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 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Autism Answer: Lucky and Intentional


I have been both lucky and intentional when it comes to creating and choosing my environment. It helps me have a happy, comfortable, engaging, and supportive life. 

However, the better I've gotten at insisting on this wonderful life I live, the farther away I've gotten from how hard it can be to do this.

Every now and then I find myself in a place with people who challenge that. A place with people where I am uncomfortable with myself, my skin is pin prickly with stress and worry about making a mistake or being a fool or not handling my people properly. In these moments and in these places I remember how challenging it can be. How hard it once was for me. How many people are still in that place where they have yet to find their own voice, their own value, their own ability to belong somewhere, however uniquely. I am reminded that it is not up to the place or people I am with to make me feel better, but that I can use these times to discover my own remaining issues. Sometimes my issues are simply that I disagree strongly with the place or people I find myself with and it is up to me to comfortably say no. Sometimes it is part of myself that I'm avoiding dealing with. Sometimes its a mix of many things. Always it reminds me that being overwhelmed with worry and stress and uncomfortable ME-ness creates an almost impossible situation to handle well.

And then I remember how long my road to not living that way more often has been. And then I remember that for many people, people who are more challenged or who have less support in their lives to begin with, this way of living seems inevitably forever. There are folks who not only live longer in a state of uncomfortable fear, worry, stress, anger, and overwhelm, but they don't always believe they have the ability or even the worthiness to change that.

I admit, I believe we can all become more "comfortable in our skin" as my mom famously says. But I also believe that for many, it is a longer road. And I even suspect that for some, being MORE comfortable in their skin is doable but consistently comfortable in their skin, less so. Either way, it can only happen if we believe in it, work toward it, and support those of our friends that are at the beginning of that journey when we ourselves are enjoying the fruits of our labor.

And it is for this reason that I truly appreciate those places and people I find myself almost painfully uncomfortable with. It brings back the feeling of the challenge. I know it can be hard, I say so often, but when I feel it I remember. I remember the all-consuming nature of it, I remember there's more to it than, "Perk up, don't let the judgments of others decide your beliefs about yourself, look on the bright side, love yourself...." yadda, yadda. Even though those are true and right. They mean more to us once we've gotten there, don't they?

I have been both lucky and intentional when it comes to creating and choosing my environment. It helps me have a happy, comfortable, engaging, and supportive life.

And when I hurt I am reminded of the reasons and ways I want to be patient and supportive while helping others find something similar. Their version of a happy, comfortable, engaging, and supportive life.

And, luckily, living my life out loud and sharing my thoughts and experiences with those close to me is one fun way to do that.

We learn together, we tell our version of things, we create environments we can thrive in.

And in my experinence, the whole dance goes really well with coffee!



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

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Autism Answer: My Only Excuse For Not Doing The Work Was Fear - My Interview With Mom







I stared at the invitation for possibly thirty seconds while a whirlwind of unexpected hopes and worries blurred my vision.


It was a surprise from several angles. 

I had never considered interviewing my mom for, well, for anything. My blog, my YouTube channel, articles I submit for publication, none of them, even though I actively submit the suggestion of an interview with my mom all the time! I research contact info, compose emails, fill out forms, and I'm always thrilled when my interview suggestion is accepted and acted upon. I'm not only thrilled because it's generally a thrill to have a suggestion accepted, but also for my mom who learns more about what she knows by answering questions, for a new audience who will be introduced to her insight and work, and for the interviewer whose questions will be thoughtfully considered and intriguingly answered. 

And yet, funnily, until the quick reply from an editor at Women Writers, Women's Books to my interview suggestion turned things around by suggesting I do the interview, I hadn't thought to take that gift for myself.  

And now that the invitation was here, I sat in stunned appreciation and explored the previously unknown feelings I had about such a project. 

I admit, my first feeling was of having been complimented. This editor - whom I had emailed back and forth with a few times - thought I might have the skill for it! Secondly, I got scared. What if I don't have the skill for it? Dude, I am not a fan of letting people down or exposing their mistaken confidence in me. Thirdly, I hoped I might have the skill for it. A good interview requires several things. An interesting guest, for one. I knew I had that. My mom - like her creative work - is compelling, down-to-earth, inspirational, poetic, clear, inclusive, and candid. But a good interview also requires questions that simultaneously encourage the guest to shine while caring about relevance for the intended audience.  

A good interview brings everyone in and, often, guides revelations that change us all in the process. 

My respect for a gifted interviewer was seeded for me as an audience member but blossomed when I became a guest. The difference I felt when asked questions by someone who clearly cared for me, themselves, and their audience vs someone merely looking for content blew me away. It has happened for me several times now and, though I always reflect and dig deep for honest answers to interview questions, I am invigorated and surprised by the ones that are careful and relevant. The experience consistently leaves me breathless and aware of myself and my world in new ways. 

So -

Did I have the skill for something like that?

This thought led me to a fourth feeling; it would take work. I mean, complimented as I was, I would have to hunker down and consider everyone and do the work. That's a big task when you're afraid you don't have the skill.

But, fifth, what an opportunity! To see if I have the skill, to ask my mom questions, to introduce her to a new audience, to be part of the Women Writers, Women's Books community in this more active way, the only excuse for not doing the work is fear. 

What kind of example is that for my sons? My granddaughters?

And so, I did it. I accepted the invitation. I crafted questions I felt brought all of us to the table and would encourage growth, new ideas. 

I was nervous sending them to my mom. (She claims to have loved the questions but, you know, she's my mom.) 

I was nervous sending them to the editor. (She claims the interview is insightful but, you know, the interviewee is my mom.)

But it was invigorating and fun. It was an opportunity I plan to give myself again soon. 

And I was a good example to my sons and my granddaughters. Not that they're watching. Yet, we are all always watching. 

I owe a great big dose of gratitude to the editor that offered me the chance to learn all this. Oh, I know she was likely overwhelmed and overworked and unlikely thinking about me or my skills, but isn't that the way so many of us get what we didn't know we wanted? Someone could use our help doing a thing we hope they'll do and suddenly we're doing it together. 

And suddenly we're discovering a new skill or interest. 

Let's not be shy about accepting new opportunities that match a desire we have or a goal we're after, and let's not be shy about offering them. 

We never know when we might be ready for something new. 

Read, enjoy, and share my interview with mom here: Interview with Dr. Lynette Louise ("The Brain Broad")

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

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Be sure to check out all of the other interviews, blog posts, and books on the Women Writers, Women's Books website while you're there! My mom wrote this post for them a while back: Writing is my Lifestyle 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Autism Answer: Consider This - Questions, Vaccines, and Brand New Parents



I woke up to this text from myself -


Consider This: People aren't questioning vaccines to be assholes or conspiracy theorists. Instead, they feel obligated to protect children. And injecting them with lab grown viruses [often of unknown origin] toxic preservatives and adjuvants [even in small doses] even BEFORE little bodies have begun to get strong enough to maybe handle it, fills them with questions. Seems legit, right? 

Encourage questions that give you discomfort. That's where our heaviest answers have settled. Let's unsettle them, dust them off, [examine the dust] take them apart, and explore every inch. 

I guess I fell asleep before I could tell myself why I wanted to tell this to myself? I had been fighting the flu after nursing my nieces through it, and felt almost deliriously exhausted when I'd sent myself the text. It was, you know, the sort of thing you don't generally bother to share in a blog post.

But, you know me. I generally love sharing random messages to myself with you in my blog posts. 

So, here we are. 

Hi there. :D 

Now, the text didn't come out of absolute nothingness. The immune system, natural medicines, over the counter meds and prescription interventions, had been the issue of the week as children and adults were getting sick in a house that holds a six month old baby. 

Hence, we were immersed in a world of research and action, our desire to protect the children heightened and exposed. 

We are incredibly lucky that the baby (my granddaughter) is nearly entirely breastfed - we have formula for when her mom is working, my son is home, and pumped milk is gone - since being breastfed makes likelihood of the illness hitting her hard far less likely. Particularly because she hasn't been recently vaccinated. A recent vaccine would put her at high risk due to compromised immunity and mom's milk lacking precise antibodies. In fact, the one time my entirely breastfed niece got extremely ill as an infant was soon after a vaccine. The illness wasn't from the vaccine, but rather partially because of it. My sister's milk wasn't protecting her from the virus (since my sister wasn't exposed to the virus, only the baby was, and the baby wasn't merely exposed, it was injected into her bloodstream) so while trying to fight the illness herself my niece was vulnerable. Enter a new virus, and sick as she was she refused to eat the healthy helpful breastmilk. 

Now, this is the type of information we wanted to know in order to keep my granddaughter healthy while taking care of my sick twin nieces. This is also the sort of thing too many people get cruelly attacked for discussing. 

And I haven't even brought up much. This isn't even controversial stuff. This is mainstream already agreed upon info. 

Not only have I been taking action on building and bolstering immunities due to the flu, also my sons and their wives are new parents, researching for and caring about their young babies in the hopes of making their most informed and confident decisions as parents. (Oh, boy. Those of us who have been parents for long know how many surprises they're in for while they try to "get it right" as moms and dads! What a ride!)

Watching them navigate this new way of being, this new building of themselves and a family that is so much more than they imagined, is so darn lovely! 

Yet, everywhere they look there are cruel name calling images and "jokes" meant to make a parent feel horrible and even evil and the laughing stock of the world for various decisions. Most commonly, it seems, about vaccines.   

How terrible!

Parents. Are. Trying. 

It takes courage to ask questions that others deem unaskable. It takes courage to inject your child with a vaccine and it takes courage not to. 

If you choose to vaccinate and your child is harmed, how dare the world give you more guilt? Who does that help? (To be fair, most people who question vaccines are calling out companies and organizations, not parents, but some do.)

If you choose not to vaccinate and your child gets an illness for which a vaccine exists (aside: often it is believed to be healthier for the child and society in the long run if we do get some of these illnesses) and there is a life-altering complication, how dare the world pile on the hurt? (I confess, these are the cruelest memes I've seen, often claiming that parents who choose an alternate vaccine schedule, or no vaccines at all, are choosing to murder their children.)

Consider This: People are asking questions because people should always ask questions. That's how we work together to uncover answers. 

Yes, some answers hurt to discover because we are exposed as having been complicit in a crime we were unaware we were committing. But those answers are most necessary for us to explore. They hurt less the sooner we take time to explore them.

Do or don't vaccinate - choose a schedule that matches your family, your child, your movements around the world, your beliefs, and do this while asking questions and uncovering answers. 

In fact, you will for sure find out later that sometimes you asked the wrong questions or accepted the wrong answers (although, often they were right for you at the time) but more importantly you will become practiced in asking the questions that matter to you, discovering (or inventing) answers that work for you, and in doing so build self-confidence as a person and parent, and turn up the volume on your voice. Maybe only for yourself and your family, but that is enough. 

Your family, your tribe, your people, they are your biggest heaviest answer and you'll never be finished learning from or understanding them.

Encourage questions, for you and them. 

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

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To read a bit more about my personal experiences with vaccinations (heads up, my sons are all entirely vaccinated) follow this link to a guest post I was honored and invited to write: What Having a Weird Mom Herself Taught this Mama about Children's Health