Friday, March 27, 2020

My Body - Getting To Know You (aka What I'm Doing At Home)

Well now, things are interesting. (Dear reader, I do not know where you are in time, and I do know that things are always interesting, but this post is being written in March 2020 near the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, so keep that in mind as you read the type of interesting I am referring to and the type of response I'm choosing. Thanks, friend!)

Clearly, I've had all the common thoughts. What a perfect time to shift the world in sustainable ways! What a wonderful reason to consider how we care for each other and rethink our willingness to be inconvenienced! How excellent to connect with and get to really know our children and spouses! And I confess, my daily life is hardly disrupted by staying home. That's what I do. Write, read, dance, sit outside or inside, but all mostly at home. 

I was, however, chewing over a fantastic opportunity my sister had given me to work with her as a production coordinator. I've said yes to projects so far but promised to make a concrete decision on whether I would be her production coordinator and not just accept jobs convenient to me. So far I've always said yes, but just before COVID-19 decided to barricade business as usual, my sister was getting consistent offers that would have me rarely home and working often. Did my hubby and I want that? I promised to decide but was filled with anxiety about doing so.

Then this. Stay at home and shelter in place orders around the world. (Probably my fault. The Universe figured it would call my bluff by saying, "Oh, this is such an important decision and worth so much worry because why? The world will stop turning if you choose wrong? Well then, let me stop everything so you can take your time, lady." Well, in response, I have made decisions. So, ya. Sorry about that! Things should return to healthy, though hopefully not to their usual, soon.) 

Anyway, speaking of my sister, yesterday something happened with her that gave me another idea of what I should do with this time at home. Keep in mind, my home is an empty nest. It is me and my husband alone. Our youngest son visits from University - two hours away - sometimes, but with our other children and family members and grandchildren living in California, it is mostly just us. So when my sister thanked me in a text for making a dermatologist appointment for her that resulted in a suspected melanoma biopsy (my dad died from Melanoma and my entire family history is saturated with cancer) I had a thought. 

You see, we knew to make that appointment because we recognized a mole on her body misbehaving. The mole we were concerned about was on her stomach. Turned out, though, that it was a mole on her butt that was the true concern. 

Well now. We don't really spend much time looking at her butt, so we may never have noticed that! 

This isn't the first time I've thought about how unfamiliar I am with my own body. It's not even the first time I've thought about it in relation to the dangers of not knowing my body. But it is the first time I've thought about it while our town is under stay-at-home orders and the health of our community is at the forefront of the collective consciousness reminding us that our responsibility to health is in our hands. 

So, I am spending this time getting to know my body. It's freaking hot here in Texas, so rather than turn on the air conditioner constantly I am walking around in minimal clothes. No one will be coming over for a visit, I don't have to quickly get dressed and head out to run errands,  this is a good time for this. 

I'm not going to walk around minimally dressed all day every day. But I plan to do it as often as is comfortable (well, it's not comfortable because I'm unfamiliar with my body this way, but I am old enough and experienced enough to know it will become comfortable) and to stop shying away from looking. I have moles and stretchmarks and cellulite and, boy, do I have hairy legs! But I need to know this. I need to have answers when asked about my body as usual, and I am responsible for recognizing changes or possible problems.

So, ya. That's one of the fun and important things I am doing with this time. 

Feel free to join me! 

Once you get over the awkwardness of being exposed it actually feels quite surprising and free! My hair tickles my back often and it's nice. The air on my skin - even though it is only indoor air - is soft and unpredictable. Being physically distant from our fellow humans leaves time to experience the touch of air and water. Sure, air and water touched me before but I rarely took the time to experience it. How about you?

Regardless of whether or not you are interested in, able to, or even in need of, getting to know your body during this time, I hope you'll join me in doing something proactive regarding your health and the health of our world. I honestly believe it helps contain and even corral our anxieties during an uncertain time. 

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

Monday, March 23, 2020

Short Story - Inside

I wrote this piece last year in response to a photo prompt offered by Blank Spaces Magazine (be sure to check them out, fellow Canadians!). Though my submission was not a winner in the competition it was a winner for me. Writing it urged me past a place I was stuck staying in myself. 

It is certainly specific to me. Hence, I didn't plan to share it. I couldn't quite see how it would be of interest to you.

However, now that many of us in the world are practicing some sort of staying inside, it feels a little relevant. It is about being inside, all the way inside, and exploring. 

The image I'm using here is not the one that inspired the piece (I don't have permission to use that pic I imagine) but it is equally as much a self-portrait for me and it works. The only edit I had to make in order to use it was getting rid of the word "snow". 

Whether or not this piece has any relevance to you I hope you can feel the value of taking time inside. Of exploring all the styles of ourselves and the memories we make and the rooms we build that we sometimes refuse to leave, regardless of what other memories or rooms we could be taking time to create and experience. For me, a big one is simply my sons growing up. Seriously, I couldn't wait for it until it happened and then I didn't know how to live with it. Now, I do. 

And largely because I wrote this.

I hope you are equally able to take advantage of time inside.

Happy reading, friends!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)


I was sent here – brought here? – as some form of punishment. Banished with the expectation of reflection. Yet, I can see no punishment in this.

The beauty is breathtaking! 

Literally, my breath stops often here and I feel it being accepted as a gift by This Place. I want to give it, too. Give my breath away. However, so far I haven’t. 

Just as my vision distorts and the pain that exists on my peripheries (quiet pain, a reminder of where I am not) begins to fade, I pull the breath back to me, back into me. 

This Place returns it gracefully. It seems to have no agenda.

And so I spend much of my time attempting to reflect. I would say I spend many days, but it is always some form of day and night here. The passing of time counted in how many things I’ve thought rather than calendar or clock. 

Yet the beauty and scope of This Place don’t encourage reflection from me so much as it demands exploration. Oh, not so much of the adventurous treasure hunting kind. More of a curious probing and bringing to life. Well, there is adventure and treasure in that. 

Inside I am warm and cozy. The coffee here is always perfectly percolated, even though I don’t remember ever perking it. In fact, that is something I’ve never been good at. Choosing instead to own drip coffee makers even though percolated coffee is my favorite. I’ve always been someone who will accept what is good rather than risk ruining it in hopes of making something better. 

I enter new rooms often. Coffee wrapped in my hands, tapping my ring on the mug – I’m wearing my ring here, I hear. 

I consider first the room’s d├ęcor. Aside from the kitchen and living room, which are styled in a way I imagine many would expect if walking up to this house, rustic with a fireplace and area rugs, other rooms are surprisingly decorated. 

I call the room at the top of the stairs Angry Teenager. Black, metal, dangerous, on edge. I go there for that feeling. Of course, as I explore, items reveal themselves that invite more complexity. Scribbled hopeful poetry, an Anne Murray CD, a picture book of only cute kittens. 

The Princess room – prettified with fairies and forest animals - rarely calls to me but I’ve visited more than once. Creating, as I do here, backstories for the room and its occupant. 

Now that I think about it, I guess it isn’t true that I’m not called to reflect here. It’s just that my reflections are always imbedded in my inventions. Backstories – invented or experienced - and explorations guide my reflections. 

Other than the kitchen-living room combo, it’s The Boy’s room I spend most of my time in. (If you know me you may have been surprised I didn’t say the library. Of which, in This Place, there are a few! But, no. You aren’t surprised. If you know me.)

The Boy’s room is also upstairs, on the opposite side of the living room. It has a window that reaches slightly away from the house and I know that’s dangerous, calling as it does for adventure that moves away. But I also approve, and think it’s just the right amount of danger and away.

Oh, how I love imagining and remembering stories in there!

The toys are familiar (Admittedly, everything in This Place is familiar. For a person who craves creating I’ve never been good at inventing things that are wildly different from what I live with or know well. Rearranging, working with what is familiar, that’s my forte.) and I play, while bringing The Boys to mind. 

Confession: This is a place where I am only alone, can only be alone, and I don’t mind that for now. Eventually I’ll want more. My own ideas are limited without diverse others to add and elucidate. Also, I do crave The Boys. I’m aware, in a reluctant way, my desire for them when they are no longer available is why I am here. 

Right now, though, I’m looking outside. Telling this while I stare out at the trees. (Of course, trees. A little on the nose! In many ways my imagination is truly lazy.) I feel the pain on the periphery and allow it, not for the first time, to wrap around me. 

It is only when the pain is pervasive that I can exist simultaneously in This Place and That Place. I’m able to feel and hear and sometimes even see everything and all of it at once. I can only hold onto this for a short moment, like trying to hold onto the splendor of having an epiphany. Or an orgasm. 

I think I must not let the pain get its hooks in me or I will be stolen from This Place entirely. I’m sure of it. 

I’m not sure I want that. 

But something is happening. As I’m doing this telling, feeling a desire to explain, have it make sense, I can’t ignore what I’ve been trying not to know. 

If I go back to That Place, I will be stolen from This Place. But also, This Place will be with me. 

True, I won’t likely be sent – brought? – here in this way. But This Place is me. A self-portrait. Nothing more or less magical than that. 

And That Place, where the pain waits, is where The Boys are. Well, no. That is the point. Where they no longer are. 

There, they are men. 

None live home with me, snuggling, fighting, playing, sniffling, reaching always ultimately in my direction and me in theirs. 

But in This Place I am only alone, can only be alone. (Let the breath go: stay!)

And the pain in That Place is where the people are. (Embrace the pain: return!)

I did this to myself. I banished myself. 

I brought myself here. 

I must choose.