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)


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) 


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 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Autism Answer: My Husband Didn't Hit Me

Surgery, Day Six

What a conundrum. People are too often blamed or not believed when they find themselves in an abusive relationship and reach out for help. Yet, also too often, when people see a woman (or child) bruised and battered they pounce on the assumption that someone is abusing them.

Have you noticed this?

One personal recent example:
My husband saw a woman in the store with black eyes and a bruised arm. She said something about getting hurt on a job but my hubby hardly even listened because he was absolutely certain the story was being invented to protect a husband or boyfriend.

A few weeks later, he and I drove to Dallas for my appointment to have Mohs Surgery in order to remove the Basal Cell Carcinoma from my face. It turned out the cute little mole just under my left eye, near my nose, was deceptively dangerous (albeit, slowly so). My lovely hubby waited hours in the waiting room, asked me thoughtful questions, bought me coffee, held my hand, worried wildly when I was taking longer than several other patients
Surgery, Day One
getting the same type of surgery. He loves me and worked at finding ways to be of service while dealing with his own anxiety.

He, uh, he didn't hit me.

As I finally emerged from the room (cancer free!) and told him that we were officially able to go home, he relaxed a little and breathed an audible sigh of relief. The couple we had been chatting with in the waiting room - interestingly, a husband and wife from our very small town! - were happy for us but a little bummed that they weren't able to leave yet. Also, they were impressed with the immediate swelling and bruising of my face. "You'll have to walk around town telling people Boogie did that to ya!" the woman joked.

CONFESSION: We all laughed. Nervously, without making eye contact, and aware of our shared discomfort. But, we laughed. Not because it was funny, but because we were all thinking it. I did look like I had been beaten up. And it did remind us of photos where women have been hit by their husbands.

Why? Why all of us? <---- This is an important question with answers worth discussing. But, also, with answers worth giving to ourselves. So, I'll ask for that in today's sharing. Let's give ourselves some answers.

Surgery, Day Three
*As my wound began to look quickly worse, evolving speedily from one state of healing to another, looking like one image we would imagine of an abused wife after another, the next few days were an emotional roller coaster ride for my hubby.

You see, he couldn't stop thinking about the woman he had seen only weeks previous. The woman he had been certain was being beaten by her man. Sure, she could have been. We (sadly) know too many people for whom that is or has been the story. However, he realized, probably she wasn't. And how sad is it (this is my own addition) that he had not only made the assumption, regardless of her words, but had done so only to then judge her for being beaten and lying about it?

For days my husband would cringe every time I had to run an errand in our town, knowing that many others would likely be making the same assumptions and judgments about us, about me and about him.

Well, my face has healed quite a bit now. I no longer look like a stock photo under the heading "battered women", and so it could be easy for my husband to just forget about it.

Instead, today he found himself running into the woman he'd been thinking about so much (funny to say that so comfortably as his wife, right? tee hee!) at the store and nervously approached her. He apologized for the behavior of his inner monologue and the subsequent sharing of that opinion. He told her the story of me, my face, his worry. Her reaction was forgiveness and laughter. Turns out, she told him, that a few police officers pulled her aside and asked similar questions, they'd had the same assumption.

I'm sorry that people do beat their spouses and their children. It's such a sad, horrible, hurtful truth. And I'm also sorry that when they don't, people might assume they do. There is some crossing of the wires where caring is concerned, maybe. We want to care and step in, we want to be a helpful hero, yet we are also afraid to be when people specifically reach out to us. Or, maybe, we just like to imagine the sensational stuff when we know that we aren't expected to take responsibility. There aren't a lot of easy answers where taking action in the relationships of others is concerned.

But we can do a few things. Stop judging so easily, stop assuming so readily, and especially: choose to believe the stories people tell of themselves and their experiences. It's true that there will be people and times in our lives where the evidence will need to not be ignored when met with clashing stories, but those times are - for most of us - rare. And even then, let's listen without judgment and assumption.
Surgery, One Month

If someone reaches out for help, specifically trying to sever an abusive tie with someone, or if we see consistent and concrete evidence of abuse, where a child or disabled person is concerned, perhaps we open ourselves up to taking an action or opening a door where they can find help. And if someone tells us no, they don't need us, our assumptions are wrong, maybe look at where and why we are having those thoughts. Is it evidence or knee-jerk assumptions? Who are we judging? What does it say about us?

It's interesting stuff, really. Diving in and getting to know our judgments and assumptions. They reveal a lot about who we are and the world we are immersed in.

Also, wear sunscreen. You might be able to avoid the Mohs Surgery I had and never even ever have to wonder if people think your spouse is hitting you.

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

PLEASE: If you or someone you know is struggling to heal from or understand how to change a story of abuse, please read Sever The Cycle of Abuse with The Sub Shop Savior by my mom, Dr. Lynette Louise ("The Brain Broad"). It is a beautifully written and designed true story that offers guidance, friendship, and understanding.  

 *AN ASIDE: I like to think of the way my wound healed as being similar to the healing we go through after leaving an abusive situation. At first, it looks kind of worse. Though we have taken the first steps toward healing it is a precarious time. My wound needed special care, it needed protection and careful cleaning. It is similar when we have broken free from a harmful relationship. We are messy, vulnerable, confused, and in danger of allowing ourselves to be infected with poisonous beliefs, potentially prolonging our healing or hurting ourselves further so that we need yet MORE help and interventions. However, if we do the work and take care in the beginning, the healing soon becomes visible and - dare I say it? - almost easy. Until it IS easy! We are left with a scar, a reminder that we can mostly forget or ignore but sometimes flares or itches and tends to invite questions we can choose to answer as ways to offer insight. It's worth it, my friends. Cutting the cancer literally off of your skin or cutting it figuratively out of your life. It's worth it. (Now, does anyone want to give me $600 so I can pay for my surgery? It's worth it, I just don't have it. Oh, wait. That's still part of my healing, eh? Well, the request still stands. Sometimes it's okay to ask for a little help in the healing process. Giggle! xoxo)