How a man on the Spectrum learns to live

Posts tagged ‘writing’

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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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

Starting Over

o-BOOK-SCULPTURE-570“Starting Over”: that simple two-word phrase that’s just loaded with meanings and connotations.  The first thing that may come to mind is when a person suffers a tragic event in their life and has to “start life all over again”.  One does not have to go through a big terrible event or even rebuild their entire life from scratch.  You may wonder “isn’t that what always happens to someone when they have a mid-life crisis?”  Hardly!  You don’t have to let half your life pass by before feeling like you need to change.  Hell, you don’t even need to live a quarter of your life to make readjustments!  I believe there’s a cycle to life and that we each have the power to determine our quality of that life.  It isn’t completely dictated by chronological age, it comes in chapters during different ages and many of them happen at the same time.

With the help of this blog, I’ve made my life an open book.  I’ve started many new chapters and ended many others; sometimes the changes are sudden, sometimes they’re gradual.  I recognize the moment when a certain chapter of my life has closed and a new one has begun.  I wonder if being aware of these transitions is just an Aspie thing or a part of human nature.

As a little boy I was told that I could sing, but I didn’t know what it meant until third grade when I was persuaded to join the elementary school choir.  From that point on, music was always present in my life.  I knew that singing and performing on stage was a great source of joy that rested at the core of my being.  This is a part of me that will never be done until I’m ready to leave this world.  Music is so important to me that I can’t imagine living my life without it.

When I graduated from one school and entered a new one, that was one chapter ending and a new one beginning.  For a while I didn’t know what the next chapter would be after I graduated college but after talking it over with Mom and Dad, I believed that I could make a difference with my words, and soon this blog was born as my next chapter of growth and learning.  I feel like humans should never stop growing and learning when they’re out of school; if you stop wanting to, you’ll miss out on some great experiences.

When I was in community college, I realized that music was not a viable option to make a living.  The pivotal moment came when I was preparing to transfer to a nearby university.  One day, I met a woman at an Autism conference who told me about a university that was farther away, but with smaller class sizes and a youthful dynamic well-suited for someone like me on the Autism Spectrum.  I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for that meeting, I never would have considered moving out, renting my own apartment, and changing my major from Music to Literature.  Funny how a chance meeting can close one chapter and open another at the same time!

By far, one of the most important moments of my life happened when I was formally diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.  I received the formal diagnosis when I was fifteen, less than one year into high school.  From that moment on, my hazy feeling of living unaware began to disappear.  I took that first step into the larger world of life on the Autism Spectrum by first coming to terms with what it meant.  Gradually, I learned to speak up as I acquired the knowledge and language with which to explain myself.  Today I advocate for myself, but look forward to the day when I begin to advocate for other “Aspies” on a larger scale.

My chapters about love are…complex to say the least.  In my family, I used to look at my relatives as special and they could do no wrong.  As I got older I began to notice how some their words and actions didn’t feel right to me.  Thanks to my network of supportive family and friends, I have come to terms with their flaws, frailties, and differences.  I have turned a page and learned to love them, but some of them I have to love from a distance to avoid being baited into drama and negativity.

I was with a special woman for two years; we were each other’s first real love.  When I realized that we were leading very different lives, I was forced to end our relationship.  For nearly a year I felt as though I was in limbo; the shock of the breakup was so much to deal with.  One year later, I received a letter of apology from her saying how much she regretted the way things ended and how it forced her to look at herself and own up to her mistakes.  That began the slow process of writing our last good-byes to each other and closing the door on the past with no hard feelings.  I don’t know exactly when my next chapter of romance will begin, but I have faith that it will be even better and more fulfilling because of how far I’ve come.

In my life I’ve started and ended many chapters before I even knew how to articulate them.  Some are over for good, others are ongoing, and others have yet to be written.  With the groundwork of a new family business underway, I’m looking forward to this new chapter.  Stay tuned for updates on this very special project.  In the meantime, I am blessed to close this chapter of my blog and open a new one.  I’m proud of the story I’ve written so far and thank all of my readers!

PS: Part of my inspiration came from a classic song by John Lennon: “(Just Like) Starting Over”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWWbu_RSh7Q

Just Another Word

“Words! Find them, you can use them. Say them, you can feel them. Write them, you can read them. Love them, fear them.”-“Words” by the Real Group

You know something?  I’ve been told that words have lost some of the efficacy they once had.  How was that conclusion reached?  Well if I asked some people, they would probably say that texting and computer lingo have turned language into something unrecognizable.  Others would say that certain words are used so often that they lose their power.  I see the reasoning in both arguments, but I also remember that they are opinions, and like opinions, they are personal to the people who have them.

I believe that words are still powerful; it’s just that some people have forgotten that they are.  This is painfully evident when I hear stories of people enduring horrible treatment from spouses who didn’t even physically assault them.  As children grow, they will change internally whether they know it or not because kids will internalize what adults say to them, good, bad, or indifferent.  This is important for children on the Autism Spectrum.  The Aspie brain processes language differently, and words can take on entirely different meanings.  One thing I’ve learned is that just changing one word can change the entire meaning of a sentence.  That’s why the child on the Spectrum seems to respond to certain words and not respond to others.  This can lead to a misunderstanding for the adults who speak to them, especially if adults are uninformed.

I first learned of this in college.  Going through my different writing classes, a few of the best critiques I received were about how I could have more of an impact or connection to the subject by changing only a few words.  To my surprise, I found that just a small change could make my writing even better.  Keep in mind, this was in a school setting.  I had to be on my best behavior, because reacting in a negative way and blaming it on my Asperger’s would have gotten me a citation by campus police!  When I first started this blog, I had to learn how to translate that process to this setting; it was not easy.

When I finish a draft I always read it out loud to someone for proofreading.  It’s still difficult for me to take criticism and I need to be reminded that people rarely get something right the first time.  This goes back to the desperate need I used to have to do everything myself and not admit when I needed help.  I’m better with that today, but I still need reminding once in a while.  I also realized that one word in a spoken sentence can change the meaning of a person’s intention.

Have you ever been told something and then repeated it back in a slightly different way?  Has a serious problem or misunderstanding resulted because of a single word change?  Well, it’s happened to me on some occasions, and it wasn’t until I really thought out my words that I understood how important it was to be aware of what I was saying and how I was saying it.  This led me to adopt a core value from “The Four Agreements” written by Don Miguel Ruiz; that value was called “Being Impeccable With Your Word”.  It’s not so much a rule as a principle; the idea being that you choose your words carefully with integrity and awareness.  This can be difficult for people to try to do; can you imagine how it is for someone on the Spectrum?

Everyday speaking is something that took me a long time to learn.  While I may have been perceived by some people as acting antisocial or lacking intelligence, I simply didn’t know how to express myself in a “normal” way that those who were uninformed would understand.  It was through music and writing that I was able to express what was in my heart and mind and those who listened openly became the people who have seen me through thick and thin.  I’ve learned to discover my own power with spoken and written word and this blog is a testament to my discovery.

I won’t lie, it’s not easy to pay attention to the words I project because it requires focus and concentration.  It’s all too easy to forget the power that words still have and speak unconsciously.  I’m guilty of doing it, but I know that I do it and I make a conscious effort to be aware of what I say.  I do my best every day to be impeccable with my word and if I make a few mistakes along the way, at least I’ll learn something from them.  As long as I know how powerful words can be, I’ll use my voice and this blog to be a positive force for change.  Who knows?  Maybe a handful of words I’ve said before has saved someone’s life?  At the very least, I hope they have inspired people to look at life from another perspective and be enlightened in the process.