Monday, May 30, 2011

The Fivefold Path

The Fivefold Path

I have as usual been obsessing over some very ridiculous things to the point of questioning even what the point was of activities that I enjoy. As usual, I have been over planning to the point of losing the meaning of why I was planning in the first place. So I lied down and thought for a while. Let my thoughts roam free.

At first all I could be was terrified of the void out there, of the big, empty void that this world would be if we didn't attempt to make sense of it in some way - with our routines, with our likes and dislikes, with what we choose to put our passion and energy in. Ah, the way we define the world and our place in it is an interesting game, isn't it? So different for every person. And if I may say so, so infinitely more challenging when your life is limited by any kind of disability and you have more time to think about your life than ways to live it!

But then a few people popped into my head. And they made me smile. And they felt real. And I realized that I felt happy in their presence, even in the face of other problems. So I realized that connections with people, especially certain people, are the first thing that absolutely makes sense to me.

I thought for some more, what else? Nature. Not in all circumstances, but in certain circumstances, being in beautiful spot, especially by the ocean, just makes sense. It bestows an inner joy in you that can't be taken away (well, except by certain weather conditions). It makes you feel whole again.

What else? I wanted dearly to say food, as that would have been, well, almost my entire answer only a couple years ago, but I have had so much trouble with food lately that I couldn't even pick one thing that reliably brought me joy. This saddened me. But then I thought some more and realized I could broaden the category to "momentary sensory joys." Because I am a very sensory person. My mood, sense of being, and sense of place in the world - all affected extremely by my senses. But it is the occasional things - the feel of wind in your hair on a beautiful spring day, the taste of an amazing piece of food that happens to be agreeing with me on any particular day, music, a joke that someone tells that makes me happy, the eye candy and visual and mental stimulation of going someplace new and seeing new, interesting things - these things may be simple and small, but together, they make up something very important in life.

Music - that came next, because music, at least music that I like, has always been able to transport me to the most amazing, wonderful places, for most of my life. The joy of getting lost in a good song on the radio, of connecting with the emotions of a song, of getting swept away - this has always, fortunately, knock on wood, been a constant.

Finally, the sense of joy from writing a good piece that I feel satisfied by - that fills a special place in my heart, even if doesn't happen often enough. And photography - when I remember why I'm doing it - not to get the most pictures or the technically best pictures, but to tell a story that I can use to then connect with other people - that brings me joy too. So creativity, you might say.

Buddhists, if I recall correctly, have their Eightfold Path. So this here will be my Fivefold path. Subject to future moderation if need be.

When I start wanting things I can't have, and being overwhelmed by what I do have - yes, it seems weird to be able to do both at the same time - when I start thinking of material things or comparing myself to what others would do - these, at least for the time being, are the things I need to come back to. Everything else can just fall away because it's not important.

Other things to remember

I need to know that the absence of any of these things is only temporary and means it is leading to the presence of it, as life operates as a kind of pendulum, going back and forth. It would be an error to think that absence was ever permanent, for absence is what makes black black and white white - their very definition lies in what they are in relation to each other.

I also need to remember that all of these things do not have to be present at once, in fact they usually will not be. But at least one either will be or won't be far off. Remember, absence is a sign of good things to come.

So I will try to think of life and my daily life in these terms, and if I can succeed even 50% of the time, my life will be a lot simpler.

Now maybe I can go to bed =)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Less is More, or lessons learned from Cold Stone Creamery

Last night, as my head was spinning around in circles and more circles, I finally got up and decided to get ready for bed. It was then that I had this insight that I want to share with all of you.

I have been planning a trip to Vermont to the Strolling of the Heifers Festival in Brattleboro, with my friend Rob. When he told me last Thursday that he was interested in traveling somewhere this summer, my brain went onto 150 mph and wouldnt stop for 2 days, researching, imagining and planning all the amazing things we could do.

As a result, I got quite overwhelmed, quite quickly - although I didn't realize it at the time.

I went onto a website for New England festivals, which is where I found this one.
Then I went into a frenzy of planning, not only for this festival but for all of the other many festivals that will be happening in Maine this summer, that my friends and I have already made plans to go to.

There are few things that I love more than festivals, so that is not the problem. But I think it is like when I was a kid and my family would go to amusement parks. I would always unexplainably start crying in the car on the way there. I realize now it is because there was SO MUCH to do and think about, and I wanted to do it all, that I got overexcited.

Now I am trying to remind myself that it is much better to pick 1 or 2 things you want to do and do them well, instead of having your hands in every pie possible.

This reminds me of an analogy, though.

When Cold Stone Creamery was open in Portland, I went very frequently and loved it.
The first several times, I got every topping I possibly could on my ice cream. Why not? They were there. Waffle cones dipped in chocolate? Check. Sprinkles, M&Ms? Check. Hot sauce? Check. And I'm sure the first time I enjoyed it , that I won't deny, but you have to admit you lose a little something in all that hoopla on top... like the ice cream. You can't really taste it with all that stuff on top. And they have REALLY good ice cream. Some of the best I've ever tasted.

Wondering why I wasn't satisfied with my ice cream the next time I ordered it, I decided to try something drastic. I got plain ice cream (Birthday Cake, in fact) with not a single thing on top of it. And you know what? It was wonderful. The flavor and nuances really came out in that ice cream. And I realized, to my utter surprise and shock, that it tasted better than with all the toppings. I realized just because they were there, didn't mean I had to have them all to enjoy the experience.

So from then on, when I went, I would get just a kid's size of my favorite ice cream. On Tuesdays, when it was buy 1 get 1 free, I'd get 2 and put chocolate sauce on 1 to have the full experience and a choice, but other than that, I opted for simple.

Just like Cold Stone, just because Vermont and western Massachussets is *there* doesn't mean I have to explore every inch of it to be happy. This applies to the Maine festivals as well, although I certainly still want to do a good share of them. But I don't *have* to.
I calmed down considerably when I realized this. Moderation is the key in any pursuit.

And now, bring on the strolling of the heifers (June 3-5)! Moo!

Saturday, May 14, 2011


"I know my heart will never be the same
But I'm telling myself I'll be okay
Even on my weakest days
I get a little bit stronger

Doesn't happen overnight but you turn around
And a month's gone by and you realize you haven't cried
I'm not giving you a hour or a second or another minute longer
I'm busy getting stronger"

- "Stronger," Sara Evans

"If I had a song,
I'd sing it in the morning,
I'd sing it in the evening,
All over this land

I'd sing out danger,
I'd sing out a warning
I'd sing out love between my brothers and my sisters,
All over this land."

- "If I Had a Hammer," Peter, Paul and Mary

Once in a while, in this life, we are treated to gifts, wonderful gifts that restore our faith in our ability to live on this planet. Gifts that bolster us and tell us we're on the right path. No, I'm not talking about anything you can buy in a store. I'm talking about something ever so much more precious- the gift of human connection.

Human connection is tricky at best. Asperger's or not, humans are complicated beings. But I won't deny that Asperger's makes it much harder. That is why I treasure it when I stumble upon a connection with someone else that feels real, genuine and heartfelt. A connection that I don't feel I'm just faking my way through. A conversation where I'm not just struggling to come up with things to say, but instead have SO MANY things to say, as does the other person, that I can barely keep them all in my head - but it doesn't matter, because they keep changing and growing along with what the other person says, so that the conversation evolves in a wholly organic manner, as all good conversations should. A flowing, effortless conversation - something so rare for me that it might as well be put on the endangered species list.

Does this sound odd to non-Aspies? I'm not sure, because I'm not one of them. I wonder if these sorts of conversations are easier for them. I think they must be. It is of course hard to tell how much is truly easy for NTs and how much is just posturing!

But tonight, I had this rare species of a conversation with a friend on Skype. As the best conversations seem to be, it was spontaneous, arising out of the need for me to ask a question on a topic unrelated to the conversation we ended up having. This question ended up reminding me of another topic, which in turn reminded her of something, which reminded me of....And we kept going. And sooner rather than later got into some rather meaty, important topics of a significant emotional and psychological nature, which is my favorite kind of conversation.

I was talking about some unpleasant incidents from my past, but for once, I didn't do it with any signs of anxiety. I didn't do it with desperation in my voice. I didn't have "RESCUE ME!" written all over my face. Needless to say, that made for a better conversation. I can count on one hand, hell maybe one finger, the amount of times I have been able to talk about these topics in a laid back way, however. Just sitting back in my chair, pondering my life with a friend in similar circumstances. I love that version of laid back me. Can she come out and play more often?

My friend told me she thought I was on the right path. She said she thought I was doing everything right, and that I was being really smart and thoughtful about how I chose to do things. She reminded me of how far I had come. And for once, I believed her. I believed her when she said I was doing the right thing. I think we all know how hard it can be to accept positive feedback when we're used to negative.

So, you know what? At least for tonight, I think I'm okay.

Tomorrow, though, may be a different story. But then again, maybe not.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

A few images from Mother's Day BBQ at my dad's

Happy Mother's Day to all!

Blueberry cream cheese

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