I have a profound compassion and respect for individuals with autism, their families, and their caregivers. The world in which they live is one that the majority will not only never understand, but one few make an effort to comprehend on a deeper level.
Though many of my own eccentricities and experiences pale in comparison to these individuals, I believe I am drawn to them because I do – on a minor scale – commiserate. There are certain tendencies or challenges that I deal with such as:
- Intense preference for / sensitivity to certain sounds (therefore, at times, need for full silence…or music…or earplugs)
- Difficulty focusing or concentrating unless under certain conditions
- Sensitivity to light
- When I was younger, anxiety surrounding social interaction (I couldn’t even ask for food at a snack bar!)
- Need for a heavy blanket or pressure when I sleep, or the sense of being in an alcove in order to be comfortable
- When I was younger, I also had trouble making friends – I’m still very much a lone wolf and need massive amounts of space and time to myself
- A tendency to take words very literally, and not forget them
- Too quiet and too chatty!
And…though I’m not ultra rigid to the point of breakdown, I have a strong preference for routine. When it comes to food, for example, I stick with the same (fortunately healthy) things. ALL the time. In part, its preference. In part, my body prefers it that way, not unlike some individuals with autism.
I used to feel badly about my “quirks” – embarrassed even! But I’ve realized that not only am I not alone in these traits, (and also not less of a person because of them!) but that they afford me the ability to help others who suffer greatly as a result of extreme variations of them. Certain sounds push me to the edge but then I think about the fact that understanding what that feels like gives me an edge in understanding the more extreme experience someone else is having. . .and that means more compassion. Compassion is something this community deserves in spades.
My “quirks” have also taught me the humor of it all. In life we all face challenges, both big and small. If we can find the humor in our situation, we can help others find the humor as well, not to mention keep ourselves on a healthy wavelength most of the time.
The community I have the great fortune to work with teaches me about not taking everything so seriously all the time…about finding the beauty in each of us in spite of some differences (and we ALL have “stuff!”)…and that a positive approach will help us see the gifts we’ve been given…even those born of adversity.
It’s alarmingly easy to beat oneself up – never mind our own inner dialogue, society is ever-imposing “shoulds” on us. For example, it’s difficult not to associate one’s worth with one’s work when the first question anyone ever asks when meeting for the first time is, “what do you do [for a living]?”
I recently was discussing this with someone – the idea that when we have a certain job or title or paycheck, we feel better about ourselves. When we are looking for work, out of a job entirely, or even trying something new later in life, there’s a sense of “unsuccessful.” Why is that?
There’s a huge pressure to live up to this unspoken-but-understood standard when, in truth, it’s nothing more than a society-made, human construct. Certainly that depends on where you live, but as tech has gotten bigger, and more is thrust onto our psyche…it’s tough to ignore the global definition(s) of success. It looks a lot like ostentation and pop stars from where I’m sitting. But in my heart, I don’t actually believe that’s the way it is…or should be.
I struggle with this one myself – big time. I beat myself up for choices (past tense) that I need to completely let go of – the past had its place, and…it’s done with. I sit there in a funk questioning my contribution to life in general…and then I get the glimmer of “I’m doing pretty damn well!”
I remind myself of all the good that I do, including giving back to others for no other reason than I care. I am not able to say I have some remarkable title, I’m not paid to do the work, I’m not a celebrity…(all things I know I currently am NOT)…but what about the true value? Those facts don’t have a right to determine my self-worth, my success (in my own eyes or those of others), or my validity as a wonderful human being. And such facts have no right to determine yours either.
We are all on a different path, and we have no way of knowing how the journey will end. But while we are trodding along, we need to remember all the GOOD that we do, and all of the ways in which we DO contribute – to ourselves, our lovers, our society and community. We need to remember that a definition of a word to one person may differ from our own – sometimes wildly. That’s okay.
If it takes a mantra, self affirmations, meditation…whatever…that’s all well and good. Just make sure the reminders are FREQUENT. It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle and pace of “today” but we are with ourselves 100% of time. As such, we deserve to feel good about who we are, and what we do…and we need to let go of all those things we aren’t (because…that isn’t part of the equation for a reason.)
We don’t need to impose any other false limitations on our lives… We deserve to live and love life fully – whatever that means to us. Success is not black and white, and it isn’t up to someone else.
We are so much more than we often give ourselves credit for and we must remember…leading by example means we set the tone as much for ourselves as for others.
Be more gentle with yourself today. Write down, or speak aloud, all the “AMAZING” that you represent. The energy we put out, and the things we tell ourself in the silence are the very foundations of our own success.
Yesterday at Barnes and Noble I saw a man wheel (in her wheelchair) a young girl – perhaps 15 – into the checkout line in front of me. I watched him kiss her head, which had been shaven maybe just weeks before. He kissed the enormous s-shaped scars that covered it, and she smiled and spoke sweetly to him.
I caught the gentleman’s eye – her father, I believe – and with a smile I could not contain I said, “she is SO beautiful! Her skin is like a doll’s!” He wheeled her around to see me and I told her the same. She then said, “thank you! You have such beautiful eyes!” in the sweetest voice you could imagine, and one I’ll not forget.
My heart felt so much joy, so much admiration, so much love. . . I couldn’t help but tell her, and was so honored for her kindness in return. Even if only some of us could see them, she wore about her head a glowing halo, and about the rest, a set of wings. After all she must have been through in her short time, she wanted nothing more than to share light with everyone else around her…
I bid them farewell as they finished buying her Anime book, and the man wheeled her out of the store – I knew I’d remember that moment forever.
It doesn’t take much to see the beauty around us, or to cherish the moments we meet precious souls. To touch another life is such a gift – I believe in sharing the positive thoughts we feel inside because you never know how much it may mean to someone else. Perhaps a father who has seen his child suffer as no one should?
There ARE angels among us – maybe right in front of your eyes. Don’t be afraid to encourage them too. Every heart deserves love and light, and to see the beauty in life. If you’re one of the ones who sees through that lens…share it. The world can always use more. ❤️
Today is my mother’s birthday, so I thought I’d honor her by sharing her absolutely phenomenal talent. What’s even more wonderful than these beautiful arrangements is the reason behind them. . .
For as long as I can remember, my mother has participated in some kind of volunteer or charitable work. She’s done countless classes for children, in particular, over the years, and loves nothing than giving, sharing, and seeing others surprise themselves with talents of their own.
She recently spearheaded an event, Flowers, Fashion, and Footwear, that raised money for a local social service agency that she has worked with for many years, Community Centers Of Greenwich. CCI services children, adults with special needs, and seniors, and provides educational and financial assistance for lower-income families.
I am convinced that my love and passion for volunteering with these communities was passed down by her and my father’s dedication to helping where they can. I am honored to be their child and thankful for the early exposure to these wonderful aspects of community service.
For the CCI event, flower arrangers were called upon to pick a pair of Louboutin shoes – owned by Kent Russell, perennial specialist – and design an arrangement to match.
I looked at the photos in the Fairfield County Look article (event link above) and without knowing hers, I gravitated to them as my “favorites.”
I grew up with the great fortune of having flowers and nature in our home all year round (yes, even in the throes of wintertime!) And it wasn’t just the beautiful blooms or branches, which I, for one, adore… The unreal sculptures and art she always manages to create look more like they belong in THE fanciest spas, homes, hotels…whatever!…in the world. They’re always breathtaking.
The shoes, of course, were art of their own. Having been in the footwear and fashion industry for many moons, I watched the birth to death of many a pair…and I know exactly what goes into them. I’d personally steer clear of stepping out in these if I were him, however, simply in fear of dirtying their impeccable polish!
In any case, I’ll maintain my mother has a supernal gift because there’s no explaining the talent – it’s an inherent spark I wish I had. But I’m so very proud of her, and I’m inspired by the things she does to raise money to help wonderful causes…all the time. I can only hope to make as much difference in my life, and am blessed to have the example. (Keeping in mind I won’t ever quite get the hang of flower arranging!)
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. . .
Which is it?
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! 😉 )
I saw this posted today, and I smiled for two reasons…
For one thing, I’ve always been a HUGE Grinch fan – anything of the monster-ish ilk was up my alley even early on. I insisted we watch this each Christmas, and never seemed to tire even of the “fahoo forays, yahoo dorays.”
As for second part, the Suess-ie blurb speaks to something that I really believe in – a reminder I want to shout from the Grinch-inhabited hilltops whenever December rolls around. Or maybe just in overcrowded, emotionally-charged retail parking lots. . .
I’m a “giver” so I get the idea of wanting to share with others – it’s a wonderful feeling to give something that we know a person wants or. . .better!…truly needs.
At the same time, though…it is not NOT NoT about the gifts. Everyone gets CRAZY around Christmastime. WHY?! People have this immense pressure to buy, buy more, buy again…to wrap and deliver. But that’s not what it’s is about… I feel like I’m always left so baffled.
There are of course layers of religious meanings and importance surrounding mid-December (through to early January) depending on the culture and beliefs. But I’m not even talking about THAT (far too great a topic, far too weighty!)
I just mean that this time of year isn’t about throwing material things around, so much as true, sincere giving. I’m not saying I didn’t get gifts as a kid…or that I still don’t. For children, especially, it’s exciting. There are generally rituals built around Christmas morning, and I love seeing happy faces. But there really DOES have to be a point at which it goes overboard.
My favorite gift – the one I looked forward to every year – was my red snow shovel. My parents didn’t know that for a long time, but it was the ONE THING I absolutely LOVED getting. I would use it to help my father shovel the driveway…and to me, it therefore well transcended the “material.” It was such a fun event, despite the work involved – the “shovel” represented time we’d spend together, outside, enjoying the snow and fresh air.
As we got older there were years where my parents would have us all choose a charity and give to each one instead of getting each other things we wouldn’t use. (I think the whole “wouldn’t use” part tends to happens far too often as we pass into teen and adulthood. And frankly, I don’t think there’s anything I CAN get my family and loved ones that they really want – we all kind of get what we want and need anyway!)
I don’t think gifts are a “bad” thing, don’t get me wrong. It means a lot to some people to give, and in that way denouncing the whole thing would be denying them something that makes them feel great. What I think is important, though, is that people don’t feel obligated and pressured to buy things. Certainly not “BIG” things.
The “holiday spirit” is more about the thoughtfulness above and beyond anything else. And I’ve gotten to a point where time and connection with loved ones, HAPPY loved ones, and health for all of us, is – * yes, really * – all I want. Those things are far more precious to me. The little things, like a random “I love you,” lights up my world with a brilliance no material item could. Life is precious.
So even if gifts are part of the holiday “thing”…just remember that you don’t have to stress out about getting the latest and greatest. There are ways to give, to share, to receive, without having to go crazy (no one needs an extra car accident, or angry retail exchange!)
Enjoy the essence of the holidays while they are here – the gathering of those we love, and the blessings we already have. Generally speaking, those in your circle will be happy no matter what. . .and if you want to reach out to those in need (people, animals alike!), there’s plenty room there too. ❤