Friday, December 31, 2021

Autism Answer: A YES Day Expansion Pack for the New Year


YES to coffee, books, and bare feet.

Today – Friday – is my “YES Day”. What is a yes day, you ask? YES! I love that you asked! 

In a nutshell: My YES day is the day I say YES to the things I want throughout the week.

I don’t remember how many years ago I started saying “YES” to myself instead of, “No, not healthy” or “No, not responsible” when I wanted something. These were things like foods and too much coffee or reading/dancing/walking/chit-chatting while sipping too much coffee. I don't remember when it started but I do remember loving the change I made for myself.

I would want to eat a pie (YES, I said a pie, not a piece of pie) and tell myself, “Yes! On Friday,” and then I would want to read, rather than work, and tell myself, “Yes! On Friday,” and then I would want to drink too much coffee while hanging out with my kids rather than do dishes and sweep floors and would excitedly say to me, “Yes! On Friday.” Suddenly I was telling myself YES to all the things I wanted while still getting most of my work done and not wildly overeating junk food. The cool thing about putting everything to one day is, well, it’s just one day. You simply aren’t going to eat all those pies. And even if I do actually read, walk, dance, and chit-chat all day rather than get stuff done, it’s not a big deal. In fact, it’s fantastic and fun!

Of course, in reality giving myself a YES day doesn’t play out in such an organized fashion. If my sons are able to chit-chat with me on a Wednesday I’m going to take advantage of it. And if people are gathered around pie and coffee on a Saturday while I’m around, I’m going to appreciate such luck and enjoy it. And if, on a Monday night, someone puts music on and starts singing along and dancing in the living room while I’m changing cat litter and knowing I need to still sweep and clean toilets, I might instead join in and dance along. The point of my YES day is to love my life and keep me healthy. Sometimes that means recognizing when important moments are happening now, not on Friday.

But in general, I tell myself YES and give the fun to Friday.

This has been fantastic for me! And I plan to keep it going as long as it continues to be fantastic. Although, now, I’m considering expanding it a bit for the new year and seeing how that goes.

I’m thinking I might give myself a YES week at the end of the month; for the less concrete, more ambiguous things. The things that I tuck away in myself to deal with alone, or not say out loud for fear of being misunderstood or for fear of being disliked, or wrong. The things that are whispers in my heart and or mind that can turn into snapping at the wrong moment or avoiding situations or feeling low self esteem. The stuff that makes you want to yell at a character in a movie or book, “Just talk to them about what your thinking! Just tell them what happened! Just say what you’re worrying about!”

To be completely candid, I don’t have a lot of that. In fact, I have more of a being completely candid habit. (TMI – too much information - should be my middle name. Actually, maybe my first name.) But I am human and so I do have those things.

Main Example: When I talk to my sons, every single one of them, there are different things I worry about and fear saying or telling them. I want to nudge them, but not push. I want to reveal things I notice about them, but not give them a feeling of being judged. I want to be supportive, but I also want to give them the space needed to support themselves. In these areas of want I have so many things going on in my heart.

The thing is, though, I don’t want to be so afraid of pushing them too hard or having them feel judged that I don’t do anything, or I don’t do enough. Or, actually here it is: that I don’t do the thing I feel I should do. I don’t say the thing I feel I should say.

So, the expansion pack on my YES day: say YES to these deeper feelings, the desire to express them. Say YES and tell myself that the last week of the month (or something similar) is when. That way I'll have several weeks to think about whether or not I’m being fair with the thing I want to say or simply reactionary. Whether or not I truly think something should be done or whether I think someone else thinks it should be done. And to get the courage to say and/or do it well.

I’m hoping, as it has been with my YES day, this will lead to happy habits. Where I hardly notice the “not yet” aspect of putting things till Friday and always notice the “now is the right time” opportunities when they show up on a different day. 

It's funny. I don't think of myself as needing a YES week for these deeper things and yet, as I tell it to you (confession: at first I was thinking it would be more of a good idea for other people, particularly types who tend to keep everything inside and then explode their feelings creating unnecessary fallout) I'm excited and surprised by the many things I already know I will consider taking care of during my YES week. I already kind of do this by taking advantage of my PMS. When my hormones cause that familiar moodiness, I listen to what comes to the surface, examine it's value, and take care of the stuff I recognize as being a lasting issue for me, not only when my mood is sensitive. However, that is a little less proactive than the YES week I'm imagining. When I use my hormones I simply notice when things annoy me (admittedly, there's rarely anything) but now I plan to look. Like the difference between being offered cookies by a friend or perusing aisles at the grocery store with the intention of purchasing food for the week. I'm thinking of grocery shopping my aisles with the intention of nourishment. 

I'm curious what will come of this. 

For now, though, I will enjoy my YES day! There is a pie in the fridge calling my name and I am going to snuggle my man with every intention of encouraging some heavy petting. :D

I hope you are also saying YES to making delightful plans for yourself as well!

Have a wonderful today and a fabulous new year! 

Hugs, smiles, and love!

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Autism Answer: Chandelier

 "I'm gonna swing from the chandelier, the chandelier..."

She's so inside it. Serenity, my two year old granddaughter, is so inside the song. She loves the way she feels inside the song, swinging herself around the room. She sings the lyrics as she understands them, she smiles and twirls, looks down at her little legs poking out from under her shirt - scratch that, under her sister's shirt. The one she's borrowed that is a bit long on her and feels pretty as she looks down and spins. She spins again and the song continues to play from my phone which I have strategically placed on the windowsill. There is a bouncing of sound from that spot, a trick that gives us more than we're actually getting. 
"I'm gonna live like tomorrow doesn't exist, like it doesn't exist..."
My oldest granddaughter dances and sings, too. Nevaeh, big sister, little lady, speaker of opinions. She sings and dances with me. My heart is swelling while I'm dancing with my oldest granddaughter but Serenity, my younger granddaughter, is alone in this world. I recognize that place. The song has swept her away and she's flying. 
"I'm gonna fly like a bird through the night, feel my tears as they dry..."
I can hardly hold onto my heart as it wants to fly with her, alongside her, forever be with her. Serenity swoops down low and then brings herself up, fills her lungs with air and sings out: "I'm gonna swing from the chandelier..."
But, suddenly, a crash. A smacking of toes into the wall, cut by the vent. Where was this? Where did this come from? We were flying, we were everywhere and filled with such joy when BAM! 

I swoop down, Nevaeh runs over to her little sister, Serenity is crying crying crying out. She's bleeding and hurt. It isn't going to require medical attention but it needs attending to. And now, drastically, the song sounds obnoxious. Cruel, even. Holding my sweet granddaughter in my arms, her sister cooing, "It's okay 'renity, shhhh, we're here. It's okay." I reach up to the windowsill and silent the vehicle of this pain.
"One, two, three, one, two, three..." pause.
I think about this as we stop dancing and start finding distractions from her pain: I think about how much joy she was immersed in, how filled up with fantastic feeling Serenity appeared to be and how, had she been more present, less letting herself be taken away into the place she had been taken away to, she may have been more careful. She may not have gotten hurt. And we would still be dancing away, silly and safe in the bedroom. 
Yet it is in that place, that allowing of abandon I saw on her, where I feel my most free, my most connected to the world, my most awesome. Do I want to say, "Be a little more careful, sweet Serenity. Don't let yourself get so carried away,"? Or do I want to say, "It's okay, little love of mine, you will feel better soon. And the joy of letting yourself be so free is worth the bumps and bruises,"?
I think about this and I know both answers are right. I know I want my grandchildren to throw caution to the wind with courage, kindness, and curiosity; I also know I want them to think things through and choose carefully, with eyes open. 
I want Serenity to sing her heart out while moving to the music, untethered by distractions inherent in paying attention to the world around her. But I also want her to watch her toes. Her sweet little feet matter to me more than I can express, even understand. 
The song, Chandelier, sings to us from a woman "just holding on for tonight, on for tonight," and claiming she's "gonna live like tomorrow doesn't exist, like it doesn't exist."
But I want Serenity to succumb to abandon because tomorrow does exist, because flying like a bird through the night can bring a feeling of connection and awesomeness and perspective and joy that is not easily felt or celebrated in everyday activities. 
So, I think about this. 
About Serenity's song and the joy it brought her, a joy that was entirely felt because she let go of looking at the world around her in order to fall into the feeling, how then she was - necessarily - unprepared for the edges that hadn't disappeared. 
When we decide to be brave, to follow our heart, to step into a life we are called to but have no experience with, to be swept up in emotion, it makes sense to be careful. When I dance, for example, I move furniture, I wear my knee brace, I choose a fairly safe environment. But then, I dance and disappear and close my eyes. 
When I've done what I can think of to set myself up for success, I let go. Invite abandon in. 
That's what I want to tell Serenity.
Set yourself free.
When you swing from the chandelier hold on, for more than only tonight, and if you fall there are so many of us who will be here to attend to your wounds. 
As Nevaeh sweetly said, "It's okay 'renity. We're here. It's okay." 
If you want to check out the song that brought Serenity such joy, here ya go: Just, please, watch your toes. :D 


Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Autism Answer: When the Song Ends


My oldest son

"As my body moves inside the song, as the lyrics push my hips in uncontrolled urgency, as my arms reach outward into space then pull that space tighter to my sweating, swerving, swinging body - a body that is mine but not mine; given over to the song, a song with words of pain and crescendos of desperate loneliness and need - I close my eyes tighter, pushing the darkness in all directions and joining it with my energy. I invite the loneliness and pain to pull me apart, I push my arms out, I sing along and swing, sweat, sing. I know this song and it is near the end so I scream the lyrics louder, move myself farther in and out with the melody, ride the wave of emotion to it's very last drop. The song ends. I'm spent. My eyes open and the world is still here, I am still here, the cat is looking at me funny. If my memory serves, there are still dishes in the sink. Also, my knee hurts a little. But I feel fantastic. I've been here in this room, dancing, but also gone, disappeared into the pain and loneliness of the song, experienced it with every bit of body and energy I could muster, and it was intoxicating. What story will the next song bring? What feelings will I fall into and fill up now?"
I feel so much when I'm dancing. And though I love all kinds of songs, it's the ones about pain, particularity about self-loathing or self-destruction, that force my feelings around the room with the greatest amount of emotion. I freaking love dancing to those songs. They don't bring me down in any way but, instead, bring me something more. I'm not sure what it is, exactly. Maybe I feel less alone, maybe I feel grateful to not live in that place of self-loathing while still able to recognize it and remember most of us will experience it and that's okay. Maybe I just like pushing on a bruise. I don't know what it is but I do know I feel happy, I feel joy, I feel connected to everything and everyone after a stint of dancing, especially to those songs. 
Those songs tell a story that I would argue is not a nice story, not a positive story, not a sweet story. But they are raw and real, they say things that are hard to say in ways that are both personal and universal. It's powerful poetry where I can recognize parts of myself or loved ones and feel not so awful about the awful stuff. Because it is something in a song, I can dance it out, I can sing along to lyrics that depict someone else's version of our similar awful feelings and we're not alone. 
I am a true deep absolute believer in being intentional and careful with the stories we tell. (I'm an annoying person to watch, read, or listen to stories with because I have strong opinions on the power of stories and my passion pushes those opinions out in words more often than not.) But I don't believe we should tell only good stories, or only stories that have a happy spin. 
I think we do our healthiest storytelling when we care about using our words to add something meaningful or thought provoking or unexpected. When we tell stories, to ourselves or others, in order to explore, consider, reconsider. 
And I think we do our healthiest audiencing when we care about how we are affected. When we choose the stories we read, watch, or dance to carefully. When we pay attention to where we pay attention and how it moves us. If songs of hurt and self-loathing only steep you in feelings of hurt and self-loathing, don't choose them. And if they bring you joy don't let the fact that it's strange for them to bring you joy stop you from feeling the joy. It is, however, a good idea to consider why they bring you joy. 
Which brings me back to my dancing. I'm not sure why I love those songs, but I think it has something to do with having a place for those feelings. A place I can feel them without continuing to feel them after the song ends. 
That's the thing about stories. They bring us somewhere, tell us things, give us new perspectives and ideas, then - they end. 
But they also don't end, because they're part of our memory. 
And we are left to live with their influence.
We are still here, the cat looking at us funny, when the song ends.