Marveling

“Our ability to marvel is fragile.” -Gérald Caussé

I don’t know if this has anything to do with autism or if it is simply a personality trait, but I tend to not get bored of things. Life to me is a miracle. I marvel at the way things work, at the form and structure of the world. I wonder at the tiny details found in nature. Every day, every moment, every breath is a new experience for me.

I sometimes sorrow at the complacency of others. I wonder how they could lose sight of the importance or beauty of something. If you enjoy the smell of a rose once, does that mean a rose will never smell as good as that first rose? I think sometimes we just forget how to love. When we are around something for long enough, we forget how we used to feel about it.

I don’t always like the fact that I have autism. It is difficult. It makes certain things harder. But because of that, there are things I can never take for granted. Having a friend for example is such a wonderful blessing. I don’t want to ever forget or neglect a friend because I know what it’s like to have no friends. You learn to appreciate the things you do not have often.

I hope though that we can learn to appreciate the things we have every day. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it is a time when people remember to marvel at what they have in their lives. It is a time to give thanks for beauty and goodness and love. Yes, our ability to marvel is fragile. So I hope that we treasure it, that we strengthen it, that we see the goodness and beauty in the little things. And marvel at everything because this life truly is amazing.

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Dear Best Friend

This letter is partly for my family because they have always been my best friends, but also for my non-relative friends who have been there for me in big and small ways over the years.

Dear best friend,
I want you to know how much I love you. I want you to know how much I appreciate you. I want you to know how much you mean to me.

Dear best friend,
I want you to know that it’s not your fault when I’m not okay. I want you to know that I don’t expect you to cure me. I want you to know that you do help more than you know.

Dear best friend,
I want you to know that you have saved my life more times than I can count. I want you to know that the dark loses its fight against me every day because of you. I want you to know that you make me a stronger and better person.

Dear best friend,
I want you to know that I would do anything for you. I want you to know that I recognize the things you have done for me. I want you to know that my life is brighter because you are in it.

Dear best friend,
I wish I could tell you how I really feel about you. I wish I could communicate how much I love you. I wish I could tell you how much you help me.

Dear best friend,

I wish I could be okay for you. I wish all my problems could just go away because I’m friends with you. I wish I could be the person you want me to be.

Dear best friend,

Thank you for loving me anyway. Thank you for being there for me over and over.

Dear best friend,
Thank you for being my friend.

The Power of Friends in Depression

I have this friend that basically knows I’m not okay. So she messages me pretty much every day to see how I’m doing and if I have eaten that day and just checks in with me.

I know I shouldn’t need that. I’m an adult. I should be able to handle myself and not have someone check to see if I’m meeting my needs. But… It is so helpful…

Teetering on the verge of depression, struggling with health issues, and fighting off anxiety is a lot to handle on my own. And even though I tell myself I can do it, I often don’t want to. I don’t feel like it’s worth the effort. I don’t feel like I’m worth the effort. But… Knowing that this friend will check in with me, knowing she may ask if I have eaten, I do eat, I do try, I do keep going.

Sometimes people feel like they have to do these great things for us. When you tell someone you think about suicide, they feel like they have to save you in some big way. But the truth is, it’s the little things that save us. It’s the everyday, mundane things like asking if we ate that day that ultimately saves our lives over and over.

So… Thank you. Thank you to this dear friend that saves me a million tears, a thousand lonely nights, and simply saves my life a hundred times over. And thank you to all my friends and all of you whose continual love and care keep me going when everything tells me to stop.

Lessons of Pain

Pain teaches you things. Sometimes, the more intense the pain is, the more it teaches you. Today I have been in excruciating pain, and I have been thinking about the lessons pain has taught me.

  1. My body is amazing. Sometimes we tell ourselves how much we hate our bodies because they are not what we want them to be. When it becomes hard to move because of pain, you realize just how amazing your body really is.
  2. My body needs just as much love as I do. I learned this by  unintentionally starving my body. Eating causes me pain and time is a short commodity, so I simply did not eat meals for two weeks. By the time I realized what was happening, my body needed a whole lot of love to get back to normal.
  3. Everyone suffers. Most of the time, no one knows I am in pain. I resist the urge to slide to the floor and curl up in fetal position when I’m talking to someone. It has made me wonder how many other people resist similar urges and what unseen pain they may be suffering.
  4. You may never fully understand the power of a hug. When I am in intense pain, physical touch can sometimes be unwelcome. But a hug is almost always something I want. A hug releases some of the tension, alleviates some of the pain, and above all, let’s me know I’m not alone.
  5. Compassion and empathy. Everyone experiences pain differently, but because I know what pain feels like for me, I can sympathize when you describe what pain feels like for you.
  6. Gratitude. When I have a good day, when I feel well enough to do something extra, when pain doesn’t describe my state of being, I am so grateful. It makes me grateful for the little things like being able to stand and able to eat and sleep, etc.
  7. Pain is temporary. Even though I am almost always in some kind of pain, I have realized that the intense pain is temporary. It may feel unbearable in the moment, but eventually it will become bearable again.
  8. Sleep is my friend. Sometimes I delay sleeping because of depression. Sleeping seems like a darkness that I do not want to enter, but sleeping almost always helps me feel better.
  9. People care. Pain didn’t really teach me that people care, people taught me that they care. But pain made me realize and notice people caring.
  10. Service. Pain makes you realize the frailty of life. It helps you realize what is most important. To me, what is most important is other people. If I can make someone’s life better, if I can make them a little happier, if I can help someone, I want to do it. My pain does not disqualify me from trying to help someone else.

Julia’s Rules for a Happy Life:

These rules are individual to me. They have been developed and revised over a lifetime of experiences. Although they can be applied to anyone, I believe that we each discover our own path to happiness. Make your own rules to happiness, but feel free to use my rules as a starting point or to get ideas.

1. Don’t put off a good thought.

This is a combination of a few of my favorite quotes and philosophies. “Never suppress a generous thought.” “Never postpone a prompting.” And “write down the thoughts God gives you right away.”

2. Don’t watch, read, listen to, or do anything that you wouldn’t be comfortable thinking about in the temple.

Sometimes this one can be hard because a lot of good movies, etc have bad parts to them. But I try my best to stick to wholesome recreation.

3. Separate yourself from your anger.

When someone does something that upsets me, I try to stop and think about it before I react. I try to see things from their point of view before  letting my anger out.

4. Don’t wait until you have the time or energy or peace of mind to help someone.

Be kind when you are broken; be patient when you are in pain; reach out to others when you are lonely; listen to others when you are hopeless. You find yourself by losing yourself. We will never have the perfect circumstances to help everyone. So we must choose to help when it’s not convenient.

5. Always take the time to be grateful.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. I have a lot to be grateful for. I just have to consciously think of those things every day.

6. Surround yourself with positive influences. From music to movies to people, do not allow negativity to occupy your time.

This includes news and current events. While it is important to be informed, I can get dragged into depressing thoughts if I get too many details about negative current events. If I want to stay positive, I have to consciously decide to avoid any unnecessary negativity.

7. Remember you are the same person when you make a mistake as when you do good. You do not lose worth or value when you mess up.

I’m still working on this one. I’m still trying to remember and remind myself of my worth. But as hard as it is, I keep reminding myself. I am that same person. I am not worthless. There are people who love me, which means I am lovable, which means I must have something inside me worth loving, and if they can see it, I can believe it.

8. See the goodness in people. Even when they hurt you, try to see them as God sees them.

We are all looking for the light. Some of us just lose our way before we find it. Try to help them find that light rather than stepping into their darkness.

9. Don’t be afraid to be sad sometimes.

Pain, heartache, fear, sorrow, and disappointment are all part of life. It’s okay to acknowledge them and live in them every once in a while. The sadness will not last forever. It’s just part of the journey.

10. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Worry about what you’re doing.

I especially apply this when I’m driving. It’s easy to see other people passing me or cutting me off, but if I focus on me, I’m less likely to take it personally or get upset by it. Everyone is fighting their own battles. I cannot control their actions, but I can focus on what I am doing and how I am behaving.

Friends and Jealousy

I used to get jealous when I saw people with their friends. I just couldn’t help thinking how I wished I could have that. I didn’t understand how it could seem so natural to spend time with people outside of school or church or activities.

I never really thought about how people made friends. I just longed for that feeling of having a friend. I was jealous that people had someone to talk to and sit with at lunchtime. I was jealous that people could go to the mall or the movies or the beach with someone other than their family.

I love my family and they have always been my best friends, but I was jealous of people who could call someone when they had family problems. I was jealous of people who could be okay when their family wasn’t around. I longed for the feeling of knowing I was loved, not because I had to be, not because of a family bond, but simply because I was myself. I longed to feel like my presence was worth the time people spent with me.

It was mostly my fault that I didn’t have friends. I realize now that I didn’t exactly make myself easily approachable. I didn’t know how. I didn’t understand how friendship works. I only knew I wanted friends, but could never figure out how to make them.

Now, I look at people with their friends and I’m just happy for them. I think about how great it is for them to have that kind of relationship. It makes me happy to see other people happy with their friends.

It took a lot of little things on my part to make friends. It took going out of my comfort zone and doing things that made me shake with anxiety. It took talking to people and texting them when I wasn’t ready for it. It took being real and vulnerable and opening my heart, hoping that it wouldn’t get broken. It took making mistakes along the way and wondering if I lost friends because I wasn’t good enough. It took lots of tears and worrying that I was unworthy of friendship. It took accepting that I might never have the friendships I longed for, but that I could have courage and be kind anyway.

I don’t know why I have friends now. I still don’t feel like I deserve it. I still wonder if I’m doing this whole friendship thing “right”. I still worry about asking too much of my friends or not reaching out to them enough. I know friendship is two-way, but I’m still not sure how much to give or when to ask things. It’s difficult to navigate this new world.

I am so grateful though. People may look at my friendships and think they are relatively small, but to me, they are more than I ever dreamed of. Having someone who wants to see me and talk to me when I walk in a room is amazing. Having someone notice when I am away is incredible. Having someone take time to say hi and talk to me is more than I dreamed of.

I feel bad for not seeing it before. I feel bad that I could have had this earlier, but never knew what was missing. I feel bad that I never felt like the amazing people in my life were my friends because I never allowed myself to be theirs. I feel bad for all the friends I had in the past that I was never a friend to.

I am grateful that I can be a friend now though. I am grateful that I have friends now, that I realize I have friends now. I am grateful to no longer be jealous of the friendships other people have. And I am so grateful for the incredible people I can now call my friends.

Going into 2016

2015 was a year of growth and learning. I am a different and better person than I was 365 days ago.

Here’s 16 things I learned last year that will help me live better in 2016:

  1. I may feel lonely, but I am never alone in this world. There are more people rooting for me and praying for me than I ever imagined.
  2. I am a better person than I give myself credit for.
  3. Sometimes it’s good to hate yourself because it gives you a reason to become better.
  4. It’s scary to talk to people, but the friends are so worth it.
  5. You would be surprised at who you can forgive.
  6. It’s easier to eat healthy than you would think.
  7. Trials aren’t as hard when you know you’re loved.
  8. You don’t have to spend lots of time with friends to stay close to them.
  9. It’s okay to have horrible, no good, very bad days sometimes.
  10. When you think you’re being vulnerable and overly candid, it may not be as bad as you think.
  11. Christmas music is really okay to play before Thanksgiving.
  12. Therapy really can make a big difference.
  13. Sometimes you have to go back home to realize you already were home.
  14. I’m not the same person I used to be and things really are changing for me.
  15. Depression isn’t always a choice, but gratitude can be.
  16. It’s okay to be autistic.