Monday, October 24, 2016

Autism Answer: Any Good Narcissist (Making My Bad Days Good For Me)

My oldest son; contemplating.

Yesterday was unusual; I felt curiously worthless. Today is far more common; I'm happily aware of my worth and comfortable. But because of yesterday, I'm also filled with purpose. I'm picking up a few pieces of me that I had been ignoring and avoiding. Yesterday was unusual, but I'm making sure it wasn't useless. 

We all have rough days. We all have days where we feel down about ourselves or uncertain of our value. Those days are likely more about our hormones or lack of sleep or a brain with too much delta where there should be beta, and less about who we are holistically. We can choose to "get through" those days, or take advantage of them. [The link I included with the delta/beta bit goes to Brain & Body, The Brain Broad's site that shares a bit more about neurofeedback and teaching our brains to change our lives.]

When I'm having an "I suck" day, my brain (as it is set up to do) looks for proof. Now, I have to be careful because generally that proof is bogus. But always it also points to something I've been ignoring, procrastination, avoiding, or simply wondering about; in or of myself or my life. 

So rather than just "getting through" the rough days, I try to use them. Like any good narcissist I make it all about me and my needs. tee hee!

I believe that yesterday was unusual because I respect and learn from my yesterdays. I make intentional decisions and clever deductions. I allow my brain to show me some of the proof for my worthlessness and then I purposely prove otherwise. 

No one is worthless. No one. I believe that so completely it then becomes easy to prove myself useful and of value. Even immediately after a rough day where my hormones or air pollution or lack of sleep made me feel otherwise. 

I encourage you to believe in the absolute value of everyone! It makes caring for yourself and others quite easy. Suddenly even the roughest days and strangest people have absolute worth absolutely worth seeking!

Yesterday was unusual; I felt curiously worthless. Today is far more common; I'm happily aware of my worth and comfortable. But because of yesterday, I'm also filled with purpose.

And the first thing I purposely wanted to do was share this with you!!

Thank you for being here, friends!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook) 

*Author's Note: Please understand that I know narcissism is dangerous and not at all the same as putting yourself and your worth at the forefront of self discovery and self love. Narcissists don't practice caring about themselves or others. They care about power, winning, attention, etc. I was playful with the word in this post because sometimes people who do actively care about others and themselves worry about being self-centered or narcissistic. I think, though, that if we find ourselves caring about ourselves and others in a purposefully balanced way, we have proven we are not narcissistic. I'm not a doctor or diagnostician, just a mom and a writer and a thoughtful thinker, but there it is. One of my thoughts. Hugs!! 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Autism Answer: YOU Are A Leader (Whether Or Not You Want To Be)

Friends, we are Leaders. Whether we have the desire to be in Leadership roles or not, we are. This is true of everyone some of the time, but for folks like us, folks who live with autism (whether as autistic individuals ourselves or as friends, professionals, and family members) we're in unique positions to Lead and Teach.

And when we're not Leading, we are Following. We're choosing who to learn from and what Path to Success matches most our hopes, dreams, and beliefs. Choosing effective and thoughtful Leaders is a skill. A skill that we can learn; ideally, from several successful and thoughtful Leaders!

I encourage you to take advantage of this FREE Virtual Leadership Summit. (Completely free, no sign ins or sign ups.) Presented by Lynette Louise aka The Brain Broad 39 Leaders, from diverse backgrounds and places on their Success Path, are interviewed and asked the same three questions. Successful business owners, actors, comedians, image consultants, lawyers, inspirational speakers, beauty experts, music makers; the list is impressive!  

While all of the answers to the questions are different; similarities and consistencies reveal themselves. There is soooooo much value in this series! Personal stories (some exclusively told here!) and concrete tips come together to paint a picture of Leadership that is clear; though it will mean something slightly different for each viewer. 

I look forward to learning what the strongest take-aways are for you! 

HEADS UP MOBILE USERS: So, the web page looks pretty funny on your phone at first. It appears as a long string of letters hanging down, slowly growing smaller. Almost like a DNA strand! Go ahead and scroll down or, this works for most phones, turn your phone to the side until you see the video and a user friendly list of individual speakers.

ADVANCED Leadership Invitation: If you are seeking to understand and use your Leadership role to it's fullest I encourage you to attend the Leadership Summit - Albany in November. It's a two- day conference committed to helping people establish, grow and develop greater visions and values in their leadership. The speakers (and even many of the high profile attendees!) will be providing a unique blend of vision, inspiration, practical skills and strategies that can be immediately applied in your career, Leadership and life. The Albany Leadership Summit will take place November 10-11, 2016 at the Desmond Hotel in Albany, New York. Check it out, show your friends, and register before the seats are sold out! INSIDER TIP: If you can gather a group of four or more my mom, Lynette Louise, The Brain Broad, may be able to get you a group rate. Let us know if you're interested! 
EMAIL: tsarashelton [at] yahoo [dot] com. Put "Leadership Group Rate" in the subject line.
Leadership Summit - Albany  <---- Use that link, friends!

I've always felt more like an "accidental leader" because my natural inclination is to be the assistant, the helper, the friend who pitches in. And because of this I've learned to choose my Leaders well (after a few embarrassing and even dangerous mistakes in my youth!). Yet, as a mom, friend, writer, and autism sibling, I find myself in potentially powerful Leadership roles often. Luckily, my mom is an innately gifted Leader and so I learned from the best. Even so, reading her new book The Seven Senses of Leadership highlighted for me a few new concepts which I implemented right away. And then, when I was certain there couldn't possibly be more to learn, I watched the FREE Virtual Leadership Summit.... and, wow! I was reminded just how healthy and helpful it is to learn similar things over and over, from different stories and different styles. I felt renewed and powerful once again!

Both of my roles, as Leader and Helper, are more powerful and intentional. 

All of our roles matter. It's smarter and more fun to play out or roles to the best of our abilities and with our own unique style! 

I hope you'll check out the Virtual Summit (completely FREE, no sign in or sign ups), the new book, and/or the Leadership Summit in Albany!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!! 
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook) 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Autism Answer: Dreams Come True /
Some people chase their dreams with focus and speed. 

Me? I spend much of my time quietly imagining and considering my hopes and dreams.

Interestingly, even without intense purposeful focus on making my dreams come true, they all have! I believe it's because I kept them alive, I envisioned them clearly, and I was drawn in their direction. 

Either way, regardless of our style, our dreams -- the ones we continually imagine -- will come true, if we allow them to. Some of us create a clearer future when we're intense and focused, some of us create a clearer future when we're relaxed and allowing, but all of us create our future.

I've watched everyone I love do it. The ones who were more "able" have created no less and no more of the future they imagined than the ones who were less "able". 

And, luckily, in my family we have each other to remind us to see that, indeed, our dreams did come true. They just look a little different now that we're here. 

Keep on dreaming, friends! Focused and fast or taking the scenic route, whichever works best for you. Either way, be willing to dream big! And be willing to see the dream when you get it, although it will look different. More REAL. 

"I never had a dream that didn't come true; albeit, differently." ~Lynette Louise (aka The Brain Broad)

If Lynette Louise (my mom) can say that honestly, a woman who is famous for dreaming the impossible, than so can we! And Lynette can say that honestly. I know, I've seen it. I've seen her impossible dreams come true.

I'm only one of them. 

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Autism Answer: Naked

The other day I was chit-chatting and reminiscing with one of my adult sons. He's struggling lately with a strong discomfort around people outside of our family. He's tempted to allow his social anxiety to turn into social distaste and righteous anger at humanity. I get it, but I also know that it's not the best choice. Turning our fears and discomfort (largely because of feeling judged harshly) into harsh judgement isn't the healthiest recipe for happiness and helpfulness. So, we were talking about that. 

ME: Do you remember how much you loved people when you were little? You were the first to reach out and offer friendship to anyone, regardless of their age. Do you remember how happy you almost always were? 

ADULT SON: Sure, of course. But I was also always naked so it was easy. 

ME: (laughing heartily) Oh.... ya! (wiping tears and holding in pee) That's true! People sure did think I was weird letting you guys - especially you! - be naked all the time. But you liked it!! You were more comfortable! How could I not allow it?? 

Our conversation (and giggles) soon shifted from thoughts of living on a nudist colony to movies we want to write. Eventually I was able to bring us back around to our original topic (a trick that I've learned not to do if it can't be natural; my sons and I learn so much more when conversation is organic).

ME: You know, you don't have to be naked to find a way to tap into the part of you that can be comfortable. Remembering that being naked helped you when you were little is a clue: not dealing with that extra sensory discomfort made you free to be comfortable. Maybe take some time to figure out what your discomforts are now, and I'll help you choose which ones you can easily discard. Or "disrobe" if you will. 

ADULT SON: I get it, I get it. See if any of my discomforts are from rules made up by humans and not so much about me and who I am; who I want to be. See if I can just let some of the discomfort go. Stop caring about some of it.

ME: Yup! You got it! And, hey, if ya wanna be naked go to Europe. I saw whole families naked on the beach, comfortable and free. 

ADULT SON: Gross. 

Again, we laughed. 

We all have extra layers of discomfort. It helps to remind ourselves that some of those layers are completely unnecessary and worth discarding in order to get at the deeper discomforts with a little more ease. Once our worries and fears are completely naked they can look a little less intimidating. And we feel a little less encumbered. It becomes less overwhelming and more like a job that can get done. (Example: I used to think that I had to try to wear clothes that were nice, age appropriate, and if not flattering, at least not unflattering. But I found that so unnecessarily stressful! As soon as I let go of caring - even though I know there are people who do care and who do judge me because of it - every single day became far more comfortable.)

Honestly, most of my discomforts are rather silly! Beliefs I created so long ago they no longer are compatible with who I am today, so they sit there glitching my system. Once I see them for what they are, I can toss them out completely or give them a personalized upgrade. 

You don't have to get naked friends (although, you can!) but it is a good idea to let go of the stuff that doesn't truly matter to you as much as it seems to matter to the community around you, so that you can clearly see the stuff that truly does matter to you. The stuff that makes you proud, nervous, comfortable, uncomfortable, happy, content. Then, upgrade and update when necessary. Undress or dress up as desired. 

Have fun peeling those layers, friends!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook) 

The stories and thoughts in my book are quite naked and a little self-conscious but mostly comfortable. Have a peek!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Autism Answer: Know Your Audience

I've been honored to take part in a fantastic author interview. The questions were deep, personal, and a delight to answer! One of the questions was about my initiative and involvement in the world of autism. I love that I was asked! The audience for the site where the interview will appear are readers, writers, and literary thinkers in general. Knowing the audience shaped my answer to the question (as it should). 

But, you know, when I began to work for my mom (international mental health and autism expert Lynette Louise aka The Brain Broad) as her personal assistant and publicist I found myself frustrated with "Know The Audience" type suggestions. I felt (wrongly) that I was being told to change my mom's message to suit them. How could that be a good idea? My mom's message is her message, and it suits everybody! 

I was so close to understanding yet so far away. 

I realized, eventually, what they truly meant. I wasn't expected to change mom's message, I was expected to understand the audience so that I would know the best way to share mom's message. The way that would interest and be of most value to them. 

How silly that I had misunderstood! As a mom, I know this well! When I want my sons to learn about hard work, sharing, helping, caring, giving, acceptance, independence, I don't use the same words and examples with each one, I tailor my message to suit their unique interests and personalities. I don't use the same words or examples that I would use for myself or my husband or my sister and friends, I make it age appropriate and interesting. 

Our message is our message, our understanding of autism (for those of us who love people on the spectrum and for those of us who are on the spectrum) is valuable to every audience, but will not be as intriguing or easily understood if we say the same things the same way to all the people. Not only that, but we won't be given as much opportunity to learn more ourselves.

When I'm asked to share my thoughts about autism (and here I remind you that I know our thoughts are not all the same, but that we do all have valuable knowledge) to a new audience, I'm gifted with the chance to learn more about what I know. To incorporate their additions and life learnings and questions and interests, so that I can grow my own understanding. 

This is one of my favorite things in the world! To discover the never ending ideas and perspectives that exist when I learn from both inside and outside of myself! When I shift my assumptions to fit new experiences. 

So I admit, it's funny that it took me long to learn the value of "Knowing Your Audience" in the world of press releases and marketing and pitching producers. And I also admit that though I now fully appreciate the value of it, I'm still not good at it! 

But in life, with my friends and family and the folks I meet along the way, I'm pretty good, and I love it! 

So when you are teaching your children or advocating online or explaining what you need to professionals or school teachers this year, do your best to know your audience. 

You may be surprised by how much more everyone learns.

Including you! 

Hugs, smiles, and love!! 
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

I hope you'll be an audience for my book! Autism, parenting, and growing up are the main characters!

AUTHOR PROMISE: I promise to post the author interview (on Facebook and Twitter as well as here on the blog) as soon as it's been published. For now, though, here's a snippet of my Autism Answer for the interview:

As a reader I have been shaped by a vast collection of stories and perspectives. In so many ways this has helped me remain forever open minded and able to understand people. But there are a few communities of people missing from the popular books (and films, and tv shows) that shaped me and my peers. And it seems to me that none are nearly as missing from the spotlight of our cultural narrative as the disabled. Characters with Tourette’s or Cerebral Palsy or epilepsy. This is a dangerous and cruel lie about the world we live in. The world they live in. We need them to star in more stories. They are talented actors, writers, thinkers, singers, comedians, creators. Why do we harm each other by mostly using or ignoring them? 

So I try not to! I hesitate to write stories where the main character is autistic because I am not. But I refuse to ignore them or use them only to pull heartstrings. I share so that they will share, so that people will be honestly and openly interested, and so that we will admit to our own discomfort in order to overcome it.
The entire interview will be available on the Books For The Soul Book Club website in the near future! Subscribe to their newsletter to get my interview, gorgeous essays, and thoughtful book reviews in your inbox once a month! 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Autism Answer: The Power Of Your Role As Audience (or I Am A Story-A-Holic)

I've been a story-a-holic all of my life. I was always seeking that high I got from lyrics, books, movies, and storytellers. The emotions and ideas they revealed seemed to be born simultaneously from me and from outside of me.

As a little girl I also wanted to be a writer, but for a long time I feared that my natural "audience" nature meant I didn't have enough original ideas for writing. I was always reading, watching, and listening. Craving forever more stories. I would also write, but quietly. For myself. Although, admittedly, I imagined an audience and dreamed of giving them what stories gave me. 

Well, I'm now also a mom. And as my sons grew up in this world I found myself discovering my own beliefs and ideas with a new kind of strength. 

It's then that my life as an active audience revealed itself to have been nourishing training ground for life as a writer. I sat up one night writing a screenplay, easily imaging an eclectic number of characters. I started answering questions online, comfortably understanding the views and perspectives of people I had never met. I began composing stories, essays, and articles that encouraged openly listening or watching to understand. I submitted them to be published; many were. 

Now I blog and I have published a book, and I continue to write. 

My writing is one of the ways that I practice narrating my own life and being an active citizen of the world. 

But when I am an audience I am also playing a role narrating my own life and being an active citizen in the world. Writing has helped me see that. I choose what I listen to and how, what I give my attention to and how. Where my energy as an audience goes has power in the world. In so many small and exponentially huge ways, the way I am as an audience, and the way I always was as an audience, helped me actively create my story and the story in my world. 

I was always building and creating my story, I see that now. 

I suggest taking a moment to see all the ways you've been building and creating your life, friends. Highlight for yourself all the ways your natural inclinations and purposeful choices have brought you to exactly where you are now, and how they have offered you the tools and understanding that you're almost able to take for granted today. Pay attention to what you pay attention to, and how.

Be an audience of your life; but be an intentional audience. 

Take a moment to notice and feel confident that the choices you make today are affecting the world. Personally and globally. Know that you can make choices with purpose that will take you to where you want to be in the future. 

Then go forth! Become again the director! The writer! Make more choices!

Create more scenes that lead the the next big delightful revelation or plot twist!

I've been a story-a-holic all of my life and I've noticed that every great story has emotion and motion. I've learned that whether I'm taking the role of audience or storyteller, I can actively and intentionally seek the emotion and motion that tells my story best. 

And I will, indeed, continue to tell my best story. 

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Autism Answer: Light My Fire

"Look it up on YouTube," mom suggested, tossing another useless match onto the pile of kindling. 

While my youngest sons grabbed their phones and searched "How do you light a match without the striker" I laughed at myself for having been so overly confident about this skill to begin with. In my own defense, who wouldn't assume that they - a competent grownup - could certainly find a way to light a match, even if it wasn't a "strike anywhere" match, and even if you were without a striker? I suppose I should have gotten a clue when the young State Park employee had been so apologetic about offering me only the matches. But I was a bit busy acting overly confident to compensate for the ridiculous camping mistake of arriving without matches to begin with. I'm not a newbie camper, so I knew better. But it had been a long time since my last camping trip, so I forgot what I knew.

So here we were, watching YouTube videos and trying tricks that weren't working for us; our first morning at the campsite and we were without a fire for coffee. Not okay!

"I'll head over to that RV over there and see if they won't mind lending us a lighter," I offered. Sure, it's been a while since I've gone camping but that doesn't mean I don't remember that one of the greatest joys is meeting new people. So, borrowing a lighter could be a conversation starter as well as a fire starter! (These are the things I tell myself as I justify my forgetfulness. In truth, I'm not much of a conversationalist before my morning coffee. tee hee!)

Well it turns out Jan and Gary, our neighboring campsite couple, were volunteering at the state park. And Jan was more than happy to lend me a lighter. Indeed, she was so friendly and open that even without coffee coursing through my veins we chatted. I learned that she and her husband were living in the RV, and were able to stay onsite free of charge by volunteering as Camp Hosts in the park. Well, I'll be!

"What a brilliant way to live! You know, I have plans to live in my car when all of my sons have moved out," I told her, peeking over at our campsite to see my family still struggling to start a fire. "I'll keep that in mind, volunteering at State Parks in order to have a place to stay. These are the sorts of things I haven't really worked out yet."

"Oh, ya," she added, "I was living in a tiny house when I met my husband. Now that we're retired we're living in our home on wheels. We registered our cars in South Dakota, we have our PO Box there, too...."

"Wait! So, you figured that stuff out too?!" I was amazed! So far all I had done was imagine myself and my computer driving or sleeping or writing in my car, and then showing up at different family members homes for coffee and chat time. Oh, and showers!

Jan told me quite a bit more about how to turn the dream into a reality, adding that she has a blog, Tiny House Times, where she shares a bit about the journey she and her husband are on. Not only that, but she offered me a pamphlet from Your Best Address in South Dakota that had all the info I needed to live on the road while keeping a legitimate address. (My mom, my brothers, my boys and I had lived in an RV for a year, traveling the country and loving life, but we thought we'd have to "finagle" paperwork and legitimacy if we were to live on the road much longer.)

I learned all this, and I still hadn't had coffee!!

I thanked Jan for the lighter and again for the info, truly appreciating her unique ability to let me see what my future could be. I gotta say, it looks kind and happy. And absolutely possible!

With a bounce in my step, one that is generally reserved for after my morning coffee, I excitedly joined my family, borrowed lighter in hand.

While my boys built the fire and my mom prepared the coffee for perking, I told them about Jan and Gary. As we waited for the coffee to darken deliciously I imagined my future again. Living in my car, writing my stories, visiting my family. But now it felt entirely possible and not even overly weird. Lots of people do it! Lots of people live on the road!

Later on that same day I took a quick trip to the nearest store, breathing in the Vermont views and fresh air while imagining my future. My sons pointed out vista and gazed off into themselves in awe, talking about their own futures as well. We knew, this trip was changing us. Well, no. Bringing us more to ourselves. Giving us to us.

We grabbed some simple foods and my son bought himself some Vermont maple syrup. 
And I made sure to pick up a few packages of matches.

Back at the campsite we built a fire, this time using our own tools. 
I soon headed back to the Camp Host site and chatted a bit more with Jan. Gary was there too, so I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with him a bit as well. I could feel the pull of my family though, wanting to spend as much time as possible with them in this nourishing environment. So I returned the lighter and I thanked her. 
As evening fell and I walked back to my mom, my brother, and my sons, I silently thanked Jan for lighting my fire. Now, though, it was in my hands.

Now, I would light my own fire.

Hugs, smiles, and love!!! 

A view in Vermont.