Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Autism Answer: And Then There Were Slippers


My slippers on the stairs at our front door.

Slowly I slip my naked foot into the soft comfort of these slippers. My skin is embraced and caressed, my sole cushioned. Sometimes I will start with my right foot, sometimes my left, but always I offer the pleasure of these slippers equally. 
I don't always choose the slow embrace of this soft home for my feet. Sometime I jump into them with speed and vigor. We hop our way into those cushion-y cuddles of a slipper. We bounce noisily throughout the house - up and down the stairs, dancing in my dance room (no more cold floor on my feet!), stepping out onto the front step to sip coffee outside.
But these are indoor slippers, purchased for me by my love and intended to last. So I do not step down the stairs in these sweet soled snuggly slippers, and instead stand only on the top step while avoiding the snow and ice. Avoiding the small rocks and dirt that live outside and migrate toward our front door. 
This is what I also notice about these slippers. That I am avoiding a few things for the sake of them. 
Most notably is outside. I am nurtured and brought home to myself by spending time outside. In all seasons, winter being one of my favourites. I love the acoustics of a snow covered world, and the feel of cold air on my skin. I feel myself become more ME when I close my eyes to feel the touch of nature. 
But these are indoor slippers, and I adore them, and I want them to last. 
So I notice myself making the choice to stay on the top step, to take the trash out later so I don't have to take them off, to wear them in the car when picking my son up from work and then avoid the fun of going into the grocery store with him to check out the reduced racks. 
Also, the pleasure of these slippers, my desire to continually slip my feet into their welcoming embrace, has kept me from noticing our floors need sweeping. Before these slippers, I was one for bare feet. Indoor and outdoor soles, that's what I feel I was born with. Even in winter when I loved to wear cozy socks I could feel the grit on the ground through the material. Before the slippers were introduced to my feet, I swept our kitchen floor at least once a day and other floors often, as needed. Why? Because I felt the bits of food and life that fall to the floor on my bare feet, or I felt them cling to my cozy socks, and I enjoyed the task of sweeping it up. It's a task you can easily do while thinking or singing to yourself. It's simple and helpful at the same time. 
But these slippers keep me from feeling the world at my feet. Instead, the joy of them keeps me feeling the fact of my feet. 
There is nothing bad or wrong about these slippers or my adoration of them. In fact, it is wonderful! What is especially wonderful is me noticing the changes in my behavior, the shifts in my choices, and reminding myself that these things are important. 
That the noticing should continue. 
Which of these changes in behavior, or shifts in myself, might I want to shift again? Back in my winter days of cozy socks, I could easily slip my socked feet into winter boots and walk in the snow, take my morning coffee across the street to the river, walk around the block or stomp in the snow under the trees in the park beside our house. But these slippers do not slip into winter boots, and hence I have to make a more purposeful decision to take them off in order to slide my feet into the winter boots. I have begun to do that a little more, now that I noticed how much I miss being outside. I have also taught myself to be comfortable in my winter boots without socks. This has made spontaneous outdoor moments easier and has given me a wider sensory comfort zone.
And sweeping the floor! How funny that I rarely do it anymore. I always enjoyed sweeping, but without feeling the grit on my feet it feels unnecessary. I admit, I don't see a need to change this. I still sweep once or twice a week, but I think it is totally fine that our floors are less clean than they used to be. And if someone living in our home that does not wear slippers finds themselves not liking the grit on the ground, they can have the pleasure of sweeping and singing to themselves. I was hogging all that fun and I'm not anymore. 
I think it is of GREAT importance to notice how our entire lives can be influenced by little things, like slippers. If I had not noticed, if I had instead simply stopped going outside or sweeping or walking into the store with my son, I possibly would have grown slowly less happy, perhaps more reclusive, perhaps less helpful. Oh, not much. But it only takes small shifts over time to invade a life. 
As parents and caregivers, it is also of great importance to notice. Did the introduction of a new food shift behaviors or bowel movements? Are those shifts mainly helpful? What shifts did those shifts cause? Are we moving away from a valuable pleasure by only following the movements of the new shift? How about a tool that helps your loved one communicate. That's great! But also, are you losing the connection you had when communication was based more on a special language between you and that loved one? Was that form of communication valuable to both of you? Or more for you alone? Notice. Find ways to move forward with new gifts. It's okay to lose some things, that is part of the evolution of living, but we want to notice and take care of the things that matter most. 
I will not be silly and stop wearing these wonderful slippers. I gained a pleasure when my love gave me this gift. But I am now more often taking off the slippers to step outside, putting on my boots to pick up my son, and being aware of the sweeping that may need to be done. 
I noticed the shifts and have made a few shifts in response. 
We are mostly responsible for ourselves and our lives. For who we are and who we choose to be. For how we live and for providing our own joy and purpose. 
I believe I have this one life and I enjoy the work of doing it well. 
I was living it without slippers.
Now I'm not. 

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Autism Answer: Life Lessons and Leftovers


My boys (circa a lot of years ago)

My four boys are now men. 
I care so much about them.
When they were small every single choice I consciously made worked its way through the "how do I think this will affect them" filter. 
Back then it was intense. I did not see myself as separate from them. Instead, we were a unit. A unit of individuals with the right and necessity of discovering and becoming a healthy version of our natural selves. But, still - a unit. 
When my sons were small, I did not feel like we were poor. We had too much support, really, to feel poor. My mom and my sister (who were not wealthy) didn't hesitate to offer us vacations, homes, vehicles, gas money, dance classes, foods with fancy names, trips to museums and science centers. So we didn't feel poor, exactly. But I did not often make money and my husband at the time worked hard but made little.
Groceries were a weekly worry. Grocery store trips were emotionally and financially draining. I cared so much about feeding the hunger in our home nutritiously, while not losing site of the value in frivolity and fun. The ideas, the items, the foods: I wanted to offer nutrition, and example the vigor and joy of it. 
I didn't do too bad. I cared a lot, and that came through. 
But I also missed a few things, made missteps and mistakes, and that came through too. 
One of the things that comes to mind in this moment: 
All four of my sons remember me in their youth with slightly different perspectives. But one thing that is consistent in their memories is the habit I had of often giving them the food and waiting happily for leftovers before I would eat. Not at every meal, not every day, but when the food was either a treat or limited, this was my happy habit. I wasn't dramatic about it. It wasn't a sacrifice or anything, I tried to be sure they recognized that I was not growing and they were. That I was in less need than them. And that I was not actually hungry for anything more than seeing my children's bellies and bodies filled. 
As men, my sons now often bring up this version of me while insisting on seeing me eat. My oldest son is following a passion for feeding people and the satisfaction he expresses while watching me enjoy his food is powerful. 
Confession: I am warmed by a sense of gratification when any of my sons comments on my habit of eating mostly leftovers when they were little. 
I recognize, though, the possible pitfalls of this sort of pride. 
I recognize them, because I am a little bit guilty of them. 
For one thing, I am a little bit guilty of feeling GOOD about sacrificing my own meals in order to feed them. A little bit of proof that I CARED so much. Now, I did care and I did remember to put the focus on their growing bodies and needs, but I know that the deeper belief (that I was being a good mom and showing love by denying myself the treats) would have revealed itself somewhere. That in some quieter way I was also telling them that sacrificing my own needs was a sign of love. 
Another pitfall: I am a little bit guilty of feeling GOOD about not eating when I was hungry because it might finally make me THIN. Oh, I cared too much about teaching my sons to value women of every shape and size to say it. I asked them to applaud women who had passion and kindness and to know that meant they would likely have figures and curves and soft rolls as nature desires. Because of this I never would have said, to them or to myself, that I was excited at the idea that maybe sacrificing food for the sake of my children might have the side effect of making me thin. And thin, though not necessarily healthy, can borrow her sister's clothes without fear of embarrassing the people around her. Hence thin, particularly if you are a woman, is desirable. I tried exceptionally hard not to teach this, but I felt it. So, it likely surfaced. 
Yet another guilty pitfall of this little habit I had is how proud I was of being able to find joy in being too broke to feed myself. In my attempt to show them I was happy, I was comfortable not eating, they were the ones growing and I was not (nor did I want to grow) so no big deal, I consistently gave the impression that being broke was totally cool. That it might be a sign we were better than the moms who ate alongside their children for every meal. We were amazing at having a good attitude while being broke, which meant we were learning a skill the richer folks were not learning. Yikes! This is not a lesson I wanted to teach, but I admit to being a little bit guilty of THINKING it. Of maybe even BELIEVING it. 
So, from now on when my sons comment of this habit I had, and my inevitable feeling of a pride-like pleasure creeps in, I will focus on the part that I do not mind feeling gratitude for. The part where my sons, all four of them, saw me. Saw me care about them, saw me be with them, saw me try to nourish them. 
We were one unit. 
One unit made of of individuals. 
We still are. 
They are grown men and I still make choices with them at the helm. But I am aware, and satisfied with, the truth that my choices affect them less now. Appropriately so. 
Moving forward into new years I still think about what my choices might mean for them. But now those movements are more about me and my soul mate, and what we hope to build for a future that is consistently him and me, while inviting our children and grandchildren. 
Inviting them to visit but, more importantly, inviting them to see in my choices something healthy.
Interestingly, this includes me eating meals alongside my loved ones, and also eating - my favorite food - leftovers! 
It turns out that my distaste for waste has instilled in me a love of leftovers! 
Hence, when I am around my grandchildren, my nieces, my sons and my step-daughter, I love that everyone knows to share with me the leftovers. It is, funnily enough, often enough to sustain me.
I like to think my love of leftovers is finally on solid ground. Not a sacrifice, or secret desire to be thin, or a nod to the perks of poverty, but a good ol' distaste for waste. 
Wait, my distaste for waste grew naturally out of me noticing a dangerous lack of caring about waste in the society that surrounds me. 
Hence, I suspect it is not without pitfalls. 
You know what? That's an issue for another year! 
Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to nibble on this plate of leftover cheeses and crackers. Wouldn't want to allow for more waste! 
Happy New Year everyone!
Hugs, smiles, and love!!!!!
RANDOM: In the photo above my sons are eating apples. I am certain, I ate the cores.