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.