Friday, September 9, 2016

The Choices That Brought Me to A Life I Love Today Based on Sartre's "We are Our Choices."

*This is a lengthier post in general because it was tough to condense the choices made to the point of freedom we are at today. Skim it if you want basic tips, read it if you need more, skip it if you are loving your life and in need of time elsewhere. :)

Sometimes (ok almost every day) I am in awe that the life I lead is MY life. I LOVE my life. It's a princess sort of existence without the responsibilities and gender expectations that would otherwise come with that role. I have the surroundings of a queen. I live in general comfort and each day I get to choose what I wish to do for the most part. I am free in many aspects of living and my children enjoy the same. It's a privilege of course but I didn't just wake up here in this lovely life. I made choices. I became my choices. My husband made choices. He became his. Life was mostly hard in various ways for me up until the age of 26/28 ish (or at least that is the mentality I owned back then.) I didn't understand the culture I was immersed in, I disliked many events I participated in but felt that it was my fault, I felt secretly ashamed of how I worked but KNEW that something was different about me, and I struggled with dark depressions, crazy baby hormones, finances, daily grit, and general BEING.

I often get asked why I am so happy now even though some events in our life are tougher than before, I am aging, and I still struggle with health. People have asked me what is the difference between my mentality then and how I view my life now. There are MANY events that lead up to the last few years of abundance and most of them involved changing perspectives to a startling degree.

I was burning old piles of letters, papers and journals last week. Having a recent death in the family had me asking myself what I wanted people to go through when I was gone and I realized my papers needing a lot of weeding. As I was travelling down memory lane one last time before the blazing fire, I came across pages filled with prayers to the lord and heavy Christianize language regarding my life. I wrote a lot of tag lines like 'Daughter of the King' or 'Christ follower'. I defined myself by a set of rules or even ironically my own self rule but called it God. I thought saying phrases like that were a testimony or a huge part of my identity but I didn't see the part of it that was not what it seemed. Back then I would have considered these current statements blasphemous but now I understand how immersed my belief was as a cultural experience and how blind we are to our own control issues. Many of the letters were full of guilt or shame disguised as humbleness. An example of my letters; "Dear Precious Lord and Saviour. I know my life is yours heavenly father and I realize that I am your servant but yet I still struggle. Even though I know I am your precious daughter I don't understand why I am unable to get passed the death of my baby. Why am I this way? I ask you to forgive me for my sins and that I can be more of a witness for you. Please allow me to show grace and to not be bogged down by the world and rest that my baby is with you. Please shine through this circumstance." Instead of truly grieving for what I lost I felt conflicted between my true feelings and being a testimony through the pain or winning souls to the lord. Anyway, it got worse after that to the point that I could not stomach much more of my own Christianize thus I disgustedly threw the pile in the fire. Because truthfully, that was NOT me. The essence was me but the language was full of christian expectation that was fighting within me. Plus, it was a short stage in my life. While I was a bit more religious in high school, I wasn't as conservative and was considered an outside the box, "grace based" christian until after I was married. My husband was quite strict for the first years of our married life. Our adherence to biblical rules to the point of fanatic, happened after we had  our first two children and for a few years I was the wife whom, even though I had a rebellious, non conformist spirit, ALMOST believed in submission and read the 'Power of a Praying Wife' believing that it was ME who was the problem. I was the one crying out to god in my room. I was the one parenting the kids while he went out to serve in the church continuously, thinking that it was the true work. We sacrificed a lot in the name of god and religion. Until one day our aunt called us on the hypocrisy of our doctrine. We thought she was going to hell...but the seed had been planted. 

We started questioning. As a result we received more control from others in our life, more patronizing and more accusations of being deviants...which told us that maybe we were right in questioning our so called safety of church in the first place. We went through the stages- first we became more Benedictine, then Anglican, then we focused on grace filled application, then charismatic, and then eastern/new age sort of christian. It was interesting the stages and phases and while they all had their benefits and we can recognize many types of Christians from what we went through ourselves, we began to see the benefits, downsides and mentalities that were surprisingly similar deep down. We stopped attending first it was a few times a month, then for months, then finally after three years we stopped attending the special occasions too. And we breathed LIFE. Lazy like Sunday finally made sense.

The support was taken from our lives with these choices and for a couple years we did not have many people speaking that love so we built our own supports gradually. It took about four years total but one day we woke up realizing it all paid off. Fast forward through many books, podcasts, and finally access to the Internet, philosophy, secular history, psychology and sociology and you would never believe that I wrote letters like the ones I threw in my fire. I look at that girl and I don't recognize her at all. It feels like I have lived several lives re incarnated within the same lifetime of myself. I actually have more questions than answers. I am definitely against organized religion in general of all shapes and sizes but I also accept individuals who practice many faiths out of love. I am more familiar with the religion of my childhood so thus I WILL be tougher on it. Because we don't go around parenting other children but we do have a responsibility to parent the children we know well. I also believe each faith has something to teach.

Religion aside, many life altering choices became available to us in the last decade. I found understanding in diagnosis. Finding out I had Asperger's Syndrome (now simply Autism) was one of the most freeing moments of my life and the co conditions I was diagnosed with like Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia, ADD, and being a Highly Sensitive Person. Suddenly, I no longer looked at myself through the lens of flawed. I no longer spent agonizing nights going over my day, where I went wrong, how I was foolish and wondering WHY my inner life could never be expressed properly from my outer life. It wasn't easy finding a diagnosis or getting my kids diagnosed. It took years of our life going to appointments, finding therapists and dealing with pretentious beasts of people at times while finding a few intellectual gems and acceptance. I was thirsty for any information on our conditions and I read hundreds of blogs, articles and at least forty (ish) books on the topic. Some were thrown across the room while others were highlighted and still have an honoured place in my library. My husband was not comforted at first by the thought that his wife would be autistic for life. He confided that he always thought one day I would magically be "normal" and that one day I would wake up able to cook and drive. That was a moment when there was a choice. For both of us. Those months were tough. I had to choose to accept myself but to also accept his decision if I was even what he wanted anymore. He had to choose to learn about differences and how to adjust to a different brand of family function. Along the way he realized he had a diagnosis of his own and suddenly accepting mine was easier because he suddenly understood what it was like to be a minority in diagnosis too. Hours were spent on trips reading and discussing our perspectives. Our marriage went from hanging on a string to the strongest souls uniting. But it started with a choice. It meant not giving up despite a flawed medical system. It meant being berated by some, criticized by others and told we were sinful (which is soul destroying when you actually believe in sin but became a lot easier to deal with once we did not.) Yet, despite the many odds we CHOSE the difficult path which ended up getting us to the easy path we are on today.

Our finances began to be worked out which I wrote about in other posts (see side labels), I learned about boundaries which I have also written a lot about (see side labels), and I learned that despite being an honest and open person, not giving all my information away to anyone whom I wanted to make a connection with was key to survival. People are not as nice as I assumed. Most are curious but not caring. Boundaries and necessary endings were painful at first as I took proverbial scissors to many events and relationships...the first few years especially. But after I adjusted I looked around at what first seemed like a burnt up forest and saw that instead it was a flourishing secret garden. 

Personality Cognitive Functions was another step in growth. I am not speaking upon the simple tests and letters of INFJ but the actual cognitive function and science behind these brain function stacks. Personality Hacker is one of the better tools for explaining this. We learned the function stacks of our children and each other and this cut family arguments in a third. Sometimes it's a choice between wasting time somewhere else or sitting down to learn about each other. But a choice that has paid off in so many ways.

The INFJ put another piece of the puzzle together on why I love people but need to sparse out my social commitments. It also drove home to me why I still often felt like an outsider in most of the Autistic community. I didn't fit in with the Nuerotypicals but I didn't fit in with most of the Nuerodiverse either (even though I fit more.) I realized it was because I had the INFJ component which very few autistics have. It made even more paradoxes for me. I discovered Sam another INFJ Aspie blogger who became a friend even off the blogs. I discovered home in a private blog by a few random ladies finding me and becoming some of the most treasured friends I have today. At least five of them are in my life on a more personal level. No longer were my only friend options those in my town. Don't get me wrong- I LOVE my friends from my home town but with an exception of a few, I didn't really know a diverse group of people from different countries, sexualities, mentalities and religions. Each of my blog gals fit a category of differences that I had not yet come across and they grew my perspectives. When you grow up in  a rural small town religion mentality, even if your family is considered liberal and you have lived in other places and visited other countries, there is a limitation (pre internet) on growth outside of books and film. I was well rounded enough BECAUSE of the movies and books I grew myself up on, but when I actually began to know other people from diverse differences, suddenly these aspects of being were no longer simply labels but an organic piece of a loving person. This changed everything.

When my kids were little I thought traditional schooling was the only option. I thought homeschooling was for either super religious people or those who were over protective of their children and limited their choices. I could not have been more wrong (or more of a snob really.) When my children attended the school I became shocked at what they didn't learn, what peers taught them in a not so good way, what went on even in a private school, the sensory overload and how hard it was for all of us. Their behavioural issues went through the roof. One day I was speaking with a mental health professional about it all and she suggested I look into homeschooling. "You are smart and think of things most don't- it doesn't take a degree to teach a child- look at the years of history leading up to school as we know it today. Think about it." The seed was planted. A new choice had to be made. It took three years of pulling them in and out of school until I found my groove in homeschooling and fully committed to it. At first I hated it but now I could never put them back in. My biggest worry is that I will die before they finish school and they will be sent to that prison of conformity, walls and time. Yup- my mentalities are open to OTHER people choosing school- I really do get it, but I realize I am aware I am quite opinionated about the school system itself. As time went on I grew into an even different mentality within the homeschooling community which was unschooling. That choice made our life even more beautiful. I still have more growth to go and each year I learn a new approach or change my own. 

These are all choices that I never in my wildest dreams thought I could implement as a child. I thought I would be a working woman with an epic love story but I did not want kids. I believed that University was the sign of success and that job security was the sign of a fruitful life. I valued education not realizing that really what I valued deep down was choice, freedom, responsibility and learning about diversity and choices. I didn't want to stay home and I certainly didn't want to ever entertain the idea that I may change my faith and go to hell. Turns out there is a lot in our place of freedom that can be done to make a living or Be.

Other choices and changes that brought us to this point:
*Health Answers and Questions

*Kids Passing the Age of Five. I am not an early year person even though I adore little children. The sensory overload and exhaustion, PPD and general work did not suit me. I almost hated my kids sometimes if I am truthful but now I look back and realize my mind was tired, overwhelmed and sick with hormone imbalance. Now that stage is done I ADORE having children and I am glad I did it.

*Therapy! It's not easy finding a good therapist and it takes a lot of work but it's worth it! When you can't find one, be your own. Read challenging relationship books outside of your chosen religion or perspectives. Find Youtube videos and self help that actually make you THINK, take responsibility, become aware and lovingly implement respect and boundaries. Make time to discuss all outside the box thinking with your partner. 

*Body Acceptance. See side label. 

*Not Giving a Damn but Then Avidly Caring in Other Areas.

* Learning about Sensory Overload. This was HUGE. I started avoiding situations I could, making the best of what I couldn't and accepting myself when I melted down over certain triggers.

*Changing my homeschooling facilitator even though my last one was kind and smart. I realized I needed to have someone who suited my personality and goals. It was actually very tough to quit on someone who was such a kind and smart person. It took bravery of a different sort. As an INFJ I can actually deliver in such a way that makes someone feel happy while I leave them but it takes a large amount of energy and I normally save that for important situations. It was a choice I could have been ok with not doing but by stepping out it made a larger difference in our life than I thought was possible.

*Legal Name Changes. It's surprising how last, first and middle names change a person. In fact, as we were going through our changes we came across a whole philosophy built around name changing and what it means sociologically and individually. Name meanings also have also been shown to become a trait the person becomes. We live up to what we are often called. We must be wary about what we nickname others because names influence behaviour. Of course there is a choice factor too but there is an aspect of names that contribute to becoming. The names we give our children may not be the names that suit their later personas. We learned how to let go of our children choosing different names when they age or important nicknames. We allowed them to pick their middle names based on meaning and a range of options we gave. We changed our last name (CLICK) and it has made all the difference in our daily living. 

* The Art of Eating and Diet (see side label.)

*Our Home Renos. The Not So Big House series taught us what makes a home. We started designing our starter home into our dreams instead of waiting for the "right dream" home. We chose to spend our time and money on where we were at. A split level is the last sort of home design I wanted and yet ours now is one of my favourite places in the world. Is is exactly what I would choose if given unlimited options? No... but I would enjoy many different types of home. Thus we put into it what was important to us in detail, design and the layout we could. We focused on roots yet wings but not physically so much as mentally. I learned that decorating is important to me even in the midst of a minimalist movement. I learned I could love and respect my minimalist friends while filling my home with everything I love. And no that did not mean I was a hoarder, could not let go or held on too much to things. It just meant I knew what fills me, what I love and how to enjoy what is surrounding me.

*Realizing Family may NOT always be Blood Relatives. Family members are those who accept, challenge in a loving way, and grow with you. They are a support system who call during good times and not just bad times or when they want you to change something. Family are those who try to understand the topics that are important to you even if it bores them and vice versa. Family are also people who are willing to let go of their ideas of the afterlife enough to not pass judgement or have every conversation revolve around AFTER and instead focus on what they have NOW. They give up control over the outcome of your fate and simply become travellers together even if their beliefs do not line up- it's about love and acceptance instead of judgement and control. Family are those who become with us...and it can change...some family members stick around while others come and go.

* The Gifts of Imperfection. Letting go of any shame story changed my relationships forever. Thank you Brene Brown.

Those points above were some of the key moments that brought us to loving the last few years of life. If I died today I would die content in what my life was and is. I have everything I never knew I always wanted. It was a crucial moment the day I asked myself, "Why can't my life look like Anne of Green Gables or Father of the Bride 2? Why can't I make little choices and mentalities to perceive that way? My life IS a story ... so why not be the director of it when I can?!" And so I did.

It's still hard, as life can be sometimes, but in general when I am alone witnessing it all, I feel gratitude deep and abiding. It's magic. In Once Upon A Time, Mr. Gold often cautions, "Careful what you wish for dearie, all magic comes at a price." Our magic did come at a price but the magic was worth it. The price was paid by us in all these changes initially but once the adjustment period was over in each of them, the price no longer bothered us because the magic was there. I used to have a life filled with regrets of what I should have done, what would have been more of a testimony, what was the "right" decision...and now I rarely if ever, regret anything. It's all a learning process and if I am going to accept other's mistakes and look at them as opportunities for change, growth and acceptance, I must do the same for myself.

J.P Sartre, a philosopher of the last century wrote, "We ARE our choices." We become what we choose. Looking back I can sum these choices up in a tidy package and most seem large, but at the time most of them were small, daily choices that seemed to have little impact. I had no idea that when I acted upon a thought of research that I would be witnessing a domino affect of years getting me to where I am today. I didn't know I would be happier in my thirties than ever before. I thought I would be dead or miserable because I was no longer young according to culture. I thought those best years of my life everyone kept telling me to enjoy were mostly not so hot. If people were right I was screwed. I didn't think I had autonomy and in some cases my environment did make me have less freedom...finances would be one of those areas that has restrictions...but there ARE ways around's finding them that is both adventure, hardship and freedom.

Today I watched my kids play basketball out on the road as the autumn sun beat down on my deck. I listened to Steve Tyrell croon as my neighbourhood was quiet because all others were chasing down other dreams and expectations. I sat and I realized I was happy. More than happy because I was content, I was rich in what I have, and I was part of beauty and am beauty. Of course my tummy was off as usual, I was exhausted and breathy and a little apprehensive about my latest blood work result, my child had been obstinate at one point and my house wasn't I am not saying life was perfect or had a lack of struggle. I am not looking for perfection. I am looking for the gifts within imperfection. I found that. I made choices that put me at risk. I participated in existential crises and turned many of my previous mindsets on their head. It all started with a little choice that I could make inside- owning my perspective. Like Sara in The Little Princess I decided that markings of a princess involve an internal belief system. I didn't think I would ever get my cushy home as a lovely reality so until I did I pretended and chose what I could. That made all the difference.

I know I've lived and it has mattered. I try to savour every ordinary moment I have. I want to own every second...even the ones I would rather forget. That girl I was talking about that I no longer recognize in my early twenties? Well, even though I don't recognize her- she helped bring me HERE so I don't regret her. She gave me lessons and grit and a remembrance of what it is like to be immersed in a belief system. She continues to give me grace for others like her because I was once her. I am glad I am no longer her and in another way she was beauty too, but there will be aspects of myself now I will shed later if I get to live longer. A large factor in all of this though was choice. We become our choices and we ARE what we choose.

Looking back, what daily or key choices brought you your best moments?

The music video for the song below "I Lived" is part bio of an attractive boy with Cystic Fibrosis and each time I watch it I relate in some areas, and am relieved in others while also growing in my awareness of each of our stories, how they are integrated, what becomes us and how we choose to live:


Sam said...

we have so much in common. You write beautifully. Thank you for sharing your beautiful heart. ~ Sam of Everyday Aspergers

Kmarie A. said...

Thanks Sam! I think we do too! And you also write beautifully:) I love that you added your voice here:) xoxo

S said...

Thank you for sharing and writing this. It is a one of your most helpful post. Maybe, whenever I feel down, I should read it again.
I am sorry to hear about your loss. My heart goes out to you.
Our lives are so so similar. And our thoughts too. I have lived a life of struggle in the sense that I have always felt my thoughts not connecting to the majority/popular thought at all. I felt very different from the rest since childhood. As I grew up, as an adult ,( at that time, I was a lecturer teaching in a college and was on my way to become a professor in the University) , things became more difficult on the outside specially my dealings with the society. Well, that was on the outside and that lasted for a few years.
But very soon, on the inside, I discovered a whole "new" person, a new "me".
My husband is a non-conformist (an atheist). I follow a particular path (non-religious) I don't want to give any name to God but I believe in an universal energy or source that is inherent in everybody and that is the soul. The soul is the indestructible force within each of us that is never born and that never is pure but when we are born but after that it gets contaminated (by social norms ) and from that time our life gets out of our control.
So I worship the soul and try to make it as pure as possible by taking it to its nascent stage. Sometimes, I fail but mostly, I am able to do so.
I believe that it is true for you as well. You are trying to let go off what is "false" and "untrue" in your life by upholding the "truth" as far as possible. The "truth" that only which you can discover by trial and error and that truth lies in our soul.
I felt happy for you when you said that you love your life. It is like loving your soul. To nourish it and give it care is all that is needed. That should be our only goal. If it is taken care of, we need not worry/care too much about other things.
Also, thank you for your tips. Boundaries are important especially when people do not understand. Otherwise, acceptance ( in the form of non-reaction ) is the key. For me, it is mostly silence and acceptance that has helped me in my journey in many ways while dealing with difficult people. (My husband on the other hand is a big believer of boundaries.) I too draw boundaries with people but more than that, I think that I just keep an environment of silence/non-reaction when other people are passing judgements. You can call it showing "disinterest" or being "indifferent" to certain situation.

S said...

(continuing from before...)
Anyway, the daily or key choices that brought me my best moments are ( although I am not able to recollect some of them ):

1. By simplifying my life in ALL AREAS/aspects. By cutting down my wants and desires. That was a VERY IMPORTANT decision that I took.
2.Telling myself to go into the "silent" mode every now and that. This is the MOST IMPORTANT key that I want to share with you. I have an overthinking and overtly emotional mind since childhood. But practicising silence to quite the mind has helped me the MOST.( And no, it has not restricted my creative abilities or empathy )
3. Trying to keep my sensitivity alive by becoming more and more aware of my life, my surroundings and my purpose by expanding my heart whenever needed.
4. Reading spiritual books and learning from the great spiritual masters about the purpose of life.
5. Creativity in any form ( like home decor, photography, gardening,art and craft, and of course, writing ! )
6. Listening to music that liberates the soul, which has deep meaning.
7. Not socializing/ Unsocializing or living a hermit like existence
8. Doing daily work in "small amounts" as soon as I get up, no matter how difficult it is ( like cooking at least one dish, cleaning, mopping, watering plants, washing etc.etc ). For me, these tasks are still difficult to do but I force myself to do it. I have become more mentally active and less depressed (/less fatigue also) as a result of this.
9. Lighting incense, candles and sitting in silence for some time ( with or without meditation ).
10. Connecting with other sensitive souls, or in its absence, watching movies with sensitive themes/subjects.

Ashe said...

Can't say I've ever thrown a book, but quite a few have been exiled into the depths of the closet to never be touched again after a stern talking to about what they were wrong about and how they aren't even worth the hassle of trying to resell or put in the trash so I can be rid of them. Cruelest punishment I could think of for a book. :P

I reckon the choice that has saved me the most heartache is when I finally admit I don't have anybody competent enough to do the job and have to do it myself. Every now and then somebody will shock me and do their job well, which is such a huge relief to me 'cause it gets exhausting having to constantly oversee everything. I can deal with little flaws, quirks, and minor accidents, and I tend to be pretty lax about a lot of things, but some mistakes are too big for me to ignore. Like cutting my bangs. Why can't beauticians follow a simple rule? "Trim the back, don't cut the bangs." Not that complicated. Been cutting my own hair for over ten years now.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful beautiful beautiful beautiful… my heart seriously resonates on so many different levels.

Thank you for this offering of freedom and such rich wisdom.


Kmarie A. said...

S: That is such a compliment! Especially when I thought that it would be though of differently and I am so relieved and honoured that you would read it when down as that was a main goal for others who struggle...its not for those who are so sure in their beliefs that it insults.

Yes we are very similar. So much so sometimes! I try to make it true...:) Those are great thoughts. Thank you. Oh yes to number one! 2 has also been crucial to my sanity. 3 is very important. Your 4 has been the most influential in my life- even my early one...which is why I believe reading and access to books are crucial for development in many cases. 5 and 6 are my life blood and when I don't remember to do them its a mistake. 7 amen:) 8 that is a good idea...I find I do better too but can't do so right in the morning or I feel sick...usually for me its evening when I do my best. 9- hmmmmm I never do that but maybe I should! 10 Yes! Which is why I am friends with you dear soul ...Thank you for all of this!

Kmarie A. said...

Ashe- yes sometimes having even one more copy is a travesty to the world so I throw them out/recycle- but generally I try to see some objectivity and if its not pure garbage I put them somewhere to use...but I HAVE thrown books in disgust so angry at the stupidity of the words and how they add judgement and less acceptance in the world! pet peeve. Books are supposed to either be stories, metaphors or teaching tools or learning to love and grow the mind...when they end up being petty and close minded encouraging judgement or giving falsified information about a condition I can not take it. Especially in the Aspie/ Autistic realm which I found happened more often than not which is why I prefer books BY autistics in general. Those who know are the experts in writing not those who only study those who know.

Lol that is awesome. Thanks for adding that!:)

Amy: Really? I am so surprised. I was worried it would insult. I am glad you found it so and I am so happy to hear this. May you continue to find beauty, freedom and inspiration.

A. said...

can’t see how your words and how you shared your journey and experiences would be insulting in any way. It’s encouraging to me because it’s reflects my hub and I own journey in so many ways. It’s lonely at times, and it’s so refreshing to hear you share from a very familiar space of freedom. I hope you will always continue to bring your voice into the world.

Freedom comes from a whole lot of soul work, boundaries and continuing to define what happiness is to each individual, and that is what I read in all of the words that you shared.