Learning About Life Through Another Lens, And How Blessed We All Really Are…

Some weeks ago I started an ASL (American Sign Language) course online – I regularly volunteer with children with disabilities and had asked a mom (whose four year-old boy both has autism and is deaf) for some ASL resources. Her son additionally suffers from a little bit of separation anxiety, which isn’t horribly uncommon with autism – when he comes to our volunteer play sessions, there are times that he begins to cry and it’s terribly tricky to discern what will make him feel more comfortable. While I was already interested in learning ASL (up to 50% of autistic individuals are non-verbal), this little guy was enough to get me on the road to finding a class…as soon as possible.

The awesome news is that I also volunteer with Special Olympics-driven skating sessions once a week that includes a number of children who are either hard of hearing or completely deaf. There’s nothing quite like being able to communicate with them – being able to sign even a single word is exciting! (I definitely have a way to go!)

A couple of days ago, though, I came down with a cold of some kind – as a result of contagiously coughing, I lost my voice – and I mean completely. Talk about being in someone else’s shoes…

Horribly uncomfortable a “bug” is for any of us, it’s nothing compared to what some children and adults have to deal with on a regular, and life-long basis. In a strange way, I feel thankful that I can’t speak because it’s an exercise in understanding what it *might* be like – while I consider myself to be one of the most empathetic people I know, it is impossible to fully understand anyone’s experience without being in their skin.

I have lost my voice on one other occasion – remarkably, I was 16 spending a month in France, with very little French under my belt. I guess life likes to test my ability to communicate (which – as is clear – is NOT always done with speech.)

In any case, it’s as the saying goes – you don’t always realize what you have until you lose it. I’d never anticipate not having the ability to speak was an easy road…but it is a welcome experience. (Now I’m not exactly encouraging anyone to go out to a concert and scream at the top of his or her lungs to deliberately subdue the vocal chords…I’m just saying, there is good to everything. Yes, including getting sick and losing a primary means of communication.)

Now my husband has a little bit of a challenge playing the guessing game as far as “what is my wife trying to say now?” He’s doing a remarkable job of deciphering, decoding, and understanding what I am trying to say, and that’s not easy to do! So I’m very fortunate to have the support and patience.

Going to the store is also an enlightening experience – I can’t say “thank you,” or “excuse me” as I normally would, nor can I respond vocally to others. That leaves me feeling a little bit awkward as reciprocal speech is one of the key forms of communication many of us learned from infancy. When I indicate with gesture and my lips that I have lost my voice, people either immediately begin to whisper or act altogether more gently – it’s incredibly interesting! (I actually can’t even whisper, as that puts more stress on the vocal chords than speaking does!)

The other side of it is that I’m derailed from my activities – in part I simply don’t feel up to them physically. The pain and discomfort though. . .I think about all the children with autism suffering from sensory sensitivities without the ability to say “those lights are hurting my eyes,” “this fabric makes my skin burn,” “my chest hurts….” What is life like for them? Many “behavioral issues” are a result of such a scenario – they don’t have a means to say what they are feeling.

For the children who are deaf or hard of hearing, thankfully they do have words at their disposal (albeit non-speech, hand / facial /body gestures.) I learned “sick,” “feel,” “bathroom,” and “okay?” as quickly as I could. Fortunately I’m learning many other words too…but knowing that it will take time, it’s important I know some basics.

Even if I was feeling better, my usual day-to-day would still be a substantial challenge – I can’t make a singe phone call, for one. I can’t ask for help locating a medicine at the store. If I were in an office, I’d have to type everything out (doable, but less efficient.) I certainly can’t breakdown a Ninjutsu technique the way I could by asking questions in class, and I definitely can’t teach or volunteer. I have to rely on gestures to talk to others I might run into in my own apartment building because I am utterly devoid of my usual method of communication…

So it’s been a remarkable few days…

While I’m sure it’s not fun to be around me while I’m loudly coughing, slower-moving, and unable to answer even the easiest question, I feel truly thankful for the experience. In fact, I’m taking the opportunity to review videos from the ASL course modules that I’ve already completed – I will hopefully be seeing the Special Olympics kids on Wednesday to skate and I know a few happy ones who use ASL exclusively. 🙂 

Inner Peace

Ever and always some of the best advice on the planet…

Behavior or actions generally come with – what I perceive as – “pre-existing conditions.” There’s:

. . .Past experiences

The stresses of our current lives

Our mood(s) at any given moment, and. . .

Whatever beliefs and conditioning we have had over time.

That’s a LOT. . .

So just as with us, another person’s behavior(s) and actions(s) aren’t because of you, about you, or even your fault.  Most of the time it’s all that other “pre-existing” stuff that gets in the way…

“You have no power over me” is one of the most incredible phrases you will ever have in your arsenal, and it’s one you should say in your mind often.  No one has the right, nor the ability, to control you, your emotions, your thoughts, your attitudes, your behaviors…or your day!  Only YOU have that power, so don’t knowingly give it away by letting their “stuff” creep in.

Definitely easier said than done but it truly is like having peace in your pocket – peace is in your possession at ALL times.

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Empath Humor – The Ambivert’ed, Dichotomous Nature Of The Introvert

Um…YES.

And I’m not alone!

As an Empath I feel sympathy to the Nth degree – to the point that I can empathize with a smurf! I’m not kidding either – cartoons, fictional films or books…doesn’t matter.  My emotions are FULL ON, and have been so attuned since childhood. It takes a seriously concerted effort for me to disconnect and observe without feeling deep compassion.  I also love to give back, as do many of those around me.  

That said…I am ALSO the same person that might go bananas if you double park or didlly-dally when the rest of us have somewhere to be.  Loud neighbors, that’s another one… I get the stare-O-death (same one my Southern Italian mother is notorious for), boiling blood, and a highly irascible tone (probably the better end of my wanting to snap my fingers and have humanity disappear.)

It’s a downright conundrum.  I simultaneously believe in beauty everywhere, and the infinitely generous things people are capable of.  And then there’s a part of me that sees laziness, anger, taking advantage…which makes me view humanity as a plague. . . 

Sigh.

Which is it?

BOTH, actually…

We have the power to create and destroy, terrifying that may be.  Being an Ambiverted Introvert gives me the option, I suppose, to choose which side of things I’m on during any given day. (I *try* to stick to positive, don’t worry…but I will also never claim to be miss sugar-and-peace all the time.  Thankfully I’m a Gemini also…I can point the finger to the Stars! 😉 )

 

 

Be Kinder

Kindness needs to start with YOU.  

Being kind to others is nigh impossible if you have nothing positive to give yourself. . .

When you do find self-love, compassion, and appreciation. . .then you are like an inextinguishable candle that can light the world without losing in the process.

It’s okay if you aren’t there yet.  I get reminders often that I’m being too tough on me.  And I appreciate that, because it’s true.  I’m so thankful and blessed, and I love to give…but I need to remember that the fuller I am, the more I have to offer.

The world needs more of it anyway – positivity is contagious, just like laughter.  And who doesn’t want that?!

Be…

Wavering in truth not only gives reason for others to distrust you, but a shadow of doubt within your own mind – one falsehood is one too many.  Maintaining honesty in all your endeavors is to live with integrity.  

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Air on the side of kindness.  Because we cannot know another person’s battles – even when it feels hard to do – take a deep breath, and find some compassion.  Even a little will do.  If that is not available, let go completely – better to move on than to allow someone to bring you down.  Life is challenging enough than to allow a small thing to derail your happiness and peace of mind…for any amount of time.

Be courageous, because no-thing is impossible.  There will be whisperings of discouragement, but forge ahead, and follow your passion – for in so doing, you follow your truth.  You can achieve anything you set your mind to.  ANYthing.