Monday, November 18, 2019

Autism Answer: What Is A Good Day?

Good morning.

What makes that morning cup of coffee so delightful?

Besides its wonderful flavor, I mean. 

Those of us who delight in this simple ritual agree, there is more to it than "yummy." 

For me, I believe it is partly about the potential in the day ahead, unencumbered by the weight of all others. Other yesterdays and tomorrows. I sip my morning brew mostly in the moment but embracing, also, potential and possibility.  In short, while I sip I am quietly aware that today - though I'm not usually thinking about the day ahead - could be a good day. 

*Sip*

So, what makes a good day? Well, for me I think it's one where I got things done, moved projects forward. No, that's not it. 

*Sip*

Hmmm.

*Sip*

Maybe a good day is one where I played a part in helping things get done. No, that's not right either. I often feel I've had a good day when I didn't even do much at all. When I've barely done a thing to.... oh, wait! I know!

For me, it's been a good day when I like the choices I made. When the things I chose to do, the ways I chose to react, to things big and small, are choices I'm happy about. Whether it's eating or not eating another cookie, agreeing to do something that scares me but helps my husband out, putting down a good book in order to help my brother with a letter he's writing to his favorite car company, or not paying a bill because that money could be used to help one of my children who is doing an amazing job of being responsible but is still coming up short with his rent. 

Another example of a choice I'm happy with that is helping me have a good day: writing this post! I often have a thought I want to untangle by writing it down with the intention of sharing, using the power of editing and rewriting and the necessity of clarity to unravel all the perspectives and possibilities jockeying for position in order to see things as they are, in my personal opinion. I can kind of do this when I write something for me alone, but I do it much better when I imagine someone other than me reading it. I become less lazy and insist on taking the important step at considering every angle I've heard or read about, rather than just telling myself something I want to hear. I am better for me when I imagine you.

But even knowing this I will often not write. I'll think the ever common, "Who cares what I think? Who am I to think people want to read about the ramblings in my head?" This, I know, is not legitimate. This is an excuse. 

Particularly since I know that me writing it for you is largely about writing it better, not writing it because I think you need to know. And writing better takes more out of me. It's harder. So, I let my "Who cares what I think?" excuse work. Because there is enough truth in it that I can easily use it. It even sounds humble. Hah! I love a justification that puts itself on a pedestal by pretending it's humble.  

*Sip*

The truth is, you won't read it if you don't want to. But if I imagine you reading it, I'll work harder and make it better and discover more important points that help me have a good day. 

And a good day, for me, is a day where I like the choices I made. 

Wow! That's cool. It means I have the power to make all my days good. To remember what I've discovered here and use it. Admittedly, I know myself well enough to guess I probably won't always have good days or make all choices I'm happy with, even with this knowledge and clarity. But I also know myself well enough to know I mostly will! 

I'll continue to have mostly good days.

And now I'll know why!

Well, that was illuminating. I think I'll have one more cup. 

*Sip*

What do you like about your morning cup of coffee?

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




Monday, October 28, 2019

Autism Answer: My Sustainable Halloween Tip - Use What You Have And Discuss Disabilities

 
Pictured: My youngest brother, Rye, holding my second oldest son, Tyran. Halloween, 1996

Firstly, I encourage you to read the article I wrote several years ago for Dr. Lynette Louise ("The Brain Broad") that includes incredibly valuable and important tips here: Halloween: The Holiday Made for Autism (With These Important Tips)


Secondly, a reporter was asking for a sustainable Halloween tip the other day. Well, as you know, I'm totally into sustainability. It's groovy, man! Not only is it groovy, it will help us stay alive and not live harmful, cruel lives in the meantime. 

So, I'd love to share my tip with you as well! Because I want us to stay alive and not live harmful, cruel lives in the meantime.

My Sustainable Halloween Tip: 

Use what you have. Play dress-up rather than buying a costume. This is not only sustainable, but fun! Also, if you or your children have a disability or sensitivity, Halloween is an annual opportunity to dress-up and introduce yourself to the neighbors with your challenges in mind. Explain why you always wear the noise-canceling headphones that you cleverly included in your costume (or equally cleverly, kept incongruent to your costume), or ask for help reaching the inaccessible door while discussing how it affects your daily life, or share a story about a unique issue you have due to lack of sight or hearing. Sustainability is about making choices that can be sustained. Hence, not purchasing a costume but rather using what already is, as well as bringing your unique issues and needs out into the world on a day when doorknocking and chit-chatting is expected and encouraged, addresses sustainability both for the environment and for our culture.

My Sustainable Halloween Example: 


 
Pictured: My sister, one of my brothers (Dar), and me, dressed as a gypsy, pirate, and homeless drunk respectively, Halloween 1987ish. 

Everything we are wearing was found in mom's closet or around the house. My brother, Dar, wasn't expected to say "Trick-or-Treat" but mom did encourage him to walk up to each door, hold out his pillowcase, and offer some sort of nod or gesture of appreciation for each piece of candy. Every year Dar got more comfortable with the tradition and neighbors learned to be more comfortable with us. Dar is over 30 years old now and sometimes goes out on Halloween with his nieces and nephews and other times stays home to hand out candy. Again, it is a fantastic time of year to introduce himself and his differences to folks while feeling fun and a little less conspicuous than usual.


Sustainability matters. Taking advantage of opportunities to be sustainable with purpose and inclusion is powerful. I highly recommend it!

Have a fun, safe, sustainable, inclusive, informative, and spooky Halloween, friends!

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

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Autism Answer: The Work Of Making Better Memories

 
My least favorite memories are the ones where I was a jerk. 

So I remind myself, in those moments where I'm tempted to be impatient, unthoughtful, or unwilling to be inconvenienced, that the moment happens now but the memory remains. 

It's absolutely worth it, every time, to take a breath and encourage myself to be better, to take the time to see what I honestly think is my best move; my most useful and kind action (and, admittedly, that can be not helping someone or walking away, but it doesn't mean being cranky, mean, or unwilling to be uncomfortable or inconvenienced) and to do that. Regardless of what good excuse I may have for being lazy about doing what I think is the right thing. Too many times in my past I have hidden behind fear of being unliked, fear of backing the wrong horse, worry about looking naive or stupid, annoyance at feeling inconvenienced or too often needed, and with those as my excuses or reasons, I made memories I am stuck remembering. They are not memories I enjoy. 

It's always worth it to take the time to do what I think is actually the best kindest truest action. When I remember those choices, even later as I learn many of them were not kind or best, I don't dislike the memory because it is a memory of doing what I thought was right. 

Let's always try to do the work of giving ourselves better memories. The moment is important but fleeting. The memory stays and informs us as we tell the story of what kind of person we are. 

It's always worth it to do the work, to forgive ourselves when we didn't, and to get better and better at making sure we do.

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

Friday, October 11, 2019

Short Story: Clara




Clara 

The first time The Power happened to Clara she was rocking in her chair, tiny toes barely able to touch the ground, dark eyes closed to the mean world. And though The Power built up in her and felt directly connected to her imagination, the imagining of horrible things happening in return to the man who had been hurting her, she hadn’t made The Power happen. The Power happened to her, she was pretty sure of that. Like so many things happened to her.


She hadn’t been rocking in her chair, though, when the news of what The Power had done found her. She had been hiding at the top of the stairs in her dress, little legs hugged to her chest, head down on her knees, the dress hiding as much of her as possible. She was often hiding in her clothes but they had proven to be an easily penetrated fortress. The news of what had happened to her uncle floated up the stairs dressed in her mother’s grieving voice. “He’s lost his ability to move his entire body?! How? How? How did he fall down the stairs? He lives alone for crying out loud! No toys to trip over, no people to push him! He says he was pushed? By who? The ghost of our father? Well, I suppose I wouldn’t put it past him.” And then the sound of grown-up whispers and talk. Clara had stayed at the top of the stairs a little longer before retreating to her bedroom where she stood motionless for a while longer in her doorway, staring at the small rocking chair.


Funny how The Power had found her there, rocking in that new chair. The chair given to her by the man who had been hurting her. “Just for you, because you’re special. I don’t give gifts but you’re so special, Clara.” That had confused her at the time.



Well, now she understood what was special. The Power.


But that was almost two years ago. The Power had found Clara several times since then, always when she was rocking in the chair, and always when she was imagining a scene that returned the hurt to them. She would rock slowly, close her eyes and first remember the things they did that hurt her, and in remembering she would hurt again, but then she would flip the scene and find a way for the hurt to be happening to them. Like how she had imagined her uncle reaching the top of the stairs but instead of him coming to her in her room, she imagined him tripping at the top and falling backwards, falling and banging painfully each step downward, and downward a long way because in her imagination she was enjoying each painful hit and smash on the stairs, and then she imagined him laying at the bottom crying up in pain but no one could hear him – no one would hear him – and she imagined he couldn’t move to defend himself as bugs and worms and parasites and all kind of tiny monsters crawled all over him.


She did that after the other men had hurt her, too. Different accidents, but always ones that returned the hurt and left them feeling trapped in some way.


So far, it had been only men that hurt her. Though when she had reached out to her mom for help, telling her that her uncle touched her button (that’s what she was told the private place nobody was supposed to talk about was called) her mom had laughed and said, “Too bad he doesn’t take care of his own buttons. I end up mending his clothes as well as yours.” So, no ladies had hurt her but they hadn’t helped her either. Only The Power helped when the men hurt her.


Well, no. It hadn’t been only men. Sometimes it was boys that were almost men.


Once she realized The Power wanted to use her she had tried to encourage the men and boys. Trick them, sort of. Using the things taught to her by the mean men, using the things they did to her and noticing when they would want to do it, she started trying to make it happen. Instead of only hiding in her clothes (she still hid in her clothes often, wrapping herself up and keeping herself buried away) she now also used her clothes as props when playing the game. It was a game. It became easier for her when she thought of it that way. She would play sometimes when at the park or in church. She played the game at her school and with the neighbors. If the men or boys didn’t leave her alone, they lost.


It was pretty easy to win this game. But even though she was winning every time they touched her, she also felt like she was losing. It scared her and hurt her and filled her with hate and anger at herself for playing the game. The problem was that when she didn’t play the game she was still scared that they might play the game with her. She was always scared. When she played on purpose, though, even though she didn’t like it, she was prepared and at least a little bit important. She was making something happen.


When it did, she would go to her rocking chair and let The Power come. But even there, she was beginning to wonder how much was her own fault. She didn’t feel bad when the people got hurt the way she imagined, that was part of the game. But she realized that The Power only happened to her in her rocking chair, and it was her choosing to go to the rocking chair and imagine the accidents happening.


But if it wasn’t the right thing to do, The Power wouldn’t have come to her.  Isn’t that true? Clara would wonder. At seven years old she had learned that what she used to think when she was only five – that you can’t help what happens to you – was childish thinking. We almost always have some sort of power.


And since The Power was happening to her, maybe it would be right for her to use it to help others.

That’s when she had an idea.


Perhaps The Power was given to her – a small girl, so young – in order to stop all the boys before they became men, before they hurt the girls.


She thought of Todd, the boy who lived next door. He was her age and they had played together since before she could remember. His dad had an accident only a few months ago; an axe had gone straight to the bone of his thigh while in his tool shed and the infection had set in strong and fast. He’d lost his leg in a matter of months. But Todd had always been nice
and never acted like they were boy/girl. He instead acted like they were just friends. Yet, one day he would get older. One day he might turn mean like so many of the others.


Clara decided she would watch him closely, play the game with him, and if he ever did anything at all, anything that was like the others, she would see that as a sign. She would use The Power first on him, and then on all the boys in the neighborhood. Before they could hurt someone.


Why wait until they had done the worst of it when she could stop it before anyone got hurt?


Now that she had a plan, a feeling of knowing what her role was, Clara skipped into the living room and asked her mom if she could go outside in the summer heat to play with the boy next door.  


Monday, September 30, 2019

Auitsm Answer: A Person Is Not A Courtroom

Hand on hip


A Person often looks at someone disapprovingly, even angrily, and thinks, "For goodness sake! They should do these things instead...." and then they proceed to judge that person's actions, replacing them with several things their own life and experiences and physiology and psychology have given them to use as they go about their days and choose their own actions.

We don't all have the same opportunities or abilities or experiences or support groups. The separation of our stories is - though always built on foundations with sameness, and always fluttering within and alongside each other - dangerous to disregard.

Our beliefs and actions stem from the story of our lives and the raw material we have to work with. And so we can fairly think: "I would probably do these things instead, if it was me in that situation." Although, even that thought experiment is imperfect. The truth is, if it was us in that situation, we would likely be surprised by our own feelings and knee-jerk reactions, which would maybe not match those of the person we are watching but would also quite possibly not match the ones we imagine we would have.

Hence, I suggest we remind ourselves to allow interest in the actions of others but rein in the judgments. They build barricades that keep us from truly connecting and learning from each other, and more often than not they are unkind. But even seemingly kind judgments swiftly made get in the way of actually connecting. They label the way we hear and see a person, editing it all to fit our assumption. Hence, even a kind judgment can play an unkind role.

So I think we are all-around better off keeping our judgments to a minimum.

(Think of how long a court case generally lasts, how much work it takes to bring so much evidence and possibilities to a judge or jury who then spends much time considering and reaching into history for precedence and conversing and then choosing a judgment that is rarely unanimous. A Person is not a courtroom. So we should not consider our job that of judging, but even when we do - and sometimes we are in a position to make a judgment on a person in our lives - lets at least take the kind of time expected of a judge. Though, since we are not a courtroom, I believe it is also okay to be less unbiased and take on a role of defending what is best for ourselves. We are our own client.)

Just a thought I was thinking on a Monday morning.

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

"Forming opinions is a balancing act. We've got to consider the opinions of others - they help us gather information from diverse origins - while not falling into the easy habit of merely agreeing or disagreeing. Forming opinions is a balancing act and requires using our muscles." ~Tsara Shelton, author of Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself, Oxford Comma Advocate, and Careful Former of Opinions.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Autism Answer: The Loop (And Adorable Proof)


Funny story, 

I was writing and editing the upcoming edition of The Loop, our every-other-month newsletter, when I realized that the edition I had worked on previously, the one labeled "July/August", was never sent out. More specifically, after working on it, after polishing the language and being certain all the information was relevant, I forgot to have it proofed by Dr. Lynette Louise (The Brain Broad) and sent out to you! Oops! So sorry about that!

In my defense, I was surrounded by grandchildren and nieces and sons and brothers and all manner of fun people distracting me from my online duties. So I do apologize, but I promise it was worth it! Having such an amazing time was the least I could do for you since I left you wondering what we were up to by not sending our updates. Luckily, for your sake, we made sure to be up to a lot of snuggly summer family fun. You're welcome! tee hee!

Pardon me? What's that? You want photographic evidence of the summer fun? Of the togetherness and good times we made sure to have so that my forgotten online duties could rightly and justly and fairly be forgiven? Well, who am I to deny you such adorable proof?


I submit the following: 



 

 
Clearly, this is confirmation of the cutest kind. 
 
Okay, back to our story. So, yes, I forgot to send out the July/August edition (which was filled with brilliant writing that would have knocked your socks off! <--- I can say that now. It's been deleted and replaced. ;D) but our upcoming edition, the September/October issue of The Loop, HAS been sent for proofreading and once I have received and incorporated all suggested edits and additions, it WILL be sent to your inbox.

That is, assuming you are signed up for The Loop

Anyone who still has that on their to-do list can sign up here (just your email address) safe in the knowledge that we will never share your info, and you'll be included in the family of friends receiving our edition going out a few days from now. Follow this link: Brain & Body

And if you'd like to have a peek at one of our previous editions, just to get a feel for our style, follow this link: The Loop - March/April 2019

Here's another one, picked at random, just for fun: The Loop - November/December 2018

Again, to all you fantastic friends that have been in The Loop for the past few years, and to all you new friends recently signed up, I apologize for the skipped edition. Mostly, though, I have great big heaps of gratitude for the opportunity to enjoy this journey with you and am honored by your invitation to share space with us in your inbox!

I'll be sending the next edition soon. 

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

 

Monday, September 9, 2019

Autism Answer: An Assumption Experiment


Thinking about things in my outside.

I just realized something about myself. A HUGE incongruence with what I say I believe and how I live.

I am a big talker about and believer in not making assumptions about people. Not filling in their story with my own preconceived ideas of who they are and why they are doing or saying what it is they are doing or saying. AND YET...

I spend my life making one great big fat assumption about pretty much everyone. This assumption takes up so much space in me that I have gone years and years and years not recognizing it for what it was. It feels too much like a truth; the size of it pushes aside any easy perch of perspective.

And I admit, this assumption has also helped me live an easier happier life. So when I've come close to seeing it for what it is, I quickly turn away. I feel that now. Like a repressed memory, all those times flood back with a knowing that comes from this acceptance.

(An Aside: When repressed memories come flooding back, I've had a few, it is a feeling I cannot properly describe. We have repressed them for reasons and the reasons rush back with the memories, creating a storm of emotions that can gather into a fist and punch you in the gut. Over and over. But they also offer answers, if we use our strength and patience and support network to discover and implement them. I recommend it.)

So here's the assumption I'm almost always making about a person: They are meaning well and trying to do right. Always, I assume this. I am aware that they may be trying to do right for themselves, for their family, for their God, for their town, for their business; not necessarily for me or the world I believe in creating. But they are - in my assumption - always meaning well and trying to do right.

Now, this assumption has been a gift for me. One time out of a thousand it has blinded me in a way that ended up hurting me. But for the most part, it has given me the confidence to trust, love, evolve, discover, converse, connect, and volunteer. Also, and here is where I justify this assumption, it is mainly true. We are all mostly meaning well and trying to do right, based on our beliefs, understanding, and assumptions.

So I'm going to try something for a while. I'm going to try recognizing this assumption about people as an assumption, and be willing to know it may not be true or right. But I will still use it as my base belief. I will still start there. I will just let myself see that I am choosing it because I want to.

However, if this experiment turns out to bring me less happiness, less willingness to trust, love, evolve, discover, converse, connect, and volunteer, well... I'll probably let it go. Unless it's bringing me some other type of life-enhancing gift I can't imagine as of yet, I'll let it go.

After all, one of the biggest reasons I believe in not assuming or judging people is that it tends to get in the way of truly knowing and connecting and learning from each other. Hence, if I am able to keep tethered to my deepest desire, my "why" as mom calls it, then I should be okay.

We do not walk around empty. We have beliefs, memories, assumptions, judgments, opinions. They are there. They are guiding us, holding us back, bringing us revelations. They are the things I love exploring when I connect with and trust others. So if I choose to keep this one, well, I think that's okay. I just want to know it as a choice, an assumption, a belief of mine.

So when we chat next time, I will assume you are meaning well and trying to do right, but I will also let you change my mind. This is hard for me to even say, because I still really believe you are meaning well and trying to do right, even as I've grown confident enough to know I can say no to your idea of meaning well and doing right, I still assume you mean well.

This will be an interesting experiment, I think. One of those small changes I make in myself that potentially shifts me to an entirely new me.

Or not.

I'll have to stay tuned to the stuff I hear myself think to find out.

Wish me luck, friends!
(I assume you are wishing me luck and meaning well, so it's okay if you don't tell me. tee hee!)


Hugs, smiles, and love!!!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)
www.tsarashelton.com