Thursday, March 15, 2018

INFJ; If I Cut you Off- Chances Are You Handed Me the Scissors. A Blog Post on INFJ Boundaries/ Fairness/ Accessibility and Relationships .

The first time I read the quote" If I cut you off- chances are you handed me the scissors," I felt like some of my previous relationships were summed up in a nutshell. INFJ's have a high tolerance until suddenly, all it takes is one (seemingly) tiny moment to make them break. See THIS post for more. 

I love to creatively engage in solo material. I make home videos, set to music, instead of large photo albums for my children to look back on. I also share these with a few people in my life. I don't have Facebook or any other social media, besides this blog, for them to have access to. I am VERY private and keep my settings protected with a password.  I have had friends or family tell me they wonder how we are doing or what we are up to. I have seen some of them spend more than ten minutes browsing feeds or news or something that isn't relational. Thus sending a short video every three months is the way I have chosen to connect. It is unlikely I will share information in a traditional way. 

One of the ladies who has given me regular feedback in the past, is a person I have not seen in 8 years. Yet, she quickly emailed after the last video to say, "You are such a good mom. I love your videos. They are always so inspiring." And with three sentences of occasional feedback, she has become a person I highly value in my life. Immediately I think, "I love the way you are." Even if I do not hear from her again till the next video. I also make sure to respond and ask for pictures of her life. I want to show as much interest as I can for her life too. I don't feel that this takes a lot of work nor that I am expecting the world. If I have let a person into my inner life by sending blog posts via email or videos, I do not expect every single one to be read with glee or viewed, but yes, I DO expect occasional feedback or appreciation for my accessibility that was given. 

Accessibility, No Easy Roads to the INFJ, An Instagram Example:

"You'd have to understand how accessible I'm not, to really appreciate how accessible I am to you. Everyone's access isn't granted." The beauty or quirkiness (depending on perspective) of INFJ personality type is that they are protective of their personal spaces. INFJ's can be 'over the top' giving in their relationships, but they also are not easily accessible. They will SEEM open in public and perhaps come across as an easy acquaintance on first meeting, but it takes a lot of time for someone to be granted in their inner circle.

"INFJ - I closed off all easy roads leading to me. But I'm reachable if you're wiling to go the extra mile." 

As an INFJ, I have had an Instagram account where I only allowed 23 people to witness my life. I constantly rejected requests. I used Instagram personally, like a mini blog, to talk about struggles or triumphs in the caption under the picture. Over time 23 people was too many. So I cut my list down. It was more about the way I work in the world and not a hate action towards the people I cut. Beforehand I also wrote a post asking anyone who did not feel completely comfortable with how I use Instagram to stop following me with no hard feelings. Three people, including my cousin, dropped off. Eventually my list went down to 14 people. I would have been comfortable with about 9, but at the same time, I was grateful for the 14 who gave to me as much as I gave to them. I knew they were people who would not give my information away and would also leave occasional feedback or share their experiences. I value this reciprocal sharing in the forums that maximize my language. When people actually honour the way I communicate with loyalty, occasional feedback or reaching out once a month to check in one of my favourite spaces, I am also aware of going the extra mile for them. I will honour their reciprocity to the best of my ability.

Maybe it sounds harsh to other personality types? But it is important to know the larger context of an INFJ, which you can find HERE.  INFJ's also struggle with their own continual guilt patterns. Melissa wrote HERE, "The INFJ mind is very good at coming up with reasons we should feel guilty. Our Introverted Intuition seeks out patterns in our own behaviour. Our Extroverted Feeling picks up on how we make others feel and evaluates our actions in light of how people “should” be. Our Introverted Thinking is quite happy to analyze our faults to death. And that pesky Extroverted Sensing adds even more guilt by whispering that all this shouldn’t matter and we could just go have fun."

INFJ's Do Not Just Give Their Time to Anyone:

INFJ's are complex, private, contradictory, highly empathetic but boundary minded, and require a ton of space. Which is why, when an INFJ actually DOES take the time to check in via email, text, video, blog post or whichever medium they regularly feel comfortable with, IT MATTERS. You should know they don't just do this with anyone. If you are on their "list" you MUST have done something in the past to traverse through a few of their initial layers. Their inner circle may just be 6 people, but their secondary circle or even third circle is an honorary place to be. 

There are times I accidentally send to the wrong list. Unfortunately, due to Dyspraxia and Executive Functioning fails, this happens quite a bit and can cause confusion. I feel for that and try to make myself give the people a chance that I would not normally, if it is accidental. If I send a quick, "Oops wrong list" and they respond with interest, they can actually enter back on the list. But most times I send a quick apology for infringing on their space and that is the end of it.

The Circles of an INFJ/ Earning a Place in the Inner Circles:

To put this into perspective I will try to give a fluid yet concrete example. This is simply a brief picture of what this looks like for an INFJ, but it's a little black and white;
Let's say there are about 10 circles that ripple out from my INFJ rock skipping over the waters of life. Anything outside of the ten is the rest of the world, brief acquaintances and obligatory grocery store hello type of relationships. The tenth circle is reserved for light acquaintances, and from there it goes inward. My first circle would involve my husband and children. Second circle would be my bestie- close to my first circle. Third circle is larger with about 15 people who have proven over and over that they deserve to be there. They get some of my secret forms of communication and occasional access to my first and second circle information. Sometimes a person CAN move out from my third circle to my tenth or one of the others, but it takes a lot of neglect on their part to get there. 4th circle can involve some extended family members but I would say that would be mostly my 7th circle. I send videos to a combination of people that are involved from circle one to circle 8. I feel this is generous and also inclusive. Just because I have not talked to an aunt in over two years, does not mean that I will not include her on my list, because the nostalgia of how she shaped me puts her in circle 8. 

Again, that example is a little too black and white, but it does shed light on how inaccessible INFJ's actually are. A balanced INFJ will not be a particularly social one. I do know INFJ's who are surrounded by people. I used to be one of those in my twenties. This is because INFJ's do love the CONCEPT of people and wish to help the world. But boundaries are their balancing core, and many INFJ's struggle with implementing them. Once an INFJ learns about boundaries, they can come off as selfish to those they used to give to. But they have realized the truth that it is less important to have a large circle of people and more important to have a few true friends. 

Years ago, I would give my time weekly to a group of friends. I gave my attention that could have been given to my children, my stuff which at the time was limited, gave heartfelt notes, and actively tried to speak the language of each woman in my circle. Some took advantage of this and became angry when I stopped giving this attention due to illness and a difference in priorities. I understood that it would feel like a betrayal, and in some cases I explained. But generally explanations made it worse. When I found out that one of these close friends did not like reading the emails or blogs I sent, but yet she told me, "I value talking to you and want to hear all about your life." Well, that didn't fly with me. She knew me well enough, and I stated in previous conversations over the years, that I expressed best in writing. I gave her a window to my life, via those written words, which is how I shared the deepest parts, more than in conversation. Thus, I realized we were speaking different languages, and when I stopped going over the top to speak hers, she didn't bother meeting me HALF WAY. I knew, without a doubt that for years I had met her on her turf a quarter of the way beyond the half way point. I stretched myself past what I found natural, FOR HER. But that was never considered enough. As soon as I stopped she became resentful. She thought I was asking too much. I was asking for a basic level of equalization. I don't resent her expectations and realize they were partially my fault, but it was time to let go and cut that tie a bit.

Her expectation of me being a certain way is akin to telling someone you love them, when you never listen to them or value the way they are in the world. That is not love. A relative once said to my husband, "I love you." My husband told me later, "That is not love. What they mean is that they think they love me. But if they actually had love towards me, they would not require me to fit into their sliver of being and judge me harshly if my personality moves beyond that. They would allow me to be myself while being beautifully their own. They would disagree sometimes, of course, but they would not hold me to a false version of self. Telling someone you love them, when you give no effort to speak in their love languages, feels intrusive and unkind. It becomes more about you than about them. That is not true love."

I understand equalization means different things to different people. Also life can not be 50/50 even in relationships. My husband and I have a healthy relationship, but through out the years one of us will try harder than the other. We take turns being the stronger or weaker one...but we also try to meet half way as much as we possibly can. Friendships are varied and have lesser expectations. But they do become a problem if for a decade, one person is always reaching above the 80 percent mark while the other person is comfortable giving 20.

"INFJ- I still love the people I have loved, even if I cross the street to avoid them." 

To many, my above statements could be perceived as bitterness. I laugh at this because, as the few in my inner circle of people can attest to, I am the LEAST resentful person. First, I barely have a memory to hold on to transgressions in detail, though I will remember the emotions involved. Second, I realize that every person that has wounded me deeply or moved from an inner circle to an outer one, is still a person that I LOVE. How can that be?

INFJ's are quite connective. Even with our Doorslam, we think on the person who has abused or misused our trust, and we still see their good points. We almost ALWAYS, without many exceptions, UNDERSTAND why a person does what they do or how they are who they are. This is because of our perspective taking driver and gut intuition. Which makes it hard to hate anyone. Even most criminals. A fact that baffles other personality types. How can someone who has such ethical, perfectionistic tendencies, stick up for or explain a hardened criminal? We are contradictory in our natures but it is because of our understanding that we can not hate for long. 

We can become angry. It is also true, that at our core we are sensitive and mushy. We can occasionally Door slam (which is different from subtly cutting someone off. A Doorslam is usually permanent. Cutting someone off is more of a distance mechanism with the ability to re consider if approaches change or life changes.) But most often, we will simply move someone to an outer circle with as much kindness as possible. It is only when they continue to demand more, that we start to shut our door. I have crossed the street to avoid people. I dislike chit chat in general, and some people wounded too much without even realizing, to give a conversation to. But I know that I also love them. I will forever appreciate their previous roles in my life. Whether they were a tough lesson to learn or someone who just drifted naturally away. I believe in giving dues and I know that each person is worthy and contributed to whom I am today in small ways.

Time Boundaries/ Graciousness, and Selectivity;
If I invite a person over, it does not come lightly. I understand busyness, especially in today's world. I avidly protect my time. But I also believe, if someone is valued, they will be given time occasionally. It's about priorities. I have a limit and can recognize when I am not a priority. If I try to accommodate someone at least three times, move my schedule around to get together with them, after multiple cancellations, or if they continually come an hour late or do not text me till hours after they were supposed to arrive...I will reach my limit of graciousness. I may try two or three more times, within a year, to invite them over, but if the same patterns happen again, I will cut my losses. I will not bother anymore. Obviously, my time is not important to them on a larger level which is ok, but then I can apply the same rules... or they do not deem getting together as a priority. That is an allowable boundary on their part, but it is also okay for me to be more selective in the future.

My husband often teases that I have exceptionally high standards for the closest people in my life. This is true. But part of this is because I am quite happy alone for the most part. I love being a hermit and if I give my time, it is usually some sort of sacrifice. I hold myself to even higher standards. Yet, I also know the pitfalls of perfectionism. I make sure I am accepting of my flaws and others. I tend to give more, in the ways that I can, then I take. I also know I am a handful. I am ok with that and admire the people who accept whom I am within reason. I try to stretch myself too...

The INFJ Need for Protection Instead of Validation:
It may seem that I am looking for constant validation. If that were true I would have 1000 followers on Instagram or promote my blog in larger ways. I would accept anyone who asked for my attention. I would send my emails to the more than 100 addresses in my book. I would take the offers of blog promotion or guest blogs. I would be phoning people or continually inviting them over. "INFJ's are far less interested in validation and are more interested in protection. They don't need you to agree with them, they need to know you're not going to hurt them, even if the fear of hurt is deeply unconscious." When it comes down to it, I simply am looking for people who will value and protect my space or personality with all it's weaknesses and strengths, and allow me to do the same back.

Another part of this equation is that INFJ's can sense people's moods. Even over the phone. We know when we are being lied to but we won't say anything because we value each person's journey. We understand that if there is a lie, there is a reason that is not for us to explore, unless it is one of our first circle people. Thus, healthy INFJ's cannot be surrounded by a bunch of people. They will absorb too much moodiness and human emotion. They need ample downtime to decompress from the best of situations. Thus the strong boundaries.

If we cut a person off, they have inevitably handed us the scissors. We will think through all the reasons why we should allow a person to stay. We will consider the differences in personality, upbringing, environment ect. But then all of a sudden, there will come a moment where we realize "They just handed me the scissors." Usually it is significantly small compared to the many moments that were larger leading up to that moment.

The Final Straws, 'Once Upon A Time' and 'This Is Us' Analogy:

An frivolous example of this, would be my usual T.V. shows. Sometimes I get into a show that I regularly watch, only to be let down week after week. Yet, I stick it out, hoping for redemption. In some cases, I am glad I stuck it out. For instance with Glee or Once Upon a Time. But in other cases, there comes an episode where I find my final straw. This happened with "The Fosters" and "This is Us." With the Fosters, the drama became too dramatic over time and crime centered. With "This is Us" I began feeling manipulated by the writers in the second season, frustrated that the story lines were becoming less about comfort during hard times, and more about giving sad stories constantly. My final straw was the Second Season Finale. After some digging, I found THIS article which I was in agreement with. Next year I will not be tuning in regularly, although I may binge watch on Netflix and see if it redeems itself later. "This is Us" writers handed me the scissors, after a continual push of emotion, and a lack of the counselling aspect that was present in Season One. Of course, in writing, shows and in people, there is a natural level of maximizing moments, adding music to push emotion, or using words to make a statement. But there is that fine line, when suddenly the natural magic of creativity becomes control.

I cut the cord with shows, and I cut the ties with people if I feel like I am being controlled in some way or manipulated to tolerate what I normally would not, I will "rebel." "Controlling an INFJ will lead to mutiny in all it's forms."

The Natural Ebb and Flow of Relationships:
In life, there are natural years when we become closer to certain friends, and life takes us on another path, and we re join each other later, or walk away. This is normal. I allow for that ebb and flow. Most INFJ's are quite understanding about different moments, or years in life. I have had a friend since I was 12 who has had years of being close to me, and years when we text maybe twice. She is still in my closer circles. I still share information with her to keep her up to date. Because the years have proven that we come back to each other, over and over, in various ways, she is an honorary member of my closer circles. We both are Introverts and we value our space. Yet, we also love deep topics. She has spent New Years and Christmases with our family, but then gone years with barely any contact. It's how we roll. I have never considered her a person who has handed me scissors. I knew when she was struggling and needing space. I knew that when she had boyfriends she would not keep in much contact. That's normal. She knew when I had young children that I would be too wasted to give much time. She knew when I was dealing with my husband's depression that I could not give anything outside of the home. We are considerate of each other. We also know, on a deep level, that we pull the magic out of each other enough and not the madness. We make each other better for the most part. That matters. So you see, handing me the scissors is way more complex than a season of drifting or occasional neglect or normal mistakes.
No Need to Explain:

I used to try to give more explanations to people of why they were cut out of my life. In rare occasions, I will still try to extend a kind explanation if I sense that a person is in a vulnerable state but they are still too toxic to be in my space. In this circumstance I want to cause the least damage. But mostly, I have realized explanations make things worse. Distance is best. Luckily, chronic illness has come in handy for this. I use it as a legitimate excuse. Which it is. It's a truthful way of cutting out people with the least amount of damage. I honestly do have less energy, even as an INFJ with my time because of chronic illness. My time is even more valuable. Thus, if people are handing me scissors I can put them off and if an explanation is asked, I now simply say, "With chronic illness I just can't give the way I used to." And I can't. Even to the people who have deserved every bit of my attention. If I can give - they earned first rights. 

"If other people do not understand our behaviour- so what? Their request that we must do only what they understand is an attempt to dictate to us. If this is being "irrational" or "antisocial" in their eyes, so be it. Mostly they resent our freedom and our courage to be ourselves. We owe nobody an explanation or an accounting, as long as our acts do not hurt or infringe on them. How many lives have been ruined by this need to explain, which usually implies that the explanation be understood. Ie Approved. Let your deeds be judged and from your deeds, your real intentions, but know that a free person owes an explanation only to himself- to his reason and conscience and the few who may have a justified claim to explanation."- Anonymous

The few that have a claim to justified explanations, deserve them. The rest, just require space. The same rule applies to self. I make sure, if I am making claims on someone, that I am in a justified position to do so. Sometimes I make the mistake of assumption. In those circumstance, it will take me awhile to adjust to my new role, but I will adjust. That's life.

The True INFJ need In Relationships- Protection and Home:

At our core, INFJ's reveal ourselves in layers. If we sense a flinch to whom we are, we seal off access to that part of our soul. Sometimes we give multiple chances, others we are done off the bat. We are open to people, in the sense that we are open to humanity. We give advice and most of our conversations can seem deep. But to truly share our inner lives, our quirkiness, our dark sense of humour, our odd connections and secret loves of need to feel like HOME. Home involves, first and foremost, an element of safety. 

Ten Actions that May Cause an INFJ to Get out the Proverbial Scissors:
If you handed the scissors to an INFJ you most likely did one or more of these ten actions (although these vary from person to person but these ARE ten attributes most INFJ's agree upon):
1.) You Bullied. Or you pushed an agenda they can't get behind, over and over.
2.) You spoke harshly over and over about those they love.
3.) You asked for more than you gave, over and over again.
4.) You dissed something that was a core of who they are. For myself, if someone completely disregards a subject I am passionate on, this will help lead to a cut off. I don't mind if they disagree but if they hate on something I love regularly, even though they know it's important to me, that becomes a problem. Like my unreasonable love of Glee, or my Autism diagnosis or engagement with personality types ect. There are some things I share that are core to whom I am, and if it is met with derision more than once that is not friendship, it's an acquaintance.
5.) Judgement. Whether spiritual, religious, racial, ect or any form of intolerance or cruelty. We will not tolerate this well, on a regular basis, even if it impersonal. A contradiction I know.
6.) A requirement to be the same and not allow for quirkiness or individuality.
7.) A non consideration of the sacrifices or time. Constant complaining or an inability to even partially understand differences.
8.) Lack of individual freedom.
9.) Inability to understand intuition or receive guidance.
10.) A general lack of respect for time given or gifts given.

The Benefits of an INFJ Friendship/ Fairness and Contradictions:
Most INFJ's make valuable, loyal, quirky, insightful and dedicated friends. They will give honesty where it is lacking, compassion when it is needed, kindness even though they are not given the same level back, firmness when a boundary is required, intuition and guidance for core moments, and an interesting perspective on life. (My husband laughed at this and stated, "A prophet is never liked in their own time. Athena was also considered harsh." To which I replied, "I am fine if my advice is thought of as intrusive or if I am not well liked." Which is true. As long as I have a few close relationships that get me, which I do, I am happy.)

INFJ's are not easily acquired in friendship or in life. They may have a few high standards, but they apply these fairly to themselves. If they cut you off, you can be guaranteed they thought of your position in depth. They applied understanding and knew what would be your defences if you spoke for yourself. They probably gave a few hours of fair consideration. They probably even gave some unwarranted chances. Or maybe they simply had enough? We all have our limits, INFJ's are usually clear about their boundaries within behaviour. If they withdrew, you probably crossed one.

If you put up with their quirks, mistakes and neurosis, it is a guarantee that they will repay you in spades. Either in loyalty, gifts, unusual advice or creating beautiful safe places. You know that you are valued if they include you in their process. They do not do this with just anyone. You KNOW you are loved if they text you occasionally first, invite you over occasionally or take time in some way or form at least a few times a year.

My husband stated on a recent drive home, "I will never be as fair as you in relationships. I will never have as high standards either so I guess we balance each other out, but you are fair even when we fight. I know you consider me as much as yourself. Being fair is a gift you give, but life is not always fair, which I know you know, and I guess makes it even more valuable that you strive to give fairness where you can. If you are calling me on a behaviour, as much as I cringe or hate it, I know deep down you are most likely right and have given a lot of thought to bringing it up." When he says statements like that, he provides even more reasons, that in his case, proverbial scissors do not even exist. There would only be one exception when they would surface, but otherwise, they are not even an option. Some relationships need to thrive on dedication. A contradiction? Perhaps...

Song Choice: Girl on Fire- Naya Rivera Glee

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

About Rare Sensory Deprivation In Autism. AKA Robot Mode. About Inclusion Pressure.

This was originally supposed to be part of the Sensory Link Blog Hop. It is hosted by the Sensory Spectrum and the Jenny Evolution. Unfortunately, my link and html codes are bing wonky and caused my blog to host pictures on the wrong side and my font went crazy. I had to re type this post. Here are two post links involved this month:

I have explained sensory overload in posts or aspects of sensory sickness, but there is another side of the sensory coin. Our family has dubbed it 'Sensory Deprivation Robot Mode.' My children have had lesser versions of it. This mode can be accidental or intentional. I can cause myself to go into this mode when something requires my full attention or when I am enjoying myself or when there is an emergency that pulls at my focus. Usually four factors have to be involved to access this automatic pilot of mine.

4 Factors that Help me Engage in This Mode  (when I intentionally wish for it by CHOICE) Are:

1.) Having an activity that lines up in my obsessive interests which requires a chunk of time. For myself, decorating, writing, making videos, deep cleaning ect. fit into this requirement. There are also activities like shopping that I do not enjoy, where I force myself to shut down a bit to get it done. This is another form that is less fun, but enables me to do the job efficiently for short periods of time.

2.) I need at least enough sleep to muster up this obsessive state in the first place.

3.) I require a stable stomach. I am not able to do many activities if my gut is off.

4.) Sleep and my wake up routine need sufficient honouring. I need to be able to wake after a decent time.  THIS ARTICLE  states that some people need their sleep in the morning. I am one of those people.

If these 4 points are met, I am able to shut down my extra sensory for SHORT periods, to an extent, or more accurately, my body just shuts down on it's own when I am in an activity that is obsessive. I now try to recognize it and make it work for me.

An Example of Going into Sensory Robot Mode:

Last spring, I helped set up a new shop a drive from where I lived. I had always wanted a shop of my own, but after the experience, even though it had it's moments, that desire has been squelched. I witnessed and aided with inventory, wholesale merchandise, vendor finding, setting up and moving product and shop design under a minimal budget.

On the morning of opening night I arrived to find the shop in disarray. The shop was located in two large garages opening to the outdoor space. One garage was stuffed while the other had not even been set up. Because I had ended up in ER the day before due to an allergy to some soaps, I had to leave a team of volunteers, who tried their best but were not gifted in this area. I had six hours to set up BOTH shops in a way that worked. Because of my allergy, I wore surgical gloves and my body was covered from head to toe. There was no air conditioning. Red sand blew in on the cement floor when a light, desert ish, breeze would pick up. People were sweating amongst the Hoodoos in tanks and shorts. The arid wind blowing across the sandy coulees created quite the dry heat. And I was dressed for pre winter.

Luckily, I had my children, mother and aunt to aid me. I began immediately barking out orders due to the time crunch. Items still had to be priced, entered in inventory and set up. I delegated, then entered my own world of quick efficiency, because my team was doing what I asked. I did not surface until my mother forced me to eat at 2:40 after the team had eaten and brought me back something. I had not gone to the bathroom, eaten or drank much at all (which is a mistake that I seem to always make.) I quickly wolfed down my food in an air conditioned car, because my mother forced me to, and then I was back at work. Both stores were set up 15 minutes before they were opened.

My aunt called me a "Tornado." My husband says I am a whirling dervish when I know what needs to be done. I am quick and don't stop moving until I am FULLY finished the task at hand. "Ain't nothing gonna break my stride...Oh know, I got to keep on moving!" (*1)

Looking back in the car ride home, I realized I had not registered the plus thirty Celsius temperature that was accentuated in the Valley. I didn't realize my shirt was soaked or that I was overheated. Which is an unfortunate aspect of this Sensory Mode. I began to feel all the muscles I had used. I felt thirst and my inner organs rebelling. I felt the exhaustion of Anemia/ Lyme and the Mono I was fighting at the time. I had pleasant thoughts of a fluffy bed in a dark, cool room and a dripping IV (well, only the thought of instant hydration and not the actual IV process.) My legs were trembling and my hands visibly shook. I could not even open my own water bottle.

After I have shut off my sensory process, and it all comes tumbling back later, it can be amusing to go from incredible feats to the sudden inability to open a container. It blows my mind, so I can not imagine how it must look to anyone who witnesses the process. I must look like I am acting. (*2) My voice went from raspy to an inability to speak. I couldn't recall exactly what I had done but I knew it was good considering what I had to work with. I knew the next day I would not be able to get out of bed. I would need to crash.

Crashing involves regulating my body temperature by crawling into bed with no sensory stimuli. No TV or any noises are allowed. It involves a dark room with silence. Sometimes, after an hour with no sensory stimuli, I can chat or watch a show. I am often in pain or feel like I am coming down with the flu, if I have stretched myself in a temperature de regulating way. At the time, I was unaware of these factors. I just had a job to get done.

I prefer entering this mode on purpose for something less demanding, like writing, or decorating for short spurts. But sometimes life requires me to shut down just to get through. Which I dislike, and I try not to do often, or sometimes do not even realize I am entering this mode, until way later. My family has learned to help bring me awareness because at times it can be dangerous for prolonged periods. If I enter this mode intentionally, I usually set a timer or tell another person so that I will be pulled out of the activity at a reasonable time...because I could probably forgo the bathroom all day...which isn't something that is good.

Sensory Deprivation Robot Mode Summary:

This mode is when my brain, intentionally or unintentionally, ignores the sensory stimuli it is normally overwhelmed with. It is like I have pressed a button and become the opposite of what I usually am. If it's intentional, I have to pace myself. I can only sustain this for a few days at the very most, but afterwards I am typically sick, if it involves being physical or out of my home.

Those who witness this process are often perplexed. My husband realized long ago, that if I intentionally enter this mode, it is important to honour it. Even if I seem unreasonable to a degree. Sometimes, it is nice for me to get a lot done, in a short amount of time, and not be overloaded with the usual stimuli. I like looking back at what I accomplished without some of the usual human need components getting in the way. I know from feedback, that I can do in a day, what some people do in a week in this mode. It's like a superhero button on my functioning, when it's a choice. My husband calls it part of my 'Athena Mode.' I like feeling capable sometimes because often capability is not my forte in the physical realm...due to Dyspraxia and Chronic Illness. Sometimes it is nice to occasionally succeed in area perceived as weak.

My mother texted later that evening;
"Your aunt said that after Tornado K the store looks great. She said she was amazed, flabbergasted, appalled and in awe that you got all that done. Using her words. She said maybe it is good thing you are sick because who knows how you would be if you were not. She asked me, 'Can you imagine? She is a tornado! Talk about amazing. She could conquer the world if she wasn't sick.' Needless to say, she was impressed with everything you did. She said she was stunned you got it all done. She said that was so much work, especially when a person is sick."

I was happy she noticed. I have been sick since I can remember. Coupled with sensory overload and multiple disabilities life can get tricky. Plus, I had Mono at the time. In my life, I have good days, normal days and more often than not, very bad weeks. There are many factors that play into the normal day to day but for a person with said conditions, these factors should be multiplied by ten at least. Thus, I have always had the mentality that if I feel good, I should savour it, do what I enjoy and occasionally I chose to embark on something that is a huge undertaking. At other times, I shut off to survive. I prefer the choice factor.

I used to make the mistake of entering this type of zone a few times a week. School required me to be in this mode almost every day. It is a wonder I did not skip as much school as I did. After school, it was a NEED for me to have at least an hour of chill time alone in my room, decompressing and healing with music, sprawled on my floor entering a dream like state. This mode should not be a regular routine. For one, it can be dangerous if a person is unaware, but for another it still requires payment later. I prefer the lower versions of this mode that are simply "being in the zone" but in a safer environment, like my home, where I can engage in changing a room around, writing or making a video creatively without too much damage. Even if I do disappear into my own world for hours. In this case it is sort of like being lost in a book.

When I am in these zones, bodily awareness does shut off. Thus, my husband will often ask, "Have you eaten today? Drank? Gone to the bathroom?" I barely acknowledge him, and he tells me he leaves and comes back 15 minutes later with the same gentle encouragement to take a break. For myself only a few seconds have passed in my mind. He also is aware of my body temperature. I will not notice, even if I am actually in pain from being frozen, that I am cold. Or if I do, it will be a nagging feeling in the back of my head that I have no idea what to do about, until my husband puts a blanket on me and exclaims, "Babe, you are like ice. At least put on this sweater." I will look up blankly, apparently with eyes unfocused, murmur, "ok thanks," and get back to my work. His chuckle will barely register in my brain as he walks away, but later, looking back, I will remember and register that detail. When I am out of the zone, I become appreciative of his gestures. My daughter has told me, " Mom, I know that the only way to get your attention during these longer blocks of time  is to either play music you like or be extremely nice and talk an octave higher while playing with your hair or gently rubbing your arm. Then you will look like you suddenly came out of a trance. You will be surprised I am standing there and ask how long I have been waiting. I find it funny." (I do not do this if there is an emergency requiring my attention.)

My family generally respects the time I spend in 'Deprivation Mode.' They know I will get cranky if I am pulled out too soon. They know that everything I have deprived myself of WILL catch up to me, so they do keep an eye on extreme behaviour, but allow me to do what I need to do. They also realize I will have a 'useless' recovery phase but what I do during DM more than makes up for that. My son has told me he likes it when I am in recovery because we can chat, read or watch TV together.

When I do show up, in a way that requires a lot of energy, I want people to recognize the feat. I want the world to know that just because I am disabled or sick on many days, that it does not mean I can not occasionally show up and accomplish what most would do in a work week, in one day. Hubby hates it when I say, "Ok Time to work!" This was especially handy when we were doing Renos. He knows what I can do in a short time span, will require him to step up his game, and I will still beat him, time wise. However, he does the day to day work I could NEVER keep up with. His job would be my death and I would cry within in hour.

In Summary:

The day after setting up shop, I could not remember details of the previous existence. I recalled a few shelves I re arranged. I remembered the comments to my amazing children of, "Where did you learn to work like that?" And they replied, "When mommy gets in this mode, we know we are required to be fast, efficient and give our best. She will reward us. We know to take breaks." I remind them before a big task, to take bathroom and drink breaks. They are not supposed to even ask, just to go fill their needs, because I may not respond. I think that is another reason why the early years, of them being under six, was so hard because I could not do this. I had to force myself to be hyper aware just to be a present parent. It was exhausting and demanding and not my natural way of being. Now beyond six we have found our groove for all our varied needs. They know on big chore day, grocery shopping, or seasonal changes (which usually take a few days of moving furniture and product in our house while deep cleaning) that they are required to help without complaint. They know they will be rewarded somehow. They tuck in through the storm because the more I am interrupted, the longer it will take and the crankier I will get.

Occasionally, I appreciate 'Robot Mode' because of what I can look back on and see accomplished. It feels like it makes up for the days I can not do much of anything. If I am unaware I entered the state, until I look back later, I can feel guilty or upset. But when it is a choice, unlike most sensory overload, the intentional deprivation can be a nice break. I may not hear my body's needs during this time but sometimes that is a welcome relief. I am constantly in dialogue with my body's overdrive, exhaustive, unique needs. It is nice to be able to shut this down while I get something I want to do, done. For a few hours I will feel almost 'normal' in what I can do in comparison to our unbalanced "get er done" culture.

I believe my way of being teaches different lessons. I perceive different truths by being limited in some tasks. I make differing life choices because of this. As Temple Grandin says, "Different not less." My experiences are valid, worthy and most of the time, I would not trade them in. There are occasions that I am appreciative of the word 'capable' in a physical sense, but I don't want the word 'capable' to become something that equalizes me to the rest of the world. It would be too hard. That is not inclusion or equality. It is having a high standard that makes those with disabilities feel even more pressure and inability or inner stress. I don't want the same opportunities. I want the ability to be ME, and have it recognized as legitimate and equal in the way that it is different. That is how many people feel on the scale, but those who advocate for us with the best intentions, often forget. I also feel, that 'Robot Mode' helps me break my own moulds of being, and it stretches, and grows me. It reminds me that I am not fully limited in every area. Sometimes I break the rules of Being Autistic or Normal or 'Being' one way or another. That is ok. It's healthy to have a perspective taking experience.

I am curious if any other Autistics who are not SPD, and regularly have sensory overload, also experience this? Most people have moments when they can be 'other worldly machines' on occasion. This is simply magnified for me. I need these moments, in balance, to feel the full scope of who I am.
For more on Sensory Overload:

(*2)- I am a good actress but ONLY when it comes to pretending to be normal in short circumstances or pretending to be healthy. It is the only kind of "pretend" I do, because I believe in authenticity and truth too. The exception to this is my harmony driver in my INFJ personality. If a situation requires harmony for me to chameleon or become "normal" for short situations to make everyone comfortable or to take the pressure of explaining, off of myself or family, I will do this. I DO pretend for most extended family events, suppers, and get togethers to a degree. I am still quirky but I restrain myself about 70 percent. I do not feel this is wrong because I know who I am and what my limitations are. I also have safe places where I can be 100 percent myself regularly. Different circumstances require different aspects of self. I also know that this is just another side of me that I am tapping into. Yes, it takes a lot of effort, but I will not explain myself unless it is in writing or a situation deeply requires that measure.

Song Choice: Break My Stride- Matthew Wilder (*1),  Fox on the Run- Sweet

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Hestia/ 'Athena Mode'/ Greek Myths and A Creative Cleaning Mentality. The Importance of Chores (and Music) in Childhood. A Weekly Chore Guide.

Hestia, in Greek Myths, is the goddess of hearth and home. She is not considered one of the most powerful of the gods, yet she is probably the most crucial in concept. Rick Riordan understood this in his Percy Jackson series. He wrote; “Hestia shook her head. "I am here because when all else fails, when all the other mighty gods have gone off to war, I am all that's left. Home. Hearth. I am the last Olympian.”- Rick Riordan.

Hope begins at home. Without the importance of home, what is the point of protection?  When the hearth is taken care of, in both body and spirit, there is nurture and care. See THIS (CLICK) post for more on home making mentalities. There is a deep importance of home that many in our current culture are forgetting.

In the post cited above I wrote, "I know that many children do not get to experience safe, nurturing homes. First parents need to find home within themselves before they can provide a haven for children. There are many factors involved that sociologists have studied and personality and psych also come into play ... I am not going to cover that home can be a terrifying place. Instead, I am going to show how we have made our home making part of our healing..." (click HERE for more on the concept of Home and Hearth.)

Most adults of all genders, have to spend a certain amount of hours each week cleaning, tidying, booking appointments, budgeting or care taking in some shape or form. Most of us have to learn skills to keep us alive like food prep, making money, creatively engaging in life, and driving ect. Due to disabilities or differing abilities, our family has a unique twist on this. But I required each of my children, while they were young, to attempt within reasonable age limits, each of these tasks. While they were still safely under supervision, we gave them age appropriate tasks to learn over and over until they were somewhat mastered. The goal was to make this process as easy and pleasant as possible. Music playing, friendly competing, enjoyable chats whilst engaging in work, helped build fond memories while some of these tasks were done. It became easier once they passed eight, but they were aiding in cleaning bathrooms earlier than that.

My husband says I have something called "Athena Mode." What he is referring to is a mixture of battle like strategy mixed with gut intuition wisdom, and truth telling advice. At first I was a little upset about this. I was optimistically hoping he would relate me to Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty- ha ha. Dream on...but deep down I knew I was not an Aphrodite at all. I tend to enter "Athena Mode" when I am brainstorming with people, healing, offering advice, or strategizing life goals for my family. In other words, it is probably a default mode of mine. If I had to choose two Greek gods I am most like, because that is what weird people do, it would be Hestia and Athena. Luckily, the Hestia side of me balances out the times I want to charge fully into situations with weapons raised. But 'Athena Mode' serves my family well when I need to teach them the skills of life. It is especially handy when I have to work counter culturally or parallel to culture.

Due to the varied disabilities, I learned 'helping hacks' unique to each child. For instance, my youngest has Dyspraxia and slow processing speed. He will take 4 times longer at any task. He also struggles with attention due to this and movement. He was often in tears during chore time. I was his partner, doing most of his chores, while helping him in the process. But I did not want him to only associate chores with pain, crying and frustration. He loved music so I ended up strapping a back pack on him with the Ipad inside and headphone attached. Beforehand we spent a few hours making playlists for his chore time. This made him feel invested in the process and then he had something to look forward to. At six, he hilariously picked angry songs like "Enter Sandman" or Avenge Sevenfold choices mixed with Rock and Roll and displaced amongst the list was the lone country song "Hard Working Man."(*1)

Even if my children attended traditional school, they would still have been required to learn each chore in the house by a young age. Obviously, they would do less than they are now weekly, due to the time demands of school. I know, without a doubt, that I would argue with the teacher on homework and generally refuse for my children to do most of theirs. Most home work is unnecessary when children are sitting in school already for 8 hours everyday. I realize it’s more complex than this which is probably why my kids are found at home. I would cut down in our schedule elsewhere, so that they could still have both free time and chores.

Chores are more important than extra curricula's. Why? Learning how to pleasantly and thoroughly do the mundane practices in life is an essential part of living. For both boys and girls. If, from an early age, children can build some good memories around their chore load, their adulthood will benefit. If they learn how to appropriately and efficiently clean and care for what they have, they will be able to not only take care of their own needs, but have a work ethic for their future jobs. No job will be beneath them because they have cleaned toilets and made beds. By being accustomed to chores at an early age, adulthood chores do not seem so blah. Especially if there are good childhood memories attached.

Most adults I know are miserable when it comes to their chores or daily mundane. Yet, a fair amount of life involves these tasks in some ways or form. I am glad my husband knows how to cook and clean and takes part in these tasks. He is glad I can budget, organize and take care of a large amount of the home front. In every relationship it will vary. And if my children do NOT have relationships, it is even more crucial for them to learn these skills. This is more important to me than advanced math or dissecting sentences. Of course, I teach these concepts too, but if I had to choose, I would pick the practical life skills. Which ironically, I struggle with. Part of my process, was calling my mother a few years ago, asking her to help me make a list of all the chores and reasonable amounts of doing them, because even though the children were learning all the tasks, it felt like our home was still messy more often than not. I needed help organizing the tasks.

I make sure I balance their chore load with their free time and educational time. These two concepts go hand in hand. Most of their free time is spent building, being creative, reading, writing, engaging in physical activity or doing art or imaginative play...all of which teach math, physics, english ect. I guard their time like Cerberus guards the Underworld.

When they were little I would dress up for big chore day. I would draw a Moustache on my face and talk like a pirate. I would draw treasure maps of what they had to do. There would be a picture of the 'tickle shark' for the stragglers who did not complete their map. The end treasure would be a family game or special time with mommy. As they aged this turned into song time, friendly competitions or a practice of philosophy.

A few years ago their favourite Chore Day ritual was playing, "It's a Hard Knock Life" ( *2) from Annie. They would pretend they were poor orphans forced to do the evil hag's cleaning (that would've been me. ha ha.) They would mop and sing and probably would have made excellent extra's in the Broadway original. Another favourite was pretending they were versions of Rupunzel stuck in her castle locked away by Mother Gothel (me again. Ha ha) and they would croon, "When will my life begin?" (#3)

Now, I will often remind them that they should view 'Big Chore Day' ( a title they came up with and it stuck) as part of their epic story. It is their middle of the week battle to conquer or perhaps their midday respite of gratitude. They can choose either way to look at it. It fluctuates most weeks. On some occasions big chore day is calm, with the sun streaming in. The sun catchers make the rooms sparkle and the chore load seems easier. Smells of citrus, vinegar and tea tree mix into the air. It feels like a fresh re- set and we are almost honoured and proud to be part of the process. On those glorious chore days, I see them singing or talking to each other or contemplating life as they wipe the dust off of a beloved object. On other days the chores seem to take forever and the clouds cover the sun. As in life, the practiced is not always easy. It is all perspective. I tell them that sometimes it is ok to view the day as a battle or competition. On these days they must persevere, slay their darkness and overcome. They may not enjoy it fully, but when they look back, they can see what they did and enjoy the 'spoils' of hard work. That is usually is a fun activity in a clean space. But it is the little things in life that matter.

These times are also a practice to engage with materials. Chore time also teaches financial responsibility. I remind them, that if they find their rooms too hard to clean, that they should get rid of anything that does not bring them joy or is useful. If they are left with what they find useful or beautiful, then they will realize that care taking of such choices takes time. That time should be filled with gratefulness or appreciation for the object. It also makes them think twice before they spend on objects they will have to take care of. You would think, with that philosophy, that we are minimalists but we are probably more Maximalists. Our house takes longer to dust because of all of our stuff. But we thoroughly enjoy and use what we have. So it works for us. You must find what works for you.

With that in mind, I am leaving our list of jobs below as a construct for people wondering where to start. I admit that we have a slight spin on this original list, but it is almost the same. It took a few weeks to get into our groove but now this works for us. Sometimes we move 'Big Chore Day', if we are sick or busy, but we never skip it. Our house is manageable now and on Big Chore Day, there is less to clean due to the regularity of it.

Big Chore Day:

Child #1:
*Your room and *Your bathroom kept Tidy every day. 
*Your Room and bathroom; dust, sweep,vacuum, and mop, fresh linens/towels, laundry to laundry room, Put away your clothes, Closet,*Empty garbages in areas.
*Change and wash sheets
Rotating starting with area One. (See below)

Child #2:
*Your Room and bathroom2 kept tidy and nice every day.
*Your Room and bathroom2: dusting, vacuum, sweep, and mop, fresh linens/towels, laundry to laundry room, Put away your clothes. *Empty garbages
*Change and wash sheets 
*Rotating starting with area Two ( See below)

Child #3:
*Your room and *Your bathroom kept Tidy every day. 
*Your Room and MAIN:dust, sweep,vacuum and mop, fresh linens/towels, laundry to laundry room, Put away your clothes,*Empty garbags*Change and wash your sheets 
*Rotating Area 3 ( See below)

*Room, Down Stairs hallway and Closet Tidy every day
*Your Room and closet : dust, sweep, and mop, vacuum, laundry to laundry room, Clothes. Change and wash your sheets.
*Empty fridge of gross leftovers and clean
* Do Budget /Errands/ book appointments /Mail ect./ organization of papers/ Lists for family/ Schooling projects and Trips
*Any seasonal changes with a picked helper rotating, once a month curtains or walls or a big 'spring'
*Wipe down outside of cupboards and any extra utility care
*Decor details
*gardening in summer
*plant care
*Rotating area 4 (See below.)

Daddy (sat):
*take garbages to curb
*Meals daily. Soak any pans you use right away ( For curious people see my Dyspraxia posts for why my husband does meals. He has his own hours and we have readjusted the budget so he is home one hour early a day to do meals instead of work plus lunches.)
*Plants watered once a week and outdoors tidied.
*General Maintenance once a week (check lights, dust high up fans and lights, anything that needs fixed or extra renos and keeping area clean)
*Once a month clean out Van and Truck.
*Once a month do your work hours
*Once a week clean inside Microwave and Coffee Maker
*Recycling to Depot once a month
*Mowing in summer, shovelling in winter when needed

Below the Four Areas Rotate through my three children and I, starting with the order written above. We each get a turn throughout the month with varied areas so it is fair.

Area one: 
*Kitchen: Tidy all surfaces, Sweeping and vacuuming, breakfast and lunch dishes washed and put away before supper daily
*Kitchen: once a week thorough - dusting, vaccuming and mopping

Area Two: 
*Living Room and Upstairs Hall: tidy, vacuumed and swept
*Living room and Upstairs Hall: Dust EVERYTHING, wash floors, sweep and mop

Area Three:
*Library and Entry: tidy, vacuumed and swept
*Library and Entry: Dust EVERYTHING, washing floors, vacuumed.

Area four:

*Pantry and Laundry Room: tidy, organized, vacuumed and swept
*Linen closet: organize, fold, floors


ROTATE BETWEEN four of us;
* Daily Dishes: Hand washing, Unloading/ Loading, cleaning all surfaces. Counter, stove and table, Sweep.
* Quick Tidy of general areas you are in charge of (see above)

Rotating Laundry;
*Monday: Free for All (whomever needs to catch up or do an extra load)
*Tuesday: Child #1 clothes
* Wednesday: Mommy clothes
*Big Chore Day: Linnens, Dishtowels, Towels
*Friday: Child #2 clothes
*Saturday: Daddy clothes
*Sunday: Child #3 clothes

Note: If your laundry is not done on your day you will have to work with whatever clothes you have. You CAN ask the person on their day if you can have a turn if they are done or are generous but otherwise you have to wait till your turn again or remember to put a load on Monday's free day.

Meals and Baking:
*Meal prep on weekends: Each child helps daddy and learns a meal. They can practice this meal once every few weeks on their own.

A clean house makes such a difference in Being in the world. I have to thank my mother for getting us into 'Big Chore Day.' We used to have random days where we would be so frustrated with the mess, we would clean and clean...and it would take more time and the house would be a mess again soon. Now, with 'Big Chore Day' and organized Laundry/ Dish duty the house almost feels like it takes care of itself. As my son mentioned when I read him this post, "In the end, I can't imagine what it would be like without Big Chore Day. Sometimes I hate it but in the end, I look back and think it's fun and the day after is awesome. I'm thankful Nanna helped us organize the entire list so that stuff like clean sheets are a weekly indulgence."

In care taking our home it becomes our 'Soul Friend' or 'Anam Cara' (see side label for more.) We are able to experience frequent, magical, ordinary hearth time because of the gentle work of chores. I wrote in this post (CLICK HERE) "On a night that sings softly of Autumn I feel the magic of being alive. Sometimes living is bone weary exhausting, but on soft nights with spilled lamplight, nurturing food and beautiful surroundings it would seem that the abundance of simply breathing can sometimes beget the simplest magic. Sometimes being alive is at it's most profound in the mellow beauty of meetings. Where nature and materially crafted collide in a fusion of elegant, inspirational beauty. The moment was too tender not to share..."

"Heaven is waiting for me my friend...gee it's good to know I am near the home fire. All of the folks that I love are there. I've got a date with my favourite chair. With every step, every hope grows higher...oh how I missed the home fire..."- Louis Armstrong. (*4)

(*1) Hard Working Man- Brooks and Dunn

(*2) It's A Hard Knock Life- Annie

(#3) When Will My life Begin- Mandy Moore

(*4) Home Fire- Louis Armstrong