2010-19: How I’ve Changed

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December 30, 2019-

It’s said that nothing in the Universe remains static for long. Even inanimate objects experience molecular change.  Of course, it’s been a while since I’ve been likened to a piece of furniture, and the blessed soul who made that comparison is himself long departed from our midst.

The decade now ending has been, in many ways, the most seismic in my life, since the 1980’s. In that decade, the changes were commensurate with full adulthood:  Finding spiritual footing, courting and marriage, solidifying of a career, loss of a parent, and  my own parenthood.

The changes that have come in the 2010s have been more in keeping with true maturity.  I’m not altogether there yet.  Few of us ever are.  The process has been in fits and starts, and suitably so, as everyone’s late middle age is unique.

So:

Losing a spouse– This was a long haul, and arguably something about which Penny warned me, several times throughout our wedlock..  It was the culmination of a lifelong, hereditary disease, that had come for a reckoning.  It made me responsible for the care of a vulnerable adult, at a time when a burgeoning adult needed us both.  There was always a balance to be struck.  The biggest lesson in this, was that never again could I indulge in the slightest amount of self-pity.  Buus Huus, the imaginary Roman patron of the woebegone, had taken his flight.

Altering my sense of community– I left Phoenix, after ten years, being alternately comforted in my sorrow and admonished about abandoning my duty to the community.  I found the latter ironic, as the West, especially in its urban and suburban contexts, has relied, to a great extent on the safety to be found in maintaining anonymity, in entering and exiting one’s residence, through the garage and inside a vehicle.

Prescott became my community, but it was, and is, more Home Base than castle.  I have dear friends here, who are never far from my mind.  Yet, the closest of them, even my best friend, know and accept that I have concern with people far afield.  Part of this is my Sagittarian being, part is boundless love.

Connecting with people– It’s become far easier for my mildly Asperger’s/autistic self to reach out to those not previously known to me, and to engage in meaningful conversation.  That has made both quotidian life and novel experiences more meaningful.  Largely gone is the concern with rejection.

Shedding long-held shackles– Subconscious  and  self-limiting views onto which I held, about women, people of colour and just about anyone different from me, have fallen away.  I’ve long known that overarching prejudice is wrong and have managed my behaviour accordingly.  In 2014, I was reproached regarding the residual bias, the microprejudices which, in retrospect, were continuing to cause difficulties in life.  Things like subtly expecting less of someone, because of gender, ethnicity or physical status constitute a forest that is hard to see for its trees-until someone comes along and blows the wake-up dog whistle.  Now, it is not possible for me to regard anyone solely on anything other than his or her merits.

Finally, self-acceptance– With all of these other changes comes a view of myself as fully worthy of taking my place in society.  There are few people, in Prescott and elsewhere, who choose to show me disrespect, and I know to disengage myself from such people, unless and until they change their attitudes.  Fall, 2018 was a litmus test of that practice, and was the first time, in many years,  that I totally blocked someone from my life.  The roof didn’t cave and life has proceeded just fine.

The changes that accompanied this decade are sure to have import for the years to come.  It’ll be fascinating to live.

Their Voices Will Not Be Silenced

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November 29, 2019-

I read, a few days ago, about a homeless man in the Phoenix area, who had committed a heinous crime, whilst suffering psychiatric illness.  The story stated that this man had been passed through the Arizona mental health system, for over a  decade.  He had enough of an understanding of his own condition to ask for a shower and a follow-up appointment with one of the original counselors who had first met with him, when he was brought into a facility, by the police.  These requests were denied, according to the newspaper account, and he was back on the street, largely against his wishes.

In Maricopa County, there are at least a dozen agencies, which purport to address mental health issues.  I once worked, briefly, for the agency that, also briefly, worked with the man in question.  I was not successful in my endeavours with that agency, partly because of my also serving as Penny’s caretaker and partly because the ego feathers of the agency branch’s leadership were ruffled by my personality and manner of talking with my clients.  The agency, in the case cited above, was one of several which dealt with that man, and somehow they all dropped the ball, not knowing of each others’ presence in his life.  He remains a person whose only security comes when he is incarcerated.

I mention this, because in dealing with the mentally ill, each of us finds self in  a bind, of sorts.  When someone dear to me faced a severe mental illness, many years ago, I chose to address the matter head-on, but not address it alone.  There was a team of professionals, who helped solve many of the problems and it was left to me and others close to this person, to resolve  the rest.  We were, however, not left alone and the person has gone on to lead a masterful life.

I have had a few people present their issues to me, over the years, both in Phoenix and here in Prescott.  Two of these people stayed with my family and me, during the last two years of Penny’s life.  We were able to help one of them orient his life, but the other was a work in progress, when I moved to Prescott.  At that time, my own grief was still raw and I was the one who needed compassion.

Time passed, I was able to help one homeless man get situated and centered, albeit with some difficulty.  Once he trusted in the agencies with whom I put him in contact, things went better.  The second person I tried to help, at the behest of a mutual friend, turned out to be someone who had already tried all the resources I recommended, and was irritated by my personality and foibles, to the point where we are no longer in contact.

The beat goes on, and I am open to those who have difficulties, who don’t know to whom else to turn.  I will maintain, to anyone who is suffering mental or emotional health difficulties, to not rely on social media for resolution, nor to rely on any one person for same.  I am a loving soul, but I am also far from perfect and the last thing I want is for my own lifestyle, activity level or personal mental state (mild Asperger’s/autism) to waylay the progress of a person whose viewpoint, regarding  that progress, is at variance with how I see things.  I had a brief online conversation, this evening, with such a person. Besides, each of us is marvelous complex.

That individual is right about something, though.  Mental illness is anything but a laughing matter.  You will not find me including someone else’s affliction as a punchline, in my repertoire of jokes.  He’s also right about people paying attention to his problems.  That attention, first and foremost, needs to start with family and one, committed team of professionals, of the individual’s choosing, in consultation with family.  Random people, no matter how compassionate they are, can’t direct a suffering soul towards the light, in the way that family can.

The voices of the suffering will not be silenced and they will not “go quietly into that good night.”

The True Standard

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November 5, 2019-

Returning to Jordan Peterson’s “Twelve Rules for Life”, #4 states “Compare Your Present Self Only to Your Past Self, not to Anyone Else.”

As social animals, we so often give other human beings far too much credit, for perfection or superiority.  I’ve heard from so many:  “It’s cold and lonely, on the pedestal.”

So, I have made it my business to measure my progress, compared to where I was-six months ago, twenty, thirty or forty years ago.  Then (1970), I hid from my peers.  Now, I am in the world, but not of it.  Then (1977), I found solace in the bottle.  Now, I find peace and tranquility in service, in meditation and in standing up for the downtrodden.  Then (1982), I handed out money on demand.  Now, I contribute reasonably, without caving in to every demanding voice or thrust-out hand. Then (1981), I viewed different people with different lenses. Now, every human being is seen in the light of their character.  Then, (1954-1986), I looked upon myself as essentially unworthy of love, as damaged goods.  Now, I am proud of what I have achieved, no matter what others might view as inadequate.  Then, (until 2010), I saw myself as a frequent victim of “politicians”, “the Elite”, “the Establishment”.  Now, I see those in positions of power as basically living out their own life plan, without seeing myself as a pawn on their chessboard.  Then, (prior to 2012), I had no idea why I behaved atypically, so often.  Now, I know I have a place on the Autism/Asperger’s spectrum-and that’s okay.

The only true standard we have is our own life.

Dog Day

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August 19, 2019-

The day started with two good turns- A young singer with a powerful voice invited me, through her father/webmaster, to like her Facebook page;  The National Weather Service now says we may get rain, over Labor Day weekend.

I “liked ” the page, as anything I can do, to encourage a fellow autistic to build on personal strengths, is going to happen.  I’ll take rain, whenever it comes.  Last year, it came during a huge Country Music festival-in early autumn.  The world is turning on its axis, it seems, so in addition to whatever atmospheric changes we are inculcating, Mother Nature is making some changes of her own.

I read a study that claims people who nap more in the afternoon, and wake up at night, are at risk of Alzheimer’s, down the road.  That would mean a lot of us who nod off, in the heat of the day, are bound to find themselves in a different state of mind, ten years hence.  To me, though, the crux is often hydration.  I nod off less, when my water intake is up.  Since the brain is largely water, that could have some bearing on dementia, as well.  Synapses fire better, when there is a proper level of saturation.

It was hot enough today, that I felt it prudent to give my laptop a three-hour break.  Reading and a Planet Fitness visit took the place of  correspondence and pontification.  Not to worry, the latter is about finished, for now.

Remember, the Dog Days rarely last beyond Labor Day, which is two weeks off.  Stay saturated, my friends.

Feet First, Again

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April 3, 2019-

I began the work day ready to help keep our charges occupied, and relatively productive, as ever.  I ended the day, back in retirement mode- at least until I can get another position.  I chose to leave, after a brief pitch for me to take a position for which I am even less-suited than the one I have left behind.  I declined the offer, and the end game was set.

For all the platitudes that my co-workers and I have received, over the past two years, regarding loving and working with autistic children, there are people watching who do not have the best interests of those children in mind.  They are the ones who call the Governing Board, Human Resources-and the hapless school administrators.   I know this, because I once took the calls that my former boss has been getting.  I know this, because I heard the veiled threats and “you don’t know who you’re dealing with”- from individuals like the person who has been threatening me, personally, with the loss of my job, since last October.  I know this, because for refusing to take the earlier threats seriously, I was relieved of my position as Principal, in 1999, twenty years ago, this month.

So, it behooves my former supervisors to protect themselves.  Follow due process, but do not fall on your swords for others.  You are doing excellent work and deserve to remain in your leadership roles.  I will make my way, just fine, and being of “retirement age”, no one can come out of the woodwork, on the other side of the equation, and blast me for “not delivering”, as has happened a few times during my checkered career.  I will find work to tide me over until I hit 70, and, no, I will not heed the threats from last Fall.

My former co-workers remain like family and have already been in touch, wishing the best-as I do for them.

 

Microaggression

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April 2, 2019-

The other night, whilst visiting one of my best friends, I watched and listened to a speech by the conservative commentator, Ben Shapiro.  Among the social phenomena he noted was the trend towards condemning “microaggression”.  The term is used to describe remarks or gestures that trigger unpleasant feelings, discomfort or fear in people who are experiencing , or whose forebears have suffered, oppression.

I was treated, in junior high school, primarily, but also when in the Army, stateside, to a modest amount of bullying and verbal taunting, due to my autism.  I sometimes pondered what society would be like, were it to be rendered illegal to ridicule or belittle another person.  I came to the conclusion that, while it would a fine thing if people were to choose freely, as a society, to rise above such behaviours, to codify criticism as an offense, with criminal penalties, would only drive negativity underground.

To be sure, there are words and phrases that don’t belong in an enlightened society’s discourse.  Racial, ethnic and gender-based slurs are things I banished from my own vocabulary, when I was about 17, to the extent I ever used them at all.  Getting to know people on an individual basis, without pre-conceived notions, has been the only way I have achieved any personal growth, in my own right.

Last October, I found myself, mercifully only for a short time, in a veritable microaggression bootcamp, where every single word, behaviour or gesture that came from me was analyzed, castigated, sliced and diced, to the point I was leery of even taking a breath sideways.  The individual doing this determined that I was beyond redemption, and I was dismissed from her presence.   Mind you, I went through this at the behest of a friend, who was likewise deemed irredeemable.

None of us walks on water.  No matter how loving one’s heart is, and how consistently one shows that love, there will always be someone, somewhere, to whom one is a bete-noire.  It’s helped me, to be more present and aware of the deepest feelings and insecurities of others.  It has also helped me to have grown a thick skin, over the past many years.  “Microaggressions”, it seems to me, are best rooted out through calm, but firm, dialogue and education.  Shrillness and stridency, as Mr. Shapiro pointed out, only drive unkempt behaviour and rhetoric underground, into the maw of the Dark Web or the shadier places in the legitimate Internet.

 

The Black Hand

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March 30, 2019-

In the Planet Fitness where I work out, there is a large seat, shaped like a Black Hand, in each of the stations where a hydromassage bed is located.  It strikes me that this is a symbol of challenge, that there are always difficulties to be overcome, whether self-imposed or brought on by others.

I have had to do a lot of re-assessment, after a rough past few days.  What I have determined is that: 1.  I am going to make fitness a higher priority than it’s been, having shown that I can make time for a workout, even on the busiest of days.

2.  I am going to cut way back, if not eliminate, my appetite for pastries and other high sugar-based food items.  Neither having my cake nor eating it, at least for the last two months of work.

3.  Doubling down on avoiding violence, no matter how violently I might be attacked, either by one of my charges or anyone who is deranged.  My reaction, from now on, will  be to distance myself, until assistance is at hand, at least in the work setting.

4.  Being more mindful and present.  Neither Alzheimer’s nor Parkinson’s has knocked on my door, but problems have presented themselves, through a combination of fatigue and autism.  I have done better, today, and need to continue getting enough rest, so that there is no repeat of incidents on Thursday and Friday.  The same old story:  When I am challenged by an authority figure, when I’m in a fatigued state, I come out with a blather of telling the person what I think they want to hear and making myself look guilty of something that, in actuality, never happened.

5.  Tax returns are done and I have worked out a more efficient system of time management, so despite some of the above, things are on an upswing.

The Quiet Ones

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February 13, 2019-

My high school yearbook entry, in 1968, included “Silent, but always there”. So it has been for much of my life.  If I haven’t had anything I felt was meaningful to say, much of the time, I’ve kept still.  Those who need constant noise and chatter, so as to not feel insecure, have often drawn the conclusion that I am some sort of dolt.  My autism certainly has not done anything to change that view.  Only time and acquaintance have dispelled the dim view, in all but three instances.

Last night, a relatively brief gathering found me in a quiet, introspective, frame of mind, with little to say.  One person asked my thoughts about my current employer; his eyes glazing over, when my reply went in a different direction than what he had been thinking.  Others seemed to feel like I was snubbing them, but that was far from the case.

The thing about the quiet ones is that we are in constant thought, and observation, about what is going on in our midst.  I will ever be concerned with what is going on around me.  I may not have the same perspective as those who are seeking confirmation of their own views, and so the turnstile will continue to revolve, here in the blogosphere, as well as in real time.  That’s fine-as my first responsibility is to be true to my own heart.  The Infinite has set a course for each of us, in that direction:  “Go placidly amid the noise and haste….”.

The quiet ones will always have much to say, and much that is meaningful, regardless of the tenor of the times and regardless of what thoughts are current, trendy.  Listening to us does require that one’s own inner noise gets turned down a notch. Rest assured that is the case, with our listening to you.

 

Nine Tasks

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January 19, 2019-

Many people make resolutions, the first thing, when the calendar rolls over.  I don’t indulge in that particular practice, knowing that making firm commitments to new practices takes time.

There are nine task areas, labours of love, that have defined my life, since the passing of  Penny, nearly eight years ago.  I will focus today on what these mean, relative to 2019.

1.  Family- With Aram and Yoonhee based in Busan, for at  least the rest of this year, my focuses are: To be in Korea for their sacred wedding ceremony, in March; to tend to such of their needs as can only be addressed on this side of the Pacific; to meet them in the U.S., should they visit here in the summer.

2.  Work- I remain committed to working, during the regular academic year, through at least December, 2020 and no later than May. 2021, depending on the needs of the school, preferably in the High School Autism Program.  Thus, work is a major daily focus through the fourth week of May and from August-December.

3. Faith- No day has gone by, since February 23, 1981, that I have not begun my morning in devotions and a fairly long recitation of prayer.  Service to Baha’u’llah remains  a prime expression of my inner joy and love for humanity.  This year marks the Bicentenary of the Birth of al-Bab (The Gate), Who we revere as both Baha’u’llah’s Herald and His Twin Messenger of God, as al-Bab’s spiritual Dispensation took place from 1844-1853, immediately before the beginning of Baha’u’llah’s.   Their birthdays also fall on two consecutive days, on the lunar calendar.  This year, these are October 29-30, with al-Bab’s  anniversary occurring first. (Historically, Baha’u’llah was born in 1817 and al-Bab, in 1819).  There are also regular Spiritual Feasts and other Holy Days, throughout the year and I  am participating in regular study groups and other activities.

4.  Community Life-  I take part in volunteering on community projects, with the American Red Cross and Slow Food Prescott.  The focuses are on disaster response, home safety, school gardens and,  new this year, food recovery.  These activities largely define my giving back to Prescott and Yavapai County, for having been a large part of my solace, in the Fall of 2011.  The American Legion’s Post 6 celebrates its 100th anniversary, in May, and I will have a part to play in that celebration.

5. Writing- Blogging and journaling have also been critical to my inner healing, even in the midst of my caretaking, in 2008-11.   They remain an integral part of who I am, and so Word Press, with its being extended to Facebook and Linked In, remains my primary means of self-expression, through this year and beyond.  I also maintain a pen and ink private journal.

6, Hiking-  This has been a huge lifelong pastime, pretty much since I was old enough to walk.  Since I’ve been old enough to take off on my own, without getting into trouble, many trails and paths, from my native Massachusetts to the desert Southwest, Colorado, southeast Alaska, Korea and northwestern Europe have seen my bootprints.  This year, my focuses will be on further segments of the Maricopa Trail, at least two visits to the Grand Canyon, more beach walks in southern California, Fall hikes in Utah and the Navajo Nation, and several walks with Aram and Yoonhee, whilst in Korea.

7. Travel-  This has also long been one of my passions, often dovetailing with hiking.  The Korea trip will take me to Gwangju and Jeju, as well as Busan.  Prior to that, will be a Presidents’ Day weekend visit to southern California, hopefully connecting with friends in Orange County and the San Diego area-with La Jolla, Dana Point, San Clemente and possibly Crystal Cove being on the itinerary.

June and July largely hinge on my little family’s schedule.  Carson City, in late May, is a given, with a new extended family member having been born, this past week.  A 1-2 week visit to the Northwest, Vancouver Island/Sunshine Coast and southeast Alaska is likely-as is the now customary jaunt through the Midwest to New England and back through the mid-South.

October (Fall Break) will find me in Monument Valley and southeast Utah- returning to Capitol Reef and Natural Bridges, as well as the Goosenecks of the San Juan River.  Christmas, God-willing, will see a return to Massachusetts.

8. Diet and Exercise- Planet Fitness and our daily Adaptive Physical Education regimen have largely provided my continuity as a healthy physical specimen.  Stretches at home have also proven critical, as I recovered from a posterior knee strain, over the past ten weeks.  Things are 99% back to normal and I want to keep it that way- up to, and maintaining, 100%.  I am cutting back on coffee consumption, not out of any pressure, but because my body tells me that’s what it wants.  Less red meat is also finding its way onto my plate-and what there is, is certified grass-fed and organic.  A greater percentage of my diet being of vegetables, fruits and whole grains is on tap for this year, as well.  Yes, I will drink more water-that’s not an empty statement. Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils, including Lifelong Vitality Supplements, are a continual source of sustenance.

9. Study-  My mind is always looking to keep current with advances in health, trends in positive thought and expanding my awareness of subjects in which I have scant knowledge- as well as continual study of Baha’i texts and new correspondence. This will continue, as 2019 progresses.

This is a longer post than usual, but there you have my year’s plan.

 

 

 

The Realm of Caring

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January 2, 2019, Prescott-

I sat in comfort, on New Year’s Eve, not knowing that a new friend was toughing it out, on snow shoes, of all things, headed to and from Courthouse Square.  When she finally shared this with me, this evening, I could only say:  “Next time, please call me and never mind the time.”

This is how I was raised and how the people in my circle of friends were for one another.  Even in the worst phases of my autism, I knew better than to ever leave a family member or friend in the lurch.  I wasn’t always so good at it, but I did make the effort.

A few minutes later, there came a post from another friend, elsewhere in the country, about a particularly nettlesome difficulty she was facing, due to other people’s inefficiency and lack of communication. I am furious on her behalf and could only say as much, whilst praying for resolution of the matter.

I have faced the harshest of communication and the most endearing that it can convey, over the past six decades and eight years.  I have also had good friends up and leave, without so much as a “Farewell”.  I will not chase after them, and if they come back, I will be as glad to see them, as if they never left.

Caring, in my view, does not mean patronizing or groveling.  In fact, it’s the opposite.  We are here to raise each other up, period.  Tomorrow, I will join my above-mentioned local friend in a leisurely activity, likely taking some children on an ice-skating venture.  This, from one who tried skating three times, as a child, and fell down each time I got up, should be interesting.