I will carry it with me

2011 was my best year ever.

It was turning a new leaf, a new page in my book.

It was staying out of the hospital for eleven months thus far.

It was one more glorious year with my Elsie P.

It was meeting my Lexie.

It was the best Christmas season ever.

It was, most notably, traveling along that path in which I found out more about myself and developed my sense of self.

It was settling in.  No upheavals, no disruptions.  It was comfortable.

So why do we have to move on to 2012?

I tell myself… self, “year” is a manmade construct.  God is outside of time, so the concept of moving from year 2011 to year 2012 is entirely an earthbound thing.

I try not to make it matter so much.

And really?  Really, it doesn’t.

Because, really, what I gained in 2011, in part through finding my sense of self, was the ability to look on the bright side of things.

Really, 2011 wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies.

Lest you need a reminder, don’t you forget that we almost lost Elsie P in 2011.

I spent the first three months in hospital programs.

Mom has not had the easiest 2011, which means that Lydia worries about Mom.

And so, perhaps 2011 wasn’t made great by the tangible events which transpired…

But rather by the outlook of the one who experienced them.

And that can be carried to any year,

Be it 1949,

Or 2493,

Or even 2012.

Happy New Year!


On love

While we’re on the subject,

Of just being people,

Can I tell you my heart’s greatest desire?

It is not so very different,

I shouldn’t think,

From that of your own.

I want to be loved.

I want to be loved not for who I was yesterday,

And not for who I could potentially become,

But for who I am right now.

I want to be loved not for what I’ve done,

Not for what I’ve accomplished,

But for who I am.

I want to be loved not despite my quirks,

But, at least, in part,

Because of them.

I want to be loved wholly and deeply,

And not just this part or that part.

I want to be loved,

And that is all.

Let’s just be people

Sometimes I wonder what you read, what feeling you get, through the screen as I type.  Can you feel the anxiety, sometimes?  Can you feel the excitement?  Tonight, I hope you feel like a warm fireside, sitting and chatting with a friend… so, come sit a while, and let’s just be two friends, sitting and chatting.  And, so, hey, one of the friends happens to have autism, but that’s not really what this conversation is about, so for tonight, it doesn’t even matter.  Tonight, let’s just be people.

I am a human of the very excitable sort.  I get so incredibly wound up about future happenings… holidays, birthdays, things to do, and people to see.  And then, when the so-anticipated event finally arrives, I shake in my boots and perseverate, no, obssess, no, rethink things like crazy, to the point that I can hardly enjoy my surroundings.  I get so very worked up, and then I can’t enjoy myself.  Then, I rethink the event in my mind, reliving it, for days and weeks and months later.  I mean, I’m still known to burst out with, “We went to Disney World!” directed at Mom… and we did go… almost three years ago!

And while this is most certainly one way to do things, it’s simply not the way I want to experience the world.  I don’t want to live in the has-beens and will-bes alone, but rather I want to take it what is.  So, I guess you could say, I’ve been working on this, trying to relish the moments I’m blessed with rather than just rethinking, all the time.

Today was the perfect chance to practice.  I hadn’t seen Leigh in just about a year and a week, and she came here today.  She lives in LA now, and she was visiting family at home about four hours away, so good ol’ Leigh drove all the way up to Pittsburgh to exchange gifts and watch a movie or two with me.  That is what you call a true friend, one who will drive four hours each way just to spend a half a day with you doing, well, nothing.

But, considering my new methodology for approaching life, was it really nothing that we did?

We ate at Chipotle with our friend Jen, which we can each do easily on our own, and I got agitated by the music and eventually asked to leave.  No big deal, right?  I mean, I always do that.  I love Chipotle, but the music always grates on me after a while and I always ask to leave.

Then we came home and opened gifts.  But gifts can be mailed, so that wasn’t what was so special.

Then we watched Singing’ in the Rain.  On my broken couch.  While Leigh worked on the sweater she’s knitting me.  It was a movie we’d both seen, doing nothing unusual.

And while we sat there, on that couch, I closed my eyes and took a breath.  And I realized, while we may have done nothing special at all, in that moment, the doing it together was everything.

Revisiting: A hard thing to type

I don’t type much about my past, and while there are several reasons for that silence, the biggest one is that it is hard for me to look back upon and process.  Before I started blogging, I really didn’t have a way to make sense of my world, and so things were really very scary.  Relationships, events, conversations, they were all frightening because I didn’t understand them.  It was not a fun way to live.

But perhaps I’m ready to do some looking back, at least here and now and about this one event.  So, first, some back story.

I was a straight-A student at a small, private, Christian college.  I was an education major.  Originally, going into college, I’d wanted to be a doctor (because I’d heard so often how smart I was, and I thought that smart people should be doctors), but then my parents suggested that I become a teacher, so I went that route.  Think of the lifestyle, they said, and think of the health benefits, and so on and so forth.  Not knowing who I was or what I wanted in this life, I blindly followed that path.

I did really well in those education classes, and when we did field experiences, I did really well in those, too.  I wrote my lesson plans out word for word, and I essentially read from the book in my mind’s eye and taught that way.  I can’t say, looking back, that I ever really got to a point where I could interact with the kids properly, but I never knew I was different from anyone else, back then, so I wasn’t worried about that.

So, enter student teaching, or in other words, my downfall.  The lights killed me.  The social interaction was way too much.  I wasn’t allowed to tell my supervising teacher that I was autistic, as per my on-campus supervisor.  There were many comments about how I couldn’t go off my script and couldn’t interact with the children.  They were fourth graders, nine and ten, and they were doing things socially (cliques, boyfriends and girlfriends, etc) that I still couldn’t handle.

I lasted less than three weeks before I was stressed out to the point of being very sick and unable to function.  I had to quit.  And I did.

It was thusly that I found myself in the on-campus Early Education Center (EEC)… I was there two half days and two longer days, so it was less hours than student teaching, and I wasn’t in charge of writing plans.  When I left the classroom, I was done for the day.  The only issue was that I had to take a letter grade of D for my final 14 credit hours of student teaching.  It was a huge blow, but I would still graduate and do so magna cum laude at that.

And so it was there, in the EEC, where I found myself one day after the children had left with the two teachers whose names I can’t remember for the life of me.  We’ll say Mrs. Abbott and Mrs Brown.  Mrs. Abbot was the EEC director, who taught three days a week, and Mrs. Brown was the associate teacher, who taught the younger kids two days a week.

Now, let me pause to explain something to you.  I rely extremely heavily on copying other people in order to get by.  I don’t know what’s funny.  I don’t know what’s appropriate.  So, I lean on what you laugh at and what you say to know what I can laugh at and what I can say.

That particular rainy day, one of the little boys who had behavioral issues that no one seemed to address was out in the yard behind the building… peeing.  I heard Mrs. Abbott laughing and talking about it with another parent.  So, when Mrs. Brown wondered aloud what was so funny, I said, “Oh, such and such is going to the bathroom right outside!” with a giggle.  Because, after all, Mrs. A was talking about it, and she was laughing, right?  Therefore, it would be appropriate for me to giggle and relay the information.

The room stopped dead.  “That’s not appropriate to talk about another student, and in front of a parent, Lydia!  It’s not up to us what parents do with their children!”

Now, maybe I missed something, or maybe I even misheard something that led me to believe that I could talk about the situation.  Gosh, maybe I even remember it wrong.  But please, don’t focus on the story specifically but rather the message.  When you’re a person who relies so heavily on cues from others, it is upsetting, confusing, and frustrating when the rules apply differently to you than to others, and you never know why.

Try to keep in mind with your autistic kiddos when they do something that appears inappropriate that they may just be copying something you did earlier!

I could scream.

I could scream, and I could cry, if it would get me anywhere.  I could pound my hands and throw things.  I really could.  I would do it, too, if it would help get the words to come into my fingers, but I know it won’t, so I’ll just sit here and grump.

I slept for twenty six hours last day/night/day.  Twenty six.  I was up a half hour here, and a ten minutes there, and a full almost two hours this morning to walk to the convenience store to get Diet Mountain Dew.  Other than that, I’ve slept, and you know, I could go to sleep right now.  I will, soon.

My head chatters.  It’s positively wracked with chatter.  It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… stop that.  Elsie Penelope, the kittiest cat you know.  Quit.  Silly old bear.  Thanks for noticing me.  I said, enough!  Walk away, just, walk away!  And so on, and so forth.

I worry, I tell you.  I worry that I’ve revealed every revelation that could possibly be revelated in my nearly five hundred posts.  And I worry that if I take the break I fear I may need, that no one will be here waiting for me when I come back.  I worry that the blog world will go on without me and I’ll never be missed.  And I worry what I’ll turn into if I don’t type, because I am all typing, all the typing.  I worry.  I really, really worry.

And I worry about staff-related things.  And I worry about Mom-related things.  And I worry about Sister-related things.  And I worry about Dad-related things.  And I worry about friend-related things.  And I worry, and I worry, and I worry.  I worry about things I haven’t even thought to worry about in years.  Old worries are surfacing.  Are you mad at me?  That’s my common phrase.  Are you mad?  Was it me?  What did I do?

Sounds like some serious prayer is in order in this life of mine.  Not to mention a kitty, some chocolate milk, and a night or ten with my weighted blanket.  I took a hot lavender bath, so that’s taken care of.

If I were going to tell myself how it is… self, I’d say, you need to take a deep breath.  Your fingers have forgotten their words before and they always come back.  And self, I know people might think you lead this easy, no-worries life, but you really do deal with a lot and it’s okay to give yourself credit.  You know, self, it takes a strong and brave girl to do what you do, and you’re not doing such a bad job.  Now, give yourself a break and let yourself relax.  Bask in the peace you know that surrounds you.  Don’t let others’ worries upset you.  You can help, but if you can’t really do anything, taking them on won’t help anyone at all.  You do a good job of being cheerful and helping out, self, so you keep doing that.

And I’d say back, thanks, that really makes me feel better.  You’re a good calmer-downer-cheerer-upper, self.

And finally I’d say to the both of those selves, you’re really goofy, you know that?

Real magic

I believed in Santa until I was a whopping five years old.  No one told me the truth… I figured it out myself, on the playground with another girl, in kindergarten.  And ever since then, for the last 19 years, Christmas has seemed… less magical.

For a few years after that, I tried to hold onto Santa, because without him, Christmas just seemed kind of boring.  It’s not that I was ungrateful for the presents and the family and the parties, it’s just that it all seemed so commonplace when compared to the magic of Santa.

I was thinking of these things this year, holding Elsie P, too, when I realized something: The real magic of Christmas is so infinitely cooler than Santa.

It’s the magic of holding a kitty cat… who lives and breathes and loves me back.  She is so much cooler than stuffed toys (which I absolutely love, so imagine how cool Elsie P seems to me).

It’s the magic of your sister coming home for Christmas and procdeding to take every last lump out of your chili and take you to see the Festival of Lights like you did when you were kids.

It’s the magic of, after totally perseverating on the fact that Mom isn’t doing stockings this year, that same sister takes it upon herself to fill your stocking herself.

It’s the magic of your Jewish friend sending you a Christmas present (and, of course, I sent her a Hanukkah present)… and you proceeding to carry that present everywhere you go.

And, above all, it’s the magic of God coming to earth to live among us.  Emmanuel, God with us.

If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.

In full disclosure

Let’s pretend, for a moment, that I have a broken leg.  In fact, it broke in several places, and I have pins and rods, and I’m in a full leg cast.  You see my cast, and you say, “What happened to your leg?!”

And I tell you a story about how I was, oh, say, putting Christmas lights up on the roof, and I fell off the roof and broke my leg really badly, and yada, yada.

Would it ever cross your mind to say, “Oh, everyone’s legs hurt sometimes.  I think you can walk on it just fine.  Come on, then, up you go, let’s get a move on.”

Crazy, right?

Another one.  Say I’ve been having a really, really tough time lately.  Not really sleeping, having trouble eating, really short-tempered.  Again, you ask what’s wrong.

“I have anxiety so badly I can hardly function.”

Would you say, “Oh, everyone worries.  I think you’re fine.  Come on, let’s get back to work now.”

Only a jerk might, yeah?

So my question to you is this: Why do I have conversations such as follows day in and day out?

Person: Why don’t you xyz (sit still, make eye contact, sing with the group…)?

Me: Well, I’m autistic… it means that I have trouble with things like socializing and communicating.  And so, things like xyz can be really hard for me.

Person: Oh, well, everyone is like that!  You seem fine to me.  Come on, let’s get back to the party and I’ll introduce you to so-and-so…