“Don’t know if I’m elated or gassy, but I’m somewhere in that zone!”

Never has a Disney quote been more perfect than my favorite line from Frozen is to my day!  I had a business meeting over lunch, during which I ate half a grilled cheese and some tomato soup.  The food was heavy, and my body has been angry with my all day…. my stomach, my blood sugar, everything… but my taste buds still dance when I think of my lunch!  I’m not quite sure if the unusual feeling in my tummy is a result of the food or the amazing news I received during the meeting!  

I’m a big believer in the idea that we put entirely too much stock in false dichotomies.  Example: Margery Kempe was a 12th century British woman who was so over-the-top devoted to God that she would spend days on end sobbing when she merely thought of Christ on the cross.  In my Medieval Lit class, we spent all week discussing whether she was extremely devout or just totally off her rocker.  I spoke up and said, “Why does it have to be either-or?  Why couldn’t she be incredibly devout AND have mental illness?”

Along that line, I submit that elated and gassy are another such false dichotomy.  

I also submit that I think I’m hilarious right about now.

So, with that, I guess I’ll get back to my homewo–… wait, what’s that?  You want to know WHY I’m elated?  I’d be all too glad to tell you!

There’s a place in a nearby town… twenty minutes from the nursing home and maybe 45 from my parents’ house. The center does serve many parents, it welcomes autistic people, their families, and anyone who has any interest in anything to do with ASD.  While it may be small in size, it’s very mighty in its service to our community.  The founder is a woman with a young adult son on the spectrum, and she is so full of vision and heart for the autism community.  I’ve been to the center a few times in recent months.  I especially like the Young Ladies’ Group, where I can chat with some of the older girls and mentor some of the younger ones.  I’ve connected with one of the moms who works at the nursing home where I live, and I love when she pops in and chats with me as I’m waking up at the crack of noon.  I love sharing what I know as a girl with my own share of -isms… that being different is infinitely more valuable than being like everyone else!

I met with Mary, the owner, today, to chat about some ideas she has… like I said, she is a woman with a vision!  She asked if I might be able to work there one day a week to do some office work, especially to redesign their website.  I’ll also be posting photos and announcements to Facebook.  Then, when I’m there, my mom will help out as a volunteer in some other office work.  Mary also had the brilliant idea that I could design some greeting cards with my art and quotes from my writing, and we could sell them at the center.  I spent today putting some ideas together, and I’m so excited to see them in print!

As we were talking, I asked her whether she had thought about having an autistic person serve on her board, to represent the perspective of the people she serves… and she asked me to fill that seat!  One of the strongest attributes in a leader is her ability to work with others and take their thoughts into account.  I’m so honored to be trusted to listen to the ideas of the others in the center and represent the autistic voice to the board.

I’ve been working for the last five years to get to this point… the point of being respected as a true professional in the autism community.  While some of my ideas tend toward the radical side, I try to always keep in mind that not everyone is at the same point on their journeys as I have gotten to on mine; it took me years to get here.  If I want people to come to “see the light,” or, rather, the positivity in autism, attacking and accusing them is not the way to change their minds.  In fact, I don’t think of it as changing minds so much as opening them to the idea that there is another way out there to look at autism, and that this perspective results in relationships based on positivity and respect.

When I’m at the center, I’m not only respected professionally, but my voice is also valued as an autistic person… and as a friend.  As I said to a mom recently, “I no longer see autism as my diagnosis; it’s my community.  It’s how I find my people.”

Thank you, each of you, for taking this journey with me!

(Images below are of my cards… photos and poetry are my own).

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Defining Success by Defying Gravity

I’m through accepting limits
’cause someone says they’re so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try, I’ll never know!
Too long I’ve been afraid of
Losing love I guess I’ve lost
Well, if that’s love
It comes at much too high a cost!
I’d sooner buy
Defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye
I’m defying gravity
And you can’t pull me down

– Defying Gravity, Wicked

Success, in the United States in 2014, involves matters of money, renown, and prestige.  Money… how much do you make?  Renown…. whom do you know?  Prestige… how much do you matter?  

You know I’m about to flip everything you think you know on its head, right?  Tell me you see that coming by now.  That’s what I do, after all.

A few weeks ago, my mom gave me $5 for the week.  I got a drink at some point during the day, so I was left with just over $3.  When I got back to my room, I saw $3 sitting on my tray table and, for a second, I thought it was three more dollars– three in addition to the $3 from the day.  I thought, in that moment, yikes– I am RICH!  $6 for this week?!  I thought of all the possibilities that $6 held for me.  I realized, then, that I only had $3, after all– only the original three bills.  Then, I looked up and said, Lord, thank you for teaching me the value of money… thank you for allowing me to truly get how rich $6 would make me.  I may not be rich in nickels and dimes, but I am invaluably rich in perspective.  I’m working my tail off these days to get my feet on the ground, especially financially.  I cannot wait for the day when I can pay my rent, buy my health insurance, and buy my mom lunch.  Right now, that’s not my reality, and I’ve found that, while it’s critical to have drive to make your reality better, it’s pointless to angrily fight your situation in a way that will only drag you down.  Drive isn’t the same as fight.  I am full of drive, but I try to be devoid of the bitter fighting spirit that leads me to be unappreciative of what I’ve got.  I’m grateful that I know the value of six dollars… and that I know the value of a little perspective.  

Money… how much do I have?  I have far more than any amount of money can buy.

Renown is about who you know, or, more accurately, who knows you.  In terms of success, we usually think in terms of big names.  I’m here to tell you that big names are worthless; often, those who have the biggest names have the smallest view of those of us who haven’t “made it.”  I’m thankful for big hearts.  I’ve been told that, since I can “pass for normal,” I, therefore, have some sort of responsibility to be a part of the typical young-adult social circles.  Truthfully, I don’t know what typical young adults do for fun.  Oh, I think I know– they go “out.”  Where is this nondescript “out” and why is it so attractive?  Even among the circles of Christian women with whom I have felt pressure to belong, my social quirks and love of all things Disney and Hello Kitty mean that I often end up playing with the women’s children.  Sometimes, people make it sound as if it’s somehow stooping for me to socialize with people who are noticeably affected by their autism (and whatever other issues it brings along).  Far from stooping, I consider it an honor that these simply amazing people accept me and call me “friend.”  Friendship isn’t about big names; it’s about big hearts!  I’m thankful for my autistic friends with whom I feel like I truly belong.  

My name might not be in lights, but it’s inscribed on my friends’ hearts, and that is where I want to have renown.

Too long I’ve been afraid of
Losing love I guess I’ve lost
Well, if that’s love
It comes at much too high a cost!

Finally, when we consider “success,” we think about prestige… how much do you matter.  I exhausted myself for 25 years by trying to make myself matter to other people.  Sometimes I did matter, very much… but I never mattered to myself, and until I did, I would never feel like I was “anybody” at all.  I was sitting here, thinking about where I’ve been… the depths of the sorrow and despair I’ve faced in my life… where I am… living in a nursing home and desperately trying to get “out” and establish my life… and where I’m going.  Where am I going to matter?  Rather than filling me with fear, when I think about the future today, I’m filled with excitement.  God promises that He has a future for me, one filled with hope and good things, and I believe that I have a future that is full of promise. 

No more will I listen to anyone who tells me that I can’t, that I don’t have the ability to live out the life I’m called to live.  I have limitations, but I’ve learned that thriving is less about fighting our way around our limitations and more about finding ways to use them to our advantage:…

I’m through accepting limits
’cause someone says they’re so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try, I’ll never know!

 

Throw me a broom, because, regardless of the rumors others want to spread, the negativity they throw my way, I’ll be flying high.

I’m defying gravity
And you can’t pull me down.

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Why I’m So Happy

For the duration of my life, at least, the first quarter century of it, I felt a deep sense of discontentment.  I wasn’t happy– in fact, I was all the opposites: angry, depressed, and hopeless.  It came out in the way I related to myself, such as my decade-long battle with an eating disorder and my widely-swinging emotions.  It also came out in the way I related to others, even to the point that I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

The diagnosis, and the stormy relationships that were behind it, came from the fact that I desperately sought a solution to my sense of discontentment.  Somewhere in me, I knew I had a problem and I knew I wanted a solution.  At times, I manipulated my eating and weight as I tried to gain control over my up-and-down emotional swings.  But, that didn’t work, and, in time, I began to turn to other people in search of a path to a peaceful spirit.  I pushed my friends away, knowing that I would hurt them, all while I clung to them and begged them to help me.  I wanted to save them, and I wanted to be saved from myself.  Of course, I never had the words to put any of this outright in a way that made sense either to other people or to myself.  I was hurting badly and incredibly confused.

On May 28, 2013, I experienced a radical healing.  I can close in on the moment in which God touched my heart from either side… it happened before this, after that, before this, after that… but never will I be able to pinpoint the infinitesimal moment in which my entire being and entire life were changed.

Since that date, I have learned that “my soul finds rest in God alone.”  Not only do I not have to look to other people to fix me… I quite frankly don’t give much of a darn at all as to what anyone else thinks!  I don’t care if they like my weight, my clothes, my choice of interests, or my beliefs.  In fact, I am very open about the fact that my healing came from God and not from anything I did, even though many people have been negative toward me for that admission… but, again, I don’t care what others thing.  The only One I seek to please is God, and, especially considering that no matter what I do, I will never please all the people in my life, the path to honoring God definitely is not the same path as pleasing other people.

I have come to peace with having a body… no, scratch that, an entire everything that is outside the mainstream.  I may not be thin, but I am still beautiful.  I may not even have a job, but I am still successful.  I may not be in a relationship, but I am still fulfilled.  I may rarely make it to church, but I am filled with peace and joy in Christ.  There is little about me that fits the world’s idea of “normal.”  I’m not sure there’s anything about me at all that is “normal!”  But, I can honestly say that I have found a way of living that honors what I feel called to do.

I don’t know that anyone will read a blog post and then find it in themselves to leave behind their aspirations for losing weight or proving their smarts or snagging a husband, or whatever other goals the world has dictated they seek to achieve.  I hope I can make someone think, even if it’s just the smallest amount, about maybe, just maybe, the secret to happiness comes down to ceasing to give a damn about what anyone else thinks.

 

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Elsa, girl– I GET IT.

Today goes down as the number one most complicatedly awesome days in my life.

I keep spiking fevers.  I’ve had five in the last eight weeks, all over 103 degrees.  The last one caused delusions.  I was terrified.  My doctor here, at the nursing home where I’ve lived for the last year and have spent much of that time learning to make peace with what I know is the best decision (and, BREATHE!  That was a long clause)… anyway, he came in to tell me, again, that it really comes down to expectation and mind over matter.  Think positively, and you’ll be fine.  Everything is fine.

Only, the same doc kept telling my family that my grandma wasn’t having mini-strokes.  She was fine.  Then, she had a massive one… and died.

I want to ask him if he blames his Alzheimer’s patients for their confusion, too.  “Just REMEMBER… just expect to remember, and you will.”

So, that’s what’s on my mind, and I was just raging last night.  Now, listen.  Since my crazy-miraculous healing experience from ALL mental health issues last May, I haven’t truly felt livid in almost a year.  I don’t do extreme emotions, other than joy.  I’m pretty dang even-keeled.  But, that being the third or fourth time this doc has made those comments, despite my requests for him to stop.  The situation totally called for livid.

I woke up early (that being 9 A.M.) and my mom took me to see Frozen.  Never have I been so invested in a Disney movie.  I twisted my body in my seat to keep from openly sobbing.

I know every bit what it feels like to fear your own power, to be terrified by the damage you know you will cause.  Having grown up with undiagnosed autism plus diagnosed borderline personality disorder, I wanted nothing more than to save my friends from the pain I knew I was causing them with my extreme emotions and attacks and rages.  I was different.  But, I also had intense mental illness.  I was ravaging my relationships.  I was a monster, and I just wanted to shut people out, shut myself away.  People loved me, and they fought their way in, and then I would ruin them, as I knew I would.  Cycle… cycle… cycle.

The snow glows white on the mountain tonight,
not a footprint to be seen.
A kingdom of isolation and it looks like I’m the queen.
The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside.
Couldn’t keep it in, Heaven knows I tried.
Don’t let them in, don’t let them see.
Be the good girl you always have to be.
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know.
Well, now they know!

Since my experience on May 28, 2013, when I experienced a total healing of every drop of depression, anxiety, 12-year-old eating disorder battle, panic attacks, and borderline.  I am totally, utterly, gloriously free in the Lord.  Part of what came with that healing was the ability to recognize that my autism deeply routed in who I am, and that hiding it is akin to hiding the fact that I’m a woman.  In July of 2013, I attended my first major autism conference, and, through meeting other adults like me, I realized that not only can I be autistic… I can be myself, my autistic self, and be successful professional and personally.  n fact, I spent the day with a friend– a new friend, an AUTISTIC friend– and I had an absolutely delightful time in which my friend made me feel good about myself, joyful about my life, and close to my God.  That is friendship, and having found “my people,” I know how to move forward.

Let it go, let it go!
Can’t hold it back any more.
Let it go, let it go!
Turn away and slam the door.
I don’t care what they’re going to say.
Let the storm rage on.
The cold never bothered me anyway.

I dove into my studies in grad school.  I sought publication for my children’s book and started back up my burgeoning speaking career.  Autism is not my label.  It is my community.  I ceased all feelings of shame in shouting from the rooftops that God healed my heart.  I committed myself to writing my testimony so that others who have a past can learn to make peace with who they’ve been and the hurts they’ve caused.

It’s funny how some distance,
makes everything seem small.
And the fears that once controlled me, can’t get to me at all
It’s time to see what I can do,
to test the limits and break through.
No right, no wrong, no rules for me.
I’m free!

My years of living with a propensity toward breaking into sobs and rages at any moment have been replaced by totally relentless joy.

Let it go, let it go.
You’ll never see me cry.

Through writing my book, in my way of thinking and processing through my fingertips, I have come to make peace with who I was.  My heart was never evil.  I have to forgive myself for the hurts I caused.  I pray, daily, for “healing and wholeness” for the people I’ve hurt.  I smile and greet them when I see them, and silently pray.  I’m establishing new friendships, mostly within the ASD community.  I have gotten to a place where I not only feel peace with my past, but I thank God for it… for, it is only because of the incredible lows that God was able to demonstrate His power, bringing me to where I am today.

I’m never going back; the past is in the past!

‘I hear that people don’t always quite know what to make of me. I don’t know why that is… could it be because I’m a little bit artsy and more than a little bit in love with science? I’m full of spunk and gumption, unless I’m tired, then I’m fresh out of anything but whine. I’m conservative, except where I’m liberal. I’m sassy and creative but I can crunch numbers in a heartbeat. I have tattoos but I won’t wear high heels and makeup feels like I’ve just painted my face. I’m socially quirky and I like it that way. I believe in human rights, human kindness, and I believe in humanity. I’m 26, with a 65-year-old soul and a 14-year-old spirit. I believe in Jesus with ALL my heart and seek to live out His love with every word I speak and deed I do. I think kitties might be the pinnacle of perfection in the animal kingdom, pink that of the colors, and Diet Mountain Dew that of beverages. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I can never decide if I swear, as that seems to depend on the day. I am extremely stubborn but I change my mind frequently. Did I mention I love kitties?

Now, why on earth don’t they know what to make of me? “

Unapologetic about who I am in the One who makes me who I am.

Let it go, let it go.
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn.
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone
Here I stand, in the light of day.

Let the storm rage on!
The cold never bothered me anyway…

How can so many big emotions fit in such little drops out of my eyes?