What Matters Most

Life seems daunting at times. The endless list of tasks that we should be doing to be a “good” person can be overwhelming to say the least. We hold up a measuring rod to ourselves and find that we are severely lacking. How can we possibly help our family, spend time with friends, care for those in need, do the dishes, wash and fold laundry, make our bed, get an hour of daily exercise, read good books, go to school, go to work, help those in need, go grocery shopping, date, keep in touch with distant friends and relatives, eat, sleep, and of course, take time for self care?

My mom always says that everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. You choose how to spend it. The thing is though, how do you choose to spend it when there are so many good things you “should” be doing? I think one of the worst possible things you can do with your time is become overwhelmed by all the things you should be doing with your time.

I think the secret to life is really as simple as doing what makes you happy. There are a million good things to do with your time, but what is most meaningful to you? How do you want to spend your time?

Honestly, I need a good movie and popcorn every once in a while, but mostly when I have a chance, I like helping others. I like doing dishes and folding laundry and taking out the garbage- not because these things are fun, but because I know how much no one likes to do them. To me, it is a simple act of service, but to someone else, it can be the biggest help and relief for them. You can ask me to go to the movies with you, and I’ll set up a time to go. But ask me to help you with something, and I’ll be heading over before you finish your sentence.

So when I start to find myself stressing over not having enough time to do everything, I remind myself to step back and do what I enjoy the most, because really, that’s the most important thing I can do.

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Distractions

I have the most amazing life. I can lie in bed and look at a galaxy of stars glowing on my ceiling. I wake up to the cutest little kids in the morning, that want to play with me and sit next to me and have me read them stories, and even though I’m not a mom yet, I get to be a mother figure to my nephew and nieces. There is always food in my fridge and I can almost always join my brother and his family for dinner. I have the opportunity to go to school to further my education and learn new skills, and I am at the exciting point where I can qualify for a job in my field of study. I have the privilege once a month of teaching an amazing group of women that actually listen and care about what I have to say. I have the most wonderful friends who would be there for me at two in the morning if I needed them. I am so loved and taken care of and have responsibilities that I cherish, and yet I find myself seeking distractions in my daily life.

I had one thing I needed to do yesterday. One single responsibility and 24 hours to use to fulfill it, but at the end of the night, it still wasn’t done. And I laid in bed and looked at the stars on my ceiling and wondered what I am doing with my life.

A year ago, I was at the end of my rope. I had taken on too many responsibilities that I could no longer handle after certain life circumstances. I woke up early to commute to work. I was taking night classes. I was an essential resource for everyone at my work, and I was depended upon at home and with friends and at church. I had thrived on the social interactions and fast paced flow of life, but I was in so much pain and so exhausted all the time that life was no longer a thrill, but a tremendous burden.

I reached a point where I could no longer handle things and withdrew as much as I could. I stopped taking classes. I quit my job and got a part time job instead. And I didn’t feel the need to go out and socialize much. I slowly started adding things back in. First school. Then family. Then friends. But I abandoned responsibility somewhere along the way, and I refused to pick it back up again.

I am basically back to normal now. I am not in constant pain every day. (Well, at least not pain I can’t handle.) I can do everything required of me fairly easily and without needing to find time in my schedule. In fact, I hardly even have a schedule and can do almost anything whenever I want. Yet, I find myself wanting to be distracted from life. I want to get away for no particular reason other than I just can.

I used to be addicted to video games because they distracted me from life. At a point in my life where I didn’t want to face myself or the world or the demons living in both, games were my lifeline. Now though, I have worked through the trauma from my past. I have faced my demons and resolved them for the most part. Why do I still feel the desire to distract myself?

I think as human beings we have a natural inclination to avoid distress. If there is a choice between facing something that may be beneficial but distressing or doing something that has no benefit but no obviously negative consequences, I think we would naturally choose the latter.

But anyway, to get to the point of all this, I found it both interesting and frustrating that despite my wonderful life, I often choose to be distracted rather than present and responsible. I find myself seeking forgiveness, while still not stopping my actions.

But tonight, as I look up at the stars, I feel fully present. I feel. I am. I am completely here in this moment, feeling the cool of the air around me, letting myself sink into the softness of my surroundings, and with all the good things in my life flowing through me in floods of peace and gratitude. Why do I distract myself? I have no idea… Because this moment is better than any I had all week.

The Cure for Autism

It is amazing to me how much things can change in a year. With everything that has happened this year, I feel like much more time has passed. I look back at who I was 10 years ago and laugh at my selfishness and childish thoughts. I wonder how anyone put up with my whining and shortsighted views. I look back 5 years ago and am amazed at how much I have grown since then. I look back at two years ago and can hardly believe the healing and help and hope that has come into my life since then.

Two years ago, I posted about how I wanted to experience friendship like the love I had for others. I wanted to learn to love better and to love myself. I had grown to be strong and intelligent, resilient to the trials life would bring, but I was haunted by loneliness. Loneliness was a familiar friend, and many nights were spent in the deepest despair of want for human interaction.

I am not lonely anymore. That is the most beautiful statement in the world. I do not feel lonely anymore. I never thought this was possible for me. For so many years, I longed for a single person to see me and want to be more than a situational friend. It wasn’t until college that I felt like I had friends outside of church or school or activities. At that time, I was still getting used to the idea of having friends, and I messed up more times than I care to relate. But a little over two years ago, I started to really feel wanted. I started to have people I could call friends. I started to believe in hope.

I feel so blessed. I have felt love beyond my capacity to comprehend. I feel wanted, needed, important, and safe- most of all, safe. Two years ago, I was terrified of everything I was doing. I was stepping out of my comfort zone and talking to people that I had no idea how to communicate with and doing things for others that scared me almost to death. Every day felt like walking around with my heart in my hands, hoping that it wouldn’t get crushed along the way.

But those sleepless nights and silent tears and debilitating anxiety led to the most wonderful friends a person could imagine. All my loneliness, all my pain and suffering, seem like nothing now compared to the love and protection I feel. I feel overflowing gratitude for my friends and for all that I have learned. I feel healed, whole, loved.

I can text someone when I want to talk. I can say hello to someone I recognize when I see them in a store or on the street. I can ask for help. I can tell people how I feel without feeling awkward or out of place. I can hug people or let someone give me a massage. I can relax. I can be myself.

No one knows how far I have come, but it is impossible for anyone to miss the progress I have made. Everyone who knew me before can see how I have changed. We talk about milestones in autism- being able to talk, looking someone in the eye, communicating a need, but the most important milestones are the ones that make you want to be you.

I learned how to do everything I was supposed to do at an early age. I analyzed people to the point where I knew how to appear normal. No one would guess that I have autism, unless it was one of those rare moments when I made a mistake. But despite my capacity to fit in, I could never find the capability to belong.

My milestones are hope, love, and belonging. If there is a “cure” for autism, this is it- hope, love, and belonging. All I ever wanted was to feel like I have a place in this world. I wanted to feel like I belong, that I am wanted here. I wanted to feel like autism wasn’t a wall that kept out love. You want to find the cure for autism? This is it- love, accept, embrace, help. After that, everything else will just fall into place.

From Your Friend with Autism

I’m scared that I won’t know how to talk to you because I don’t.

I’m scared that you’ll leave because I’ve never kept a friend very long.

I’m scared that I don’t know how to be a friend because I haven’t had many.

I’m scared that I’m too much or too little because I can’t tell the difference.

I’m scared about how I feel because loving so much can lead to more hurt later.

I’m scared because I’ve never done this before.

I’m scared because I’m not good at reading signals.

I’m scared because I’m getting better, which makes it harder to handle if I mess up.

I’m scared because I don’t think you know how scared I am or how much I try.

But most of all, I’m scared because friendship means so much to me and I don’t know if or when I’ll get another chance.

Too Much

I am kind of an intense person. I am passionate about pretty much everything that I do. I think that a lot of people feel that I am “over the top” in my reactions to life. I am overly grateful. I express my appreciation and love more emphatically than anyone I know. I give too much and love too deeply and feel too strongly about things. I probably come across as a “goody two shoes” in church or in certain situations. I’m too open, too honest, too long-winded in my explanations. I often feel like I am just too much for people.

I feel like I have lost friends because of this. I feel like I haven’t been able to become friends with some others because of this. But I don’t know how to be anything else. I try to tell myself to tone things down, to not be so expressive or assertive, but it gushes out of me. Words and actions flow from me like water bursting from a fountain. 

I have stopped trying to suppress my natural inclinations to say something to another person or to do something for someone else. I have stopped trying to force myself to stay in a box I never fit into. And so, I am left with the alternative of simply being too much.

Be a Weed

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I had a thought today as I was looking at the weeds in our grass. Our sprinklers broke a few weeks ago and the grass has mostly died, but the weeds are still coming up green. As I looked at those weeds (and the other weeds growing between the cracks in the sidewalk), I had the thought, “I want to be like that.”

It is interesting to me that weeds are the plants that are the most stable, grow the best, and stay the greenest longest. Weeds have deeper roots than grass and as such, are very hard to kill. Everything about weeds is great, except that they are weeds. If grass came up without much work and stayed green without much watering and would keep coming back no matter how many times it was stepped on, most people would be delighted.

So what makes weeds so bad?

The short answer is that they don’t fit in. The longer answer is that they look out of place with the rest of the lawn, and they are hard to get rid of, even with weed killing spray and digging deep to try to take up the roots.

Anyway, to get to the point…

Being a weed is not always a good thing, but it can be very good to have the qualities of a weed in a lot of life’s situations. I want to be like a weed because of their resilience. I want to be like a weed because of their boldness in standing out from a crowd. I want to be like a weed because of the deep roots that ground them when life gets tough.

Don’t be afraid to be a weed in difficult circumstances. Be a weed in standing up against injustice. Be a weed in standing your ground when others are asking you to compromise your morals or values. Be a weed in fighting depression or anxiety or health issues or other trials. Be a weed in coming back up when life knocks you down. Be a weed in having roots so strong in what you believe in that no matter how far someone digs, they cannot kill that part of you. Be a weed when your circumstances are not ideal, but you are determined to grow up strong anyway.

And perhaps most of all, be a weed in being okay with being a weed. Be okay with being different. Be okay with not going with the crowd. Be okay with standing up for yourself. Not everyone will love you for it, but sometimes being a weed is the best thing you can be.

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“Watchman, what of the night?”

I cannot sleep tonight. It’s the first night since I’ve been better that I haven’t just drifted off in peaceful bliss. One rough night doesn’t mean that you have slipped back into depression, but when depression has been such a constant in your life, one night can bring back so many reminders.

My mind is like a floodgate. Once the gates of self doubt or anxiety or depression or feelings of worthlessness open, the thoughts come bursting forth like giant waterfalls flowing along the well-worn paths they have carved in the landscape of my mind.

Half the time, I don’t even know what I’m thinking because I’m thinking so much that I can’t even process it. My thoughts choke me. They suffocate me. I gasp for the peace and reassurance I felt just a few hours ago. Where did it go so quickly?

There’s this scripture I love in Isaiah that says, “Watchman, what of the night?” It basically means, “how long will the night last? When will the morning come?” Sometimes the night seems to last so long, but morning always comes. Tonight, I am asking, “when will morning come?” But I know that it’s there, just on the other side of the darkness.