I Fell in Love Today

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I fell in love with a glimpse of you today…and you never even knew.

But there you were, sitting cross-legged, Indian-style on a gravel walkway winding through a field of scattered tombstones. You wore a grease-splattered McDonald’s uniform and were happily occupying your own world. Your head was down, but bobbing slightly to the rhythm of whatever music was streaming through your earphones.

Was it simply a short break or was the work day done? What was it like to leave the circus that is the home of Ronald McDonald, only to take shelter in the land of the dead a few hundred feet away? The image of you, of all that you represent washed over me and still remains in my mind’s eye – a jumbled collage of America, commercialism, youth, morbidity, and the ever-present hope of eternity.

Are You a Nowhere Man? All About Biases

The Beatles "Nowhere Man"

The Beatles “Nowhere Man”

I’ve said before that I think some of the best poetry snippets can be found in song lyrics. Not every musician or group writes great or even above-average lyrics, but when they do, I like to dissect the songs and really think about them. One song I have always felt a strong kinship with is “Nowhere Man” by The Beatles. I’m not sure many people really stop to think about the song as far as philosophy goes, but I find it full of a kind of zen-like wisdom.

I think perhaps my favorite lines from the song are:

“He’s as blind as he can be
Just sees what he wants to see”

Do you know anyone like that? I know I sure do. I know people who are seemingly intelligent and caring, but are hopelessly blind to certain truths because they either don’t want to see them or because their minds are biased to a point where they can not see anything that doesn’t align with their personal beliefs. Even scientific studies have found this to be true…that our personal beliefs can affect our ability to see things clearly or even figure out simple problems.

When I used to be a foster parent, we had a class we had to take every so often that talked about how deeply bias affects us and the decisions we make, even when we are small children. A child who is biased to believe the world is cruel and unfair (from past neglect or abuse) will make their personal reality fit that view, even if their belief is not the current truth. They will see everything that they experience from that biased point of view and nothing will change their mind unless that bias changes.

I find that fascinating from a psychological point of view and have thought often of what that means when applied to human nature in general. Sometimes it rather discourages me because I understand that many people will choose to be blind or can’t help being blind to seemingly obvious truths no matter how much evidence they are given or how easily their beliefs could be disproven using logic and scientific reason. This makes me want to scream and shout in frustration sometimes. It also makes me worry about what biases I have in place that I don’t even notice. I guess the song was right when it asked, “Isn’t he a bit like you and me?”

My New Year’s Intentions for 2015

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Happy soon-to-be New Year everyone! Around this time of year, I always like to pause and assess my life. I decide what is going good, what I need to leave behind and what I might want to work on. I don’t like to make “New Year’s resolutions” because that phrasing to me seems to have guilt built into it. When people make New Year’s resolutions, they tend to feel guilty if they fail or make a mistake and eventually just give up. I like the phrase “New Year’s intentions” better because it doesn’t have that stigma to it and to me, intentions are about trying to do the right thing. Sure, we all mess up and even epically fail sometimes, but as long as we keep getting up and trying, I don’t think we truly ever lose.

So here are my three New Year’s intentions for 2015 –

1. Focus on health. I have many health problems that I can’t do anything about, however, I do have control over some of my health and unfortunately, I often ignore the importance of taking care of myself. So for 2015 I plan to try to exercise at least 3-4 times a week (even if I can only do light exercise like walking and yoga). I will not push myself too hard or make myself do things that cause real pain, but I can try to work within my physical limitations. I will also try to eat better. I won’t force myself to give up things I love (like chocolate), but I will try to consciously pick out more fruits, vegetables, lean protein and healthy grains at the grocery store (because if I buy healthier foods, I will eat healthier foods).

2. Be more social. A few years ago I had to be more social. But now that I work at home, have taken a break from fostering kids and my husband resigned from being a youth pastor, I don’t have to be social. I can hole up at home and be a hermit. To some extent I have done that. We still go to church, but now that my husband isn’t working for a church we get to pick and choose what to be involved in instead of having it decided for us – which is great, except that I have to remember to actively look for things to do and ways to serve. It is far too easy to ignore social activities because I feel that I am not socially proficient. Sometimes I get kind of depressed seeing how easy it is for others to connect with people and make friends. I just don’t have that kind of personality.

Having Asperger’s Syndrome can make socializing uncomfortable and awkward, but I still want to make a difference in people’s lives. I want to care about others and have them care in return. The only way I can do that is to make myself reach out more. So this year I hope to reach out more to others, whether it be by saying a simple “hello” and learning someone’s name or by making myself go out a little more often, even when it is easier to stay home and veg out on the couch.

3. Stop letting people hurt me. In the past few years there have been a few people who hurt me deeply. They may not even realize they hurt me (in fact some of them think I deserve to be treated badly and have said so). In most cases, they were people who never really got to know me and then misinterpreted things I said or did. Instead of approaching me and clarifying what upset them, they either shut me out entirely or told other people a lot of bad stuff about me which isn’t actually true. By the time I knew there was really an issue, damage had already been done. I tried to work things out with some of them and find out what I did to upset them, but I was either ignored or told everything was my fault.

Maybe my lack of social skills in some areas caused the problems…or maybe they never really liked me to begin with. I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ve allowed these people to make me feel bad about myself and wonder if I am unlikable. It really dealt a blow to my self-esteem in some ways. At this point, I want to build my ability to trust others again. I want to not let a little meanness or misunderstanding hold me back anymore. I have already chosen to consciously forgive, now I want to let myself learn from any mistakes that were made and move on.

So there you have it, my list of intentions for the coming year. What would you like to change or work on this year?

All the world’s a stage and we are merely players

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Today I’ve been thinking about relationships and reminiscing about not only current relationships, but all the ones I can remember in my 32 years. As I considered the bonds between myself and a myriad of other sentient beings, I began to see my life as some kind of play or movie. Of course, I thought of myself as the central character (since I can only live in my mind) but I also decided which other people would be main characters right now (my husband, mom and cats were the first to come to mind). After that, I looked at supporting characters, which right now would be extended family, church friends, people I talk to frequently on Facebook and colleagues of the art/writing/autism community. Lastly, I thought of the minor characters or even “extras” – those people who aren’t a regular part of my life and may not even know my name but can still affect my mood and spirit by how they choose to treat me in the moments we share.

As I was busy drawing these influential connections in my mind, I found the list growing and growing. People who were once a big part of my life but now aren’t or those people who I have never met in person but either inspired or horrified me by the things they did or said. I thought of how certain musicians, authors and historical figures have had a huge impact on my thoughts, beliefs and values. As I kept thinking, I almost felt like the idea was getting too big for my head to hold. The sheer number of lives that have touched mine is amazing. I know I have impacted many of them as well – both for good and bad (but hopefully more good than bad). I even thought about how many people I may have greatly influenced without even realizing it. Since there are many people who may never know how much they meant to my life journey, I’m sure that I have probably been the same to others without knowing it.

So here I would like to take a moment to say thank you to EVERYONE who has had a part in my life. You have helped make me who I am and as imperfect as I still am, I like the person I’m growing into. I miss many of you who I don’t see or speak to regularly anymore. Never think I quit loving or caring about you. Some of you have filled me with hope in moments of despair and I thank you, even though you may never know what you meant to me and I may not even consciously remember who said and did what. Some of you I hope to grow to know better, because I feel that there is something in my soul that recognizes something in yours. Some I have walked away from intentionally, but that doesn’t mean our relationship wasn’t important to me, just that for one reason or another I needed to grow elsewhere for a while. In the end, I like to think that even over distance and time, our memories and souls keep us connected.

Burning bridges and moving on

"Burning Bridges" acrylic on paper, 9" x 12".

“Burning Bridges” acrylic on paper, 9″ x 12″.

Lately I have been on a “burning bridges” kick. I have decided to let go of some situations and relationships that were unhealthy and quite frankly, were draining the life from me in some ways. For quite a while I debated with myself about whether to give up and move on from these things or not. Part of me didn’t want to give up on people I once cared about and move on. I wanted to hold onto the hope that things would change and magically it would all become better. I don’t think this hope is bad, but sometimes if you cling too tightly to that which isn’t good for you, instead of things becoming better, they actually deteriorate more.

When I realized that even thinking about these people and situations was severely depressing me, I figured it was time to release the attachment and move on the best I can. I wish them all the best, but I realize now that they are not the best thing for me at this time. Perhaps we were only meant to be in each other’s lives for a certain period of time, or maybe we do have a future together but need some time apart to grow and change. I have always prided myself on my loyalty to those I love and care about, but I am now realizing that relationships can’t just be one-sided. I cannot make anyone like or respect me, but I can choose to spend my time with those who do. Hopefully as I move on, I will enter a future full of new experiences and meaningful relationships.

Here are a few quotes about burning bridges I have especially enjoyed lately (sources unknown):

“May the bridges I burn light the way.”

“Sometimes you need to burn bridges to stop yourself from crossing them again.”

“The hardest lesson in life is figuring out which bridges to cross and which to burn.”

“Burning bridges takes too long. I prefer explosives.”

The three types of human relationships as I see it

"Flight into the Dawn" watercolor painting.

“Flight into the Dawn” watercolor painting.

Maybe it is because of the logical thinking connected with Asperger’s Syndrome, but I tend to categorize most things in my life. Today I want to talk about the three categories I see in human relationships. This is somewhat from a spiritual point of view, since I myself am deeply interested in spirituality.

Category #1 – Neutral. This is by far the largest category of human relationships in my mind. These are people that enter our lives for various amounts of time but typically don’t make a big impression or change our lives very much. Some might call them acquaintances. There aren’t necessarily any negative feelings involved, but not a whole lot of positive feelings either. Neither party goes very far out of their way to deepen the relationship or get to know each other better. Hopefully each party wishes the other well and would not wish harm on them, but that is about the limit of intention. However, sometimes these people can show up in just the right place, at just the right moment and leave a lasting memory or impact.

For instance, once when I was visiting my grandfather in the nursing home, his roommate died with us sitting there only feet away. The death was unexpected and the man’s wife was there when he just suddenly died. Even though I did not know the woman or her husband, I instinctively went to her and gave her a hug and let her cry on my shoulder since no one else from her family was there to comfort her. So, even though we did not know each other and will likely never see each other again, for a moment, we connected deeply. It is moments like that which assure me that we really are all deeply connected, even if we don’t consciously realize it.

Category #2 – Gifts. In this category I would include any relationships that are positive and precious to us. Loved ones. Family. Friends. People who go out of their way to reach out to us, support us, encourage us when we are down and really connect with us on a soul to soul level. In many ways, these relationships are what make life worth living. Even when there are disagreements or differences of opinions, these relationships still radiate love and caring. Ideally, all families should be full of these kinds of edifying relationships, but that is not always the case. However, if we can’t find this kind of love and care in our family of origin, hopefully we can find it outside. I would include beloved pets in this category too, even though they aren’t human relationships. I think when most of us picture heaven, we picture sharing it with these souls that truly make our lives bright and meaningful. When people in this category pass away it is extremely painful, but in the sorrow we may find that a soul to soul relationship survives, even when we are on different sides of the veil.

Category #3 – Tests. This is the relationship category that is hardest to deal with. It ranges from people who just get under our skin and annoy the crap out of us, to betrayals by those we thought we could trust, to people who are truly malicious in nature and seek to hurt or even kill us. Although this group of relationships is the one least liked, it is often the one that teaches the most lessons. I truly believe that whether we want them there or not, these people come into our lives for a reason. Perhaps it is to learn forgiveness. Or patience. Or to learn when we need to stand up for ourselves and what we believe in. Sometimes these relationships can be severed and learning how to do so (how to remove negativity from your life) can be an important lesson in itself. Sometimes these relationships are unavoidable. If that is the case, be assured that these souls are in your life for a reason and learning to deal with them in the right way will help your soul to grow and may very well help theirs as well.

Of course there are some relationships that may move from one category to another over the course of our life. And there are some relationships that may fulfill different roles simultaneously or switch roles at different times depending upon the situation. However, I do think that all relationships have a purpose and are ultimately some of our greatest teachers.

Goodbye 2013…a summary of my life this past year

"Facing the Storm" ACEO mixed media artwork. Kind of how I felt this year!

“Facing the Storm” ACEO mixed media artwork. Kind of how I felt this year!

Hmmm….so 2013, how was it? How about I just sum it up with 5 highlights and 5 lowlights?

Highlights:

1. Hubby finished his master’s degree and now he has lots more time to spend with me and do fun stuff 🙂

2. My husband took a break from ministry. That has relieved a lot of stress off of him (and me) and it also gave us the freedom to pursue our own spiritual growth and the chance to get to know some pretty cool people at other churches.

3. Although in foster care, my nephew has ended up with a great foster family who makes sure to keep us connected to him.

4. I have really focused on my art this year and it has paid off! Literally! Now people actually pay for my art and display it in their homes. I couldn’t be prouder. I want to say an extra-special “Thank You” to all who have supported me and my art.

5. Getting an actual diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome….it explains so much that I never understood all my life and has helped me see what I need to work on and how to more efficiently use my gifts.

Lowlights:

1. Health issues! Fibromyalgia, migraines, IBS, MRSA, shingles, infections, severe allergic reactions, sprains & strains, Tietze’s, nasty viruses…

2. My nephew’s dad dying. Such a very sad event, especially since it made my nephew an orphan.

3. Some very hurtful words from people I thought I could trust and who I thought supported me. I’ve forgiven, but it still hurts, especially when one of those people continues to be routinely unkind.

4. My hubby’s job hunt. We could really use the extra money from a higher position, but due to my hubby’s own health problems this year, it could be a blessing in disguise that he hasn’t found a new position yet. Still hoping he finds one soon though!

5. PTSD. Between losing my grandfather to cancer, my sister to suicide, feeling powerless to help my nephew, finding out I have a lifelong disability (Asperger’s), chronic health issues and being mistreated by people who may not have realized how much their words and actions affected me…I have had a hard time coping the last couple years. However, I do feel that I am slowly digging my way back to the surface and hope that I will continue to heal over time.

Well, that is my year in a nutshell. I hope you all had a great year and that 2014 brings even better things for all of us!