Sunday, June 29, 2014

The importance of taking breaks

I feel rather victorious... I just walked from whole foods back to the eastern prom using washington to avoid the steep hills of fox and walnut... and i did it. was it easy no but i did. now that i am sitting it is starting to catch up to me. but yea. trying is so much better than not trying, trying w/ the belief that you can do it and while being connected to inner strength best of all. 

the key is in taking breaks. I took whatever street is next to franklin.... was slightly less steeper than pearl, to congress and then rested on the stone structure by catholic charities. then i had the part of congress from franklin to washington, and rested at otto's when i got to washington at their outdoor tables (they were still open, it was 1030!). The part on washington felt long but I did it... eventually got to the path that led up to the eastern prom. rested on the benches in the park there before i did the part of the eastern prom, and on a bench near the apt when i got here. Four equal parts.... all seperate equal parts... and the key was not so much in SOLVING THE PROBLEM RIGHT NOW and I always want to do but in finding appropriate places to rest in the middle. If I had taken Fox and Walnut, it would have been far quicker, maybe 3 times as much, BUT i would have never gotten up the damn thing because it's too much difficulty too fast. I would have been in tears from trying before I even got a quarter of the way up. So, that is a good analogy for life, in that when you push yourself to do something too quickly or too far above your ability level, you'll give up and give up on everything. BUT if you decide to take the long and winding way, as I did tonight by going out of the way to go back up to Congress and then to Washington, and then rest along the way, you'll get there in one piece... tired, but with a sense of achievement and sanity intact.

If you take Commercial, like I did the other night, the difficulty level is only moderate but the DRUDGERY of it will kill you. And it was freaking long. And no place to rest. Analogy to life... If you don't do things with some difficulty level, you won't get to the peaks that make it interesting enough to keep going. All flat terrain may look appealing but the drudgery of it will kill you.

So, yeah... took about an hour with breaks. No bus on Sunday night and the one taxi I'll take wasn't available. Very humid today so that is a big part of what made it such a big achievement. The humidity got better at night but was still there... 55 dewpoint instead of 64 did make a big difference, though.

Learning to connect even when the world feels it is falling apart, learning to find your center...
I was in pieces when I got to the museum and didn't think I'd be able to stay.... but then calmed down and was able to talk to N... which made me feel calm enough to talk to the artist who was showing his work in the room across the hall..and then came back into the main room and two older men were having a vigorous conversation with N.... which I was able to sit calmly and listen to and then when I figured out what they were talking about, participate in on occasion.... I really enjoyed that.. they asked such pointed interesting questions.... and at times the conversation moved too fast for me to keep up with but at the same time they were at least talking in complete sentences, unlike so many people, and so I could at least figure out what they were trying to get at . They were asking, among other things, if the synagogue would marry gay people. Then a discussion on transgender people and the receptivity of different religions to gays ensued. As well as some sort of discussion about people who didn't know they were Jewish, or weren't exposed much to Judaism, and were basically raised Christian but then came back to their Jewish roots.

 Or something. It was interesting, but hard to keep up with, as it moved so quickly. But fun, so much fun, to be a part of. Then the one guy asked me what I did, and I said I'm a writer, and then the questions of what do you write about, he seemed interested, I gave my standard answer, psychology ,but he wanted more, so I said disability, more, so I said autism... he wanted to know all about autism, and so I told him what I thought might be relevant.... gave him my blog.... my friend came over to help me with something and met me there and then turned out she knew N from a long time ago..... wandered whole foods for a while.... I survived the day.... Oh.... Met a girl I talked to at WF in the phone numbers from her and this woman who is the janitor there who I always like because she kind of stands out in a way that feels familiar to me..... So... I did manage to seek and find social connection today, even on a  83 degree 64 dewpoint day where I was falling apart at first but managed to keep going until I found my way to connection..... Now I feel ...... Pretty not grounded but maybe with a little more sense of being able to handle it... Maybe with more of a sense than usual of my connections to others and ability to handle it... I hope that lasts.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


The Strawberry Festival in South Berwick today made me realize how much I've grown emotionally since last summer.

Nate, Rob and I have been going to the Strawberry Festival every year since I got back to Maine in 2009, as far as I can remember. Festivals were always the highlight of my summer. But this year it just didn't do it for me. I think though in part it was because I have been lucky enough to feel an emotional connection deeper than a few trinkets at a festival, since last summer. As recently as last summer, I NEEDED the symbolism of past memories, the sentimentality, the ... something of these festivals to feel any sort of emotional connection or joy or ... something... they were the biggest thing in my world, these festivals. I didnt even eat the food... and yet I'd take pictures of it endlessly. I realized today not so much that I lost something I enjoyed but that I had gained something so much more fulfilling.

Walking around the hot sun looking at people selling things just didn't seem like much fun compared to what I have, which is tenuous still and still not what I'd like it to be, most days, but still such a far cry from what I had before. I wonder if the only reason I liked those festivals is I'd often make small talk with the people selling the stuff, and it was probably the only way I had to actually socialize, in however small a way, with anyone outside my family or Nate and Rob. I shudder to think about that, actually... I really do. I may still be far behind what I'd like to be, but to have the people at the museum to talk to, and socialize with in whatever quantities are available at that particular day, and to be able to go to at least some social events such as the open mic or other random intellectual discussion type things when they occur around Portland... to have the strength and courage to even try to go into buildings to find these connections.... I didn't have it as recently as only a year ago, the last time we had festival season. I think that seriously, the only reason I liked it was the connections, however brief, I felt by being able to strike up very brief conversations about the vendors and reminisce about when I used to be able to eat whatever foods they were selling... it was all just.... so meager. I made it my world, because I really didn't have anything else in my world. The brain is good like that, when it needs to be.

I saw the Buoy Bat stand and it was strange because I'm thinking to myself, "Last summer, I was really excited when I saw this stand. I'd count how many festivals I saw them at. I'd take pictures. Now I'm just like, what could I possibly see in a stand selling buoy bats?? I have no interest in buoy bats! I can't even pretend to have an interest! I have an interest in people now!" Something along those lines. Sometimes seeing yourself not fit into an environment you used to enjoy is not bad because sometimes it reminds you of how far you have come.

Maybe it was just the only place I could access energy outside of myself.

I hope to God I never get desperate enough again so that my only social connections come from vendors at a festival selling the same things at every festival, things that for the most part I couldn't care less about.

I got these cute little heart magnets that interlock with each other... a reminder of the power of love. I have lately been feeling frustrated because I often feel my relationships aren't as developed as other.s.. but just t ohave them at all to have the beginnings of them and a way in, a way to work at making them stronger, feels so much better than I did last summer when all I had was festivals selling stuff to make me happy

It is such a scary feeling to feel like you are in some way depending on others for your happiness. I think maybe I resisted that feeling for a long time. But it is the only way to actually get true happiness. Being a rock doesn't do it. You have to keep yourself open to being hurt by others if you want to be feel the feeling of being loved by others. This, I am learning among so much else. Patience has been difficult. But, oh the reminder of how far I've come!

Random Observation on a Trip to Ogunquit

Met a guy on a bench in Ogunquit from the Bronx. I mentioned I had lived in upstate New York in a town called Liberty, and he said "Oh, the Borsch Belt." First of all, people in Maine usually have not heard of Liberty! No one has usually heard of Liberty. Secondly, I was secretly delighted as I felt he was probably Jewish if that was his reference point. I considered how being from the Bronx, running into Jewish people was probably second nature enough to him that it wouldn't matter, but somehow, to me, it did.
Then he complained about the two girls "taking up the best benches, and they're so angry" and I marveled at how different perceptions of the world could be. For I had passed those girls, and my only thought had been that I wanted to stay and listen a while longer. The woman's words and language was so passionate and so emotional, that I felt myself instantly relating to her emotion even when I couldn't get most of the words. I felt myself drawn to her. Later on, I actually did end up sitting on that bench across from them for some time, and let myself just soak up the emotion in her voice. It felt familiar, it felt like home, it felt so good as it washed over me. Some discussion about people that annoyed them, I don't know, but the passion was wonderful. To me it wasn't anger - to him it had probably seemed like it. It was emotional intensity, but not anger.
There was a guy playing the guitar, the Tremeloes Here Comes my Baby, "Everyone's Talking at Me," and a couple other 60s songs. This guy saw me singing along and asked me who had done the song that the guy was singing. "I'm using this app on my phone to figure out who sings it," he says, "but it's not working." (The app someone on here told me about, I forget the name). I quietly marveled how in this world of new technology at least people still have some use, laughed to myself, and went on.
Traffic in Ogunquit was ridiculous trying to get out of it. It was standstill traffic for miles on Route 1 or to Route 1, so we took the interstate. People, including us, should probably be aware there are other places to go on the Maine coast besides just Ogunquit.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Finding Your Path - Literally and Figuratively

I had an awesome walk home from the fundraiser at the museum today. I sat and contemplated for a while at Otto's and then when I was ready to start walking back, I was in a good mood from the song on the radio and my mood in general, and didn't want to lose it. 

I started to walk up Congress but the physical sensations of doing so were totally getting in the way of enjoying the song, and I really didn't want to walk uphill, at least not then, when such a good song was on the radio and I wanted to enjoy it. I was by Washington and dimly remembered that that might lead somewhere by the Eastern Prom, but wasn't sure. I was hesitant to take a way that may or may not actually lead where I wanted to go, but it felt right, so I decided to trust my instinct. 

I went for half a mile or so, and saw Walnut, which I know runs to the Prom. It was straight uphill and I'm thinking "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea, I'm going to have to get uphill somehow." But I kept thinking, even though I couldn't picture it, that somehow it ended up in the Eastern Prom. I couldn't remember how, but I felt like it did. I doubted myself and called Rob for directions, but all he could tell me was to go up Congress (um, yeah, trying to avoid that). As I was talking to him and tentatively taking more steps forward, exactly what I was thinking I would find but couldn't picture came into view. Yes! That little winding road that leads to the park on the corner of North St and Eastern Prom. I knew exactly where I was, and the grade of that hill was so low as to hardly qualify as a hill. I had found a way to get to and from the Eastern Prom without hills. I was very excited. Also, more importantly even, I had trusted my instinct even when I had no idea if I was right or not and was paid off handsomely. 

I tend to take everything and make it into an analogy for life. Perhaps because I'm so eager to learn ways to cope with life! It occurs to me though that it is the perfect analogy for life. Having an instinct, following it even when everyone tells you to take a different way, not being able to picture something but still knowing it is there - that concept in particular has been a hard one for me to grasp, but I am seeing that maybe, just maybe, just because I can't picture something doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. The emotional connection and positive feelings about my self , I can't quite imagine at this point, but I know it is there. I see glimpses of it from time to time and so I know it is there. I keep working at it, taking the only way and methods I can think to use, and trying not to pay attention to others when they say it's not possible. Or when they say I should be taking another path to finding it. The analogy is perfect. 

I got to that little park just in time to see the sun setting over the ocean. It was beautiful, and I sat and watched for an hour, listening to music and connecting with it all the more intensely because of the positive emotion of achievement. Between there and wandering around across  the street from my apartment because I felt too good to want to go in, I was out for two hours, lost in so many good songs on the radio and so much positive emotion. I left the museum at a few minutes before 8 and it was 1043 before I got inside! The whole thing didn't feel like it lasted more than a half hour. THAT is the kind of losing myself that I like to do... Losing myself to positive emotion instead of negative for once!

I felt at peace... like nothing was attacking me for once. Lost in the positive emotion, as I said, of achievement, of lack of overwhelming sensory input for once, of comfort, feelings of emotional connection from the day still present, and good songs on the radio which made me also feel connected. Just wandering up and down the Prom singing. It's so good to feel good for once. 

Thoughts about Neurological Basis of Sensory Overload

Thoughts about Neurological Basis of Sensory Overload and Isolation and the role of music in making me more able to emotionally connect to others 

I, as always, did a lot of thinking today. Had a good time at event at museum that was celebrating a 100 year old Holocaust survivor, but that is not why, merely something I want to remember for the future, because being part of something felt good. 

There is a concept in brain research, that the brain is neuroplastic. That means it can change. The brain has a lot of real estate, and if one part of it is not lit up, that area will be taken over by a new function. That way, all of the brain is being used to its full potential. Except sometimes, what the brain ends up getting used for is not actually good.

I am starting to think that most likely, not being able to even perceive the concept of other people as people for the first thirteen years of my life probably left a lot of empty space in the "need some sort of input" part of my brain that was not being occupied by, well, emotional input by other people. 

So instead, the brain organized around the only thing it had, which was the sensory input it was getting and the feelings of being me in my body. Everyone's brain of course naturally does this, but if a person with autism or who is otherwise isolated does not have social connections... 
the brain instead devotes a tremendous amount of real estate to focusing on sensory perception, physical pain and the emotions and feelings of self. *** There is no "other" to balance these things out. *** They multiply and grow 100000x without any "other" person or feeling of others to balance them out. Which might be one reason life feels so intense for many on the autism spectrum - and so isolated. 

It also may be why for me to actually feel someone else in my head, my heart, my emotional space immediately just makes all of the previously mentioned physical and sensory stimuli a hundred times easier to tolerate, and why I keep seeking this feeling of connection with others in every way I can think of. The brain is neuroplastic, which means it can change. Having other people's emotional input in the area previously only reserved for my own feels good. Hopefully in time it will be there automatically instead of just occasionally. It goes away when the person goes away, at them moment, or maybe lasts a few hours after, if I'm lucky... but maybe it won't always be that way.

I was thinking earlier how I had started listening to music, coincedentally, the same year as I started to become aware of other people as people instead of just objects that I was afraid of and tried to dart around like a Pacman player avoiding blue ghosts that will eat them. I thought it was a coincedence, but maybe it wasn't. When my grandfather gave me a Walkman the summer before what I think was my seventh grade year, I got into 60s music and oldies radio. I don't remember when I started wearing my Walkman all the time in public, but a friend tells me I listened to it as early as seventh grade. I don't remember it until high school, but regardless, it was when I got into music. I didn't even like music before that, except for the soundtrack to CATS which I listened to over and over again. 

I wonder if having the emotional connection to the music made me feel safe enough and secure enough to be mentally and developmentally open to people around me. I wonder if that is what made me go from seeing people as objects to be afraid of to seeing a little more of what they were - I began noticing that people were in pairs, and had friends and did things with each other. They looked happy. I realized what the concept of friend was for the first time. It was a very basic conception, but still. My realization was something along the lines of "They seem to make each other happy." I realized I wanted that. I had no idea what it was, though, or how to go about getting it. That, of course, would set off years and years of pain and suffering while I tried to figure it out, but that is not the issue up for discussion at the moment. It was like listening to music and having emotional connections to it was a proxy to allow me to be able to understand the concept of emotional connections to others.

But I still find it so much easier to relate to music and connect to music than people. I still carry my Walkman everywhere to calm and soothe me and serve as a substitute for the human connection I so much want. Using it as a safe space, I am able to take tentative steps from it, reaching out to people and trying to connect with them, as long as I can come back to it and drown my frayed nerves and anxieties in it. I can start to feel what it feels like to have emotional connections with others, and it's wonderful and amazing and so not like anything I have ever experienced before. But it's also fleeting, oh so fleeting ,over almost as soon as it begins. A depth of emotion and connection that at once takes me over and makes me feel safe, warm and fuzzy and good, and then leaves, leaving me to fall harder and harder into the depths of despair as I try so desperately to get it back. This back and forth dance, quite frankly, sucks. But the only option I have, every time I fall back in to the craggy, barren, desolate atmosphere that it is my brain when it is isolated from other humans is to sigh, listen to some music to help calm me and help take the pain away, try to right myself, and throw myself down the cliff once more, trying to grab onto connection to fill myself up once more, hoping and hoping that this time maybe it will last. Maybe it does last for a little longer now? Maybe a few hours instead of going away immediately? It is hard to say. 
There are some times, now, when I can actually connect with the sense of connection to others in the depths of my despair, a despair that in so many ways has come to feel almost like a natural state. This is good, but I want more, and patience is hard. I so envy, but try not to, others who probably feel this sense of connection too others and basic calmness on a regular basis and don't have to fight, kicking and screaming for it. But in the end, my choice seems clear. Keep searching for the emotional connection, as it is the only way to survive. 

This will make one hell of a book when it's eventually finished. Assuming I don't lose all the various pieces and places where I've written about it over the years and can remember it all as well as I do now... 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Asexual Pride!

The world is full of energy, both positive and negative, that we take on. Unfortunately for me, I am pretty sensitive to the energy around me. I very easily lose control of my moods and mind depending on the energy around me. All too often, it is negative energy that takes over my mind and spirit. But I was so happy today that the Southern Maine Gay Pride Festival was such an atmosphere full of positivity - and that I had the confidence, gumption and tools to try to figure out how to access it.

My friend Lee and I handed out a letter and pamphlets on asexuality to as many organizations as we could find. Fortunately, we chose a very good year to do this, because Pride was bigger in Portland than it has ever as far as I know been. I was stunned. Usually, Pride is an ice cream truck, about a half dozen tables and some really loud and annoying music that I end up wondering why I'm even there after about half an hour. Despite that fact, I usually go every year. How could I not? It's the only outward manisfestation of pride for being different that I can find anywhere. 

This year, however, there were probably 30 or 40 tables and the energy was just electric. I had a mission, a very specific mission, and that probably helped me tolerate the chaos and very loud disco style music as well as I did. I was so focused, I could drown it out. Sometimes it would enter my consciousness and I would just be like, okay focus on the pamphlets. 

I wrote the letter last night, and found the pamphlet already ready to use on AVEN. The Kinko's in Monument Square worked very well for making copies. When we got there, I just decided the best way to deal with all was just to start. So we did. It was large and unwieldy and the tables were scattered seemingly everywhere, but we chose a direction and we started. The first table we came across was asking people how they could make pride more accessible to people. Well, what better place to start having conversations with people about asexuality? 

I wasn't sure how I'd start or how it'd work, but I knew I had to do it. I was doing it for my 13 year old self who had been so lonely and isolated, not knowing that asexuality was even a possible option. I couldn't fail, as long as I just tried. I chatted with the guys for a minute about Pride itself, and then said something like, "We're representing asexuality. We believe that the gay, lesbian and queer community is a natural place to raise awareness..." and I usually didn't have to say any more than that and their faces would kind of melt in a positive way and they'd say something like "Of course."  Of course. So simple but so profound. They all said something like "Yes, I agree!" "Of course!" "I have a friend who's asexual!"  "I think this is great! Thank you so much for your work!" The PFLAG people even seemed interested in having us speak at one of their meetings. 

Two people said they had friends - close friends, it seemed, from their body language and voice when they said the sentence "I have a friend who..." It seemed to resonate with them. Two out of 8, actually, is a pretty high percentage to be aware of this, to be closely connected with this. 

We gave out eight pamphlets. I believe we gave them to the following organizations. The organizers of gay pride in Portland, Equality Maine, GLSEN (gay lesbian education network), PFLAG, Outright (gay youth org), the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, and the Human Rights Center. People were so ..... They were wonderful. I didn't get a single quizzical look, a single "What the hell is she talking about" look. I had expected it... I think I felt more confident because my friend Lee was with me. I don't think I've ever felt so un-self conscious..... Ironic, because what I was doing was about the highest difficulty level you would think you could get to. Going up to people who represented sexuality, even if it was a different and, according to society, "divergent" sexuality, and saying to them "We don't want sex, and we want to be part of your community," to me would seem to be a very high difficulty level. And I think it would have been, if Lee hadn't been with me. Never underestimate the power of the support and community of another, even one other. I would have felt foolish by myself. I would have NEVER been able to do that. I mean, I might have done it, but I would have been meek, shy, stepping in with one foot in and one foot out, filled with anxiety.

**************************** Break to denote transition into more self-analysis and less about the actual Pride*********

And I probably would have gotten.... I think it is very likely that I might have gotten quizzical, worse responses then if only because people would be responding to my body language and not my words. It's hard for me to believe and to understand so late in life, but people seem to respond far more to body language than words. I wonder if all the times in my life where I got bad or quizzical responses from people, it was not because of the content of what I was saying, but because people couldn't figure out how to respond to the messages they were getting from my body language, that I wasn't even aware of sending. I know when my friends are exhibiting signs of high anxiety, I find it hard to be comfortable around them. Oh my God... so maybe all the people that never seem comfortable around me, maybe it has nothing to do with them. Maybe they're just so damn uncomfortable with my anxiety that they don't know what to do, just like I don't know what to do when my friends are anxious. I don't exactly know how to use that information to change my behavior, and of course no one can completely rid themselves of anxiety, but maybe I can use that to try to understand that a) it's not about me, and b) There's nothing wrong with me, and not only will the world go a lot more smoothly if I can be me, but I will be able to connect with the wonderful energy of others if I am me. 

Oh, it is so horrible and wonderful at the same time. Because on the one hand, what a wonderful discovery! On the other hand, what do you with all the times, the majority of times, when being you is just too hard and you have meltdown after meltdown because of the sensory overload, emotion overload, lack of ability to connect with others, knowing that this is out there and not being able to connect with it?

But while I do have sensory and emotion overloads and meltdowns, I am doing much better at connecting with others. It is slow , so much slower than I would like, but on an almost daily basis I am finding at least one person who I have fairly meaningful connections with. Perhaps not every single day - if I say that I will get myself in trouble expecting it - but most of them. A five to 30 minute conversation is often sometimes not enough for me to deal with all the hours of the day when I don't feel connected, but in time I will hopefully find a way to make the feelings of connection last longer than when it is happening. 

What is most difficult for me is that my brain seems to "reset" itself when I go to sleep. All feelings of connection and calmness are wiped up the moment my brain is laid to sleep. I have to start from scratch the next day. Trying to find places where I can feel connected each day, it feels like murder most days trying to have the faith, hope and patience to find them. Especially because they're usually never in the same places. I know intellectually I will find a way to connect...somehow, but my emotions get extreme and the despair creeps back in. The first half of every day is almost always murder. Once I find that one connection, that one thing that makes me feel human again, that makes me feel a part of the human race, that makes me feel seen and heard and fills up my heart with enough energy to go on with the sensory and emotional onslaught of the rest of the day, I'm fine. But when that is , and what it is, is different every day. I can't predict it. I try to write it down when it happens - every word, every feeling - to keep it in my brain. It never stays as long as I want it to. But it makes me happy enough to get through each day and that is what matters, I suppose. Maybe one day..... all my isolated moments of connection will form a coherent whole. Maybe when I least expect it. Maybe the finished product will be marvelous, amazing, stunning. Maybe it is a work of progress in my soul. I hope .... it is done soon. 

Connection to music of course is the only thing that keeps me going in between the moments of connection with others. But connection to others is so much more important than connection to music. I've been using my Walkman a bit less this week and find that while in some ways it helps me feel more open to the energy and connection of others, which is good, in some other ways it leaves me even more raw and unprotected than usual and leaves me more prone to meltdowns . I actually wasn't able to use it for 3-4 days because of headphone problems and had meltdowns 3 of those 4 days. When I finally started to be able to connect to the music again, last night in a whole foods parking lot with a cop standing in the front probably wondering what the hell I was doing as I sang at the top of my lungs to the songs, feeling the edges of them, the emotions of them, the starts and stops and nuances, the tone and beat and rythm going straight to my soul and soothing all the broken parts..... it was a relief, to put it mildly. I can't put myself out there that much without something safe to come back to. Hopefully my headphone problems will not continue, but at least three days I was without them did show me how much I can survive without them... I just felt even more than usual that life felt like being in a meat grinder. I'm just thankful that Keith Urban's "Cop Car" didn't come on while I was there - that would have been an awkward song to sing around a cop. Seriously. lol. This part of being sensitive, emotional and needing to find a way to self-regulate may be hard for others to understand, but everyone needs an outlet, and mine just happens to be singing to country and 60s music in parking lots. I love the openness of parking lots. All the empty space makes me feel good, but being in civilization rather than nature seems to increase the feelings of connection. The Whole Foods parking lot makes me feel good. The sun hits it in just the right way. I have positive emotional feelings to the store. There are usually curbs to walk on, and this stimulates my vestibular sense and makes me feel so much more centered. I walked on a curb thingy around some trees that were planted, around and around for probably 15 minutes while singing. The trick is being open enough to your sensory needs and okay enough with yourself that you will do anything legal to fill them once you understand what you need to do to feel centered. 
Oh, but to be connected to and part of a flow - a flow of anything - instead of just trying to force your energy on something is really the only feeling worth living for. When a good song comes on the radio, which is what I listen to on the Walkman I carry, it shocks me out of my usual negative thinking and infuses in me a positive, connected energy (if I'm lucky). Sometimes this just makes me want to sing. So I do. The feeling of my voice, the vibrating of my voice as it sings every word, every nuance, connects with every word makes me feel so connected. It makes life feel manageable again. It shuts out all the bad and replaces it with good. It is the only thing I have found, other than the brief connections with people, that can. I believe it was Brad Paisley's "Alcohol" that came on to spur the good feelings in me this time (also slightly awkward to sing around a cop), and followed by things like Taylor Swift's "Mine", and the Four Tops' "Same Old Song," as well as Zach Brown Band's "Colder Weather"... songs that have a certain structure to them, easy to sing along to, very hyper-emotional, easy to lose yourself in. The safety of the structure of the songs... every note, every tone, every nuance exactly where you expect it to be, comforting you like a warm blanket. That's in part why I actually usually hate live versions... because they're not the same at all! I dig the sameness of studio music. At first... I said... I better restrain myself, there's a cop standing outside, singing in public is not a social norm. So I did...but I was still tense and not enjoying myself. I eventually gave up on restraining myself. I wandered to one side of the parking lot and I did my thing. I put myself and my ability to fill my emotional needs above what other people would think. I think, as long as what you're doing is legal!, that is the only way to survive. I need to own this life, myself and my differences. 

Okay, I don't think I could write a blog entry without tangents about emotional experiences to save my life, and this is no exception. I don't want to edit it because everything feels so valid and important, so I  will leave it. 


back to Pride

Where was I? So.... We spent 90 minutes, giving pamphlets to the organizations. Then we sat, tired but happy, on a bench nearby. Deering Oaks is such a freaking beautiful location to be, with the fountain in the background. 

Lee and I relaxed on a bench and ate our snacks after we gave the pamphlets out. At this point I became aware that the loud aggressive noise of the thing they called music was actually sounding familiar, although I could not hear the words from that far away. I asked Lee if she would mind if I went closer and went to investigate. IT WAS WAGON WHEEL! FOR THE SECOND TIME IN ONE WEEK I HEARD WAGON WHEEL SUNG LIVE IN PORTLAND. OMG! That song rules. I am going to have so many good memories of that song now. It is the ultimate sing along song. Oh, I started dancing and then other people started dancing, just like in the Old Port! Oh, it was so emotional and resonant and wonderful. Then they did Jackie DeShannon's Put a Little Love in Your Heart after that - an uptempo and really jazzy version that was a little hard to sing along with but not impossible. They did an original song, and then they did, omg, they did the best version of Sly and the Family Stone's "Everyday People" that I have ever heard. It might be the ONLY version I have ever heard live but it is still the best!

I was back with Lee at that point heard it and was like OMG. "different strokes for different folks and so on and so on and scooby dooby doo" it was also a more fast paced and uptempo version but in this case it really worked. the song was positively pulsating with wonderful positive amazing life affirming energy. I can't usually dance very much anymore due to physical issues but with all three songs but especially this one I did for at least like one line or length of the field... really danced, not just the mini version. Felt free... Felt like some sort of energy just took over and lifted my body and infused it with joy... and I danced across that lawn... like a bat out of hell... just pure energy and joy and love. So nice to be possessed by positive emotion instead of just negative once in a while. Oh, to hear that song and at a gay pride festival, so very cool. Such a wonderful experience. Of course they followed this song with RAP, the only kind of music that feels so intense and overwhelming to me that it can literally trigger a panic attack, and used to when I was a kid and it was played in the car. Message about how life has good and bad and goes between two extremes? Dunno, but we left and it was fine.

Hung out at gelato place with Lee a bit, got bus back. Got rainbow necklace and starfish necklace as well. So happy standing by door of apartment talking to her about future asexuality related plans. Feels so good to have SOMETHING IN COMMON WITH SOMEONE ELSE FOR LIKE THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE, well, just to feel this concreteness of being passionate about the same thing .Oh, connection.

So I am going to bed soon and making a pledge as I always do try to remember the moments of connection and use them to fuel the moments of anxiety and despair, and to remember connection is possible. To remember in my worst moments that feeling okay is not far away if I can get thru it.

That is the first time I have ever actually enjoyed Pride! =) Hopefully the first of many. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Laughing at the Absurdity of a Difficult Life

Today was the first non-humid or very close to non humid day we have had in a month. Today was the first day I didn't step outside and immediately start calculating where the nearest place I could go inside to get away from the air was. That was beautiful. I decided to take the bus to SMCC and go back to the pier and lighthouse I so much enjoyed yesterday. So, after spending an hour at the public market talking to xxx and making two girls I had never met who were sitting at the coffee shop talking to her laugh, I did. As I expected, it is never what you think is going to make you happy that does. The pier just didn't do it for me today, but sitting on the bench overlooking the ocean and lighthouse and getting good reception to the AM oldies station did. I admired the seaweed, thinking about how it wavers back and forth in the tides, but because it is rooted so strongly to the ground, because it is so well attached, it remains strong, and manages to hold on. 

I ended up talking to someone who was there with his dog for an hour, later on, sitting on the bench. I commented on his dog, and he was open for conversation, so a conversation ensued. Neither of us had anything to do or any desire rather than to enjoy the day and apparently, perhaps, connect with others if the opportunity presented. I started with casual questions about his dog and where he lived. Maybe I talked about buses, since it is what came to mind, and this spurred conversation about sensory sensitivity, which he seemed to relate to. This led to discussions on environmental issues, and the state of our health care system, and so on. He was a good talker, able to pontificate on issues of value and importance far more than most people I meet, and be somehow sensitive to the emotions and deeper side of our conversation. I would have stayed for longer, but I wanted to get to even the last hour of the gay pride picnic I had planned to go to in Portland. I stayed an hour later than I had planned because I realized the value of this opportunity I had with him. 

He offered me a ride back to Portland, and I accepted, because I could sense his sensitivity, I could sense his gentleness. I saw the way he interacted and talked with his dog. I did not think there was any danger, although I would not normally accept a ride with a stranger. With him, there was not. But there was some sort of chemical in his truck, and I ended up having the worst reaction I have had in several years. I was smart enough to get out after only about three minutes, and only rode across the campus with him, and got off at the bus stop to take the bus the rest of the way into Portland. But unfortunately, with me, three minutes is really all it takes. I had had a sense that the smell was too much, but overrode it as I kept thinking how much easier it would be. I should trust my instinct more.

So, one half an hour bus ride of sobbing and talking to myself later, I stumbled into to the public market in Portland and was fortunate enough that xxx was working at the coffee shop. (As well as being fortunate enough that people in Portland seem to have a high tolerance for people walking around sobbing. Tis my life.) I remembered in Missoula that I used to eat expresso chocolate brownies at the bakery there and the reaction seemed to be cut in half so quickly, and thought well maybe I should try coffee. I've never had coffee, just expresso which I find too bitter. xxx mixed some coffee with cocoa powder, respectfully answering my questions about the origin of the chocolate and coffee before I felt safe enough to try it. Unlike the expresso, it actually tasted okay, and I had three little mini-cupfuls, free from her with so much caring. My brain came back to me, and while I still felt bad, I felt functional again. We talked, deeply, resonantly, with caring and honesty to each other, and my heart filled up, with enough love and connection to override the physical symptoms of my body. Caffeine must help the brain reaction somehow, and the love she gave was enough to help with the rest. 

I was supposed to meet my friend L for the pride picnic, but she couldn't find it and I had missed it, so we ended up sitting outside the gelato place for two hours talking. I really enjoyed it. It was casual, relatively easy, and more meaningful than my conversations often are. The air for once actually felt good. Not like something I had to escape from. Something I could actually settle into. I knew there would be few nights this summer where I would feel that way so tried to enjoy it. 

It wasn't what I had expected to do today, but it was probably better. 

I said to Sarah that I have such fear of trying new things, even little things like trying coffee, new medications, drinking, whatever because I am terrified of my body and how it will respond. But I was so far gone I was like... Give me what you have, I'll try it. Since it was a coffee shop... Well... Probably better to be there than some other places, lol. For me, even trying coffee would feel dangerous on a normal day. But I did it. And it helped. 

My thoughts are hard to articulate but they went something like this. 

Part of this I posted on Facebook earlier, but wanted to expand, and needed the feeling of being in connection with someone to do so. 

here is no way I can control the world. There is no way I can control the way I experience the world or perceive the world. I can't control the way my body experiences the world. I can't control whether I am hungry or not most of the time, whether my body hurts or not, whether my brain feels like it's going to explode, whether or not I feel like I can breathe if it's humid, all of those things I am coming to accept, gradually, kicking or screaming, I just can't control them. But I can start to come to an understanding of being okay even despite these things. I can start to come to an understanding of some things being more important than these things. I can try to recall memories of connection with others, Hugs, laughing , jokes, memories of feeling good and try to connect with those feelings instead, as hard as it usually is.

I can try to laugh despite it all. I can try to remember I am connected with something more important than the physical body - the universe. Most days I don't have an understanding of what it means to be connected to the universe, but some days I can start to see it. I can try to find and connect with my inner strength, which I am told is there and some days even see evidence of. I can start to believe that people are safe to connect with and let myself be open, unapologetically open, to their energies good or bad knowing that true connection will be worth all the hurt that might come on the way to it. Someone had told me that she thought if I was really open with myself and not holding myself back my energy or emotions wouldn't come across so intensely or strongly or overwhelmingly. I think she is write. I think I am too afraid and too much trying to avoid trying to feel my own emotions. I have a lot of coping mechanisms which are good, but too many of them while they are great at keeping out the negative emotions and things, they keep out the positive emotions too. They are designed, unconsciously, to keep me away from the world. Because the world is perceived as scary, negative, overwhelming. But I don't WANT to be kept away from the world. I want to be part of the world. And that is going to mean taking on even more pain that I am taking on now, and being open to more, i

Maybe I did already write what I needed to, I don't know. I am just trying to explore this concept. This concept of surrendering control. How wonderful that would be. How necessary that is. I can't keep riding this roller coaster. I have to find a way to laugh at the absurdity that is my life, rather than identify so strongly with the pain in it. I think the only way to do that is to maintain and keep trying to strengthen my connections with people and things outside my body, and think of them whenever I can. 

This is my attempt to survive the life I have been given. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Pain Versus Suffering

Ramblings I posted on Facebook about pain versus suffering, plus a quote from Carl Rogers on empathy that I really liked. 

"When someone really hears you without passing judgement on you, without taking responsibility for you, without trying to mold you, it feels damn good! When I have been listened to and I have been heard, I have been able to re-perceive my world in a new way and go on. It is astonishing how elements that seem insoluble become soluble when someone listens, how confusions that seem irremediable turn into relatively flowing streams when one is heard." Carl Rogers 

Currently, I have more pain than in most of my life previously but I have less suffering than most of my life. The two, I am finding, are different things. My physical body has more pain, but my soul and my heart is starting to find ways to connect. This seems worth it. When I tried to keep myself from the world to protect my body, I did so at great cost to my heart and my soul. I kept myself safe physically, and maybe my emotions weren't as explosive, maybe my pain wasn't as intense. But my suffering was more intense because I was lonely, and isolated, and disconnected from other humans. And, quite frankly, most of the time I wasn't even okay physically, but I was trying to keep myself from further physical pain and so was isolated emotionally as well as being in physical pain. Now I am trying to reach out and find the intersection in all of that. 
A quote that I like states that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. I am finding this to be true. 

Suffering can be avoided if we can find a way to re-conceive or reframe our experiences. Pain is inevitable, suffering is not. The quote I posted about empathy yesterday was one way I think that suffering can be avoided. Empathy erases pain. Finding someone to share a conversation with and being open enough to receive their energy or to recognize their caring and positive energy is one. Maybe observing natural beauty, recalling positive memories ,music or things that make you laugh are others. There is no way I can control the world. There is no way I can control the way I experience the world or perceive the world. I can't control the way my body experiences the world. I can't control whether I am hungry or not most of the time, whether my body hurts or not, whether my brain feels like it's going to explode, whether or not I feel like I can breathe if it's humid, all of those things I am coming to accept, gradually, kicking or screaming, I just can't control them. But I can start to come to an understanding of being okay even despite these things. I can start to come to an understanding of some things being more important than these things. I can try to recall memories of connection with others, Hugs, laughing , jokes, memories of feeling good and try to connect with those feelings instead, as hard as it usually is.

 I can try to laugh despite it all. I can try to remember I am connected with something more important than the physical body - the universe. Most days I don't have an understanding of what it means to be connected to the universe, but some days I can start to see it. I can try to find and connect with my inner strength, which I am told is there and some days even see evidence of. I can start to believe that people are safe to connect with and let myself be open, unapologetically open, to their energies good or bad knowing that true connection will be worth all the hurt that might come on the way to it. Someone had told me that she thought if I was really open with myself and not holding myself back my energy or emotions wouldn't come across so intensely or strongly or overwhelmingly. I think she is write. I think I am too afraid and too much trying to avoid trying to feel my own emotions. I have a lot of coping mechanisms which are good, but too many of them while they are great at keeping out the negative emotions and things, they keep out the positive emotions too. They are designed, unconsciously, to keep me away from the world. Because the world is perceived as scary, negative, overwhelming. But I don't WANT to be kept away from the world. I want to be part of the world. And that is going to mean taking on even more pain that I am taking on now, and being open to more, if only I can find that feeling of actual true meaningful connection with others. I don't know how it will look like, I only know it might be possible, somehow , if I keep on the path I am now. There is a great quote about you need to be uncomfortable to figure out how to be comfortable. I agree. Somehow. There are lessons in all of this. 

I am just trying to figure out what they are. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Music and Connecting with Joy

My mom dropped me off at the gelato place at the end of our visit, as I had requested. I needed to find a place to calm and center myself before attempting to go to the open mic night, and the gelato place was the only place open after 7 pm that I could go into. Our visit had been enjoyable, but I needed to recover from the stress inherent in doing well, almost anything. I ended up wandering up and down Fore Street, trying to soothe myself with the music and cursing the narrow sidewalks that made it so hard to have the space I needed with so many other people also walking up and down. I made it work, though. I sat on a stone bench outside of the new hotel, trying to gather myself. A couple approached me, rather confidently I thought, as if they knew me well, and said hello. I looked at them and had absolutely no idea who they were. Usually, people at least look familiar if I don't know them! I said, "Do I know you?"

It turns out they were my two favorite DJs from a radio morning show I had listened to on and off for the better part of ten years. I was so excited. THEY recognized ME! How cool is that? I was so excited. It made me so happy. It gave me the energy to get out of my funk and go find fun things to do. I think I must have smiled for at least ten minutes after that. They were at the Dierks Bentley concert, and walking back from it. Oh, how I wanted to take every word of that conversation and treat them as treasured jewels, taking them out to polish and shine endlessly as I wanted. How I wanted to capture it in my memory and keep it forever. There is a Phil Vassar song I can't remember the words to - something like "Stand still... you're right where I want you to be..." Perhaps that is the title, I am not sure. 

I used to be embarassed if I gushed about something. Hell, I still am. But I'd rather be true to myself and gush about something that was truly gush-worthy than not connect with the intensity and purity of the emotions I experienced.

How cool is it that your favorite DJs who you've never met can spot you on a street and recognize you by name?? 

He said he liked the things I wrote about on Facebook... asked if I was okay...talked briefly about doing the show about autism for the community connections program... only a few exchanges...but I was over the moon with the joy and pleasure that comes from being recognized and seen as important. 

I wasn't going to go to the Dierks Bentley concert, which was by the ferry terminal only a few blocks away, but after they said it was good I decided I couldn't pass up at least trying. I was quite certain you'd be able to hear it without paying, and that was true. You can't really block off a ferry terminal for a concert, and it turned out the point at which they put the barrier for people to pay if they wanted to go any further was the point at which I would never gone any further to, because it would have been too loud. So I and about a dozen other people hung out just beyond the barrier, taking in a perfectly good and perfectly free concert. Seriously, can we have more concerts at the ferry terminal (i.e. Maine State Pier)? That was awesome! 

I got there in time for the last three songs. I had to eat and regulate myself a little more before I went. But I sure was in a better mood afterwards. I cautiously made my way towards the pier, wondering at what point I would be able to hear the music more clearly. You could hear noise for several blocks away, but not the actual words until you were pretty close. I scoped out the situation, saw that it was okay to stand in that spot on the ferry terminal, dropped my stuff and gasped in delight as the first full song that came on when I was there was probably one of the only by him that I actually knew and, to some degree, liked. "What Was I Thinking" was his first big hit back several years ago when he first burst onto the scene, and one of few that I know well. I was full of joy and wonder at the serendipity of it all - here I was, I was wandering around Portland and now I'm listening to Dierks Bentley of all people singing What Was I Thinking on the Maine State Pier.... what are the odds of that? The joy and wonder of it all. I danced for a moment, as much as my body would let me, and marveled in the wonder of expressing joy while other people were also expressing joy, and how good it felt to take in their energy. 

I have no energy left to make this blog pretty or concise, so I am going to default to the more stream of consciousness writing that I did the second I stepped into the apartment, so determined not to lose sight of the positive emotions that I had been lucky enough to feel tonight. 

"Then he went right into Sideways... he said "This kind of music just makes you want to go Sideways" or something like that... and I laughed... knowing the song vaguely... and it's not even a song I particularly like, although not one I hate either... but standing their on the pier, surrounded by all those people, and not being overwhelmed because it was too loud, but being able to hear it... just... I felt connected..... I felt like my heart was beating outside my body and that felt so damn good. I wasn't trying...  I just felt connected. I felt the music beating inside my heart. I felt the rythm, the tone, the sound, not so much the words but just the feeling.... Standing there on that rainy June night, surrounded by people and police and event staff on what is usually a quiet pier, having a national country singer in front of us, and just trying to take it all in... **I felt connected  to an energy outside of me.**

That is what I strive for every day, in everything I do. But I wasn't TRYING. And I think that because I wasn't trying is precisely why I was able to do it. I have spoken before of being strangled by my own expectations. But this was... such an interesting experiment, in so many ways. Because I had NO expectations. Which is what I strive for in my daily life but never quite manage to pull off. I wasn't even going to go to the concert. I couldn't think of a single Dierks Bentley song I liked, so I figured, what was the point? Not realizing that just as I am a sucker for any 60s music played on the guitar by someone on the streets of the Old Port or at open mic, no matter how well or badly it's played, no matter if I can barely recognize it or not, I am too apparently a sucker for any country I hear outdoors live as long as I recognize it - because it has so much feeling in it.

So, my only expectations were that maybe I would get there and be able to hear it without being overwhelmed by it, but I didn't even expect to hear anything good .I didn't expect to enjoy it. I was more just like, Hell, I'm three blocks away from a country concert happening by the ferry terminal, and someone just told me how good it was. I can't in good consciousness not go. So I was able to just be in the moment and feel it. The patriotic song, I don't know the name of it but I recognized it as a radio single because it was really familiar... I don't even like patriotic songs usually, I don't think about the military much, but I was so moved by it and the introduction anyway. It just felt like being connected to something greater than myself. 

Part of me wished I had gotten there earlier but I told myself, you did what you were able to do, and that is all that matters. I also realized that if I had PLANNED to go to it, if I had set the intention of doing it, chances are very low that I actually would have enjoyed it. If I had been able to think of even ONE song Dierks does that I liked, all my thoughts would have been "Oh man ,I hope he plays that song. I hope he plays that song. When is he going to play that song? No! I don't like this song! Play that song!"  and then when he finally did, I  would have been like "Omg, I need to enjoy this song. He's finally playing it and I need to enjoy it. No! I'm not enjoying it enough! I need to enjoy it more! Come on body, CONNECT already!" Um, needless to say that is not really the most healthy thought process that exists, and needless to say that kind of thinking strangles all enjoyment out of, well, almost everything. But hey - I am perfectly aware of my thought processes, I just don't yet know how to change them. But being aware of them and pondering how to change them is the first step, right?

It is all relative though. I was just stunned that he would actually do like the one song I actually knew by him, his first ever hit, as the first full song when I got there. And then happy I actually knew the next two songs. I am not sure how many singles he's had, as I never particularly paid much attention to him. He's been around a while, I think . Oh, and then to watch all the people! The cowboy hats that you normally never see in Portland. When the concert ended, they weren't paying attention to who went past the entrance barrier, so I wandered in to look at the vendors and see what was there.
I went near the stage and stood watching people stream out. It was fascinating to observe the audience. To think, man, all these people came here to hear a country singer! Having spent since I was 16 being an avid, passionate country fan who knows until recently not a single other country fan, even online for the most part, a part of me was just, my mouth was hanging open. To be surrounded by all these people who actually like country, who actually appreciate a part of my life that I've never been able to share with anyone else. It was like realizing that a part of me actually existed and was valid. I had no idea there were so many country fans in Maine. I very seldom get to go to country concerts. I saw Sugarland at Meadowbrook in NH a couple summers ago. I go to the Concert at the Beach concerts that WPOR puts on so I guess that counts but it didn't really feel the same. (Talk about being strangled by expectations - my third favorite singer, Phil Vassar, was here either last summer or the summer before. I was over the moon excited, I love him to death and OOB outside is a great concert venue. But I was sitting there the whole time thinking to myself "Gee... Why aren't I enjoying this? One of my favorite singers is right in front of me playing all his hits and I'm just like feeling nothing. What's going on?" I think I was just choked by the weight and pressure of my own expectations.) 


So...there were those two things. As the Passover song says, "that would have been enough." But maybe not really, because what followed was even better. Oh man... I didn't even notice the long walk back to Monument Square because I had such a big smile on my face. But when I got there, I decided I'd go to the last half hour of the open mic night, I might as well . It felt awkward to come so late, in the middle of things, but it was worth it. Also, at first I noticed the feeling/smell of a fragrance in there and wondered if I'd be able to stay, but then this girl got up there, and sounded just like Joni Mitchell, so amazing... a voice that can just wash over you and lull you to a different land entirely. I was awestruck. It was certainly the best performer I had yet seen there. I settled back in my seat and just enjoyed the feeling of being transported to a different world. The guy after her was quite good, too. I just love the energy in there. So supportive, so positive, so friendly and open. Nearly all the people who performed were really good, and the jokes the hosts made were so funny. A few people said hi to me. The host asked in a very warm and welcoming manner if I was enjoying myself. I said "good to see you" and he returned it very warmly. These things sound so paltry to write about! But they are beyond meaningful when they happen, when they make you feel a part of something for the first time in your life. When they make you feel like an insider instead of an outsider. I am in awe, actually, of how much tone of voice can convey when I am able to interpret it correctly or be in a place, physically or emotionally, where I can receive positive messages.

The last guy sang "Don't Murder Me," which is either a Dead song or a New riders of the purple sage song, or both. I don't remember and have no energy to look it up. But, OMG. I was uninterested until he got to the chorus, and then memory sprang like a welcome but surprise house-guest, the rich resonant notes of the song playing on my dad's stereo system in my memory adding into the notes played on the guitar in front of me. I have been listening to a lot of Dead lately, but had forgotten that song.

People lingered a long time afterwards. I have gone to these things maybe 6 or 8 times by now, and people usually never linger. I was surprised. And glad, as I didn't want to wait for the bus in the rain outside. I hovered on the edge at times but was able to transcend the edge into an actual connection or conversation with others far more than usual. I think I talked to one girl about her living in Casco and taking the new route 302 bus to Portland. She seemed so happy to talk to me, and she didn't even know me! I talked to the host about something ,I don't recall what, but it felt pleasant. I talked to the guy who played the Dead song. I was so happy about being able to have all these conversations. Just as I was starting to feel, after hanging around the edge of things for another 15 minutes or so waiting for the bus, a little awkward, I talked to a girl I knew but hadn't talked to much, and she invited me to an arts gathering at her apartment on Sunday nights. Oh, be still my heart. If I could deliver a message straight to my amygdala, or the emotional part of my brain that processes fear or old hurts, I would say to it "You can't possibly feel hurt or different when you've just talked to 3 or 4 people and been invited to someone's apartment." Oh, but my brain is a tricky thing, my emotions have their own lives. I tell myself, Yes, you still are going to feel as if you are not as close to the others as they are to each other, but you can fix that by simply showing up and giving it time for connections and familiarity to grow. You can't have intimacy overnight. You have to do the work and show up, you have to be patient with your process. But oh, it made me so happy. I cannot wait until next Thursday (although I am slightly afraid of strangling myself with my expectations of it). 

It occurred to me that since I was emotionally full from the concert and relaxed, I probably was more open to the vibes and energy of what was going on around me. So it seems the key to being able to get what you want is not to want it. When I didn't care about what happened at the open mic night, more or less, I was able to receive so much more than I usually get, it felt like. Maybe the key is trying to find and rely on that sense of inner strength that Margie talks about me having. Knowing that your needs will be filled when they need to be, and having the courage and conviction, the faith and patience to wait for it to happen and be open to what happens in the meantime. 

So there are three things I would like to remember from tonight.

1) Meeting the DJs shows that your needs will be met when you really need them to be, and to try to not worry so much about unfilled needs
2) The Dierks Bentley concert shows that if we can have no expectations of life , we will be able to be in the moment and enjoy it
3) and the open mic night shows that if we can manage to be open to the energy that surrounds us, we can have very connected, meaningful experiences. How to be open probably requires a lifetime to figure out!

I did have a nice time with my mom and dad as well though. It was rainy so going to Fort Williams was a little iffy, but we did and attempted to have a good time with each other, which is what counted.



Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Your Needs are Valid

At a meet-up I go to several weeks ago, I learned for the first time a startling and difficult concept to me. I have somewhat black and white thinking, so to me things are often all the way good or all the way bad. I have such literal thinking, that I think it was hard for me to understand that something could be both good and bad at the same time. Well, I'm still struggling with that, but I think I'm getting better. I will label things as all good or all bad and nothing in between. I am just realizing this. So one bad part can spoil the whole experience.  Etc.

I forget the particulars by this point, but I was trying to understand how I could both overwhelm people *and* have those people enjoy the conversation with me. To me, they were mutually exclusive. You could either overwhelm people and it was a bad experience, or people would enjoy talking to you, and want more, or have a positive experience of you. I forget what he said, but through sheer persistence, by the end of that night he had me finally getting a flash of insight into "Ohhhh, you CAN be overwhelmed by something you like." I had not realized this before. (I think it was, I was feeling overwhelmed by the intensity of the meeting at the end and needed a break. But I had really enjoyed it also . It was then I realized how other people felt when they were both overwhelmed and enjoying something at the same time.)

This is important because realizing that this kind of duality can exist is the building block of realizing a lot of other important truths about life. And it was important as a building block in the therapy session I had with my mom today. She expressed to me that she had often felt frustrated by my needs and my unhappiness as a kid and adult, which was not a surprise to me. But she also expressed, after a longer process, that her frustration was not about me. Her frustration had nothing to do with me. Her frustration was not a reflection on me. She actually said these things, and it was exactly what I needed to hear. It was ironic to me because I have been trying to get someone else in my life to understand those same things about how my emotions are not a reflection of her, and while I thought I might have some trouble in that area, I maybe didn't quite realize how much. She acknowledged that she and I had two different ways of looking at things, and that frustrated her, but it was okay. She stated her needs, I stated mine, and we were able to find common ground.

I am trying to think of how I can use this insight in other parts of my life. Because I so desperately need to. How do I even begin to untangle the reactions I have nearly every minute to being so deeply, desperately uncomfortable in my own skin? How do I take the emotional and sensory experiences I have and start to feed them through a different area of my brain, an area that says "Your experiences are valid"? Hmm.

After my mom left, I wandered around the Eastern Prom aimlessly, wanting to go to a place where I could process my emotions in a calm and safe place but not having the energy to get the bus back to downtown. The air was far better than it has been but still not great, so my thoughts were scattered. The apartment is feeling iffy these days, more chemically than emotionally but yeah.
As I sat on the bench, thinking I was waiting for a bus to go to whole foods but ultimately not taking it, I heard some kids, maybe around ten years old,  playing kickball at the field I was next to. They were a joy to listen to and observe because they were so genuine and so much just who they were without any shame or other emotions on top of it. Not guarded, not afraid, just living in the moment and being who they were. So beautiful.

"I do better when the ball is more deflated because it's easier to kick around," I heard a  kid at the  soccer field  say to himself. He made it seem so easy - without any shame or self-consciousness - he evaluated himself, figured out what his strengths were, and figured out a plan of action. No kicking himself because he needed the ball deflated, no tears because his needs were (or weren't, this is hypothetical) different from others, no shame for having the need, just.... This is how I do better, and this is what I should do about it.

So... I do better with environments that don't have a lot of sensory information, because I am sensitive to sensory information. So I will try to seek them out, whenever possible. I do better when I have avenues to express my emotions, either through writing, talking, or even crying and having meltdowns when I need to. I do better when my emotions can come out, even when it's somewhat violently. I do better when I allow my body to express its unfettered agitation and feeling, until it passes. I am only human, and this is a human need, to express emotion. People do it differently. My way is not wrong. Just like the kid with the soccer ball un-self consciously assessing his needs and then acting on them, I need to act on my needs - for emotional expression and for sensory comfort - and just do it and be done with it, no shame needed, shame is a nasty emotion that just gets in the way. It's not that I don't do these things, but I don't do them without shame. I don't think I would even know what my emotional expression and selfhood would even look like without the many layers of shame I have put on top of them. But I'd like to find out.

This isn't to say I can get expect to get my way all the time, because I know I won't. That is a fact of life. Since I have very little ability to tolerate when my sensory and emotional needs are not met, I will try very, very hard to seek environments that do fit my needs, however. But those times when my needs are not met and I fall apart - I need to see, I want to see, that this is merely an inevitable, and perfectly normal and understandable and valid, reaction to attempting something that for me has a difficulty level off the charts, and feeling the very warranted side effects of that happening. I always am able to get through my emotions and move on, but it always also leaves me feeling slightly traumatized, because the experience of shame and self hatred for having the reaction and the upset moves me so far from my center. But if you think about it.... I express, to both myself and others, that I have these emotional and sensory needs. If, when I don't get them met, these things happen, meltdowns happen, it seems I have two options. One, I could see it as a perfectly logical thing to follow pushing myself into a really difficult place (and validate for myself that it was difficult), or I could punish myself relentlessly for even having attempted to do something difficult for me, punish myself for having a natural reaction, and just generally make myself 100x more miserable. Why would I voluntarily choose to do the latter? My poor body and soul. The answer is because I didn't choose it voluntarily. But it feels validating to hear from someone important to me that my way is valid and that there is no reason for self hatred. I start to see that maybe there might be another option.

I feel scared, for some reason. Granted, I usually always feel scared, but this feels different. I wonder if I am afraid what is below the level of shame. I wonder if perhaps without being able to "get lost" in the shame (as if anyone could ever want to get lost in such an awful thing), if I am worried I will be too focused simply on how truly difficult it is to be me. From eating, emotional expression, figuring out how to talk to people, dealing with my emotions, trying to maintain a sense of calm in a body that is anything but in most environments... Each day is so exhausting with very little pay-off. But if I could start to do all these things without shame, maybe my level of and number of emotional connections would increase, and it would make it easier to handle all the difficult things. I can only hope.

I like... I hope.... I breathe.. .I am... You see, we're not that different... you and me... Colin Raye song =)

Going to finish writing my other blog and go to bed soon. And try to remember to breathe and self validate.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Life is a Radio - Tuning into the Happiness in my Life

Wrote this, didn't have energy to edit. Posting it anyway. Maybe it'll mean something to me some day. Or someone else. That would be cool.

Life is a Radio - Tuning into the Happiness in my Life

Have you ever been driving down the highway to another state or location, with the radio blaring, and you notice that you start to lose reception to your local stations after you get about an hour away?

All of a sudden, all you can hear is static. Deafening static. You try to tune the radio to some other stations to get away from the noise.

The analogy I want to make is not just about the radio. It actually has a lot to do with my life.

Tonight, I was wandering around Whole Foods, trying to relax after a difficult day. I wasn't having much luck until about the last 15 minutes before it was time to go. Something about the exchange of pleasantries I had with the woman working at the deli, or maybe the song on the radio, or something - all of a sudden made me relax. I felt, for the first time all day, able to tune into the joy and calmness that existed in the world around me. This happened for maybe just a few minutes, and felt great.

At the same time, I was listening to the radio on my Walkman as I always do when I am in public. A song came on that I don't even really like that much, but I like parts of it. It made me happy. A feeling of joy and connection came over me. The radio station wasn't coming in too clearly, so I adjusted the position of the Walkman in my hands to try to get it better. With one hand, I held the actual Walkman, and with the other, I fiddled with the position of the headphone wire, because that is what acts as the antenna. It matters the exact position that you hold the headphone wire in relation to the Walkman.
Just moving it a half inch, and holding it tightly can greatly improve reception and make a station that was full of static before all of a sudden come in clear.

I had to laugh when I observed myself tonight. Standing there in the blissfully quiet, peaceful, empty Whole Foods at five minutes before 10, holding the Walkman in what is such a classic position for me when I am trying to get reception to a station. Standing in the middle of an aisle, in a position that had to look a little weird to onlookers, but was in some ways as natural to me as breathing. I flashed back to an image of myself from when I was a freshman in high school. I was in the high school cafetaria, holding my Walkman in exactly the same position, trying to get WABK on the radio. WABK is an oldies station out of Augusta, about an hour from here, and I was very excited whenever I could get it. Radio reception being as temperamental as it is, I could only get it on occasion if I held the Walkman just so in the right way.

I didn't know a lot about the world when I was a freshman in high school. I still don't, in many ways, but I know more than I did then. I did know that the world often felt painful to me, and that I was lonely and isolated. I didn't know much about my peers, and how to talk to them, or what they thought of me. I didn't know how to talk to them. But I did know that if I held my Walkman just so, I could get WABK on the radio and I knew that that made me happy. So I could often be found sitting in the middle of a table full of chatting students, sitting away from them holding my hands in an odd gesture, with a Walkman held up to the air and a look of joy on my face as I listened to whatever song was playing on WABK or WYNZ, which was the Portland oldies station.

Over the years, in some ways, a lot changed, and in some ways not much changed. I figured out how to be more social in many arenas, but I also picked up a lot of shame and self-hatred for myself once I realized just how different I was. I engaged in a kind of back and forth dance, wanting so much to be myself and show myself, but knowing that it wasn't socially acceptable, so putting one foot in and taking it out again. I am coming to realize that I have exhausted an awful lot of energy in this dance, this dance that involves such a lack of self acceptance. Where has it gotten me? I've moved across the country and had a lot of different life experiences since I was that girl who first got into oldies radio as a freshman in high school, but still, after all I 've done, and after all the effort I've made to change myself, I am still the girl that can be found with her Walkman in some random space, pointing it towards the sky and trying to get whatever far-away station she can on her radio. And maybe, I am starting to think, that is not such a bad thing. I know my true north, I know what I can count on. I know what I can always come back to.

But not only is this interesting as a physical metaphor, it has broader applications to my life as well.

As a person, I am always trying to "tune" myself so that I can be calm, comfortable and "tuned into" the feelings of connection, happiness and calmness that I so intensely seek.

I have a lot of energy, but I find it hard to focus my energy on the pursuits I would like to focus on. I get overcome by feelings of overwhelm, physical and emotional discomfort and anxiety the vast majority of the time. So I am constantly trying new ways to "fiddle" with myself and "tune" myself, so that I can pick up the positive energy that I know is around me. I take my body, which is often brimming with agitation and all kinds of negative energy, and I try to tune it. I try to engage in conversations with people, or maybe dance if I have the energy, or spin around to produce a calming feeling. I listen to music, or talk, or write, or do all these things that are in essence trying to center myself, or tune myself. When I am lucky, I am able to get to a place of calm and all of a sudden "feel" the feelings of connection with others, or connection with myself, or just a feeling of quiet competence that helps me go on. It usually takes a lot of effort, but it is worth it. I find it interesting that just as I try to tune the stations on my Walkman in, at the same time I am trying to tune myself in.

And just like I often have to wait a while to hear a truly good song on the radio, I often have to wait a while to feel truly okay in my daily life. When I listen to the radio, there are a lot of of not so-good songs, but then there are also a lot of wonderful songs that are unexpected and make me so happy to hear - usually when I least expect them. Somehow, I have developed a patience for waiting for good songs to come on that does not translate anywhere else in my life. I am trying to learn that by the same token, if I am patient with my life and wait, good things will happen that will be truly worth waiting for just like the good songs on the radio are. Just like when I was a kid calling DJs on the radio and often letting the phone ring twenty or thirty times before someone answered, I have to learn that I might have to put an awful lot of effort in with sometimes no results before I do get an answer, or a benefit from it. I don't know how I had so much patience as a kid, in this area of my life, when I had no patience in any other area. I'd call and wait, and not even mind waiting. When I did
get to talk to a DJ, usually on the oldies station in the afternoon, he'd make me feel so special and so wonderful I'd be absolutely flush with happiness and enthusiasm and being seen. It was worth waiting for.

Radio seems to have many analogies that are useful in my life. I hope it is always a part of my life.
I really appreciate how something that gave me joy as a kid of 13 still continues to make me happy at age 30.