Monday, April 28, 2014

Watching Your Soul Walk Around Outside Your Body

....or at least that's what I feel like this week has felt like so far to me!

It has been bizarre, and full of so many social connections my head is spinning but my heart is shining with gratefulness and love and happiness and a lack of ability to even believe it is happening...

My body is kind of falling apart but it changes from day to day and maybe it has something to do with emotions, I am trying to believe that once my mind settles down my body will too..

I am listening to Dion sing "The Wanderer" on this awesome 60s music station  I am listening to and feeling compelled to write about an experience I had tonight before I go to bed. I already wrote about it, but it was on Facebook and FB ate the post so I am trying again here because I feel a NEED to put this into writing before I go to sleep and do the world over again.

I met someone from the meetup and had a great convo with him. Then I hung out elsewhere in town until it was time to walk to the bus stop in Monument Square at 9. As I did so, I accidentally happened upon a scene that just stopped my entire world for those five minutes.

There was a man standing outside the entrance to the crisis hotline, talking on their intercom. I couldn't see him, but I could make out his words easily. "I'm homeless," he said. "I haven't slept in days and I'm going crazy from sleep deprivation. I am going out of my mind. No, I can't go to Preble Street [shelter], they'll just give me a metal chair to sleep on. Do you hear me? I need to sleep!" I was riveted by the emotion and pain in his voice. I lost all awareness of my surroundings as his words and emotions filled up my body. "I am desperate," he said. "I want to kill myself if I can't get any sleep. Do you hear me? I want to hurt myself. I need help." There was another man with him. When I walked closer, I realized the other man had brought him there, and was helping him look for his medications in his trash bag when I left to catch the bus. (I would have stayed, but there wasn't another bus for an hour and I was really tired.)

The feeling of empathy was amazing to me. What does it mean, I thought to myself, that I have trouble relating to 98% of the population that is walking around outside.... that I feel emotionally isolated and shut out from the population that I was brought up to be like (but wasn't, and no one would recognize that I was different, they kept insisting I was the same. The cognitive dissonance of knowing in your heart that you are different while having everyone insist there is nothing wrong with you was and is absolutely intense) .....  So to go through your daily life, watching everyone around you feeling as if there was some sort of glass window or barrier between you and others, watching everyone else "be normal" while knowing that you were nothing like them - the pain of that kind of emotional isolation is intense, let me tell you, and it is only recently that I have begun to find ways to throw it off and to connect from inside the barrier. It is amazing. Seeing myself in others and figuring out what emotional connection feels like is changing my life. But the part I intend to focus on here is this. There was no TRYING to relate to this guy I passed in Monument Square. There was no trying, no effort, no wondering why I couldn't relate. There was just pure 100% empathy. I knew those words , that tone of voice, that emotion in the words. I had said similar words before. It was as if I had spotted my own heart walking around outside my body.

It clearly says to me that I have a lot to give the world. I have a comfort level and an articulateness with emotional pain that most people do not seem to even approach. I am very comfortable with emotional pain and very comfortable discussing emotional pain. In fact, I crave it. After so many years of silence, I crave it. And I want to find a way to take my knowledge and articulateness and life experience and use it to help others. But I am also trying to hold the fact that it is only in the last few months that I have even dared to imagine I could walk into buildings again, after seven years of isolation. It is only in the last few months I dared to imagine or ever experience what emotional connection felt like. It is still so new and I want to be careful not to push myself far past what I am yet able to handle. I don't want to become impatient and be so focused on what I want to have - the opportunity to help others- that I become overwhelmed and focus only on the result and not the process. Life, I have learned, is often all about the process. A hard but true fact to accept.

I don't know how I will do this, but I know I NEED to use my life experience to help others. This is the only way I will feel whole and it will achieve my life long goal of helping others who have experienced the level of emotional pain that I have.

When I talk about my emotional pain I am aware I may make some people uncomfortable, particularly those people who know me and wanted to help me but didn't know how. I want to say right now that it is not my intention to blame, but it is my intention to talk about things that never get talked about in an effort to throw the lifelong shame that has been on my back off my back. I need to figure out the origin of these feelings if I am going to throw them off, and that means I need to be able to talk honestly. I never mean to suggest that no one tried to help me with my social isolation. Certainly there are people who I can credit for saving my life in their efforts to help. But the isolated efforts of a few people, while enough to save my life, were not enough on their own to give me any decent quality of life. I suffered in silence for a long, long time. Now that I can finally talk about it, I intend to do just that.  I intend to use the experiences I had to help bridge my own emotional gaps and to help others bridge theirs. We are all interconnected, inter-related, and we all NEED  to use each other to help ourselves gain a feeling of emotional wholeness, aliveness, etc.

I spent my life looking for people like me. I never found them until I found the label of Asperger's but even then it has been iffy. The more I learn about people with very varied life experiences the more I can start to understand myself and all the many influences that shaped me.

But if there is one thing I took from tonight, it was that I feel whole around people who can understand my despair, and I want to look for opportunities to help others who have had those experiences.

I'm pretty sure that poor homeless guy had no idea what growth he was inspiring in my head just by being himself. And I sincerely hope he finds a way to get what he needs.

Oh. I almost forgot. The bus driver.... the #1 was empty when I got on it. I was still stunned by my experience and said to him something like that "That guy... I hope he's okay." The driver kept telling me "Don't worry about him," which angered me. "I don't want to live in a world where we feel it's okay to not worry about other people," I said to him. He seemed to understand, and I sat down. That's the first step... To live your life as an example of what you want to see in the world. I took the first step today.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Escaping an Internal Prison... or Play at the Jewish Museum Tonight

I post the following not to throw blame on any person or group of persons, but instead to try to figure out how my blame and shame buttons got installed so that I can figure out how to un-install them. I strive for an emotionally healthy future and to be an emotionally health person. In order to do so I need to examine my life closely, perhaps more closely than some people might like. I refer you to the famous quote "An unexamined life is not worth living." The following are my thoughts in response to the play I saw at the Maine Jewish Museum tonight, which relates very much to internal prisons.

Puppetmaster of Lodz, Play at Maine Jewish Museum Sunday April 28 2014 at 730pm

Its getting freezing in here windows are not very good. I am trying to write and process all the thoughts in my head before I go to bed so I can go to bed. It's kind of interesting negotiating my physical body and mental body at the same time - but when is it it ever not (read difficult)??

I met a nice girl waiting for the bus at 245... I easily transferred from the 1 to the 4 as they connected very well... Like literally at the same time which doesn't usually happen when you try to connect buses.... Not that I have tried much.... But it was so easy this time! I got the 4 and got off by the USM library and found the apartment building I was looking for AND WENT IN IT and got my hair cut by this woman I know from the time dollar network. And spent 2 hrs having intense emotional discussion with her. Way cool. She dropped me off at whole foods where I attempted to eat but mostly spent time trying to get all the hair off me so I could keep functioning in the world. Then wandering around parking lot listening to music and trying to recover from intensity of going into new apartment building and getting haircut experience. And finding myself feeling a sense of joy .... a sense of happiness, of calmness, of just.... joy that I didn't expect and don't usually feel. That was nice...but weird. Then I had to hightail it from whole foods to the Jewish museum because the play was starting at 730 and I left the whole foods parking lot at 717pm.... Apparently you CAN get there by walking in about 11 minutes.... Not bad timing especially considering it was uphill.

Ragdoll by Four Seasons is on radio... Love this song. So I burst inside without resting not wanting to miss the beginning and fortunately it hadn't started. I saw several people I knew but most of them left before I had a chance to talk to the after. People do that I guess. The play was so intense and with all that I have been experiencing lately there was another layer of intensity that I want to get into in a seperate writing. I... was pretty much left in pieces by the end of it. And it had nothing to do with the Holocaust or violence against Jews that left me that way . It had everything to do with the theme of... This guy has been in a boarding house of some sort for 5 years. When he first arrived he was hiding (a Jew in Nazi Germany).... the war hadn't quite finished yet and it was still a crime punishable by death to be harboring a Jew. But the war has been over for 5 years.... and no matter what the woman who runs the boarding house tells him, he refuses to believe the war is over. He comes up with detailed explanations for her announcements.... She's creating false newspapers, or what have you. He will not be convinced that the war is over. Five years this goes on, and she has no choice but to buy into his delusions. But she keeps trying to chip away at his resistance... Bringing him soldiers and such to tell him that the war is over, all to no avail. On a surface level this would not have moved me very much. In fact, I even read the script at the very beginning before they even started rehearsing it, and I couldn't get into it at all. It didn't move me in the least. But what a difference there is between a simple script... and the way you breathe life and emotions and dialogue into it.  

They say that nonverbal communication makes up about 80% of communication but I'm not sure that was ever quite as clear to me as it was tonight. The difference between words on a page - simple, verbal words on a page - and the way that human beings can use tone of voice, emotion, and body language to express language was stunningly obvious after seeing what they were able to do with that script. It made me start to realize how much I had been missing, relying only on literal words for communication and not being able to take in the non-verbal language cues. (Or taking them in but not being able to interpret them!)

On Trust

So on a surface level, while the idea is intellectually intruiging, it's still not all that moving, at least to me. But when you really get into it and probe the nitty gritty of it...especially when you're having the week that I've been having... it's life-changing. Why is it life changing? Let's explore this. The character in the play is having an awfully hard time believing that anyone could actually care about him just for the sake of caring about him. Everything has to be manipulated for some reason, everything has an ulterior motive behind it. It wasn't until we got to this part that my heart really fell out of its chest.... because I saw myself in him. So unlikely, in a play about a Holocaust survivor who doesn't believe that the Holocaust is over, to see yourself... I thought I would have related on a more of an intellectual level, instead of a purely emotional one. I saw myself in him. Just a week or so ago I was having a rare conversation with a girl about my age who does not identify with the disability population. In other words, that elusive "normal" that I rarely get to interact with. And I was called paranoid, after what seemed like very surface conversation. And it really hurt, it struck a nerve. We have made our peace with each other since, more or less, but it still stays with me, to realize that there is some truth in what she says. I have good reason to be paranoid....but that doesn't make me any less paranoid or any less suspicious.

I have had very little experience in my life to cause me to trust others. I have had very little experience in my life that tells me I can take on faith that other people understand my experience, or even care about my experience. This was not the deliberate act of anyone trying to be malicious, it was more like a lot of people all thinking that someone else would do something to help me.... and no one ever did, until it was pretty much too late. Until my self-concept and view of the world was pretty well formed, and nowhere in it was a provision for trusting other people. Nowhere in it was the idea that other people would care for me just because they would care for me. Instead, my self-concept was mostly one of shame. Abundant shame. It was one of difference, of awareness of difference but no words to talk about it. Awareness of difference, no way to talk about it, no words to use to connect to others. Shame over sensory differences, communication differences, and the usual garden variety shame of watching other people seem like they are happier than you, more together than you and more connected than you even if they really aren't. People came into my life and tried to repair my image of myself as best as they could, but they didn't realize how deep it ran. I had no concept of normal, so I couldn't tell them what I was missing other than that I was missing something big. I emulated others pretty well, though, and I was smart, which in many ways got me into trouble... because I was able to fake being like others far too well for my own good. No one ever seemed to suspect the problems that lay beyond the exterior. No one ever talked to me about my differences, and no one ever gave me the words to use to label them. It is important that people know I say this not to blame. I know those in my life did the best that they could, and I know they loved me. But they were limited by their own limited emotional expression. I say this because I am realizing that if I can figure out how these buttons got installed in the first place... I can figure out how to un-install them. And then I can figure out how to live an emotionally healthy life. One that doesn't include 24/7 self-hatred barely disguised. How wonderful and amazing that would be if I could find a way to feel my way towards it.

Emotional and Physical Applications of the Themes in the Play

So there he is, in the boarding house, going on 5 years, not believing the war was over.
 Now, just on that level alone, I could have related, because of my struggle with chemical sensitivities and my recent discoveries of the emotional nature of some of my difficulties. I even said as much to the woman I had been talking to before I went to the play, that I suspected not going into buildings for seven years because of being traumatized by physical reactions to stimuli in buildings and trying with everything you have in you to protect yourself in the future by not going into buildings was not all that different when you looked at it from refusing to leave a building because you didn't believe a war was over. In fact,  I have no idea how literally the playwright intended for us to take this. I have no idea if other people can relate or not. I wonder very strongly if other people are imprisoned by various prisons of their own making without even being aware of it. As I was wandering around the Eastern Prom tonight thinking when I got back, a song came on the oldies station, probably by the Eagles but I'm not sure, with a line something like "So often we live our lives in chains not realizing we have the key." I thought to myself, my Gosh, that line sums up tonight and the play and all I've been thinking in just one line. How amazing.
Maybe this feeling is more common than I think it is, if it's in a song.

I still don't know though. I would like to know, if other people can relate to this experience.

So I had that going on, really, I had both going on at once. Thinking about the nature of trusting others, what does it take to trust others, how do we get to a point where we have an expectation of others to care for us? While also relating to the physical prison that I had by sheer necessity made for myself for the last seven years, which I am just now starting to find ways to get out of. The two themes at once felt very intense to me. The play finished and people just left. I'm sitting there with my heart ripped out of my chest, raw and open, and people are leaving without a single word of discussion about the play. Usually I try  so hard to put my emotions and feelings into an appropriately superficial level of communicating so as to be able to connect with others... or as my new friend from my meetup last week would call it "guessing how intense it's okay to be" at any given moment. But I just couldn't.... the whole world felt like it had been ripped from under my feet, and I had nowhere to stand. People are joking, waving goodbye, just not emoting at all. And their lack of emoting made me feel SO shut out and so ... wrong. Paul Collins wrote a great historical memoir on autism called "Not Even Wrong." The particulars of which I will leave for another discussion, but the title just popped into my head.

Struggling with my Emotions after the Play

I struggled with my emotions..... Not even being able to fake smile or squash them down at all in an attempt to connect with others, as was usual for me with effort. I looked at people.... they looked back at me. No one wanted to engage. I forced myself to stand near them in an effort to find a way in. The schism between their output and mine became too great and I started to sob and to be on the border of truly losing my mooring and truly losing control of my emotions. It was at the same time both an eminently familiar place to be and an eminently difficult one, because no one likes the feeling of losing all sense of control of themselves. Thankfully, I was rescued. This time I was rescued. Thank God for my connections to people now. Someone noticed I was having trouble, and asked "Are you okay?" I allowed to myself to shake my head. I allowed myself to be vulnerable enough to admit that I was not okay. "Do you need to talk to someone?" I allowed myself to nod yes. To believe that someone cared because they cared, and not because I was a burden, or a mess they had to deal with before they went home. To believe that someone cared was revolutionary to me. It still is, writing this and trying to process it.

There was a time in my life not all that long ago, where I was punished for emotional expression. I have never been very good at emotional regulation. Throughout my life I have struggled to control my emotional expression. When I was not able to control my emotions, instead of being offered a safe place to have them, I was yelled at... criticized... or just plain ignored. I was seen as a "behavior issue" that could be stamped out if only I wasn't given any "encouragement." If they just ignored me for long enough I'd "realize" how "emotional" I was being and stop. Only, that never happened. What child has the ability to control strong emotions without having been taught any skills around it? What happened instead was time and time again of losing control of my emotions, and free-falling deeper and deeper into levels of despair I had only before imagined, sobbing so hard that I thought I was going to suffocate, and being ignored, because "obviously" it was all just a tantrum to get attention. Obviously they wouldn't want to reward behavior that was just used to get attention. Because having someone say "I care" is just too much to give to such a badly behaving girl, right? My oppressors meant well but the message they sent could not have been more damaging. Struggling with how to ask for help and more than that how to actually receive it - how to believe that you are worth it, how to believe that others could truly care instead of just look at you as a burden - is a question that may take me the rest of my life to figure out, but I won't stop asking. Because that is the only path to emotional health is to figure out how to make sense of this. And I can't go on much longer as a broken person. As the quote says.... The only way out is through. There may be no more painful emotion that exists than screaming in the only way you know how "I hurt" to people who are supposed to care for you and getting silence in return. Small wonder why I spent most of high school and half of college obsessing about cutting myself, even if I never actually did it. I simply didn't know how to make people hear me when I said I was hurt. And I didn't know, later on when I finally began to find the words, how to understand if people were hearing me.

When I was a small child, I had speech issues and I am told that no one was able to understand my language. How fitting it is that I spent the first few formative years of my life trying to express myself and having people literally not understand me - and then I would spend the entirety of my adult life expressing myself in well developed verbal language that I am told is perfectly understandable but still *feeling* as if no one could understand me. Whether it is the lack of social skills that would later be identified as a form of autism, or simply having had far too many years to mull these issues over in my head and emerge as someone with a far deeper need to discuss emotions and emotional experiences than most people, whatever of the many issues one could cite that caused it, I emerged as an articulate, verbal, outgoing young woman who seemed like she knew what she was doing to other people but who inside still had no freaking idea that other people were like her, or that other people liked her. A person who was still consumed by a sense of 24/7 self hatred which she was only able to put aside long enough to engage other people so she wouldn't have to be stuck in her own head - but not long enough to ever feel truly emotionally connected to them.

To believe, even tonight, that someone cared was and is revolutionary to me. The process of communication was a lifeline to me, to just express my emotions about the play and to try to figure out where they were all coming from and why my output was so different than others'. It moored me, to have this connection with someone. The connection felt caring and non judgemental. It was not able to answer my questions, necessarily, but it was totally validating in my right to have and express them. In knowing that the questions were cared about by someone, they lost their sense of desperation and despair, and were replaced instead by connection. How difficult it is to admit your need for help. Even as I wrote this sentence, I was in my head preparing a mental defense of why it was okay to ask for help.... so conditioned I have been to thinking I am a burden on others. It is impossible to feel emotional closeness to others if you feel a burden on them. It is impossible to feel emotional closeness to others if you don't have a sense of your own worth in the relationship. But to find ways to throw off that shame is to find ways to actually feel other people's emotions in your heart, to feel something in your heart other than your own anxiety and shame about the interaction. It is nothing short of revolutionary for me. I want more of it, but I need to process what I have if I am going to be able to move forward.

Man, today was an intense day. But so much better than a shallow day!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

USM Deaf Film Festival

Some thoughts that I had to put down somewhere.... so be it.

The USM Deaf Film Festival Spoke To Me So Loudly

I had one of the most intense days of my life today. I went to a deaf film festival at USM. I took the bus over there around 4 or so and read psychology textbooks in the USM library for an hour before the reception started at 5. It cost $8 to go. I gladly paid it, even though I didn't end up watching any of the films! I thought it would be a good opportunity to interact with others in a meaningful way and it was. There was a reception for 90 min on the 7th floor of the library and then the evening part of the film festival. I stayed from about 4 to 830, when I then realized I could walk to Whole Foods from there and and did. And then got a very cheap cab back with some food. Then talked to Nate for 90 min. And that isn't even counting the cool people I met at the public market who told me about a social thing at the woodfords church on Monday. I've been walking around feeling like my heart is living outside of my body. I've been walking around feeling like an entirely different person. It's so bizarre but it's so good because for the first time I can start to feel other people inside my heart. And that ....... I don't even have words for.

People I talked to at the film festival.... I saw the guy who was translating the Take Back the Night March last night there. I talked to an older couple who moved here from Worcester area in MA a few years ago for quite a while. As I had suspected it might be, using the play Tribes as a starting point for discussion went over very well. Everyone had heard of it, and even those who had not seen it were very up for a discussion of it. It was wonderful to be in a room full of people who seemed to share one of the basic tenets of my life with me without actually giving words to it....That being something along the lines of "Communication is difficult and it is something we have to give a lot of thought and effort to, but when we can do it, it is such a joyful thing!" There was a lot of laughing going on. It was just amazing. I hadn't thought beforehand that most people would be signing, and it made me nervous at first, but it ended up being fine. I was able to find the speaking people for conversations, and in a few instances people even offered to translate conversations with me with the deaf. Most of the people signing did speak as well, although not all.

But to share that.... To feel how much energy, strength and persistence communication took but to also feel the joy that happened when it took place... was amazing. I talked to this one guy about my age who I had seen in the audience at Tribes. I saw him in the hallway and asked one of the people in the purple shirts if they would translate a conversation for me. So we did. Maybe not long or as in depth as I would have gone had there been more time and resources, but still very nice. It made me think... Just to put myself in his shoes.... How hard he has to work to make himself understood.... When most of the population does not use ASL. How hard you have to work not to become disillusioned. I have his email address and need to remember to email him.

So let's see, the elderly couple, the ASL teacher which was translated for me, the deaf guy, and there was this girl I sat next to who was breastfeeding her baby, and in the course of conversation it came out that she had grown up in Cumberland and graduated Greely in '03. In all of the people I have ran into who have a connection to Greely, ranging from '81 to the present, that is the first time I have ran into someone I actually went to high school with. Talk about coming full circle. So she knew a lot of people I knew - Of course I didn't write down her name and I don't recall it, but most of my friends were in her class. To run into someone like that.... In such a different setting... 10+ years later.... Very much to start to see yourself in a different way. She had connections to both the autism and deaf community. The connections between the two fascinate me. And a couple shorter convos. People seemed pretty genuine and open for the most part and it was a fascinating experience, not just because I was doing something new by going into new buildings, and not just because I was doing something new on my own (and I almost never see single people at these events, it's like people don't think they can possibly be social without someone else by their side...sure I would like to have that but since I never have, I have probably developed skills to be able to do these things on my own that I never would have otherwise).

Slowly but surely I am learning that I am good enough the way I am. Slowly but surely I am learning to dismantle the shield of shame and blame that has been wrapped around me so closely over the years. I am learning how important it is to have a good, stable self concept of yourself that you can stand firm in when talking to other people. If you just let other people dictate your opinion on yourself with every single interaction, you're going to be extremely overwhelmed and never feel an actual sense of emotional connection with others. If you can stand steadily in yourself while interacting with others, there is room to be curious about them and how they experience the world without having it threaten your sense of who you are. That's when true emotional connection can come. And we're all good enough - we all need to find the people who make us feel like we're enough just by who they are. Those that can't don't matter. Such interesting things I am learning lately and trying to put into play, and so thankful am I to have such great teachers in my life.

Further unrelated thoughts from tonight

I've been writing some amazing thought provoking emails. I want to share one piece of one here. The guy who gave me a ride home from the meetup in North Yarmouth this past Tuesday said to me that "he has to guess how intense it is okay to be at any given time," which REALLY resonated with me in a way few other statements ever have. I have been thinking a lot about that. I realized that it is at the root of all my social anxiety, that sentence right there. Not trying to guess what the social norms are - but trying to guess how much it is okay to break the social norms! While I have a value of being myself, I question how to get around this, thinking that some things are just facts and that most people's tolerance level for intensity is pretty low is a fact.... but maybe there's a way to be uber-intense, if that is who you naturally are (and it is, for me, I am realizing) and okay with it. Intense and okay with it. If you can be okay with it then you will exude happy, calm, peaceful, healing energy.... because you will be in your center.

Maybe if you can be okay with it it won't matter how intense it is because when you're in your center, good things happen. This is the message from the meetup I go to but I didn't understand it until now.

People are too quick to try to mold themselves after social norms. I see the point in it.... There are many things that require this. But there is a such thing as going too far... and I think I have.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Missing Piece of Connection

I need to eat...Thank God for the cooked salmon I bought yesterday. As my therapist said tonight I am having more insights than should be allowed by law or something like that. Everything is taking on symbolic as well as literal meaning. I walked back from my therapy appt tonight and intended to go to the gelato place. While I was walking there, I passed Longfellow Books. Nothing out of the ordinary, but this time it was full of people. They were having a reading of some sort. What was a fascinating experience was that you could see through the windows all of the people - probably 30 or 40 people sitting and listening to someone speaking. You could observe their emotions.... their emotional response to the speaker. And you could see the speaker. But you had no idea what was going on, what was being said that was being responded to. I had to find out what was going on inside, at whatever cost to myself. Which in itself is an analogy for the changes that have taken place in me and in my world since Christmas.

I thought for a moment about whether or not I wanted to go inside,  since Longfellow Books was not on my list of approved places to go (ie due to my chemical sensitivities I have trouble going into a lot of places but am slowly adding more and more in the last few months)...but I had to try. I had to figure out what door to go in... they locked the main one for the reading. I got in and found a seat.. it was almost over. I got to hear the last two poems. It was a poetry reading, it turned out. I was riveted. Absolutely riveted. The pure EMOTION that was in his words! He could have been talking about any subject under the sun and it wouldn't have mattered - I was hooked on the emotion in his voice. About 5 minutes after I walked in it, it ended. I was slightly relieved because I wasn't really up for sitting there longer than that. They asked if anyone had any questions or comments. Well, you know me. Or if you did know me in real life... or maybe you already do from reading all my posts. But I cannot for the life of me resist making deep profound comments at events where I have only been there 5 minutes to even understand what is going on, lol.

So I asked, basically about the process of distilling emotion into poetry or writing in a way that the audience can access and relate to. I don't really remember the response because it was one of those questions you can't really answer, you can only take in and observe and breathe around and enjoy. I wouldn't have been able to write that sentence a few days ago but I am now. Although later, someone told me they thought it was a bit like tapping a wall looking for a secret room - you tapped everywhere, listened for the thud, and when you found the hollow sound or whatever you knew you were in the right place. Following your heart is a bit like that - you have to thump everywhere, you have to thump a lot of places before you get the feeling that something is right for you. But when you get it, you have to follow it as if your life depended on it, because it does. Follow your instinct, Margie kept saying and I didn't know how. I didn't think I had an instinct other than fear. Fear was covering my natural sense of myself, my instinct, my sense of self. When I found my sense of self, the world opened up to me.

I got a couple comments about how profound my comment about poetry was, but not as many comments as usual. It ended and the room was full of people talking to other people. Since I had only been there for five minutes, I really didn't have any basis of which to approach any of them to start a conversation like I normally would have. I still had to adjust to the environment so I still had a bit of a wild animal look on my face, I suspect. But for once, it was okay. Because for so long, the only way I could stand to be in a group of people was to being having constant conversation with them, deep intense validating conversation with them, because otherwise it was as if I didn't exist. Otherwise the feeling of being shut out was too painful to tolerate. And I finally realized why. I finally realized tonight, not 5 minutes before I walked in that room from my therapy session, how to begin to validate myself. I finally learned, I finally experienced, for what was probably the first time in my life, what it was like to *truly be yourself while in an interaction with another.* My self kept slipping away before. It would either take on all the emotions and energy of the other person, or be so full of my own energy that I wasn't really hardly even aware of the other person in my space.... or so worried about the social norms I might be violating that I tried to manipulate myself and contort myself as best as I could into an image of what I thought "being social" was. But it always felt like acting and it made socializing, as much as I enjoyed it and wanted it, exhausting.

Tonight, for the first time, I had an experience of being myself in connection with someone else. Before, the two worlds were always seperate. There was *my world* where I was happy and comfortable and joyful but utterly seperate from the world around me. A world which I had actually lost until a few weeks ago for the most part, but found again. I still had existed in it but it had been greatly muted. I found it again, but then I had a dilemma. I had my world. I had *the world*. In *the world* I could put on a great act to connect to the world. People kept saying I had friends and social connections. So why did I feel so lonely? Because my world and the world were not connected. They were seperate. I didn't even realize it.

Is it possible parents didn't realize I wasn't part of the world? Is it possible they didn't realize the schism? I don't know.

Then tonight I had an experience where I was able to truly be myself in an interaction with someone else. The particulars are a bit obscure and a story for another time, and not the typical way you might experience this - but what is, for me? It is my path and it is okay. I didn't think much of it at the time, actually. That I had been interrupted when I was in "my world" was just an annoyance to process later. But to be interrupted in my world and STAY in my world while managing to interact with another - in however an unorthodox way I did it - was revolutionary.

So all this was going on in my head while I was at the poetry reading. I ended up meeting someone I knew from the museum. At first I wasn't sure if it was him. I just observed everyone for a while, something I am rarely able to do without my emotions pounding on me demanding to connect. But I was able to connect with myself somehow and stay open. After a while Martin, the guy I knew, came to talk to me. A wonderful conversation ensued and he kept introducing me to people. I didn't even know what to say. Then I found out he lives like one street over from where I'm moving (yeah by the way, I'm moving.) Synchronisity. So wonderful. Additionally, I found a wonderful book at the store that was a metaphor for my life. And I rediscovered how wonderful Longfellow Books is. It was the first time in seven years I had been there and was actually open enough to enjoy it. I had tried to go in a few times over the years but almost felt like the trauma was re-creating itself so steered far away from it. But I couldn't resist when I saw all the people in it. I couldn't resist trying.

So back to the initial experience of walking by and seeing all the people reacting emotionally but not being able to see the source. What I didn't realize until I started writing this was that that is the story of my life - emotional animals around me, but not being able to understand their motivations, feelings etc and feeling shut out. But unlike all of my life up until now, this time I was able to open the door and walk right in. Walk right into the emotional experience they were all sharing. Just walk right in. Not only physically but emotionally. What a great metaphor.

I am beginning to see that conversation is not just an intellectual exercise. I can begin to see the VERY beginnings of how to connect with others' experiences - and not just pretend to, for the sake of being in "the world." I always felt I was missing something and now I know what. There are so many concepts here that I can't fully articulate at the moment but they are so amazing and I spent three hours writing about them in my notebook today in the gelato place and two hours yesterday in the public market.

Conversation is not just an intellectual exercise. It is about being able to feel the flow of the universe and feel the flow of the people around you. Once you feel that flow it is about being able to observe it and then enter into it with your energy. If you are lucky, your energy will mesh with someone else's energy and create a connection. But if you go in forced or more intense than someone or not being your authentic self then the energy will MISS ITS TARGET. That's why I've spent years throwing words at people and just having it .... go off into a void and dissapear somewhere. Years not being able to figure out how to do conversation. Thinking that if I only came up with good enough stories or insights or whatever and shared them that that would be conversation, that that would make me feel connected to others. So I threw the words into the giant void that was my life. I threw so many words at other people. They all went into the void and I could never feel anything back. I could NEVER FEEL ANYTHING BACK. I remained just as emotionally isolated as I was before I had the conversation, even though for all extents and purposes I had participated in an engaged, connected discourse. How verbal you are, they said. How smart you are, they said. How good you are at conversation. But they couldn't see how alone I still was! They couldn't see how alone I still was. My act was too good. My act of being in the world was just too good. No one could see that I couldn't connect the experience of being myself with the experience of being in the world, and I sure as hell couldn't know that either.

Emotion is a human experiene that trascends language and all other boundaries.

I spent years thinking that if only I could find the right words, I could connect to others. I spent years trying to refine what those words were. I spent years SEARCHING for those words. Reading every memoir or piece of writing I could get my hands on about disability - any disability or difference - and about autism once I finally found the label for that. 50, 60 memoirs on autism and Asperger's over the years, and nearly ten years of reading blogs on autism, and I still didn't have the words. I did get damn good at talking about autism, though. People kept saying.... You have so many friends... You have so many social connections... You talk to so many people.. How can you be lonely? I didn't know but I felt so shut out. I felt so lonely, still. The connections helped and in really intense connections with others I felt good. But it never lasted. No object permanence (a developmental phase).

But then I realized... I realized this yesterday and I realized it anew today. It hit me like a ton of bricks, as they say. I was sitting on the stone thing in the middle of Monument Square. Ryan came by and I chatted with him for a bit. Then Nate happened by, which was quite a coincedence to run into them both at once randomly. Already emotionally full from my conversation with my therapist earlier and from Ryan just then, and feeling calm and happy and in my element, I looked at Nate. I saw him anew. I thought about his recent shoulder injury as I talked to him and as he talked to me about it. And I connected to his emotions about it. I paused when I saw him. I FELT his energy. And I connected to it. His energy, not mine . It was amazing.

Somehow, the thing that was missing was this. I have to be calm enough and feel safe enough and secure enough in my own self to be able to feel others' energy. If and when I can feel others' energy, others' presence, hell ANYTHING outside of my own self, a self I have been trapped in for thirty long freaking years..... then I can connect to it and I don't feel lonely. But if I can't feel others' energy, then I just throw myself into the equation and hope they will reflect it back to me. If they do reflect it back to me, I feel in connection. If they don't reflect it back to me, I am thrown into despair. It feels as if my whole self has just been rejected and trampled on because I had no stable sense of self before entering the discussion.

But if I can .... somehow validate myself and BE myself authentically when entering into conversations... then it doesn't matter what they say, or what they do. Because I am me - and I am okay - and they are them - and they are okay. We can BOTH be okay at the same time! That stunning insight I had today. There is no better, there is no right or wrong. There is one person being who they are, and me being who I am. We can both do that at the SAME TIME!

I spent.... all this time trying to figure out who the other person was so that I could mold myself after them and contort myself to fit who they were and have a "successful" conversation. I thought that is what you were supposed to do. But now I realize... a successful conversation is when two people can be themselves in connection with each other. And it doesn't even MATTER what you say when you are feeling that connection. Quite a stunning insight for a writer (insert laugh here).  

Everything in my life lately seems to be related to the way I experience the radio. That's an essay I 'll write another time. But for now I'll just use an analogy I take from the radio which just occurred to me. For years I have been addicted to country music. It is the only thing that can soothe my savage emotions. I connected to songs on the radio, to the emotions in country radio, long before I started connecting to or even became aware of other people's emotions .Because country songs are so raw.... so emotional... you can FEEL them. I love country - not the pick up trucks and redneck songs, but the emotional ones.

But for a long time I was amused by the fact that I could be in love with a song that had nothing to do with my experience. Songs about falling in love or pick up trucks, religion or drinking? I couldn't relate to those emotions, those experiences, so why did I relate and feel so strongly connected to the songs?

It's because sharing emotions has NOTHING to do with words!!!!!!!!

I just realized this. Words are a vehicle, a tool to use. But the words themselves mean nothing. The sound of the voice while EXPRESSING emotion, however, means a LOT. I connected to the feelings, no matter what the song was about .... because that is what we do as humans. Pick up on each other's feelings. (Usually, and if we feel safe enough to.) When you look at a successful conversation - the words that you use don't matter, but the ability to pick up on someone's energy and connect to it does. So just like I could strong relate to a song essentially about praising God when I'm atheist and Jewish (Jimmy Wayne's "I Love You This Much" comes to mind) or a song called "I Drive Your Truck" which sounds corny but is actually SO AMAZING... just like that, conversations, I am realizing, are not about the words I use.. and I use far, far too many words because that is my default setting - but I am finding that conversations are about me detecting the other person's energy and saying something to affirm or respond to that. That is mind blowing to me.            

Donna Williams actually wrote a lot about these concepts in her books, which were probably the first on autism I ever read, and end up now being the most relevant. I couldn't completely understand them then.... I just knew they seemed so familiar. She talks about her own concepts of "my world" and "the world" and how much trouble she had integrating them. She also talked about something she called exposure anxiety, which I must go back and look at . Exposure anxiety... maybe it's being in "the world" while being yourself. We choose so many tools to mediate this experience - to make it less intense for us - distracting ourselves- but it really just needs to happen. I need to read her books again. I realized I could actually tag her in this post - woah. It won't let me I'll try later.

It's like I am approaching from an opposite direction as everyone else when I have an interaction. For them, experience leads. They act, respond or discuss out of their lived experience - naturally. For me, it's the opposite. My lived experience at least with interacting with others as myself is... so limited. I have been stuck... trapped inside myself for thirty years. Which gave me a hell of a lot of time to try to study and dissect human communication to try to figure out how it worked and how to enter into it. So when I interact... I approach it from a point of view of thought, of theory, of social construction. Of analysis, of intellect. Then I have to figure out how to get from there to simple lived experience. For most people, they need to start with the lived experience and it is difficult for them to get more intense, thoughtful, analytical or what most people call "profound." For me, I have to start at profound and work my way down - to actual lived experience, to actual connecting.

And now that I think of it most of the important important people in my life growing up kind of seem like that too. I don't aim to put words in their mouths or paint them in a way that is not true but I also refuse to paint over what feels true to me. (Cue Trisha Yearwood's old song
"I Don't Paint Myself Into Corners Anymore")
Maybe they couldn't teach me about emotions because they couldn't feel them in connection with others either. They couldn't teach what they didn't already feel or know to be true.

I always said that when it came to conversation with others, that if there were ten steps to it, I was great with steps 5-10 (the really hard ones) but terrible with the first five (the supposedly easy ones). I think that makes sense in context with what I have just realized.

Cue George Strait's "I Saw God Today" (which actually has nothing to do with religion and constituted the entirety of my Passover celebration, but that's another story.)

 Last night I heard an amazing new song on the radio called "Give Them Hope," a collaboration with like 10 artists...that seems relevant here too.

I am going to  stop here.... and perhaps pick up the thread of this discussion another day.


Monday, April 14, 2014

On Valuing Character and Valuing Everyone

I gave a stranger two dollars for bus fare the other day. It was such a simple act, but it meant so much to me. And, I am sure, him. He was gushing with his appreciation of me. I told him, "I would want someone to do the same thing for me, so I am glad for the opportunity to help." I wanted nothing but the chance to help someone out. After I did that, though, it came back to me, as good deeds so often do. A girl who probably would never have talked to me before told me that the bus I had wanted to catch was actually a different bus, therefore enabling me to get where I wanted to go. Another woman actually offered me money for taxi fare when I thought it wasn't going to be the right bus. All I could do, when my brain wasn't busily engaged with thinking of how to get to my destination, was just stand back and mentally smile. The chain of people helping people was just too beautiful.

I have been thinking about the topic of moral strength lately. At the Jewish museum where I volunteer, there was a film about an island in Greece where the residents had sheltered Jewish residents during the Holocaust. While 85% of the Jews in Greece perished during the Holocaust, not a single one of them did in that island. Why? Because the citizens of that island simply wanted to do what was right. At no gain to them and at great cost, they sheltered the Jews. They had moral strength - the ability to do what is right even when it's not popular. They had character in spades.

I was thinking about all this when I stumbled upon Kari Wagner-Peck's wonderful article in the Huffington Post, "

I Am the Author of the Open Letter to Chuck Klosterman Regarding the R-word

A popular writer made comments using the word "retarded" as an insult. When called out on it, the writer did something most unusual - he actually took responsibility for them. Along with a very sincere apology and complete claim of blame, he donated $25,000 to an organization that works with people who have intellectual disabilities.

Having no gain and at the peril of his own embarassment this writer took responsibility for his words in a big way. And in doing so he demonstrated a moral strength and character that was beyond huge and is VERY uncommon. 

Wagner-Peck, in discussing this, talks about how nice it would be if we as a society put more value and emphasis on character than on what kind of car you drive or what you do for a living. 

As a society we are very far from this - but it doesn't mean we can't work towards it. 

If our society valued character over material traits, then everyone could play with an evening playing field - Down Syndrome, autism, people with less financial means, etc. That would truly be a wonderful world. 

This resonates deeply with me because I have spent my life comparing myself by sign posts and "milestones" that I intellectually know are/were meaningless but nevertheless having been so thoroughly enculturated/incoculated with this culture sometimes find it hard not to measure myself up by. The last few months I 've been challenging myself to find other ways to measure myself by. A job, a driver's license, a significant other, even silly things like drinking or whatever? No, I don't have any of those. But character? I've got character in spades. And if what she writes is true... If we can ever get to a place in our culture where we value character more than meaningless trifles and achievement based titles.... than not only would the world be far more an accessible place for everyone... but everyone would have the opportunity to be valued! And their value would come from something that would actually make the world a better place, not just more "stuff."  If I used that metric to value myself... Wow. What could I accomplish if I used that metric to value myself - if we ALL used it to value each other?

When I was in college, the financial aid office had a huge poster that listed several milestones of most people's lives in an attempt to advertise something. What it was advertising was not relevant to me. But what they USED to advertise it was very relevant. The poster was implying in the way it was set up that these things - first kiss, first date, driver's license, and I forget what else - were so normal that there could not possibly be any other way. Almost every facet of our society does the same. I would be in that office waiting in line for something, and I'd see that poster. Without being able to help it, I would time and time again measure myself up against it. Of course, I always came up short. I never once left that office without my heart being broken in a million pieces, and it had nothing to do with the financial aid I was or wasn't getting. 

It's so hard not to get wrapped up in a society that at every turn and in every action, in every advertisement and every TV show, values people that achieve things. Very specific things. But to value someone simply on how they treat others? That's huge. Maybe we could all start to like ourselves a lot more if we just valued ourselves based on how we treated others. That would take a lot of moral strength - but it's worth it. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Walking Through Your Fears, or What a Bizarre Day I Had Today

"The only way out is through."
"Leap, and the net will appear."

"Compassion is the act of appreciating another's challenges and appreciating how hard they have to work to overcome them."

Those two quotes played in my head constantly in this wild roller coaster of a day that I just had. They proved to be very apt. The third is something that has been going through my mind since someone said to me and has done a lot to change my self image from that of shame to something more and far different and better.

It is no secret that I do not like the house I am living in. It is moldy and affects very much my physical and emotional health. It is also not on a bus line and is difficult to get back to. I am working to try to find a place to live in Portland but that is challenging. I feel good in Portland and terrible here, so. Not good.

Meanwhile, though, I had a profoundly changing and self growth filled day today. I am still stunned.

When I left the house, I spent 2 hrs at True North in Falmouth trying to get myself calm enough to do, well, anything. For once the crisis hotline was actually useful and I used them as a way to try to center myself before going out and doing, well, something. In other words, I had no idea what, I just wanted to be at a stable place mentally!

I didn't quite notice how warm it was when I first got outside. I thought maybe it was 50 maybe even 60 but it'd be windy when I got into Portland so I might as well bring my coat.

I stepped off the bus in Portland into a different world. "Why am I so warm?" I thought to myself, even carrying my coat. I dropped my stuff off at the nearest bench and couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the time and temperature sign. *71.* It was SEVENTY ONE DEGREES on April 11 when less than two weeks ago, it was still snowing. Yesterday and the past few days have been in the 40s.

Portland was *exploding* with people. Every single one of them in t-shirt and short sleeves, summery dresses, milling about, singing, dancing, vibrating, living. It was like someone had flipped the on switch for Portland.

After I spent about half an hour walking up Congress as far as the Eastland and back and wandering Monument Square with my mouth dropped open, in my t-shirt, still somehow WARM, *in my t-shirt*, I finally went inside.

S*** was working so I spent a few hours hanging out there, thinking and talking to her and having some very good conversations. When I left, on the spur of the moment I remembered that Tribes was going on at Portland Stage. I decided to go, and bought the $10 pass thing you can get if you're under 35. It was a few blocks up. In the lobby, I spotted a woman standing by the TV screen with messages about the play. I approached her and started with a casual "I've heard good things about the play" to see if she was interested in conversation. She was, and a conversation of increase depth and meaningfulness ensued. In the course of this 5 or 10 minute conversation struck up with a complete stranger at a play which was only the 2nd time I had ever done in 7 yrs I learned, among other things, that she was "fixing up a studio apartment" for her college aged son in her house because, as the TV screen showed, flashing relevant information about themes in the play, "millenials" often have trouble finding jobs. Or something. All I know is it was one of the themes in the play, and it resonated with her. The conversation ended with her giving me her name and phone number and saying I could call her about a possible room to rent and oh yeah "do you have mild autism? I used to work with people with developmental disabilities." I had mentioned Asperger's already in the conversation, of course, but still. What are the chances of going to a crowded busy play and happening to find or strike up a conversation with the one person in the room who's up for it, may have a room to rent and has autism experience? In the 15 min before the play starts? Do I have a good sense for people or what? I am starting to think I am really good at this. Screw not reading social cues. I seem to have a knack lately for finding the people who I can connect with in a crowd and actually doing it. Knock on wood.

 I didn't stay for more than 5 minutes of the play - not intentionally - because apparently, people use a LOT more perfume on a Friday night performance than a Sunday matinee, so I left after 5 minutes. But the ticket was cheap and I had already seen the play, so it didn't matter. I left feeling like I had done what the universe had wanted me to do, like I had fulfilled my purpose anyway, without having known what it would be.

I walked down to whole foods because I needed a resting and re-centering point. I didn't want to go back to Yarmouth because the house has been so awful for me and I needed a break. So I had called someone I had just met on Tuesday (well, I met her months before but only once for a few minutes), who I just met but love, and who immediately told me I could "crash on her couch."

Well, I am certainly not the type to "crash on someone's couch," but I so desperately wanted to just try. Just push myself a little and try. I hadn't been to her house and I still get scared going to people's houses because of fragrance and chemical issues, let alone staying there overnight. Plus, I had to take a bus there, I had a lot of stuff to carry, I was a 15 min walk away and the last bus of the night was at 930, half an hour away, and I hadn't eaten anything yet.

But, after making one limited attempt at assessing another option, I decided to do it. The only other option was to find a way back to Yarmouth and I didn't feel like doing that .I knew it would be uncomfortable staying there but I felt like the universe was calling me to try.

Let's just say that a) you can get from whole foods to the elm street bus station remarkably fast if you take the elm st route instead of pearl and b) there WAS NO #2 bus at 930. Or more accurately, the powers that be had decided that they would combine route 6 and route 3 at night and call it the 6-3 and for some reason put that on the #2 schedule for 930.

I got to the bus and she told me that the bus didn't go to Woodford's Corner. I'm like, what? She told me it did, even the other woman did, etc. She eventually figured out that if I got off at Woodford St I could get there, but she wasn't sure how long of a walk it was - she figured maybe a mile.

I decided to take the chance and got onto the very crowded and rather overwhelming bus. I wasn't able to figure out where I was going or how to get there, only that there seemed to be a decent chance of the bus eventually going somewhere near where I wanted to go.

It wasn't, as I would find out a #3 or a 6 or a 2. It was a combination of them all trying to conserve drivers for late night (yes, 930 is late night in Maine) bus routes.

Now, I pretty much suck at geography even if it's daylight in an area I know pretty well. But when it's dark and you're on some bus you've never taken before, going to some location you've never been, that gets a little interesting. Even with a very friendly and helpful driver.

For some reason she couldn't tell me WHERE Woodford St was. She couldn't tell me when we'd get there, or how many stops. She couldn't tell me how long it would take to get to my destination when we did finally get there. All she could do was point me in the right direction.

Sounds a lot like life in general, doesn't it?

I calmed myself down and stayed calm, thinking of the all too obvious metaphors for life as we went along. And went along. And went along some more. I didn't even know most of the places she called out. But I knew when we got to Northgate Plaza - which was nowhere near anything. We ended up going all the way to PRIDE'S CORNER and back - on the border of Westbrook, on a bus I had thought would take me directly to my destination, which was only 2 mi away down the street from the starting point.

Hmm. That reminds me of that graphic on Facebook that says something like "what we expect life to be like (straight line). What it actually is (squiggly line).

It was like feeling your way through something in the dark. Siting there trying to make sense of where I was and when we would g et there. I joked Dennis on the phone "well if I have to be lost , at least this time I'm lost in my own state..." lol. It felt like Oregon... in Maine.

Anyway, an hour and ten minutes after we started, we finally got to the point where she said it was well-lit and I could walk along a sidewalk to get there (but she didn't know how far). To woodford's corner that is. Isn't that just life - someone can point you in the right direction and try to make sure your way is well-lit, but they can't walk the road for you.

I bravely got off and started in that direction. And promptly saw a #4 bus sign ... lol if I had known the Westbrook bus went there that'd have been a hell of a lot easier. I just laughed.

It was only a 5 min walk to the Dunkin Donuts. I called my friend, E, and she came to get me. Laughed with me. Hugged me, even, in a gesture that felt familiar and wonderfully symbolic - not bad, for once. We got to her house, and I was relieved to find how comfortable I felt in it. Wood and tile floors, lots of nice character, quiet, smell free. She actually had dinner for me! Dinner  I could even EAT! We sat at the table and had a lovely dinner and conversation together, and I really liked her and felt so wonderful with her.

And her living room had a lava lamp, a record player, and a tie dye throw. I don't think they were hers but MAN! Someone awesome owns that house. Throwback to the 60s!

Alas, I soon found out the couch was not going to work to sleep on, both from a fragrance but especially comfort standpoint. At first I was going to tough it out but realized how stupid that would be if there was any other option. Destroying my back and not getting any sleep seemed a stupid thing to willfully choose. So I thought about it and decided to overcome my fear of taxis and call a taxi, which I swore I wouldn't do before because of fragrance issues in cabs. The guy who runs Green Cab, which, like my friend, I had found out about/met in whole foods, had said that he really liked the people who ran yellow cab.  I didn't have internet or phone or a number so I called Dennis in florida to google it for me. At 1am. =)

Taxi dispatchers are always hurried and impatient by nature, as I remembered from when I used to take cabs in 2007. Same this time. Phone didn't work, he couldn't hear me, so I had to text him. I only learned how to text on my phone like a week ago, too. I was so nervous about taking the cab!
And thankful I had remembered the address.

When it came, I was relieved to step in it and get a good, safe energy from the driver and realize that it was at least tolerable fragrance wise.

We small talked about the weather for several minutes, and I mentioned when he asked that I did some volunteer work at the Maine Jewish Museum.

At this he got very excited and told me he was Jewish too. I was pretty surprised - Portland doesn't have much of a Jewish population. Not only that but he was from Israel. So what are the odds of getting what had to be the only Israeli Jewish cab driver in the whole state  the first time i took a cab in 7 yrs? He also has a room to rent, and knows someone I know, so after checking with that person about him I will look into it.

That'd be an awfully funny story to tell about finding a place to live, lol.

What a day, I got home around 2am. It's now 330 .I am supposed to go to Boston tomorrow for autism thing but not sure.

What a day!!!! What a wonderful day of growth ,of learning and of being in the world. May it happen again soon and may I find a way to be in Portland so I don't have to find a way to get back to a house that makes me sick every night.

Peace to all.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

On the topic of "Play"

I was just writing an email to a friend about the discussion series tonight and had a startling insight.

What is the most common activity for kids to do when they're, well, kids?

They play.

But what happens when you're an undiagnosed Aspie who is in her own world with no way to connect to the world around you until you're far past the age where kids "play"?

You don't play. Like, ever.

I realize I have gone my entire life without ever to my recollection "playing" with anyone.

And here I am, desperately searching every corner of the universe for the answer of how to emotionally connect with another person. And I realize that that is only part of the answer.

When you play, you are most essentially and truly yourself, interacting with other people being their true self. When you play, there is a focus on the present and in developing or being in relationship with another person without words that I have NEVER EVER been able to grasp in my entire life. I keep using more and more words to try to grasp it, but you can't grasp an intangible feeling like "play" with words.

One of the topics tonight was about play, and that got me thinking about this. I wonder if there exists a form of play therapy for adults? Because I think a lot of people could use it.

I also wonder if the reason that people with autism so often seem to like puns (not all of them but a lot ) is because for many of them, it's the closest to "play" they can possibly get. I know it is for me. I love puns to pieces and I realize why now...It's so much fun to play. With words or anything else.

I had a dollhouse I played with. I had no shortage of games I played in my head. But solitary play is not anywhere similar to shared play.
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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

When Nietzche Wept

The following is a blog I found on my computer in response to a fictional book called When Nietzche Wept that I read years ago. The blog is years old as well.

I just finished reading a great and very thought provoking book called "When Nietzche Wept," by Irvin Yalom. It was a very profound story to me, and I'd like to share the story with you.

This book is a fictional tale of an imagined encounter between a prominent Vienna doctor, Dr. Bruer, and the now famous philosopher, Nietzche, back in the 1800s.

It takes place before the invention of psychotherapy. A woman persuades Dr. B to try to help her friend Nietzche, who is suffering, she says, from despair. "Despair?" says Dr B. "What do I know about treating despair?" He decides to try anyway.

Because N is not willing to consent to treatment, Dr B makes a ploy where he claims despair himself and asks N, a philosopher with many ideas about the human condition, to treat him while Dr B looks over N's physical condition.

At first Dr B tries to pry information out of N but N refuses to share anything personal, believing it a form of weakness.

After several sessions, Dr B forgets about trying to manipulate N and genuinely becomes the patient. He is depressed and suffers with an obsession over a former patient.

The long and short of the book is this, which brought up several meaningful themes for me:

Dr. B is depressed because, although he has a good life as a prominent, respected doctor, a loving wife and family, money and so on, he feels restricted. He longs for freedom. He feels that he was forced into this life because of his culture and expectations of his family and the culture around him. He doesn't realize this for a long time, of course, but in the end this is what it amounts to.

N says that the most important thing in life is to "Choose your life." He says that Dr B has not chosen his life, and that is the reason for his despair, and also the reason for his obsession with his patient Bertha. Bertha represents living dangerously, passion, magic and escape to Dr B. Dr B resists this theory at first, but at the end of the book he comes to agree. He is hypnotized and imagines leaving his wife, kids and life to be free in Italy. He discovers he does not like it very much. When he becomes conscious again, he is invigorated because he realizes he actually does like the life he has, and he "chooses" it. "I choose to be married to you today," he tells his wife.

After N has his epiphany, N finally reveals his story. Due to N's loneliness and wandering lifestyle, Dr B offers to let N stay at his house, so that he will not be so isolated. N refuses, though, and Dr B is dissapointed, thinking after all this time, he has done nothing to help N.

N reassures Dr B that he has indeed given him something very powerful: the freedom of choice. Having been offered an alternative and refused it, he is now free to "choose his life,"
and be happy about it; before he felt bound by it.

"Isolation only exists in isolation," he says. "When it is shared, it evaporates."

"The moment I talked of not being able to touch another was the very moment I was able to be touched by you."

N commenting on his situation relevant to the therapy experience.

I have read lots of psychology related books, and a good number of books on psychotherapy, but this is the first one that really brought home what the process of psychotherapy was really about.

Another theme was discovering the origin and meaning of each symptom. To do this, Dr B "chimneyswept" (did free thinking/association) about whatever thoughts came to mind regarding the symptoms, which eventually lead to relevations about their meaning.


Personal application

There is a personal application to this that I was thinking about when I was reading. I started thinking about different ways that you can "choose your life." Choose your way of thinking and your reactions to things - that's something I work hard on and am getting better at. I try to reframe things that happen as best I can so I can not get so angry or scared of things.

Choose your decisions - I put a lot of thought into my decisions and I always make damn sure that I am making a decision that I can stand by and be proud of for years into the future. Even if things don't go as planned, and the decision turns out to be not the best one in retrospect, I know I made the best decision I could with the information I had at the time.

Choosing your will - and standing up to people who would try to change your will and your decisions because they think they know what is best for you - has been another important one for me. I especially think of those crucial few days in Bend, when the decisions I made for myself, and the pressure I resisted in making them, changed the entire course of my life for the better. I am eternally grateful for having, dare I say it, the strength of character and courage to make those decisions, as well as, of course, being lucky enough to have certain other factors fall into place when they did so I that I was lucky enough to have decisions to make.

My roommate, wanting me out on short notice, was hell bent on me going back to my mom's in Missoula (Montana). I was hell bent on not going, provided I could somehow find a way to avoid it. She made the plane tickets. I told her there was a good chance I wouldn't use them. She said fine. And for the next four days or so, I spent almost every waking moment researching other options, some way to escape the fate that she was trying so desperately to force on me. No offense to my mom, but I knew it wasn't the right place for me. I knew I wouldn't flourish there. I had too much of life left to live, and damn it, I wanted to find a way to live it. I felt that it wouldn't happen there.

I was stuck in the middle of Oregon, on the other side of the country from my family, with no ability to drive myself anywhere and knowing almost no one in the area. That, and I had severe chemical sensitivities that prevented me from being able to live just about anywhere, which is why I was in the middle of nowhere Oregon in the first place. Some might have said it was impossible. Clearly, my roommate thought it was. But I didn't (think, at the time, about possible or impossible. I just knew I had to put every ounce of myself into the task of trying, in every avenue I could, or else I would regret it forever. I would not go easily.

I am forever indebted to both Julie and Joe. Julie was the one who found me the eco-friendly apartment to live in in a hippie commune in Eugene, and Joe is the one who agreed - at 5 p.m. the day before I was supposed to fly to Missoula, no less, talk about a last minute reprieve! - to drive me the 2 hours there.        
My friend Leslie was gracious enough to let me stay in her house the last night I was there.

I had never met Joe before. I had only talked to him once. I knew him through an online friend in Australia - she was his stepson. He had no obligation towards me, no reason to say yes, but he did. He said yes. Against all odds. He was my last hope, and he said yes. I tell you, that was the sweetest "yes" I have ever heard in my life.

It was a big risk - going to some hippie commune in a city I'd never been to, not even knowing how I'd get my groceries, with someone I'd never met (but trusted, as I wouldn't have gone with someone I felt was going to put me in danger). But to me, not doing it was a far, far bigger risk. I wanted to live my life. I wanted independence. I wanted chemical free living arrangements. And if this is the way I had to to do it, so be it.

I chose my life.

I chose my life.

What a statement. I didn't think that much about it at the time, but others have told me they feel I have courage, bravery, all kinds of adjectives I never would have applied to myself before. They reminded me of how many people languish in situations that are toxic for them - physically or emotionally - not making any effort to get themselves out. I did.

And here I am at what I hope is the end, or at least a good long stopping point, of my long and winding journey. Back home in Maine. Living with a woman who brings a smile to my face every day, in a town I love. In really the best possible situation I could imagine for myself, although of course nothing is perfect.

I'd say my long and winding road worked out all right.

Many nights, I get frustrated and hopeless and so fed up with the problems I still have. But then I get a glimpse of memory of how much worse it could be, would be, and I feel a flash of gratefulness that temporarily eclipses those feelings.


My roommate from Bend, who I hadn't spoken to in several months, emailed me a few nights ago out of the blue. In her well-intentioned email, she mentioned the equivalent of an "I told you so," saying something along the lines of "See, I told you you'd be better off living near family." The comment and a seperate one she made angered me so much that I had trouble containing my anger. I followed my own path, and I ended up okay. Had I followed the path she so direly wanted me to follow, I would have been living a very dependent and unhappy life that I would have had a lot of trouble getting out of. The fact that I ended up near family is wonderful but incidental. The fact that I had a lot more journey to follow before I *could* end up in a place that was right for me is the important part and the part that she apparently doesn't get. My life was meant to be lived in Maine, living independently, not in Montana.

And so when I read "When Nietzche Wept," and his ideas about choice, I was once again grateful for the choices I made. While those few days in Bend were not pleasant to endure, they were in some ways my proudest moment. I think people should live for themselves, and do what they think is right, instead of falling prey to other people's will. Whether the choices eventually turn out to be right or wrong, you will never own yourself, you will never be satisfied with your life or yourself, if you do not follow your own will.

I have a lot of living left to do and I hope I can continue to put these ideas into use. I am not saying that I do not value advice and support from others. I do very much, and I do not deny that the support and advice of my nearby family has been invaluable. But you have to have the final say. I would like to be able to change my thinking and my life circumstances even further, but if there is one thing I have learned, you can't rush things, or push yourself into situations you're just not ready for. They won't work. I hope time will eventually have in store for me a life that is more in lines with the one I'd like to live, but I suppose I have to be patient and wait.

In the meantime, I have to figure out how to apply the principle of "Choose your life" into not getting frustrated and angered at at the health challenges I am facing that so much restrict my life. It helps to have a routine, and to remember what I am capable of. I am always on guard with my mind, trying to train it
not to linger in areas that will be unproductive for me. Time will tell. Until then, veni vedi vici.

Newport, Oregon - old post about it I found

Found this on my computer... it was such a lovely description/essay I had to put it on here
From Summer 2009

Newport: Combining Two Worlds in One    

After spending a day in the seaside town of Newport, Oregon, one can start to guesswhy San Francisco was the center of the 1960s hippie movement - it's just something about the water. Something about the majestic waves, the grand size of everything out on the West coast. It makes a person feel a bit more free, a bit more unencumbered. The same spirit seems to have been carried up the coast from California to central Oregon.

Newport is a city of about 10,000 residents that serves as something of a hub for smaller, nearby towns in Lincoln County. The ocean is its most striking feature; the water is visible the moment you enter city limits. Unlike some coastal cities, much of the coast is accessible through various parts of the city; the area known as the "Bayfront" has cute, touristy shops lining the street, and huge ocean views at any point along it. Go a little further down that street and you'll come to a state park with stunning ocean and wave views that you won't believe. The Nye Beach area is one of the largest beaches you've ever seen, along with some shops. South Beach has a famous marine center. The Yaquina Bay Bridge can be seen in the distance from many areas of the city; it is quite picturesque with many boats underneath it.

Gift shops of all kinds abound; tie dye pokes out from every corner of the city in various shops. A Beatles Yellow Submarine logo adorns a wall by the marine center. An old green VW van can be seen cruising down the streets. A "Baitful Dead" parody of a Greatful Dead t-shirt hangs in the wall of one gift shop, a play on the fact that this is a fishing town at heart. Signs annoucing clams and other fish compete for space with Ripley's Believe it or Not and other eclectic businesses. Walk down to one of many piers leading to the ocean and you might see people fishing for crabs. On another dock you may see sea lions lounging in the sun.

Newport is surrounded by many relatively rural areas; some of these can be quite a treat in themselves, with an abundance of trees, hiking areas, and wildlife. It is not unusual to see cows, sheep, even llamas on the side of the road. The sound of roosters mixes with the baahing of a sheep; the shrill call of a peacock mixes with the gentle ribetting of a frog. It is almost like being in another world.        

People are unusually friendly and helpful when asking for directions. Newport, Oregon is a city with heart; the ocean air seems to imbibe its inhabitants with a certain free-spiritness that makes the town a joy to be in. Located on the coast, it has its share of rainy, cloudy days, but it just makes the sunny days all the more special. Make plans to visit Newport today.