How a man on the Spectrum learns to live

Posts tagged ‘Reflection’

Hiking Meditation: A Poem

What will your story be?

What will your story be?

Inspired by my previous post: “Let’s Keep Moving!“, I wrote a poem about how I feel when I hike. I hope I inspire you to find your own unique meditation.

It can be anywhere: the trail you take
If you think about it, the difficulty doesn’t matter
The only constant thing is the anticipation: the feeling of silent preparation you’ve had before
The way your limbs and muscles tense and release when you breathe deeply and your lungs expand,
And then…you feel ready
You see the different sights around you, you have more breathing space
Concentrating on the movement of your legs
Carefully feeling as each step connects to the ground and your feet are gently grounded
The focus is only on the present moment
This is you, in the midst of one piece of Creation
When all is said and done, this is a moment
When you are connected perfectly with Spirit
Nothing can take that away from you
You are always blessed
May every step you take be better than your last
Happy Trails!

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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

Twelve Years Later…Hope Lives On

May we all be grateful for our country.

May we all be grateful for our country.

"Every day is a new chance at living."

“Every day is a new chance at living.”

Hi, everyone. On this, the twelfth anniversary of the terrible event that was September 11th, I am taking the opportunity to post a special message: I am grateful to be alive, in good health, living in America, and having the support and encouragement to pursue my dream of being a voice for people on the Autism Spectrum. No matter what happens along the way and no matter what acts of cruelty and hatred are perpetrated against me or anybody else, I will always have hope that we as a human race can be better than we ever thought possible. May we learn and grow because of adversity, rather than in spite of it. America will always be strong this way, and so will humanity. As a good friend of mine once said, “be of good courage”.

Triple “A”!

A-OK!A-OK!A-OK!

Hi, everyone! It’s been a long time since my last post, but when you don’t have a direction to go in, you don’t have inspiration to write. But I’m here, and I’m not going to be talking about the Automobile Club! No, I’m talking about how I was able refocus and reenergize my creative spirit.

A lot of great things happened to me last month; each one is a post unto itself. However, I can sum it up in three words: Acceptance, Aspiration, and Appreciation. Each word describes actions that I’ve taken on my journey with Autism, but I’ve noticed a significant difference this summer. Every action I’ve taken has brought me small successes that are adding up to larger ones. I’m not sure what they’ll be, but they will be greater than I can imagine.

“Acceptance” is defined as “the act of receiving willingly, answering affirmatively, and regarding as proper or true”. Lately I find myself at peace with life and that gives me the contentment of living one day at a time. I feel that the present moments are the best things for me to focus on. I’ve come to accept a new role as my mom’s protegé in our family business: “San Diego Scan and Share”. There were very few opportunities that inspired me when I graduated college. So, I decided that if I couldn’t find an opportunity, I’d make one instead! It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. By expressing my desire to move forward, I was able to help jump-start this business and so far we’ve completed two projects. I look forward to being a part of the creative process.

“Aspiration” means “a strong desire for achievement; an ambition”. I’ve felt an aspiration to reach out to more people when I’m at conventions. I’ve gone to “geek” conventions since I was fresh out of high school. It wasn’t until I started writing this blog and speaking up about having Asperger’s Syndrome that I discovered a golden opportunity to get the word out about myself and what I stand for. I also realized that I’d be able to help others because of how I aspire to grow our family business so that we’ll be able to employ people on the Spectrum. I believe that San Diego Scan and Share is a chance to give other “Aspies” what they need most of all: courage, dignity, a sense of purpose, and respect. This will be more than a job opportunity, this will be a business that redefines what it means to live with Autism. My greatest aspiration is to be a positive force for change and evolution for people living on the Autism Spectrum.

“Appreciation” is described as “to recognize the quality, significance, or magnitude of. To be fully aware of; to realize and to be thankful for”. I’ve learned to appreciate a lot of different things on my journey with Autism, including the power of connection. I’ve had several different people provide me with different perspectives on things I thought I knew. By taking in their words with a grain of salt, I continue to grow and learn while remembering who I am at my core. Some of my best lessons come from unexpected sources; it took me a long time to learn how to appreciate the wisdom that was gained, but I am grateful that I’m open to learning it.

I couldn’t have come as far as I have now without taking action and rearranging my perspectives with these three “A” words. As San Diego Scan and Share grows, I’ll use my blog to promote it with our mission statement. As I continue to grow on my journey, I hope to continue touching people’s lives with my words and observations of life with Asperger’s Syndrome. I’m glad to be writing once again; I’ve found my rhythm and I thank you for all of your support and encouragement.

Today’s musical inspiration is Gloria Estefan with “Rhythm is Gonna Get You”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3A7CVrBFC7M

I Can See Clearly Now!

You know, it’s more than just a song title; it’s a state of being that I’ve been experiencing for the past few months.  Have you ever felt like something finally made sense long after you learned it? Did you learn a lesson but didn’t give it a second thought until a certain moment opened your eyes?  How amazing was it when it happened, and how did your life change after that?  Well, I can’t really put it into words how my life’s changed unless I use this famous R&B hit by Johnny Nash to help me do so.

The cool, upbeat guitar chords give a springy quality to the song as it begins.  “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone.  I can see all obstacles in my way.  Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.  It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright), sun-shiny day“.  I feel like the storm that was pushing against me has abated because I became too strong to hold down.  Of course, that doesn’t mean there won’t be other problems later on.  Now I can anticipate things that are good, bad, or indifferent and I will find the good in any situation once the initial reaction has passed.  It feels so good to have a clear frame of mind; I don’t know where I’m going, but I know how I’m getting there!

The second verse reminds me of my journey with Autism.  “I think I can make it now, the pain is gone; all of the bad feelings have disappeared.  Here is the rainbow I’ve been prayin for!  It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright), sun-shiny day“.  My negative feelings don’t cripple me anymore.  All I have to do is let them run their course and I’ll feel better afterwards.  The bridge is an outburst of joy as Johnny invites people to see the beauty of a world filled with hope.  It certainly fills me with hope!  “Look all around, there’s nothin’ but blue skies!  Look straight ahead, nothin’ but blue skies!“.  The first verse repeats one more time and brings home the positive feeling.  By the end, I can’t help but be in a good mood.  This classic song has taken on new meaning for me in the past few months.

Everything I’ve learned from Autism support groups, self-improvement seminars, family and friends, and life in general has begun making a lot of sense to me.  I have a much clearer feeling of purpose, but more than that, I’m now consistent with my actions.  The more actions I take, the easier it is to work toward a fuller and richer life.  With the steps I’ve taken to start a new family business called San Diego Scan and Share, it’s only a matter of time before my blog and the business are linked to each other.  Stay tuned for updates as our business gets off the ground.  Each experience is unique and a post in and of itself, but this song says exactly what I feel today.  My life has just begun and I really can see clearly now!

Listen to the song here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FscIgtDJFXg

One Day at a Time

"Every day is a new chance at living."

Every day is a new chance at living.

Have you ever heard the phrase “one day at a time”?  If you have, what does it mean to you?  Is it something you heard in passing from a good friend? Do you remember it from being witness to meetings in a 12-step program?  Well, I’ve noticed that a lot of people have some connection to it.  Generally, the feeling is that life is rarely the same every day: the past is gone and the future is uncertain, so all we have is the one present day that we can do with it as we like.  Of course I can’t speak for other people, but I know in my heart why I appreciate this phrase.  It’s because my life on the Autism Spectrum was also reflected in dealing with my own addictions.

If you didn’t know already, I’ve had to deal with some addictions that further complicated my life.  I was already a TV junkie and an over-eater when I received my Asperger’s Syndrome diagnosis at fifteen.  Dealing with these problems as well as anxiety and depression was a real challenge, but I did catch some breaks.  I was fortunate enough to have counselors to guide me and information on Autism that was constantly updating.  I needed to take prescription drugs as well, and they did help, but there were some difficult days ahead as I came into my own.

I was forced to confront the truth that I had some very poor eating habits and very little physical activity to counteract them.  When I began gaining control over those problems, I was able to confront the fact that I was losing sleep to a video game addiction.  As I put away the games and focused on more important parts of my life, I noticed more doors begin to open because I was able to become engaged in life.  A sense of pride that I never knew existed began to grow inside me and I felt like I was really living.

The more I understood myself, the more I understood how people with other addictions even worse than mine were in the midst of the same struggles.  I was coming to terms with the condition that I was born with while at the same time admitting the addictions that I had.  I began to notice that there was a correlation between the addiction healing process and my journey with Asperger’s Syndrome.  Basically, I was learning to deal with life one day at a time!

These similarities brought home the reality that I needed to appreciate the present moment because it’s all the time I have.  It’s important to remember the lessons of the past and be mindful of the future, but there’s always the here and now to be experienced.  Each decision that I made was part of a collection of lessons that I learned daily and used to make each day worth living.  Accepting the fact that I have Asperger’s Syndrome has made it easier to live day-by-day with authenticity.

It hasn’t been easy, of course; just like a true person with addictions, I know that managing the problem is a daily task.  I would be a fool to think that the problems are gone like yesterday’s news.  There’s all kinds of challenges and rewards ahead and I’m in constant preparation to deal with them.  Looking on the bright side, this has encouraged me to lead a more engaged and present life.

I’m grateful for all the life skills I’ve developed over the years.  I have the serenity to accept what cannot be changed, the courage to change my circumstances and create opportunity, and the wisdom to perceive the differences.  The visions I have are more focused and my purpose in life is much clearer.  Every past day has turned into weeks, months, and years of important lessons that I use to move forward.  It feels amazing to be engaged and present, and I do it by taking my life one day at a time.