Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Christmas In November; About Hopelessness, Hope, and Choice.

Most mornings I wake up from nightmares into stunning actuality. I look around at the beautiful room constructed by my husband as my heart pounds because it hasn't quite caught up to reality yet, and I take a deep breath as my eyes adjust. As I rekindle consciousness, my heart fills with gratitude that my life isn't the other way around...where I have to escape into dreams to find reprieve. Instead I simply have to wake.

Minus health issues and various life complications I know I am privileged, even though we each have struggles and blessings. Lately, I have had to search a little more for the positive, which perhaps makes it all the more stunning when found. "Freedom is what we do with what's been done to us."- John Paul Sartre.

For a few weeks to months, due to various complications of personal nature in our lives, including some alarming health issues, I began to feel hopeless and helpless. Globally, in current context, if we are paying even a bit of attention or are sensitive souls, we are perhaps all feeling bits of helpless hopelessness. That energy bleeds into our daily lives. The personal blends context into the bigger picture, and I have had to remind myself that what I choose, my freedom in daily living, matters. Often it feels like just when I begin to get my life together, the pain comes again. It's like one of my favourite Dolly Parton songs from my childhood, ***"Here you Come Again," except I am substituting a circumstance for a person into the peppy, feel good tune. Miranda Lambert crooned in one of her new mellow songs, ****"This moment is heavy. For me I am not ready....forgive me I'm finding my ways...well my body is present. My heart is absent. And my mind is racing. My feet are pacing. It's your tail your chasing. It's the past I'm erasing. And your heart can't be tested- when it ain't well rested. My gears are's a matter of timing. I guess nothing ain't surviving... And your heart can't be tested when it ain't well rested." In short, my heart ain't well rested.

I knew I needed a jump start. I spent weeks fluctuating between marking myself dead, and fighting to live. With my symptoms I feel 80 or death like every day. It's NOT normal for someone my age and I have a tough time convincing practical minds (when it's not staring convincingly on an ultrasound or blood test which luckily I have had to back me up) that it's not drama but my reality, despite the face of energy I put out when I can. I was brought up to mask. I prepared my budget for imminent death and made sure that I validated my children with constant words of affirmation for them to remember. Leaving my future self in the hands of institutions I don't trust made the whole situation more complicated. And then, on one of the days when I just wanted to bury myself in blankets and cocoon myself in safety, I asked my husband if we could bring out the kids' christmas presents.

It was one of the best decisions we have made this year. The entire morning leading up to our mini early christmas I was sick. The pain almost took me to the hospital, but what could they actually do for me there? Experience has suggested nine times out of ten they make my life worse. So I rode the pain out and around 2:00 I knew I was improving enough to concentrate on life again. I threw on a red blouse over my PJs and put on some eyeliner.  (The other pics featured in this post with my Christmas Sweater are from decorating my mom's tree a week earlier- another beauty moment.) I made my case to my hubby for Christmas in November around noon. We madly cleaned our home, our children motivated by possible gifts (although they took a surprising bit of convincing), and put on every christmas light. Both our trees were lit up. I went to my parents for a lovely lunch and came home to a dreamland which my hubby created while I was gone.

This year my husband had worked an extra few days in the summer so we could order our children unusually large gifts. Normally on Christmas, because they still have my grandparents and parents to spoil them plus a myriad of other people who love to shower them with love, we only gift them with something small ( under 40 dollars or so each.) We prefer to share the love with those whom have less in general and our children have a lot. We had two years where we defied this rule. This year, because of all the pain involved with it and consistent tragedy after tragedy, we decided it was time to spoil our own. To spend money on the children we have in our home, even if they do have a lot, and to make it a fun, seize the moment life.

I was excited about these gifts but slightly nervous I wouldn't be able to see them open them. Yes, part of me thought I would die before Christmas. And I guess none of us really know when anyway, but I was feeling so crappy every day that each morning I was ( and am still) surprised I wake up. I think, "Oh wow, another day...I lived." Then that thought is followed by, "Oh shoot, I have to find the energy to live today and somehow drag myself through my beautiful life." Which I am grateful for deep down but it's also exhausting. My grandpa was hospitalized for possible heart surgery and just in case, I didn't want our christmas affected by one more possible tragedy. So this was the context to which I asked for Christmas in November. I am lucky because I have the option. My children will still get mounds of gifts on Christmas. I don't have to worry that opening now will give them nothing later. I realize my privilege and it is immense.

Walking into my Wonderlandy home, I smiled and felt a small flicker I had not recognized in months. It was hope. The kids shut themselves into my daughter's room while we arranged the gifts in the library. I set up the video camera so that my husband and I could simply be in the moment but also have it recorded for posterity sake. I realize we over record moments in this age, but when one feels like they are on death's door and they have little kids, recording moments seems a bit more important. I want them to relive the love.

Fighting back tears at the sudden burst of unexpected joy, I called my life into the room. They came bounding in with exclamations of "Why don't you go first?" and "Should we do youngest to oldest or oldest to youngest or middle to youngest?" They all waited for each other. My husband and I felt that alone was a moment of success. We exchanged the look parents do when they are pleased and full from the life created between them. We decided on an order and the gifts were slowly opened and savoured. The siblings shared each other's excitement and lingered over gifts before they took their own turn. It was actually perfect. My husband cried because he thought of his childhood and his mom recently gone, but was also happy to have his children in front of him. Mixed emotions of pleasure and pain. I teared up when my son, who shows a LOT of emotion but generally surprise is not one of them, looked like he just won a million snow castles and could not believe it. The sound from his mouth made me laugh and choke on tears. It was hope again and it was coming from a child who ripped himself from my body eleven years ago and has created complicated beauty ever since. He gave me the most emotion because of this.

My daughter and I lingered over her gifts. I was particularly excited because even though she is a teenager, she went with her innocence and asked for an American Girl doll to join her collection. To me, this showed me that we have made the right decision by choosing to home school and slow down the pressure to be an adult. Childhood is only 1/4 of life and it should be protected and valued. I snuck a glance at her youthful yet little woman face glowing, and I felt both pain and joy. Pain that she is beautifully growing into a woman and joy for the same fact.

My youngest spouted rainbows as usual. He is a unicorn of magic when it comes to love and goodness. He is a handful, jumping from one thing to a next and in constant need of support, but the pure love he gives radiates from his being.

My small community that I share Instagram with and a couple people outside of that whom are close, didn't think we were crazy for our Christmas in November. They are used to us doing unconventional things. Plus, our trees were up before Halloween in October thus the timeline seemed about right. I received supportive comments like, "So happy to see you celebrating christmas early." or "This makes me so happy to see you happy." Love like that is priceless and I have it. I have it! I knew I had so much even when I was hopeless, which sort of compounded the hopelessness, if that makes sense? Thoughts akin to, "If I have ALL of this, and these people who love and support my Alice ways, and a beautiful wonderland haven, and a castle in my own home created by my guy, and a man whom loves me, and wonder and beauty and daily struggle inside of this bubble, should I NOT be grateful? Shouldn't I feel hope? Shouldn't I feel the beauty instead of simply seeing it?" I recognized it which made not feeling it even worse. I knew I had a choice on how I perceived my life, and I DID choose to see all of the good. But FEELING it. That has to come when it does.

Choice is freedom. But choice comes long before the feeling does at times. Choice of a moment can stir up feeling and that is important. Our choice to screw with timelines despite possible future disappointment, brought on a bunch of unexpected hope. It may not have worked that way, but the important matter was that we CHOSE it with intent.

We had the freedom to celebrate on our own timeline. It was still Christmas, even in November. My husband, the ever willing man to serve, ran to the grocery store to buy chocolate and strawberries. This MAN, this man who chose me, goes above and beyond sometimes to show his love. He is a well of love and wanting love. All he wanted was a wife who loved him and a little family and a little home. He dreamed of me from the day he could imagine family. And I dreamt of a prince like him. He has put me through hell at times, as I have put him through the fires too, but he IS my soul mate even if I do not believe in soul mates. He is THE one because on my wedding day I said he was. More than that, each day we commit again by communication and hard determination. He is the vessel that enables me to live, and I am the spirit that pushes him onward. He made fresh popcorn on the oven top and delicious home made burgers for a supper treat. Each bite was another bit of hope. Each moment slowed into eternity with an exchange in positive energy. We watched a fun movie later and we went to bed satiated.

I can not begin to explain how much I personally needed this last sunday. Our sundays do not involve church nor any other institution. We are not that type of people, but the community that we STILL have when I uploaded the pictures later that night, was better than any support I ever received in over twenty years of church going. Another choice into freedom.

Life can sometimes be done to us. Some things are out of our control. And sometimes it takes a while for our body, mind and soul to catch up. Things take time. We are not ready for freedom until we are. We aren't ready to react to what has been done to us and to take our choice back, until suddenly we are strong. Sometimes this happens in mere seconds. Other times it take different people, circumstances and events of our own making, to bring us back to hope and joy.

December is tomorrow. I have radioactive tests on monday and more bloodwork to do. There are dental appointments, counselling appointments, EMDR to try for my grieving hubby, optometrists appointments, physiotherapy weekly, and general life requirements. In that I am sure I will fluctuate back to depression and hopelessness. I know I will. But I also know this- HOPE may not be felt for months or years at times, even when we have beauty in front of us. Sometimes we simply have to hold on and keep choosing. We have to show up and sometimes we have to choose not to show up. Both serve. However, hope can be found in the strangest of places. As Dumbledore tells Harry, "“Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one remembers to turn on the light.” Sometimes hope works the same way. We have to choose to activate it. It is lingering in the shadows waiting. It's ok for hope to be sidelined while we feel what we need to feel. Hope is not for all moments. In fact, I would argue that feeling without hope, improves hope later. It makes one all the more grateful. Hopelessness in small amounts can also serve. But I would not recommend it for long.

"Now that I've worn out, I've worn out the world, I'm on my knees in fascination, Looking through the night, And the moon's never seen me before, But I'm reflecting light. I rode the pain down, Got off and looked up, Looked into your eyes, The lost open windows, All around, My dark heart lit up the skies. Now that I've worn out, I've worn out the world, I'm on my knees in fascination, Looking through the night, And the moon's never seen me before, But I'm reflecting light. Give up the ground
Under your feet, Hold on to nothing for good, Turn and run at the mean dogs Chasing you
Stand-alone and misunderstood. 
Now that I've worn out, I've worn out the world, I'm on my knees in fascination,Looking through the night, And the moon's never seen me before. But I'm reflecting light"- Songwriter Leslie Phillips sung by Sam Phillips**

We may not have the fortitude or strength for choice. But eventually there comes a time when regardless of strength, we have to choose or at least choose someone to choose for us. “It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices.”- Dumbledore 

Christmas in November was exactly the amount of magic I needed. It brought me to hope. It was like a movie that speaks to your deepest emotions at a time when you feel nothing and suddenly you hear words set to beautiful imagery and music that shoot straight into your soul. An example would be when we went to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and I escaped into beauty. I teared up inside a suitcase with Newt because I was blown away by the 3D beauty. A tiny sliver of beautiful inspiration. Or when we went to Trolls and I sat through most of the movie thinking "Am I on drugs?!? What IS this?!?" It was trippy but there was one part when Justin Timberlake starts crooning, "You with the sad eyes....Don't be discouraged Oh I realize it's hard to take courage in a world full of people...this world makes you crazy, you have taken all you can bear." And I started crying from the combination of his compassionate voice and the sparkles of colour coming on to the darkness of the screen. I actually don't full out cry often. If I do, it usually takes movies or music to trigger me and I had no idea that a psychedelic children's film I didn't particularly enjoy would give me that moment. Or like the Gilmore Girls revival that brought home the fact that you can live in the most idealistic town possible and still have disappointment. You can live in the place of most privilege and not lead a life of beauty.* It's all about whom one chooses to be.

My hope for the world at large? That we can each recognize choice when it is ours. That we have the strength to implement choice or safe people to rely on to implement it for us. That we choose to see inspiration in big cash movies or small town charm. That we celebrate moments like Christmas in November.

*About The Gilmore Girls Arrival. Gilmore Girls is one of my favourite Tv Shows. I love the writing of Amy Sherman- Palladino in general which is why after my initial feelings I came to agree with this review the most:

 And I felt mostly the same as the article above and I did like this take on it too:
And I agree with this sentiment of overcorrecting Rory in Season 4: and my three ultimate favs? Paris, Kirk and Jess.

Song Choices: **Reflecting Light- Sam Phillips CLICK

****Well Rested- Miranda Lambert CLICK

***Here You Come Again- Dolly Parton CLICK
And a bonus: Justin Timberlake True Colours

Friday, November 18, 2016

Speaking Love Amongst Judgement, and my New Boundary Filled Stance on Friendship and Faith

Because our life suddenly went from spectacular to tough in the last 8 months, the outer pressure from a select devout few to "See God" or "Come back to the Fold" or "Listen the Revelations of the Holy Spirit" or "Find eternal life" have been circling around us like birds of prey. It's interesting that when those who are seen to have "little faith" in comparison to the "right" christian fundamentalist populous (I am not including the Christians who belong to more compassionate balance) are put under a radar of scrutiny and judgment during their painful moments. This also happens in good moments too when "praise the Lord" and "Only God could have brought this to you for your good" are also thrown around. So if "God" saved me from having a bad day, yet the child next door died, the equality of the statement does not add up. The standard reply for that of course, is that the child dying was "All in God's hands or plan to further the kingdom of heaven some how." It's so utterly predictable and robotic, and yet it STILL surprises me....the blatant disregard for love, LIVING, and judgment in the name of their God.

My friend Hillary wrote a post HERE *and in it she mentions:
"My formative years were devoted to an incredibly fear-based approach to life following a flavor of fundamentalism which taught that I would likely someday be tortured for my faith. Possibly burned alive, boiled in oil, or at least ripped away from my family and sent to a concentration camp run by Nazis, the Illuminati and the devil. This fear helped reinforce an unconventional way of life: become as self-sufficient as possible, follow a literal interpretation of the Bible, live off the grid, be undocumented (and therefore untrackable), follow strict patriarchal roles of men and women in the home, learn exactly how to think and what to believe, and much more. I became rigorously judgmental on the watch for evil. Everything was scrutinized and judged. Daily we judged whatever came along: media, government, food distributors, school systems, churches, local officials, doctors, modern medicine, banks, books, messages and music on the radio, news sources controlled by an “agenda,” clothes, careers, personal choices, other people—their hearts, intentions, beliefs, lifestyles, choices and motivations; those who had Internet, who used cell phones, who sent their kids to public school, who dyed their hair, who “didn't want to know the truth,” who didn't use herbs or alternative medicine, who were “trapped in the world,” who took advantage of modern conveniences, who owned a checking account, who went to (or even encouraged) college or higher education, women who moved away from home before they got married, those who were caught up in “the system,” who went to big mega churches or used birth control, people from other religions and faiths, parents who hired a babysitter for special date nights, anyone who was “tolerant,” which meant soft on sin, and anyone who was not like us."
Unfortunately, this sounds all too familiar. I had friends and family who believed that way or still do. I am surrounded by a community that takes many aspects of that crazy life up above and uphold them with various "Truth Projects." Anyone that even slightly speaks up is a pot stirrer, or sensationalist yet they are allowed to speak up all they want because "they are speaking for God." My words here would be seen as bitter, and deep down in their hearts they would rejoice that I will burn in hell for eternity, yet they will try to take the love path and bring me to Christ despite this judgment. They do not see beyond what they interpret from their Holy Book. Which ironically is upheld only by those who are also like minded and is not studied further beyond. 
Hillary quoted this at the beginning of her post:
Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. 
Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts—adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take “everyone on Earth” to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale. 

…One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times."

— Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Because I am tired and well, just tired due to THIS and a nodule within, I have stopped playing the game to those I am friends with. For years I have tried to find a balance. To meet more than half way at least. Because I am their friend I still will meet half way but I will not take it beyond that.  I will not stay completely silent and sit there smiling while completely having a conversation that is not applicable to my life. That is not friendship anyway. I will no longer allow insinuations that because I am not a Christian I do not have a strong moral code. Because I am not part of the "brothers and sisters in christ" I am not also "called" to love because "I do not know better." I am tired of that ignorance and belief that because one is not in the same mindset, they deserve their sufferings to bring them to God, or are not part of the belonging that comes with the "in card of holy zeal."

Those friends who will leave me for this, are meant to leave. Those who will stay I will still respectfully listen to their faith that is a part of them as I have previously done, but now I will also honour mine. I will uphold more boundaries. I realize it comes to them, as pushing back, but that is a double standard. If they are allowed to speak bible verses, pray to me, and give their stances and opinions on all matters pertaining, should I not also be able to give mine? Not in argument as I am also too tired for that...but to be able to say, "I respect that, but that is not for me." Or as I said just this morning to someone asking me if God has given me any revelations this last year because we have suddenly been immersed in pain; "I actually don’t believe in God that way…😊 nor think bad or good comes from bad or good behaviours ect…What I take with me is that death comes to us all as well as life…there is both good and bad, dark and light in our world…who is to say which one is which sometimes…sometimes the darker things end up being what brings beauty and the beautiful things bring pain. So I am not really judging this experience or putting blame anywhere. It's hard but it has its light too…😊 xoxo. I appreciate you asking about me…" It was met with silence and I am sure we will work through it...but I feel it is exactly the same as them asking what revelations God has given when they know I do not believe the same way. Also, I understand the sentiment "it's not a religion but a relationship and Jesus is my best friend- I can't imagine life without him and I just want you to have that." Because I used to say that and believe that. I understand that deep conviction and feeling. But if that is said to me, it also must be understood that, after a few years of transition, I have the SAME comfort and feeling from within and without. The prayers I said inside, I still say but with the realization that I may just be finding comfort in my own energy and psyche...or maybe it is god... but either way, I can also wish that they could for a second experience what I have and know it is as JUST as satisfying and worked upon. If they are allowed to say they are happy to be a Christian, am I not allowed to say that I am happy not to be one? Why is mine insulting and theirs is not? Why must I apologize for sharing my lack of faith, while their faith is shared? I will apologize for hurt but I should not apologize for stating something I am truly happy about, just like they are truly happy about themselves. Why am I not allowed to say an exact statement in reverse as I have sat through their statements with the understanding that they are not meaning harm but instead rejoicing in whom they are and I can rejoice with them without sharing that? Why can I not say a statement and be given the same courtesy of non judgment that I give them and the same understanding that they are just being who they are and as a friend I can be different but celebratory of those differences?

And yet maybe they don't know? Maybe I have appeased and met over and beyond that there are slight doubts in their mind that I may not be on the same page, but they wonder how a person like I, who has a strong moral code, can spout bible verses and understand the general meanings of what they say from their heart and translate it into a speech I can relate to. How is that girl not a believer? Because that is what I do and will continue to do, but with firmer boundaries. I WILL translate what they say. I have always done that. If they say "I'm praying for you" my heart is touched because I translate it as "I'm thinking of you in the way I know how." If they say "God is with you" I translate it to "love is with you" and with gratitude I move on. Why take offence to a heartfelt sentiment even if it is spoken in a different language? Love is the universal language and I will chose that always. However, if we are in a discussion, I will no longer hold myself back from also being strong in what I am. I will not feel shame for deciding that a certain type of God is not mine. I don't fear death. I don't fear many things that I used to fear as a christian. It is freeing. That said, there are many beautiful attributes I chose to take from my previous christian faith. I don't believe my way is the only way and I try to speak in a language that anyone from any faith, in my house, can understand. I have tried hard to get rid of the Godspeak ingrained in my language. Because, I want to be able to translate my love to those in my home from any faith. I want to be able to speak love but that does not mean hiding the love that I am either.

This does not apply to people who are not my friends or love in my life. With them, I have no issues shutting a door or not allowing preachings at my family. It is vastly different and a completely different boundary to allow strangers to walk upon us. Strangers may be people who have been constantly in our lives but yet still do not understand our hearts at all. They fail to see the inner essence and judge based on what they believe they know. That is not love. It can be held with basic respect ( as in we will not come after them or send hate their way) but it does not require more. In our community it is actually dangerous to blatantly say one is not a believer. That is not for strangers or curious members to know, because they will make life a living hell for us. They will also put us under the radar of bitter radicles. That is something we do not need or want, thus it is important to keep up pretences somewhat or keep them guessing. Truthfully, there ARE aspects of faith and belief I have but that is mine to keep. In my home, I believe it is fair to ask that there is no preaching, even as a form of "understanding" but instead love MUST come first. If that can not be handled, it is important for them to find a home to visit elsewhere. We can maybe meet on neutral ground occasionally if there is a bit of genuine love there, but general curiosity is not grounds enough to infringe on our safe place.

Friends are those within our reach that are in our lives for the enduring good and bad. Friends may get irritated, be angry and have all scope of the human emotion, but in the end they still chose love, to try understanding, and to speak the other's language. I still intend to speak my christian friend's languages. I will still translate everything they say, give bible verses if that is what they need, and honour their faith. However, now I am also expecting the same back. I want them to translate the words I say that may not sound christian, I want them to translate and see my moral code even if it is not belonging to theirs, and I want them to honour my lack of faith or faith in what they may not understand. I feel it is both. I no longer have time for meaningless friendships and I expect an equal give and take with those in my life. Yes, it will hurt to be unfollowed, or unfriended in real life, but it hurts more to stay in a place where one's soul is not seen. Time is the greatest gift we can give because it is even more limited than money. I want to spend my time with those who honour it and I want to give my time to those who both need me and see me.

There will be judgment. There will be interpretations of friendships that are entirely wrong. There will be assumptions of bitterness or accusations of a wolf in sheep's clothing. I realize that God IS love to them. They translate my love as God's as well. That is fine. But I am also then allowed to translate their love in ways my soul manifests. I am also allowed to see it differently. Because in the end, none of us can truly truly know for sure what comes after death. Yes, I come from a faith that says that isn't so, but faith in it's very definition underscores that. If we are not entirely sure, why do we base every friendship and life off of something that comes later or maybe not at all? Why are we not living now? Choosing the love that is so fully here at hand now? Why do we isolate people simply because they are choosing differently from us? Why do we judge based on verses that have been written and translated by men through inconsistent revelations? Why are we creating full friendships on the basis of belief alone? There are so many other rich and wonderful topics worth connecting over. There is love and support in the world. Love and support DO come from aspects of religion but so do great evil, judgment and chaos. What we chose to speak into our deeper friendships and chose to translate is important. Yes, we each need to stand up and show our souls, myself included, but this should be done with proper translation and an understanding of clarity. We must not give up simply because we are communicating differently. If it matters, love will overcome.

"I took my love, I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
'Til the landslide brought it down
Oh, mirror in the sky
What is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changin' ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Well, I've been afraid of changin'
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I'm getting older, too
Well, I've been afraid of changin'
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I'm getting older, too
Oh, I'm getting older, too
I took my love, I took it down
I climbed a mountain and I turned around
And if you see my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well the landslide will bring it down
And if you see my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well the landslide will bring it down
Oh, the landslide will bring it down"- Fleetwood Mac

I feel very lucky that I have at least two handfuls of friends who honour this already. I have gems. And I am pretty sure I will have a few more after this post who may respect this and change accordingly...and I will lose a few as well. But in the end, even if I only had one good friend ( which I do with my bestie) my life is still supported, community minded and loving. I am still very lucky. My husband and I have our share of struggle but it's not because we chose's just what happens. We are still grateful even when we are struggling. We are still worth our being until we no longer breathe and give up our energy to a different form. We are still worthy as we exist.

Additional Song Choices: Friend- Meghan Trainor, Love Yourself- Justin Beiber

*Links to Hillary pertain to a time period in her life when she was on a different path. Sometimes her links do not work due to a Hiatus. She is on a completely opposite journey that I am on currently. I do not endorse some of the beliefs held from anyone I cite. However, I will forever be grateful to Hillary for some key awakenings in my life when our paths met and we may meet up again. She is a beautiful soul regardless of stances. I hold to this for anyone I cite.*

Saturday, November 5, 2016

"Ain't Nothing Gonna Break My Stride" or At Least not Long Term Anyway...Mutism, Resilience, Autistic Shutdown and a Story of Thievery.

Life is rich with complexities, contradictions, dark and light. And we have got to keep on moving until we simply can't anymore. Unfortunately, some people are unlucky enough to be constantly knocked down. While we have had our share of issues, I consider our life lovely in general and am grateful for the luck of our draw.

But a couple days ago my stride broke. I had a momentary lapse of momentum and positive outlook. In complete honesty- I broke. I didn't speak for an entire afternoon. I went mute.

Plenty of stresses were leading up to that moment. Some were handled efficiently and effectively ( I am a 'J' type after all,) while others, wellllllllll they were brushed under a rug until I could problem solve. And those became carpet monsters.

Someone in my immediate circles had been on a drug that had helped for awhile but was causing severe outbursts. I finally figured out, after months of wondering why I had a Jekyll and Hyde on my hands, that most of it was medication induced. Five glorious days after quitting that enhancer, our days became more manageable. And then our truck was stolen with all of our business tools inside.

To be honest, the truck was a piece of junk and the suckers who stole it laughably had to abandon it close to home. But we had co workers tools and my husband's construction gear stowed inside. Our tools were insured but because most of our recent receipts were in the stolen console, we did not have proof of ownership, thus we were not going to be insured even though we have paid through the nose to protect our business...and that fact caused it's share of stress. Note to all business people- don't just keep receipts- have well documented pictures because those are also accepted. For a day I thought we would have to go into debt again, after we worked our butts off to be out of large debt, simply because we were an innocent victim of crime. We were ready to take out loans (which goes against all we have worked towards) and we had to pay for a new licence plate in case the criminals used ours and we had to be responsible to get our truck back to town at whatever cost.

I have always been delighted at thievery capers on TV. I find them fascinating and fun. However, being a victim enabled a completely different perspective. It's not just the infringement of privacy and the invasion of our false sense of security that affects, but also the tedious details that come AFTER a crime. The phone calls from police, statements, waivers, insurance policy, red tape....we found out the system is really not working for most victims. In fact, it's failing abominably. Crime really does not pay...for the victim. But the criminals? If not caught, they get to wreak havoc and ruin small, normal lives. I used to think that white collar crimes were no biggie. I mean, it could be worse, but after our very tiny incident I realized that on a larger scale, it really is life and death in a deeper way. There are worse crimes, but stolen property does affect the psyche more than I previously thought. Stuff is not easy to recover. It's stressful and that trite statement of "it's just least it's not a life" is not FULL enough. Yup, it is just stuff. But stuff that contributes to a life. Stuff that is part OF a life. Sure, it's awesome no one was endangered as that is a FAR greater loss, but a loss is a loss is a loss. Just because it's inanimate does not mean that it does not have effects on the animate.

Our story had a happy ending but I feel for those who are innocent victims of crime. Because usually it's the victim who ends up paying. Insurance is a joke in most cases and the pains that it requires on an already stressed home is ridiculous. Happily, the police recovered ALL of our stolen property less than 24 hours later which is amazing. Our truck is waiting to go to the junker because they stripped the battery, console, and every important part before leaving it where it was...but the tools were stashed in another stolen vehicle so we have all of them back. Even with insurance, it would have only covered the depreciated value of the tools sans GST and priced according to year bought. But tools to a trade are like friends. If well taken care of, it does not matter how old they are, they are quality items used daily, akin to body parts. The value of them would not have come close to what the payout price would have been. It would have cost us more than we could afford, especially considering we had other employee's tools in the truck. I'm thankful for the recovery efforts of our police force.

What put me over the edge was the fact that for three hours prior to our vehicle being stolen the police were out with watch/scent dogs and search lights in our area, but 45 minutes after they gave up, and five minutes after we went to bed, our truck took off, which means our house was watched.  That fact felt violating on it's own.

So I stopped talking. Completely for a full afternoon. My youngest asked if he would have to learn sign language. I smiled and shook my head but could not explain in words. My daughter was strangely in tune with my non vocal language. She knew everything I was communicating through out the day and kept the house running, stuck to my side even though she was also fighting a cold. My middle child kept saying phrases like, "I don't get can talk but you just choose not to or you will never talk again? What exactly is going on?" It was cute but even then I had no words. They were gone. Poofed out of my brain. So my daughter placated with, "No no she will talk again. Sometimes this happens...don't you remember? But not often and not usually this long. She will be fine. Besides she is talking...just not with words." Seriously, how did I get so lucky with my kids?

For months previous to this incident, I had my hands full dealing with various grieving individuals, a chemical induced Jekyll and Hyde, rage on innocents, and barely keeping my health and family together. Allow me to state, that between these stressful times we had a healthy quota of beautiful, lovely, and wonderful moments. It wasn't all bad. But I WAS juggling and it was only a matter of time before I broke. It was coming for over a year. I tend to break over smaller things when I do break. I was the camel. The tools were the straw.

I was watching the way the light played off of my perfume bottles. For over an hour. An empty screen sitting in front of me. I couldn't type, listen to music or do ANYTHING. For a moment I wondered what was wrong with me. Why couldn't I seem to speak? What nonsense was this? Many friends kept checking in and I could not speak to any of them. My autistic friend asked what she could do, and in a moment of clarity I realized what was happening. Autistics can be prone to mutism at times. It's called shutdown. I was in shutdown mode. So I asked her to write me up a paragraph I could give to others and she came back with this:

"Sometimes when autistic people experience a large amount of stress, they experience shutdowns. Shutdowns are stress responses resulting from a severely overloaded nervous system. Shutdowns often result in unresponsiveness, sluggishness, and inability to speak and use words. It often also causes intense sleepiness. This is because the brain is trying to "reboot" itself after having too much to deal with. Trying to pressure an autistic person to speak or respond when they feel incapable of doing so only increases the stress on the brain. Typically, the best response is giving them space and letting them recover in a dark room."

I realized I have had shutdown before. Usually due to illness or sensory overload. My husband knows when I am really sick because I fall absolutely silent. I also get smaller versions of it when too many people are in my life or at group functions. Even too many people texting or phoning. I won't answer or I will keep it to smiling faces emojis because I can not handle a lot of people and voices. But there have been a few moments in life when stressful circumstances also brought on shutdown. My miscarriage was one. When I started to recover from that loss I listened to Daniel Powder "Bad Day" song on repeat over and over and over again while driving around with my toddlers in the back seat because that was all I could do in recovery mode.
As the author puts in the link above shutdown IS resilience ( I will highlight a few parts of her post below):

"What Shutdown IS NOT:
*A sign that I have had an easy life... my shutdowns do not make me ‘sheltered’a sign that I need to learn more ‘techniques’ or ‘cant handle stress’– a suggestion I often find quite offensive as I am one of the most skilled people I know at using the tools, techniques and resources at my disposal. My life is stressful not because I ‘can’t handle it’ but because I was born with a sensitive system into an period of history and location where sensory and social input are extremely noisy and demanding. I am probably better at handling stress than most people without my neurology, because I do it every single day to a very high standard.

*Post-traumatic dissociation – this happens to me too, but is different in quality (is often accompanied by self-harming thoughts, and is more of a panic-stricken freeze than an exhausted shut down) a sign that I am autistic, and that life is sometimes just overwhelming and difficult for me.

What Shutdown IS:
When I shutdown, this is my brain enforcing a break, catching me up, giving me time out, or whatever. It also signals that I might need help from others. a coping technique in itself. If I didn’t shut down my body would continue being hyper-stimulated and the results would not be good.

*It is a natural coping technique...

*A sign that I am connected to my body enough to know that enough is enough... especially when I am able to predict a shutdown coming on before it has hit by taking notice of the bodily signs (this is a skill I am building and means I am more often able to get into a safe place — but it doesn’t stop it actually happening)." (taken from HERE.)

I loved the point about Autistics handling stress better than most. I am an expert at stress. It may not seem like it, but because of my neurology I deal with high levels, even IN my home, on a daily basis. Thus, I am fairly resilient. In fact, my closest friends and family know that when I break- I fully crack, but that my repairs begin the moment the break has happened. In other words, I bounce back. I find my stride quite fast even when devastated. I am stubborn and hard shelled. I am also sensitive with a gooey centre. Both at once. And nothing pisses me off more when someone undermines my coping strategies or wisdom, assuming I do not have the coping skills that I have worked my butt off to have in my arsenal. ha ha. Anyway, life is still life. WE are the sum of our parts and choices. Some we ask for, some we naturally can't shake. I am Autistic which is both beauty and struggle. Thus, I WILL shutdown for the sanity of my mind on occasion.

I finally spoke late that evening. My husband smiled and said, "Ah my love I missed the sound of your voice." I think I scared him a bit. But, the shutdown mutism episode enabled my brain to heal from months of abuse. It wasn't about the truck. Being a victim when I was already a victim of chemical induced rage out of the blue and then having a stranger sweep in on the scene to make me a victim again, triggered the shutdown. It wasn't a choice. It was how my brain deals. I easily moved on after that and of course it helped to have our tools recovered a few hours later. By "easily moved on" I mean that I realized I can lose it all but still be ME. I gained a bit of perspective. I made a plan I could handle. I tracked down needed supports. A day later I wondered what song was going to get me through this time...and suddenly the lyrics started running through my mind, "Ain't nothing gonna break my stride, nobody gonna slow me down. Oh no. I got to keep on movin' "

I will break. I have broken. It's untrue that nothing will break my stride...but my hope is that I will eventually keep on moving until the day I move onward past life itself.

Resilience doesn't mean there isn't a break or lack of difficulty. Often resilience shows up AFTER difficulties. Springing back into shape takes practice, determination, and perspective. It can happen quickly but it's from a deeper source of soul exercise and brain wiring.

I am thankful for my support system and for the geographic location of which I luckily was born into. For my privilege that is a huge part of my ease and for environment and freedom of choice. With all of those factors gone, life would be infinitely tougher and I feel for those who had a different luck of the draw. I feel for those who suffer innocently because of location, or lack of privilege. My hope is that their inner resilience gives them their inner freedom. For myself, I hope that resilience continues to serve my life. That when my stride breaks I can gather myself in silence to walk once more. I also hope that mutism episodes and shutdown become understood and even accepted one day.

"Hey Jude, don't make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better
Hey Jude, don't be afraid
You were made to go out and get her
The minute you let her under your skin
Then you begin to make it better
And anytime you feel the pain, hey Jude, refrain
Don't carry the world upon your shoulders
For well you know that it's a fool who plays it cool
By making his world a little colder...."- Paul McCartney, The Beatles.