How a man on the Spectrum learns to live

Posts tagged ‘Lessons’

Let’s Keep Moving!

"I've Got to Keep on Moving!"-Matthew Wilder

“I’ve Got to Keep on Moving!”-Matthew Wilder

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned how being active has alleviated the worst parts of my Asperger’s Syndrome and helped me eliminate the need for prescription anti-anxiety and anti-depression drugs. I’m very happy to say that I’m not only maintaining this lifestyle, but I’ve found new ways to keep myself healthy and vital. It’s a gradual process because I still need to take small steps to change my established routines, but I have a variety of activities that don’t feel like chores at all.

I believe it all starts with perspective. Some people still don’t realize how Aspies can be very sensitive to disruptions in routine. Generally, the lower functioning the person, the more likely they will act out in nonverbal, hard-to-understand ways. Even though I have High-Functioning Autism, I’ve still had my moments of vocal protest.

Can you imagine being so sensitive to disruptions in your surroundings that you become gripped by paralyzing fear and heart-pounding stress? Think of a high-stress, no-relief day with no end in sight and no way to communicate how you feel! This is what can happen to someone living with Autism on a daily basis!

Fortunately, with years of counseling, specialized therapy, and a strong support system, I developed coping skills like using different activities that not only boost my physical health, but also improve my mental health and well-being. I feel like physical fitness starts with improving the body and evolves into strengthening the mind and soul. Everyone including those on the Spectrum can benefit from variety, it just takes time to find out what works best.

Some activities I learned to enjoy with time, and others I took an instant liking to. I’ve written about the different exercise tapes and DVDs that got me started on my fitness journey. Since then, I’ve also utilized my membership at a local gym. One of my favorite activities is playing the Dance Dance Revolution arcade game and the different dancing games for Xbox 360 and Kinect. They give me a fun workout and an adrenaline rush that lifts my spirits to new heights! I’ve talked about this extensively in a previous post entitled “You Should Be Dancing

In the past two years I’ve developed an interest in hiking, which used to be out of character for me, I didn’t really consider myself an outdoor person. There is such a centering, affirming quality to hiking. Looking for different trails and walking a path in the midst of nature is a great way to clear my mind. When I focus on where I plant my feet, I’m reminded of the spiritual strength that comes from walking meditation. I regain a clear perspective on life, and that’s worth feeling tired at the end.

At the gym, I take advantage of the special classes that are offered. I’ve found the most energy, excitement, and sweat equity in cycling and kickboxing. Doing the early classes helps my day to start off in a positive way, and that’s something, considering that I never used to be a morning person!

I participate in several runs for charity each year: perfect opportunities to test my fitness level in the real world. I’ve also discovered farmer’s markets, museums, parks, and outdoor festivals are great not only for walking, but for socializing as well. It may not seem like much, but I enjoy living in the moment.

I’ve come a long way from the boy who was afraid of P.E. and ate junk food to hide his insecurities. I’m more alive and youthful than I was in high school! Now, what kind of activities keep you in motion? How long have you enjoyed them, and do they lift your spirits? Everyone’s at a different place in their journeys, and I’m just glad to be in the place I am today with the ability to keep moving!

Today’s musical inspiration is a fun little ditty from the 1980s by Matthew Wilder: “Break My Stride

The Rest is Still Unwritten

What will your story be?

What will your story be?

Let me ask you this: do you believe that each of us has the ability to write our own stories?  Does everyone deserve a chance to tell that story?  Well, based on my observations, some people have forgotten about this ability, or have never seen it in themselves.  Because I have Asperger’s Syndrome, I was so unsure about who I was or what my purpose was that I used to believe that what other people said about me was my entire story.  It took quite a while for me to learn that I was wrong.  The only person in control of my story is me; to believe that other people have it is to give my power away.

There’s a song that helped me remember this fact. It’s called “Unwritten”, sung by Natasha Bedingfield. I used to like it simply for its uplifting lyrics and melody, but the more I listened to it, the more I could hear a special message about the power of words. The chorus really drives home the meaning for me. “Feel the rain on your skin, no one else can feel it for you, only you can let it in. No one else, no one else can speak the words on your lips. Drench yourself in words unspoken, live your life with arms wide open! Today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten“.

I never realized how much these words meant to me before. Let me put is this way: I have my own sensory interpretations of the outside world, and they’ve been affected in different ways by my Autism. It took me a long time to accept how sensitive I really am, but because of these abilities, I’ve learned to be more aware of the world around me and I’ve gained more control of my reactions to it. By gaining more awareness and control, I could develop the vocabulary I needed to create the story that only I knew how to write.

I’m learning to embrace the experiences that are positive, negative, and everything in between; whatever words that can be used to describe them will always come at lightning speed. I alone have the power to select the best words to go on the pages of my life story. Every day is a new chance to write a portion of that story; whatever will happen tomorrow, is unwritten. Until then, all I have is this one present moment.

I feel like we all have the power to determine what sort of destiny we’re aiming for in our stories. I am blessed to feel this way because I discovered that Autism is not a destiny, it’s a way of life that has been waiting to be written by someone with both talent and responsibility. I am quite grateful to have developed my talents in regular school, college, and in life, itself; this means that I have a responsibility to use them in a way that brings light to the Autism Community.

So, what kind of story do you want your life to be? Are you just learning to write it down, or is it second nature to you? You know, it doesn’t matter if you’re penmanship is the best (and believe me, as an Aspie, my penmanship leaves a lot to be desired); as long as you’ve got something to write about, you’ll find a way to make it real. All you can write about is now, the future is still unwritten.

Today’s musical inspiration is, of course, Natasha Bedingfield with “Unwritten”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7k0a5hYnSI

Very Well Met: What I Learned From Gail Carriger

Gail CarrigerMy Costume

When you click on an intellectual level with someone you admire and respect, its priceless. That’s what happened when I met author Gail Carriger who was the Guest of Honor at a Sci-Fi and Fantasy convention in San Diego. Gail Carriger is the author of several novels, including the five-volume Parasol Protectorate series and the Young Adult fiction series entitled the Finishing School.

I enjoy the smaller conventions because of the panels about different writing styles and subjects, socializing and networking, and feeling like I’m in college again. Learning something new every day gives me a feeling of pride and self-respect that I feel is very important for Aspies. Most of us need that encouragement every day to feel like we’re being seen and heard. Then again, doesn’t everyone need that feeling, deep inside?

I read the entire Parasol Protectorate series long before the convention, and was blessed to have them all autographed by Miss Carriger, herself. As if this wasn’t enough, she granted my request for a short interview. What was most enlightening was the last two minutes of the conversation when I asked her about the possibility of some of her fictional characters showing traits of people on the Autism Spectrum.

Me: “As far as the angle goes of people that have lived their lives on the Autism Spectrum…this is the real kicker for me. How much of that seeped into your creation of the characters and in retrospect, how many or how few of them display traits of someone on the Autism Spectrum?”

Gail Carriger: “Well…we had a little bit of a discussion about this earlier, but for me, you’re not the first person to have pointed that out. It wasn’t intentional in my books, but I do model a lot of my characters off of my friends and the people around me, and I did grow up in fandom and I grew up around people who were Autistic or had some of the qualities of being on the Spectrum, whether they ever got diagnosed or not. So I’m not surprised that it leaks into my books, but it wasn’t ever my intention. That said, I’m kind of excited by the fact that people are spotting it in my characters. I think it’s…I think it’s kind of a privilege!”

After thanking Miss Carriger for her time and insight, I came away from the interview feeling more enlightened and inspired. It’s one thing to be a literature major and to earn validation from a well-established author. It’s another thing to learn about their experience and awareness of the Autism Spectrum! Just to hear about her viewpoints and the fact that I’m not the only person to bring up Autism, it shows just how much awareness is out in the world today. I never imagined that one of my core issues would be touched upon by a woman of such talent; it means so much to me!

I feel so special and so blessed to have been given such unexpected hope and enthusiasm that was worth every moment of the entire convention weekend! Who in your life has given you an unexpected boost in self-esteem? What extra lessons have you learned that made you feel alive and inspired? I hope you have other stories of inspired learning to put a smile on your face and a spring in your step; each one has the potential to be a lesson plan for life!

Learn more about Gail Carriger here at her website: http://www.gailcarriger.com/

Today’s musical inspiration is an American standard done by Michael Buble. It’s called “Feeling Good” and I feel so damn good about life!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Edwsf-8F3sI

If Life Were Like College…

This is what fuels creativity.

This is what fuels creativity.

If life were like college…sounds like wishful thinking, doesn’t it? Well, for me it’s a vision born from a deep internal need I have for structure and purpose. I realized long ago that the part of me with Asperger’s Syndrome was craving a schedule to live by. Not just busy work or a job that was just that: a job. What I craved most was purpose. Why? Because I lived for years with no clear answers as to what purpose I had in this world. Even when I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, the doors to new possiblities were opened, but I still had many questions that needed answering.

Everything I learned from secondhand sources left me feeling informed but, dissatisfied. I had a great time in college, but I’m in the real world now. I wondered how I could take the best elements of college and apply them to my post-graduation life. Well, I believe there’s a way for me to have the best of both worlds.

Real life can be like college. Everything can be a learning experience and there’s always a chance for lessons to be learned. Of course, if your priorities are out of balance or you’re not really enjoying life, then your experiences probably won’t be very pleasant. I’ve found that it takes a certain amount of childlike wonder combined with a grain of salt, a willingness to learn, and good old-fashioned hope to really make the most of this life.

I’ve felt this way ever since I learned about the difficult odds facing people with Autism. According to http://www.autismnow.org, only 32.5% of young adults with autism spectrum disorders currently work for pay. Gainful employment and purpose are hard to come by for Aspies, so it’s no surprise that I didn’t have a clear vision of what I wanted to be after graduation. I took a leap of faith when I started this blog, and it turns out that my faith was justified.

My primary purpose turned out to be that of an educator with a unique background, qualified to show the world one person’s experience of living on the Autism Spectrum, a Lesson Plan for Life. Not universal by any means, but offering a unique insight into how someone born on the Spectrum can rise above preconceived notions and live a full and engaged life. Just like college classes, it hasn’t been easy, and some days are better than others. However, just like all of my student experiences, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Instead of meeting at the campus quad, I can meet at my favorite coffee house, or even in someone’s living room! A classroom can be found anywhere there’s a meeting of the minds. Conventions and seminars are a perfect opportunity to meet other potential like-minded students of life. Brainstorming solutions for problems in the world can be a great life project that can be rewarding if drive and passion are present. There are different possibilities to what can be accomplished; each one is different, based on the different dreams, goals, and visions of people.

My vision of a world where people on the Autism Spectrum are welcomed with respect and tolerance is becoming a reality, thanks to discoveries and lessons I’ve learned. I feel like I’m showing the world an example of what Aspies can contribute to this world. Now, I wonder…do you believe that there are exciting new ways to learn about the world that will make you feel like you’re back in college? Are you curious as to how you can teach the world something from your heart that makes you feel alive with passion and purpose? If you had the chance to share something you learned, what would be your Lesson Plan for Life?

Today’s musical inspiration is one of my favorite Rock and Roll anthems: an electrifying standard by Queen: “Don’t Stop Me Now”- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgzGwKwLmgM

In My Life

Every day is a gift & so are the people in my life.  -Anthony

Every day is a gift & so are the people in my life. -Anthony

People in my life have influenced me since I was born, and the impact has been good, bad, and everything in between. Truthfully, it’s often difficult for people on the Autism Spectrum to appreciate or even understand the influence others have on them; even some neuro-typical people may not realize it. What I do understand is that my outlook on life has been enriched in lots of ways. I could write many posts about all the people in my life, but it’s better for me to articulate what I know for sure through the stages of my Autism Spectrum journey.

From the time I was little to when I started community college, I experienced the highs and lows of learning to be in social situations. Where most neuro-typicals easily learn how to socialize, my social awkwardness kept me from having real friends until I was in high school. Then I was formally diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at fifteen and began to understand just how different and special I was. I owe a debt of gratitude to those people who stood in my corner and helped me to discover an important part of myself. By knowing myself better, I felt like I could devote more attention to learning how to be a true friend.

When I was in community college and I transferred to a university, my world views were honed and developed, but that’s when my classmates became something more. Years before, I didn’t know how to talk to or deal with other kids in my class; the college dynamic changed all of that. Because I had a better sense of self and maybe because I wasn’t competing for attention from the teachers, classmates became the people I practiced learning about the workplace with. Working on different projects and bouncing ideas off of each other during class helped me discover that with the right partners and the proper motivation, I could be an asset to a team.

My closest friends and family are the ones who I can open up to and trust with my life. I’ve experienced disappointment, of course. That was because I used to hold some people in such high regard that I felt let down when I learned about their frailties and mistakes. Still, I learned that there are some people I can love from a distance in order to stay away from their negativity, as well as preserve my own sanity. Sadly, there are a few people in my life who are no longer living. Even though I may have lost touch with people, or lost their presence in this world, once in a while I still remember how they made my life a little sunnier with just their presence. They may not be with me physically, but in my heart I can still feel them.

I’ve realized that every person you meet comes into your life for a reason. No matter how large or small their impact, you are changed forever. It wasn’t easy, but I learned to appreciate every person who comes into my life, because I wouldn’t be who I am today without them. The gratitude I have cannot be put into words, but to know that it’s in my heart is worth the joy, pain, relief, and grace that I’ve found with this important life lesson. Now I ask you: who’s made an impact in your life? Have you learned to be grateful, even for the negative experiences? Where are you with your own relationships? I hope that you take time to ponder that. You might experience what happened to me and discover something amazing you never would have thought possible.

Today’s musical inspiration is a wonderfully appropriate song by the Beatles: “In My Life”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zicw_dVwhfM

Happy New Year, 2014!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2014, everyone! For my first post of this year, I want to wish all of my readers and supporters the very best in this new beginning. Instead of resolutions, I have ideas on how I’m going to make life great. I will be maintaining my current exercise & diet regimen, growing my relationship with my girlfriend, staying in touch with family & close friends, and helping to expand our family business. I’m grateful for your continued support; I wish you all peace, blessings, and a very Happy New Year.

The Gift of Time

Every day is a gift.

Every day is a gift.

With many holidays approaching, I’m just like a lot of people wondering about what gifts they’re going to purchase for whom. Truthfully, I have a pretty short list of people I’m closest to, but I love feeling like it’s the quality of the relationships rather than quantity. Like many people, I’ve puzzled over what to purchase as gifts. However, thanks to my growing self-awareness and my advances in intuition and empathy, I’ve learned how to give something valuable to the people on my list. What I’ve learned to give them…is time. What do I mean? Well, I mean quality time and an opportunity to connect.

There’s no denying that today, we live in an age of distraction. Electronic devices, jobs, family, and friends all compete for our attention and drive so many of us to nervous insanity; this is nothing new to me. I believe that when I was very young, my heightened sensory perception, a common side-effect of Autism, led me to being more prone to distraction and subsequent frustration afterwards.

I could see the writing on the wall, and I knew something had to be done. I knew I was different before I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at fifteen, and I wanted to explain myself, but I couldn’t. After my diagnosis, I chose not to believe that I was a “typical” case in any way. I was determined to overcome the challenges and find a way to use my gifts to embrace who I am at heart.

It hasn’t been easy or fast in coming. I had to learn a lot about patience and understanding before I gained the confidence to be present and happy with myself. Personally, I think multitasking is overrated and I couldn’t do it to save my life! By trusting the process, I learned that I was ahead of the curve when I gained a new coping skill for daily life and was better prepared when new technology and jobs made the world both more connected and more distracted. I trust such things as blogs and social media, but my life is not defined by them. For me, human connection is too precious to take for granted; I welcome all opportunities to test my ever-evolving social skills.

An added bonus I gained was an ability to be observant of people’s needs and desires and to take action with them when possible. This enabled me to buy gifts that were sincere and from my heart. I enjoy giving people a chance to reconnect and just be present with one another. Whatever the situation and relationship is, in my heart, I find a way to make it work. What matters most is that I made a difference in people’s lives and my greatest satisfaction is their gratitude and appreciation.

I’ve come a long way since my diagnosis. It’s not common for people on the Autism Spectrum to relate to “neuro-typicals” on a deep level. I have been blessed to be able to find a way to be socially competent while staying true to myself at the same time. To give something to a friend or family member that is from the heart is like being the vessel for a small blessing from God to reach the hands of someone in need. I’m blessed and grateful to give such precious gifts to those I love. For me, this is what the holiday spirit is all about.