering her heart problems and it led to anxiety and depression due to suppression. That is how I feel. I have to suppress to be an acceptable version of healthy in my organs.

Muscles spasm without enough blood flow, organs work harder to function at a regular interval, and the body does what it needs to do to survive. Miraculously the body does away with what is not necessary first. Not enough blood flow? Ok, let's cut off the nails, hair and skin first so that the organs can have more oxygen. I am in awe of that. Really I am. The body is amazing! But I suppose the vain part of me resents my veins for the sacrifices I have to make in my appearances. I already feel old and act old. Do I have to look it too? I look like I just lived through some awful heartache or ravaging disease. I look like I hate life or have a bad one. I am wrinkled yet zitty, my skin is sagging from lack of muscle tone and my hair is falling out in clumps. What I look like doesn't match how I FEEL about life or my existence. Sometimes I try to fake it by applying tons of make up, wearing hair extensions, and covering up my body in flattering clothes, but that takes so much energy. I wish I could do it everyday because mentally I would feel better but I just can't. I want my outer self to reflect my inner self. I feel my inner self, while struggling and different, is beautiful. I suppose each of us feels that way regardless...

I look at my sister and cousin and I feel like an outsider this time. For the first time in life, in a rare place I felt like I belonged, I no longer do. They try to include me and it's not their fault. The only ways I can participate is watching movies with them. Understandably they don't want to spend most of the summer watching and my heart hurts each time they say no because I understand but I still want to feel like I had a summer too. I realize that it's ridiculous and immature but if I am being honest with myself the feeling is there. I am going through the stages of grief. I feel angry about it or sometimes at them for something they can't control. I feel denial. We went to the city and I tried for the same level of energy I had previous summers before and I totally crashed. It was awful. I felt the bitterness creep up when usually I do not struggle with bitterness. Life is so different for me anyway that being bitter about it all would be a huge waste of my time. However, I think I am bitter because I see how much I have and I am bitter at myself for feeling like I can't live it. I feel the sharp sting of my own lack of participation in life. Especially because I WANT to participate.

We started renos last summer in our basement and upstairs. Basically we are re doing almost our entire house. Up until December I was helping a lot. I could already feel that something wasn't right but I pushed through. When I just crave being snowed in for days and days and I picture myself snuggled in bed as a life line and comforting image, I know it's time to face what I don't want to face.  I had to stop helping. The projects I loved contributing to, imagined up and designed could not longer be mine to shape. While I am so grateful my husband has the talent and energy to finish it all up, I HATE not contributing. The times I do I will hear, "Careful honey. Should you be doing that? You are going to pay for that later and be in bed for a couple days. Hon, you might hurt yourself. Go lay down." That is probably the phrase I hear the most, "Go lay down." I love him and he is such an amazing guy. I don't resent his care of me. I resent that he is right and my body is doing it's best to heal and I am impatient with it. I resent my own lack of inner peace. While I craved these sort of statements back in December/ January and needed to live in a state of couch potato until March, three months of laying down was enough. I didn't start improving until May. A ridiculously long time to do nothing. At the beginning I wasn't even supposed to do dishes. How does one be a mother, wife and friend when for months they can't attempt simple tasks? I had to redefine what it means to be a contributing member of society. I had to believe that just BEING is contributing. I couldn't even write without feeling exhausted. It still takes it's toll.

All of this lead up to my crisis. Chronic anything can cause crisis and it was inevitable. The problem is that I am so aware of my flaws and beauty that travelling it in ignorant bliss is not an option. The upside is that awareness can cause quicker processing. I am not ready for winter because this summer was an extended winter for me. I stayed in a lot more than I wanted to. I was so sick of my computer that I would just stare out the window longing for the suppleness of youth I am supposed to be enjoying. I suppose the experience causes empathy for so many young people suffering from disease, malnutrition, poverty ect. There are many people worse off than I, at younger ages. Which is why I try not to use my social media platforms to only talk about the good times. It paints an unrealistic version of life. I also believe the reverse to be true. To only talk of that which is a struggle is also unfair. Life is both good and bad. Honouring both brings a level of authenticity.

I am redefining myself yet again. I am re defining what it means to have a good life or a well lived one. I am reading challenging books on varied topics and listening to my heart when it asks for a song, a moment in the sun, or a light walk. Yesterday, everything inside of me begged to go outside in the rain. I probably looked insane to my neighbours but I walked out in the cold pouring rain in my bare feet. I gingerly touched the plants dripping with life and squished my freezing feet deeper into the earth trying to become part of it's energy. I held out my hands to the sky and steeped myself in it's tear soaked misery. Walking back into my warm haven, I felt better. When I listen to my heart, despite how the world may interpret my actions based on their own perceptions, I am a step closer to living in the moment. Living in the moment, embracing all that is, brings deep moments of beauty and pain. That is what I have to remind myself in a crisis.

I'm not better. I just am.

I have listened to this song over and over from one of my (many) favourite romantic comedies "Fools Rush In." It warms my essence when everything else feels cold.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Redeeming the Struggle, the Magic of the Gut and the Daily.

For over a year we have been on a journey of healing. A path that looks more like a zig zagged web of chaos then a straight forward angle. My husband and I change our minds quite frequently. We see this flexibility as strength containing a multitude of all that IS in our existence and allowing our minds to change so that we can embrace many lessons. Our healing path mimics this awareness. We don't embrace one specific diet, one specific way of healing... but we do have specifics that work for us, for a time being, specifically.

Another twist in our journey has transpired. We have been reading the book "Gut" together by Guilia Enders . While we have focused on gut bacteria for more than a year, we are constantly finding new ways of incorporating this into our daily life. Although Gut is a word that seems to have a cultural yuck factor with it we have found a magic within. The gut now symbolizes for us the beautiful dance of life that intricately makes up our micro to our macro. Neglecting the information or our respect for our natural states ties into every facet of BEING. Psychology, philosophy, belief, orthodoxy, health...ALL of it is tied to the gut in fascinating ways. It is pure magic and once embraced, an awe inspiring education.

I have read GAPS (Gut Psychology), Weston Price, Paleo, Eating for Your Blood Type ect. and our family has applied what personally works for us and discarded what does not.. What ties all of these together, is the power of what we consume and the fact that our gut is our second brain full of bacteria that makes up us and influences our decisions.

Being kind to our body...what we do, what we eat, what we converse with...the very nature of our fabric...is what enables LIFE. There is never a linear path to healing and if there is, it should be questioned. Redemption is in the struggle BECAUSE of the learning aspect. We can redeem any struggle if we have found more of our substance.

I find my substance in the ordinary, the raw, the natural, the simple and extreme. I have learned that many misunderstand me and I have to be careful what I say to keep peace although I simply can't play that game much anymore. I don't avoid but I don't look for those connections either. I have what I have, and on most days that is enough. In the past interactions my honesty was questioned continually and my paradox self was not embraced as genuine. I am learning not to care. The days that I do, I fortify myself with loving boundary quotes (link). Boundaries not to fence me in and keep me stagnate but boundaries that enable my freedom. To remind me I am worth more and can ask to be treated as the one I am. I know who I am and what begets freedom. Gut healing is not a straight linear path. In the best of guts, a bacteria can come and wipe out everything good. Such is also the landscape of relationships, the mind and all living things. Such is what I am.

My mind marvels at the way life is all connected. Resources we have needed, either through perhaps the law of attraction, or something universal, have been infused into our life with what I call enchantment: books, podcasts, music, people, moments, events, pins ect. leading us onward in a path that is infused with the daily. Daily is a combination of ordinary which is extraordinary mixed with some magic and some hardship.

My husband and I began a journey together back at the age of seventeen for both of us. We have seen each other through post partum depression that gave us both a differing case of PTSD. We have also seen those same moments give us the most life giving gifts. We have been through tempests and storms and people who were bent on tearing us apart because we seemed different. Through sweet diagnosis to bitter diagnosis, to questionings of faith to a greater faith or a lesser faith (depending on perspective) and through it all, our gut instinct, and our literal guts themselves, found a way of triumphing. Through vulnerability, constant communication in our little family, and questioning the absorption of all things, we found each other and we found ourselves. Our twenties gave us so much and took so much but I am honoured that we travelled them as partners: together and separate. Now in our thirties, we are finding more puzzles, more answers, and even more questions and sometimes the ordinary charm from every day life binds us together in a mystical dance of symmetry, while at others we are torn into chaos churning malnourishment on some level, clawing our way back to ourselves and each other.

Reading, absorbing, BEING in our home and the outdoors, learning, listening to the wind, touching each other's sun kissed skin, toes squished in the blades of grass or hearing music from our speakers or the trees and finding our rhythm in the smells of our day or the taste of what transforms to bacteria that gives life and death... all the senses living to a beautiful extreme has caused this way of life. I see it as a gift from Autism/Empath/Sensitive one ect. Having a different gut that causes a different brain scenario. Though the gut can heal and help heal aspects of the mind, we are still who we are amongst the changes. I see sensory overload, the curse gift, that can cause so much pain but also a level of healing that most have a tough time embracing BECAUSE of the deep sensory understanding.

I am content although my blood runs thin and life is not perfect. I feel both the sultry call of the inner micro and macro world and the deprived stagnancy that can also occur simultaneously. My introverted self may not show the entire world what my beauty is, the raw warmth tingle of my daily but it shows me and those nearest.

 I saw a picture of my 18 year old self pre pregnancy and though I recognized her, I realized only part of her exists in me now. I thank her for being HER as she WAS AND AM  and bringing me here, but I am also relieved life is not so stagnant as to keep me exactly her. My body may have been more supple back then but my mind is more supple now. I have accomplished the love of a lifetime in my husband and myself actually. My three children, once past the age of five, helped me find out that I actually AM a spectacular, if not culturally different, mother. Each has taught me more and infused growth on every level than any book could.

Life occurs in the gut, death occurs in the gut, nourishment and disease occur in the gut...all affect the brain and life itself. Each of us is a magical mixture of science and what can not be explained. Each of us partial to our gut bacteria, our inner working genes, our environment, and our decisions and experiences. Though these factors influence us, we also have our part to play in the world we create by learning about what influences us and how we choose to respond. I hope that on most days, my husband and our family and I continue to respond to our daily. I hope we respond by eating food that gives us a combination of good and bad bacteria (both are needed in certain amounts.) Likewise I hope we embrace the good and the bad in life's circumstance. Most of all, I hope we respond to the sensations of being alive in the little gifts of Being. I hope I savour the way my twelve year old still tucks her hand into the crook of my arm as we walk and I feel her warmth seep into my skin. I hope I take notice of my youngest's freckles that seem to dance upon his cheeks as they fill with a smile and giggle of mischief. I hope I remember the sound of my ten year old's voice as he croons his self written lyrics in his room, thinking I can not hear him. I hope I embrace my husband, smelling of construction, salt sweat, sun, and earth as he drives up in his rumbly truck after a day of working in his trade. I hope I notice his eyes and the twinkling warm welcome he always gives no matter how his day has gone. I hope when I wake to myself, despite some bodily ills, that I notice with gratitude what DOES work in my body, what beauty DOES make up my gut and all that is me.

I hope you also find the magic in your own journey and find redemption in the struggle.

A 20 minute clip of Gut author Guilia Enders in a interview. She is smart, funny, quirky...and just generally adorable...and yes I think I can say that a woman is not only extremely intelligent but also adorable ("inspiring  great affection/ charming".) Saying she is adorable doesn't outweigh her intelligence:)

And a happy song...because when I listen to this song I feel energetic and happy. This song completely describes my husband. I am so lucky:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Pondering on Health and Chronic Health Conditions and A Delights of the Senses List

There are delights that haunt me from within in a happy sort of way. I'm at a place in my life where writing and processing has taken a second seat to soaking up joy when I am not too much of a zombie. Being exhausted has been good in a teaching sense. The type of sick -tired that I am speaking of can not be understood by people who just have the fortune of a few bad nights, or even the new parent /awful exhaustion of new baby nights (although that is it's own type of torture.) Sick- tired, when the body has had a chronic low Ferritin level of 2 for more than 6 years and the actual blood cells have shrunk because of their lack of oxygen, feels like someone has hooked up an IV to the body and put it on reverse in a slow, agonizing drip of loss. I'm aware life could be much worse and I am thankful. Because of this state, I have learned a different sort of patience, kindness and approach to life that perhaps I lacked a little of pre illness.

Physical health is amazing. It's a wonderful gift that anyone who currently enjoys should love- guilt free. It is spectacular to have days that are bouncing with energy, vitality and youth. I have those on occasion and sometimes it is hard not to envy the population that gets to experience a non -paced version of life to the optimal. YET, I also know beauty can be found in most situations. The band Fun croons, "Some nights I stay up cashing in my bad luck, some nights I call it a draw, some nights I wish my lips would build a castle, some nights I wish they'd just fall off..." That about sums up the roller coaster aspect of chronic ill health with some good times, bad days and weeks where it is a draw between happiness and misery.

Some of the people who struggle with envy, malice, judgement and self righteous condemnation (the attributes I call ill health, even though they would probably suggest mental differences as "mental ill health") have very good physical health. Being unwell can also cause envy, malice, judgement and self righteous condemnation, depending on how one spends their limited energy. Life is both easier and tougher for those who do not suffer or do not have moments of complete vulnerability and dependence on schedules, people, meds or situations. A lifetime of these moments is not optimal, but a few spread out, if the right attitude is taken, can bring about good change, understanding and a higher sense of self. That is the hope I have found, at least for myself, in chronic illness. It's not what I would wish on anyone, but since I find myself in it, I prefer to cling to beauty, hope and shifts in perspective that bring inner health. Here are a few moments or realizations that have brought me such astounding joy that I can not express the full beauty of their simplicity, but I will give a brief glimpse:

Delights of the Senses Despite Chronic Illness

* I often hear people complain about their pace in life, how they crave a few days inside with their families or a vacation to "get away" from everything. I don't need that. I have it- everyday. At first it was a forced way of life but now it is simply our way. My vacation home - is my home. It's a intentional space filled with beauty, space, creativity and respite. It has to be or my physical health would deteriorate to needing to be in the hospital. Necessity is the mother of invention. ( Travelling is not bad nor are vacations but there are outside the box ways of taking them too!)

*My cousin is here from Dubai and I reminded her of how to get to my house from my mother's home (which she laughed at because she has lived here every summer since she was three!) It suddenly hit me that all it takes to get from my mother's home to mine is to walk out the back door, turn left and continue straight down the road until she arrives at my house several blocks later. I am literally on the same street. To add to my happiness is the fact that part of this road is gravel. I LOVE walking down the gravel road with the sight of the prairies climbing up the horizon to meet the sky. The smell of dirt, weeds, train smoke, manure and crops mix to tease my brain into childhood memories of safety. Right now all I seem to manage is this short walk, but for now, it is enough. This realization brought a type of contented comfort that stability and roots create. I literally sighed with a delighted smile after I realized this simplicity. It also helps that my parents have full grown trees and a pool.

* We keep a quiet life with few people, but those who present themselves in our lives, through our purpose or theirs, add their specific type of flavour to the feast of life. Summer is the time for picnics and connections. Along with aunts, dear cousins, and travelling friends, those who are always a constant (like our parents and my best friend's family ect) are the foundation of our existence. We love our alone time and thrive with just our family of five, but knowing we have support, and being able to enjoy the beautiful people on occasion that our support comes from, creates beautiful moments of gratitude...
And memories of Indoor Bohemian Tent Lunches on Rainy Days...

* Home made Ice Tea. For some reason this little drink has added a refreshing respite in my life. I bought Lemon Zinger Tea from the grocery store and my husband brews it in a big pitcher for half an hour (pouring boiling water over several tea bags) and then he adds just the right amount of honey, fills it with ice and puts it in our fridge. As the hot days melt into one another, the time I pour myself a goblet (Yes Goblet! I have these delightful pink and purple goblets a friend bought us last year for our anniversary and I try to use them as much as possible- life is meant to be savoured with our favourite things:) and I intentionally have a moment when all I feel is the zing of lemon on my tongue and the cold swish down my throat. It's a moment. It's mine alone and my other senses are sharpened during this time. The air feels hotter on my skin, the sun is sharper to my eyes, and the sounds of the wind rustling the rose bushes next to my deck bring the wafting smell of Alberta Rose into my conscious.

*Pinterest is a place that has taken over my writing time and been crucial to healing in my life. I don't care how many followers I get- in fact I only told a small amount of friends that I had a pin board. I wanted only those who felt inspired enough to find me themselves and have my boards speak to them- find me. I don't really know most of my followers. I view it as a sacred space- probably very different from how some others view it- but it has been a balm to my soul. Sometimes I still write for me, but with a lack of energy, Pinterest is a simpler way of expressing a single thought in an image or quote. My current favourite personal board  is Orchards and Country Woodland, Homey Charm (click)- it speaks to my current heart state. Since we are doing Renos I also love to Pin ideas for the house: Ideas for the Home (click) - I also don't want to just pin and not incorporate what I love into my life. Instead of just looking at these ideas I make sure I incorporate them in my own way, with at least 1/3 of the ideas into my life- even if it seems difficult. I also uploaded some of our own renos that we have completed so far which is fun: Bohemian Living Space (personal -click)If I want to express my opinions on life or relationships or general heart speak I pin to Quotes I Believe In (link) or  Quotes I Believe In 2: Loving Boundaries (link). It takes energy to search for what speaks out my heart, but once I find it, I am rewarded with a sense of satisfaction. If I want to express my personality: Scorpio Personality (link) or INFP/INFJ Personality (link) are my go to boards. If I feel I need to express thoughts or encouragement about Dyspraxia, Autism/Neurodiversity, Multiple Autoimmune conditions I choose these two boards: Neurodiversity (link) or Dyspraxia, Autoimmune ect. (link) Being Gluten free I find it handy to pin  my favourite baking recipes for quick reference here: Delicious, Naturally Sweetened, Gluten free Recipes (link). If I want to soothe my soul with images I intentionally search out pins that make my heart quicken and choose one of the multiple boards I have, adding delight to my day. I skim through them anytime I am down or in need of a lift: Outdoor Spaces To Inspire (link), Abundant Autumn (link), Seasonal Picnics and Outdoor Dinning (link), Winter Beauty (link), Magic (link), Food Still Life (link), or any of my other (click) boards.

Since I just spent a large paragraph writing about Pinterest, I think it is clear that it isn't just a frivolous activity for me. Currently in my state of health, it offers me an outlet of expression and connection that I desperately need. My husband teases me about my Pinterest obsession, but it literally takes five minutes for me to find a few images to uplift my spirit...and on my bad days, I pin a lot to ease my pain. Below: A pinterest Pin that immediately fills me with calm.
* Home Made Coffee Ice Cream. My father makes me this recipe every couple weeks because I am currently addicted and it's the few luxuries I allow myself and I can't make home made recipe due to the boiling on the stove top. Plus, I think I'm slightly spoiled by my parents still- it can be a charmed life. My husband thinks it has to do with my personality type because some people just like to pamper me- ha! Because I have children on the spectrum in varied ways- I think that extra bit of vulnerability plays a part? I don't know but I do know I LOVE home made coffee ice cream. My daughter and I share that "time of month." Having two spoons in a huge bowl of coffee ice cream drizzled with organic honey and us both belting out Broadway Show Tunes like "Rain on My Parade" between bites, life suddenly seems charming and perfect.  ( I can sing for short spurts again since my Hemoglobin has improved and singing is delightful.) http://www.primalpalate.com/paleo-recipe/coffee-ice-cream/

* My nephew and his snuggles. Even though I am sore DAYS after I hold him, this little munchkin has taken the bite out of a lot of my physical pain with his smiles and his little breaths as he falls asleep on my chest:

I have realized that the moments I still can have, even being depleted, are the moments that make life beautiful. I feel very lucky that I can enjoy multiple sensory experiences, have the strength to snuggle babies, have the swallowing capacity to sip ice tea, walk intentionally to my second home at my parents and find beauty greet me in my grandparents, sister, cousin and parents who live in the three suites ect.

 I had a time of my life that was writing focused, people focused and advocacy focused. I feel that it shaped me and was necessary to my journey but currently my journey has shifted. It's neither good nor bad- it just IS. I have not lost my muchness. It has just manifested in another way. I feel my advocacy now is in living day to day and soaking up the beauty while also spreading beauty in the places I am in control of. If each person found themselves and their beauty of creating while also savouring their good and making the best of their bad in their own homes and environment, I sometimes wonder how "much muchier" (an Alice quote) our world would be?

To those who are having a tougher time than I-  I am sorry for your loss, admiring your resilience, and wishing you moments of grace and peace. To all others- May the little moments that make up the big picture be savoured with gusto! Pay attention to the small fragments that make up reality. The daily. Not the news around you nor the opinions of the people around you but the sensory experience of YOU and YOUR day. You may be pleasantly surprised at what you find?

May you never loose your "muchness".

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Freedom In Autistic Parenting Link, Being Misunderstood and Freedom as an Aspie.

As of late, I have been feeling like my brain is rapidly misfiring and I have lost much of my former intelligence. I felt this way when my hormonal brain was in charge way back when I was pregnant and breastfeeding. Recently, I have wondered if I may have lost a few brain cells in the last year or so? My question proved true when I looked up chronic anemia and brain cells...I guess a few of mine have suffocated. Ha! Anyway, my state of being has been both beautifully peaceful and continually in crisis. It's a roller coaster that seems to follow the state of my health. I can look and feel so put together, young and vivacious yet sometimes in the same time frame I can suddenly go into zombie me- the pale, drained, barely even able to move because of pain- zombie mode me. All that to say, excuse this post because I feel like it may be a in-cohesive mess of thought? I am shamelessly going to quote people who seem to have more mental clarity than I, at the moment, to convey the thoughts going on in my head. Please check out their intelligent, helpful posts in the links provided.

My Asperger's Syndrome diagnosis was the greatest discovery for me because all my life I felt like I had to constantly explain to people why I was the way I was. I excelled at mimicry, which most aspies do, especially the ones who are accepted into society. Unfortunately, this lasted until after my diagnosis and into my parenting. After my diagnosis and subsequent research  I discovered crucial truths that  S. R Salas in her blog (click for link)  expresses eloquently:

"Growing up I knew I was different. It wasn’t until my son was diagnosed with autism that the pieces began to come together. I was diagnosed a short time later and then my oldest daughter after me, and let me say parenting got a heck of a lot easier after that! And it wasn’t the diagnoses of my children that clinched it, it was my own because I finally stopped working myself to the bone observing and mimicking all the other Moms.
I wasn’t worried what these women thought of me I was worried that my kids wouldn’t see me as one of the Super Moms!
When it was just the kids and me I was awesome wherever we were, but when we got in group settings: kids’ birthday parties, school functions, and play dates, I was always in last place (or so I thought). I couldn’t keep up with those women! They were three-ring circus leading, crafting, face-painting, treat-baking dynamos. Holy cow, how could they do it? How could I?! The answer was, without a lot of stress, anxiety and hidden meltdowns, I couldn’t. At home with my kids we found comfort in just being together or in close proximity to one another. We could grab a book or a spot at the computer and keep to ourselves if we wished. It was like a well-run library. Calm, peaceful and orderly we could do! And just like my kids, I didn’t like the crowds or the noise. And until my youngest came along, foisting her imagination on us all, we didn’t see the point in dress-up or crafts or anything else that caused a mess. Learning I was Autistic helped me see that I am not a bad Mom because I hated doing crafts, dress-up time, and three-ring circus-like events, it helped me see I am a different kind of Mom.  And it just so happens that it is helping my kids have a much calmer more autism-friendly childhood because we do everything within their comfort zone, which luckily for me, looks a lot like my comfort zone. And I am a heroine to them because of it! I always give them the option of whether or not to go to parties or play dates because I didn’t like going to those things. I didn’t want to assume that because they’re children they would automatically love them, or because they are Autistic they would automatically hate them, so the decision is theirs – sometimes we go (yikes!) and sometimes we don’t...." S. R Salas in her blog (click for more on this post.)
I strongly recommend the rest of her post and her blog in general. She later writes that she found freedom in Autistic Parenting. I was also on the same diagnosis path after my son and daughter  and I found the same expressions of self. While I admired other mothers, I found their lifestyles exhausting. I never enjoyed the parties, milestone celebrations of childhood, or even the mother talk that often happened at events. I would attend and come home a mess of meltdowns for days because of the sensory overload, executive functioning fails I experienced, and the overall alienation that I couldn't possibly explain.

 I have often heard the phrase, "Everyone feels misunderstood at times." While this is true, being a minority with a very different way of being in the world that is not often socially accepted is NOT the same experience as being misunderstood sometimes. Even my own parents still don't get the real me- sometimes they think I am expressing a fear or trying to get attention when I am actually being completely different. In those moments I go with it because the times I have tried to explain ended up in more of a mess than just letting it go and dealing with my own personal awareness of the situation. It helps that I can digest these scenarios with my understanding husband or best friend, but most of the time, I need to rely on my own strong sense of self to pull me through the many misconceptions that happen in a day with those I love. Luckily, this does not apply to my children and they have a wonderful understanding built in environment because of me. However, when I was growing up at school daily life was a minefield of misconceptions about who I was.

 A small example of daily misunderstanding for an Autistic would be Autistic empathy and "one upping" which Lynne Soraya writes about in THIS (click) post. I often will exchange my personal stories with someone who is sharing a hardship, because that is how I try to convey that I understand where they are coming from and want to express my compassion. However, in most of society this is thought of as selfish "spotlight hogging." (Please read the above linked post for more on this topic.)

 Not only is empathy misunderstood but often simple statements from me are misread as fear, sadness or anxiety ect...when most of the time, I am devoid of any such emotions people apply to me. I am too used to the misunderstandings and too tired to give my energy to explanation. What is the point? It usually does not end well. Most people who misunderstand will continue misunderstanding even with an explanation. While this hurts and sometimes I have a bit of a cry over it, there is not much to be done about it. I made the mistake of sending out links and attempts at explanations in my twenties and learned the tough way that it wasn't well received. Now, I save the energy of explanation for the very few people who actually ASK to hear and DESIRE to understand differing points of view because they are enriched, in their lives by me. They also enrich my life. I  do have to constantly pep talk myself into letting others believe their beliefs. This way of living  (and let living:) requires me to have a very STRONG sense of awareness, intuitiveness and belief in myself.  Sometimes I want to break but at the same time feel immense gratitude that I have this wisdom to begin with.

 These thoughts are tied into a post I read recently written by M. Kelter from Invisible Strings (CLICK link)about what he wishes adults would have advised him during childhood. He writes a list of phrases and ideals he wishes would have been expressed to him. These  three points especially struck me:
"6. Social awkwardness is your social radar; when people react poorly to it, you know to avoid them. When people are accepting of it: they’re the ones to trust. Your awkwardness: love it; use it.
7. When you feel shame, it means you’ve absorbed the values of the wrong people. When you feel at peace, it means you’re living on your own terms.
9. Many people do not value difference, and that’s okay. What’s important is that the right people value difference. Avoid the former. Surround yourself with the latter."
Today I realized that even a little amount of the wrong people during a vulnerable time can crush the strength I need for my family and for my personal survival. When I DO feel shame it is because of my absorption of ideals and beliefs that are NOT my own. My awkwardness is not embraced by many but those who do value it ( and in turn do not talk about me behind my back) are colourful threads in my tapestry.  Freedom as an Aspie is found in embracing myself and those who are able to value all that is different. My hope for those who are also on the spectrum is this wisdom. Read the links above and know you are not alone. For those who are not on the spectrum but desire to love those that are, learn and think outside the box, read and find some understanding.
Be Free.

P.S. For any of you who believe or heard that mental differences were once again to blame for the recent tragedies down south read this post instead: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/our-humanity-naturally/201506/anti-intellectualism-is-killing-america It is not mental differences that are leading to increased crime as I wrote about here: http://worldwecreate.blogspot.ca/2014/05/aspergers-autism-is-neurological-way-of.html    perhaps our cultural understanding of most things and our collective refusal to be educated is causing violence? Unfortunately one can not force feed ideas to people who believe the ideas to be pure poison...so perhaps our culture is at a stand still until we can slowly, one person at a time, intelligently challenge our own positions on every matter? I feel it is a case of futility but maybe it's the fool (or the wise?) in me that dares to hope...
Song Choice: Cup Of Tea- Kacey Musgraves. "You can't be everybody's cup of tea...some like the bitter, some the sweet. Nobody's everybody's favourite so you may as well make it as you please..."

Monday, June 1, 2015

Ten Comfortable Clothing Tips for the Sensory Sensitive and Autistics/ Aspies...

(Caption: Last Christmas in my favourite Flannel from Roots...Unfortunately I lost weight and this shirt had to go...but I am constantly on the look out for another shirt like this...I LIVED in this shirt. What can I say- I spent my formative years in the  nineties:)

Clothing is a tough conundrum for many highly sensitive people.  THIS BLOG (click) wrote a humorous post on her struggle with finding clothes for women who have sensory needs or whom simply find that they are not able to wear most types of clothing without being uncomfortable or in pain. I have gone through many stages of fashion and un fashion in my life. I am  not an expert nor am I trendy anymore. I simply do not have the time nor inclination. I have had years when heels and dresses were a staple in my closet and years when yoga pants and soft tanks were the only item I bought. Through all these manifestations I have found a few handy tips that have worked for me and I hope can help others who are sensory sensitive/ Autistic/ ect. First I wanted to cover Three General Clothing Guidelines before I get on with comfort tips:

1.) Dress for YOU. Of course it is important to find the colours that mostly flatter your beautiful skin and I would urge you to attempt at least a try in this regard. I also feel that it's often better to find fashion choices that generally compliment your figure (embrace whatever size you are and buy clothes IN that size- donate the rest) but once you have attempted to optimize the way you present yourself to the world...disregard the world's opinions. You tried. Now it's time to feel fabulous in clothes that may not be fashion forward but can still be flattering. Don't be afraid to shop in the opposite gender's clothes if that is what you feel best in. Find what works for you! 

2.) In the initial stages of finding what clothing works best for you- don't be afraid to try styles that look awful on the hanger or that you normally may never consider. You may be pleasantly surprised. Don't just stick to one style as the tried and true. Aspies are especially guilty of this and if you have found what genuinely works for you- that is awesome. However, sometimes stepping outside our comfort zone actually can give us more comfort in the end. I am thankful my sister (who is not at all in my fashion style) and cousins pushed me to try on a few items I would have never considered but which are now a fabulous addition to my wardrobe.

3.) Keep it simple. Keep the Classics. There are plenty of trendy blog posts on this. Minimalism is huge right now. But the staples are an excellent starting point to a wardrobe. Here is an example: http://bemorewithless.com/how-to-simplify-your-closet/ My numbers would look slightly different from this but you get the idea.

On to Comfort! Comfortable Clothing Ideas for the Sensory Sensitive:

1.) Buy second hand from reputable vintage stores. Higher end second hand stores also carry nice clothing for good prices. I have found that I am more successful at finding soft fabrics and clothes that fit if they are already pre worn and washed. I find this especially important for jeans. Jeans are already worn in and conform better to my body if I find a pair that fits pre- worn. It's a bonus that I often find designer jeans for at least half the price. Shirts are usually already shrunk so I know that the fit in the store is going to be the fit after a wash too. I have kept most of my clothes from second hand sources longer than new clothes because of these factors. If you are going to buy new, make sure it is from a clothing shop that has a reputation for quality clothes with softer, heavy fabrics if you crave warmth, and light clothing if you need to stay cool. In my twenties I found that American Eagle often had clothes that were comfortable for me without sacrificing too much in price if I didn't end up liking the item later. My store preferences change according to my age and sensory preferences. Don't be afraid to stick to one store if it gives you the sensory requirements for clothing that you desire.

2.) If you have to wear a dress and you are Dyspraxic or clumsy, save yourself some embarrassment and wear little stretchy black shorts underneath. This also gives you more freedom of movement if you need to run and less issues of uncomfortable cold drafts ect. This works under most dresses (even tight ones.) It is possible to find sexy little black shorts and not sacrifice your dignity.

3.) If you are going to wear heels bring flip flops. ALWAYS bring flip flops or an alternative to the heels. Your timeline for being uncomfortable is shorter than a normal persons. Honour that. You can wear heels for a few hours maybe but for the drive or walk, switch to a more comfortable option. I keep black flip flops in my bag because they match any dress/outfit and usually by the time I am ready for another option I don't care what people think anyway.

4.) If you have a job that requires dress clothes try to buy pants that can slip off the hips with a little tug. Sensory people tend to have to use the bathroom quicker than most people. Also Dyspraxics can struggle with buttons and zippers which can be inconvenient during certain moments of life. I buy my dress pants in comfortable textures but classically tailored enough to flatter and fit a tad higher up but stretchy enough to pull down and skip the buttons and zipper. It probably helps that I have sizeable hips to hold them up but this works for me. Also, if you must work in heels, splurge on low heels from a store like Rockport that are known for comfort and arch support.

5.) Always bring a small bag with another clothing option. Sometimes if I am shopping and I feel uncomfortable I will NEED to change. Changing isn't an option. I will start to feel sick if my clothes are causing constant discomfort. Sometimes I wear pants that are too tight but I don't realize it is bothering me till a few hours in... or a shirt that does not fit right and makes me feel awful...or a texture that scratches. If this happens, even if the shirt looks amazing on me, I go to the restroom and change into my extra clothes and donate the shirt to a charity shop (or put it in a bag to do so later.) It is important to remember this step because otherwise I will find myself in the same shirt again going through the same frustrations. Make sure the clothes you pick for your extra emergency clothes are clothes you love and KNOW you are comfortable in, have versatile style for most occasions, and are seasonally appropriate.

6.) Buy 5 different types of underwear to try over a period of time. If you do not know what type is the most comfortable on you this will save you tons of money later on. Wear them, grade them on comfort and stick to the type that wins. Re- evaluate if you loose or gain weight and of course you can keep a few sexy pairs for short (FUN!) bedroom occasions but otherwise, buy only in the type you feel best in and buy lots of varied colours.

7.) If you know your EXACT accurate bra size - order online. I have had more success online shopping for bras than at the store...but that could just be me...I also find the prices are cheaper and if I read the reviews I am more likely to find the bras that offer the most comfort because availability or selection in the stores is usually limited. 

8.) Skip the fashion trends that make you feel uncomfortable...or even "fashion essentials." For example...I can not wear belts. I try to wear belts sometimes because some outfits simply look better with them, but it is guaranteed that half an hour into wearing a belt- I will pull it off. My husband, on the other hand, can not enjoy wearing jeans without a belt. He says he feels less secure and like something is missing. I feel like I am being constricted and my gut starts to hurt- even when I was super skinny this happened. (I think this is due to Endo.) Each persons needs will be different. Find out what bothers you and work around it. I simply don't purchase outfits that look better with belts. I also do not buy pants that are too big and if they do get big on me I donate them.

9.) CUT OUT TAGS. This is so important for many Autistics. I will leave a tag in for the first week I buy something new in case I need to take it back. Unless it is a special item that I want to keep the tag in or has special wash instructions, I try to remember to cut out most tags. Tags look messy when they stick out anyway and they are scratchy. Save yourself some annoyance.

10.) Know your materials. This can save you so much money and comfort. My mother knows her fabrics, and although it is not something I am personally interested in, having her knowledge has kept me from many comfort blunders. I didn't know that buying something all polyester would be a mistake. Lucky for me, she did. Different people prefer different types of fabrics so I can't say what would work best for you but do a little bit of researching. If you find an item that is soft and screams comfort to you read the tag and remember what type of fabric it was so you can repeat your good fortune in the future. Also know for the sake of washing...if you are sensitive you are probably not going to want to take items to the (smell heavy) dry cleaners. Find options that work for you.

I hope this list helped narrow down some ways that clothing can become more comfortable for your sensitivities. Please leave additional suggestions in the comments. I would not describe myself as trendy or fashionable. I try many different styles and sometimes I can be found in a dress and other times I will be in a baseball cap, tee and jeans. I do not particularly care about trends, though every now and then I can enjoy one. I love styles from the 1970's and tend to have a more bohemian style at times...but if there was one word to describe what I wear it would be COMFORT. I sacrifice comfort on rare occasions...but only if it is what I CHOOSE. I don't make the mistake anymore of sacrificing comfort for special occasions because then the occasion becomes less special.  I generally wish to savour special occasions thus the events call for quality, comfort and beauty in my clothing. I don't meet other's expectations of what I should wear as long as I am being somewhat respectful of the general rules of society....but even in that regard there is flexibility. Who cares if everyone is in shorts and you are in a sweater because you tend to be cold? It's not attention seeking...it's pleasure seeking and pure beauty to respect your own needs.  It's your one short life- live it in comfort.

This is one of my favourite songs to clean to and it applies beautifully to this post...I love this song.