Oh ye of little faith

On a Martin Luther Kings holiday, I came across one of King’s quotes. This one I unpacked in my memory bank since there are times when I’m running low on faith. These words are good for filling up with some “faith” fuel:

FAITH IS TAKING A STEP WITHOUT SEEING THE ENTIRE STAIRCASE.

This short quote is an easy one to remember. I wish I could say that it was as easy to live this quote. I’m fairly good at it when things are going smooth-like. Moments when I’ve got a good spring in my step or I’m residing at the moment on cloud nine. But I confess I have plenty of room for improvement at living the King quote when anxious thoughts of what’s on my plate are popping up in my mind.

Jesus’s disciples had their own struggles with faith even though they were in the company of Jesus. In Matthew 8:26, Jesus tells his disciples,
And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.”

This occurred during a storm when the water was so high that it was coming into their boat. I can’t blame the disciples for being terrified even though they had Jesus with them. I’ve been through “life” storms like everybody else. Despite my having a flood of memories of storms the Lord didn’t let me drown, my faith isn’t always at full strength when a storm comes through.

I relate to the disciples. It isn’t easy for me to take my eyes off on what turbulence I see and keep my eyes on the One I can’t see. Life affords me plenty of practice though. There always seem to be a storm brewing somewhere.

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Worry Wart

Matthew 6:27

Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

If hours were to be added to my life by the amount of worrying I have done in it, I’d probably be around to blow out 100 candles.

Jesus asked this question and it is as valid a question as centuries ago when He asked it.  The question’s answer is still the same though:  NO!

I can count the number of my problems my worrying has solved:  ZERO!  Yet I confess to being guilty of praying about some matter and no sooner have I finished my prayer that I turn into a worry wart over that matter.

I wonder if there are those who can truly claim to have never been a worry wart.  I’d be skeptical if someone told me they didn’t worry about a thing.  Really?  Someone wearing a smile as often as I wear my eyeglasses?  I’m skeptical of such but if someone has managed to get through the business of living without wasting time worrying, good for them.

I take some comfort in knowing I’m not the only worry wart. Its a common problem. Worry is job security for doctors who treat anxiety disorders. Seriously, you can find characters in the Bible who struggled with worry. Just the fact that Jesus asked this question indicates worry was a problem back then as well as it is now.

The disciples, for instance, struggled with faith even though they had Jesus right there with them. Such as when they were on a boat with Jesus when a bad storm came up all of the sudden. Jesus was taking a nap but the disciples were wide awake. I don’t spend any time on boats myself but even I know that when there’s thunder, lightning, high winds, and downpouring rain, one of the last places one would want to be is on a boat. I can’t blame the disciples for their fright even though they had Jesus, the Son of God, on board.

Although they awakened Jesus and asked for His help, it seems they weren’t asking with much confidence at all. I say that because when Jesus told the storm to go away and like an obedient child it did, he asked his stunned disciples where was their faith. Did they really think He was going to let them drown or that He himself would be doomed to drown with them? The disciples eyes were on the storm. More often than I know, when trouble comes, my eyes are on the storm before they are where they belong — on Jesus.

Worry Offers Wrinkles, Lines, and no Solutions

In the Book of Matthew, 6:27 and Luke 12:25, Jesus asked which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to one’s span of life. I admit if my worrying could extend hours to my lifespan, my lifespan would be mighty stretched. Worrying is something I confess I do even though all it gives me is wrinkles, lines, and no solutions.

Worry is a sure sign I am failing in the “faith” department and accomplishing nothing. Someone named Van Wilder said that worrying is like a rocking chair. You can sit yourself down in that chair at sunrise and rock in that chair until the day is done. Come sundown, you’ll still be where you started. That’s as far a distance as worrying gets you too.

One of the hardships of living on the Autism Spectrum is anxiety. ( My own personal nickname for the Spectrum is “Billy”). Tony Attwood, a leading authority on Asperger Syndrome, sees those with highly-functioning Autism, or Asperger Syndrome, managing anxiety as a daily part of their lives. According to conservative estimates, 65% of adults with Asperger’s Syndrome suffer from anxiety and depression compared to 18% of the general population. I’m one of those in the 65% who takes medication for it.

A popular prayer that often comes to my mind is about accepting the things one can’t change, the courage to change the things one can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I can’t change having Billy around and the baggage that comes with him. He can be good to have around but sometimes, I wish I could divorce him. For instance, I can’t shoo away meltdowns. I can’t wish away anxiety pangs that have no rhyme or reason to them. Fortunately, since taking my medication, such pangs are fewer and sleep isn’t a challenge as it used to be. I can’t rewire my brain to turn into an extrovert and thrive on being around people rather than thriving on being alone. I can’t help it that I can’t process verbal instruction as fast as others. I can’t help it that a change in routine puts me in a tailspin. I can’t help it that I need to pace the floor and retreat to my fantasy world to cope with a world I don’t understand.

Prayer is always a good place to start with the coping process. That’s at the top of the list of tools to knock off worry. Take meltdowns, for instance. When one comes, I can do something about it such as finding an area of refuge, stim as much as I need to (pace, jog, rock, etc.), with a prayer on my lips. I can’t prevent their coming, but I can choose to prayerfully weather them through and not to worry about when the next one is coming.

In my better moments of thinking, I see Billy as a daily opportunity to live my faith. He is something I either can choose to worry about or not. Worrying won’t make Billy go away any more than not worrying will either. But I’ll have more peace of mind and more fun by not. Even better, I’ll be living my faith in the Lord which has the added advantage of having a closer walk with Him.

 

Hangwire

It isn’t a chore for me to organize my stuff; it’s a TREAT! It’s not so much re-organizing the BIG stuff such as beds, recliners, etc. I’ll do that but on rare occasion. It’s more the small stuff such as the clothes in my closet or drawers. I want my space to be as predictable as my routine.  I intensely dislike playing hide and seek where I am the one seeking and seldom the finder.

I went overboard this last summer. With the kids out of school, I was on break since substitute teacher aides are on hiatus. Solo activities help to keep me in a good mood. On one afternoon, I took to organizing my bedroom closet for the upteenth time.  I like doing it so much that I stopped counting how many times I’ve given a closet a re-org.

After I finished tossin’, I needed to go garage shopping. Why? I had tossed more than half my clothes. The criteria for what to toss out was what I hadn’t worn in a year or so. It became abundantly clear to me that a limited amount of my clothes see the light of day. I tend to wear the same old things; a creature of habit.

I had worked so hard that I got sweaty and thus, cranky as a bear. Ought oh! As my energy level goes down, my tendency to have a meltdown goes UP!  I  felt a volcano rumbling within in.  I should have slowed down but once I start something, it is truly hard for me to put the brakes on it. How did I know I was hitting the boiling point? My clue was engaging in combat with the hangers.

I had a lot of hangers left over after discarding so much of what they had hung up. I was trying to put them away in a box but they didn’t want to go away quietly. One entangled with another one and separating them apart got on my nerves. Some flew on the floor. Well, okay, I gave them a little boost.

Fighting hangers was a sign I was heading for meltdown country.  I did what sometimes chases a meltdown away.  I walked away and went out to the backyard for a hanger break. Maybe I could walk off my crankiness. Since I like being productive, I picked up dead leaves and twigs. It may sound strange but it is an activity that sometimes will soothe down the rumbling.

After the lawn looked sufficiently leafless, I had calmed down by then and I returned to the hanger mess on my bedroom floor.  I put the hangers in the storage box without any more combat. After storing the left-over hangers and the clothing that didn’t make the final cut, I took a good look at my closet — my masterpiece. It had more empty space and was organized to the hilt. Just “perfect”.

It can be so exhausting living on the spectrum aiming for perfection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Dear Cube

I can click on it as if it was a pen.  I can glide on it as if it was a joystick.  I can flip on it as if it were a light switch.  I can roll on it as if it were a combination lock.  I can rub on it as if it were a rubber ducky.  It is my fidget cube.

It is the newest gadget to my growing herd of gadgets.  Some people on the spectrum collect stamps, rock, calendars, etc.; I collect gadgets.  One of my favorite stores is the utopia of gadget merchandise:  “As Seen on TV”.  Most of their products I haven’t seen on TV but that’s beside the point.  Some gadgets are practical and some are strictly for fun.  My newest gadget is a fidget cube that is both a toy and a practical tool for my autistic need to fidget to focus.

My first sighting of this cube was a Facebook (FB) ad.  I don’t usually pay attention to ads on (FB) any more than I do on the TV tube, but this ad caught my eye because it claimed to be helpful to those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism.  Since I’m on the spectrum and I do fidget, I clicked on the picture to learn more about this cube.  I got hooked, lined, and sinkered into ordering one from Amazon.  I was dismayed that it took an entire month before I’d get my hands on one.  It was like back in the day when I waited for Santa.

The cube is selling like hot cakes along with its cousin, the fidget spinner.  My grandniece introduced me to the spinner and she wouldn’t sell it to me. HA! So I had to continue to wait for the cube.

Its ad claimed a total of six sensory tools on all its six sides: an on/off- switch resembling a light switch, gears, a rolling ball, a small joystick, a spinning disc, a rubbing pad, and depressible buttons.  All of these fidgeting options on one cube!  Since it can easily fit in my pocket, I can twiddle with the cube without public knowledge.

I have had the cube a few months now.  It has lived up to its billing in the FB ad.  I keep it with me pretty much all the time except I don’t take it to bed with me.  I take it to school with me and fidget as needed in my pocket.  It helps keep me cool, calm and collected when in the midst of chaos such as in the school gym/playground where 30-something or more sets of lungs or going off.

When I go for walks or jog in place, I take it along and click on its buttons creating a rhythm to step or jog to.  Or, use it to count steps as I’m walking or jogging.  While I am at a desk in writing mode, I will fiddle with the cube when needing a “brain break.”

I never thought I’d be attached to a cube but that’s the kick about life.  It has its surprises.  Sometimes those surprises come in small packages.  With living on the autism spectrum, I’m open-minded to any gadget or app that can lighten the sensory load.  With all the options on the cube, I just may give up my other fidgeting activities such as stretching a rubber band, playing with a paper clip or biting my fingernails.

 

 

 

Meltdown Degrees

My meltdowns are at varying degrees.  One can be in the 30’s (a short upset), in the 60’s (a longer teary-eyed fit), or in the 90’s (when hopefully the only thing I’ll throw around the room is a pillow).

My foremost coping skill is a talk with Jesus.  Just telling him whatever is going on inside of me is the best place to start conquering the meltdown.  Oh, I could talk to someone which is not bad advice, but I seldom take that option.  It carries the risk of the person advising me to calm down.  Telling me to do such when I’m in meltdown country is like holding a red flag in front of a bull.

Sometimes I walk into situations where the odds of having a meltdown increase tremendously.  Such as going to the $1.00 store a few days before Easter.  That was a bad idea.

Easter decorations were flying off the shelf.  I don’t like to shop anywhere where there’s a crowd.  However, since I needed some items in that store at the affordable price of a dollar, I took the meltdown risk.  I’m a miser at heart too.

There wasn’t that big of a line when I walked in, but it seemed like when I went to get in line, there had been a cattle call to get in line.  I stood waiting while three ladies who were together separately purchased oodles of Easter bunnies, baskets, eggs, etc.  Now I knew, rationally speaking, they had every right as I did to be there.  But sitting through their purchases raised my odds of a meltdown.

Before I got out of the parking lot, I had to wait for cars to slowly, and I do mean slowly, back out of their parking space.  That’s what one should do when backing out, but I wasn’t thinking rationally at that point.  I started having one of those short meltdowns.  No tears but tension running throughout my body.  My steering wheel got a beating.  I shouldn’t have been driving but it was too far to walk home.

My next stop was what I call my “toy store”, Best Buy!  It was on my official “Saturday Morning Shopping Plan” that was written in my mind before I embarked.  It is my favorite store because I possess a common “autism” trait of collecting things and what I collect is in that store.

While browsing inside my “utopia”,  the crisis passed.  My anxiety level shifted downward.  I came home feeling extra tired because a meltdown, even a short one, can be draining.  There won’t always be a Best Buy around when I need one, but on that day, I coped as best I could at Best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tire Meltdown

It is a member of my Prius’s (aka Pree) dashboard warning icons.  I am most familiar with it than others because it pops up more often.  That’s a good thing since I’d rather have a low tire pressure warning light than one warning of a meltdown of my car’s engine.  Any warning icon is an eyesore, though.  With me, on the spectrum, a warning icon can bring on a meltdown.  I’ll overreact with a tight grip on the steering wheel and every muscle in my body on full alert.  It isn’t the end of the world for the tire light to come on, but my brain registers it as coming awfully close to it.

When this happened some months ago, my anxiety hit the roof.  I had to get it taken care of immediately!  I mean STAT!  I was afraid to continue driving Pree. I wanted to get to a tire place to erase the icon staring straight at me.  It was early that morning and fortunately, a tire place a few miles away was open.  I caught them at a quiet time with no waiting.  Pree’s rear shoes needed some airing and it was promptly taken care of.

After getting back on the road to where I was headed, I breathed many sighs of relief.  I would be drained for hours coming down from a full panic alert.  When I felt better, I thought to look up on YouTube how to check the air on a tire and how to air a tire up with an inflator.  I knew this icon would come on again and I wanted to stop having a panic attack over it.  The video of watching someone go through the motions was easier to follow versus reading an instruction manual.  The video inspired me to go on an adventure into an auto parts store and purchase an inflator that fit my budget.

Months later, the yellow icon eyesore came on, but I didn’t grab onto the steering wheel for dear life.  I was armed with a tire inflator.  The YouTube video was replaying in my mind as I got the inflator out from the trunk.  I had NO problem finding which tires were low and aired them up according to my car manual’s tire specifications.  When I turned Pree back on, the eyesore disappeared from my dashboard.  A meltdown had been averted!

I still am not looking forward to seeing that icon on my dashboard, but I have something I didn’t have before.  A tire inflator and the know-how.  If there is a lesson in this story, my guess would be — knowledge is power.

 

 

Living on the Spectrum

Words that light up my panic button:  CHANGE OF PLANS

Need help finding something on the store shelf?  Only if living without that something is a more frightening prospect than asking a total stranger for help.

Never a day without one too many cringing pop-ups of embarrassing or painful memories I would delete if only I could.

I keep something in my pocket to fidget with to keep my hands busy.  Or, I bite my nails.

I’m open to spontaneity with just one condition:  it has to be my idea.  It is rather unthinkable to go along with someone else’s.

Sometimes I ask myself, “How am I feeling?”, and I don’t have a clue.

Frustrating when I think of a thought to share, people keep talking, and the time to share it has passed.

Little things such as calling for an appointment or asking a question isn’t little to me.

Wanting to disappear when someone brings it to the group’s attention that I am the quiet one.

I crave specifics; don’t cater to abstracts.

I will play games provided the other player(s) are under 10.

The fact that something bothers me bothers me too.

 

I edit in my mind my on-the-spot blurred response to a question I was asked days or weeks ago.

Just because my mouth isn’t at work doesn’t mean my brain is too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meltdown Fatique

My meltdown began with music coming from a computer.  I was well within earshot.  Even if my life depended on it, I couldn’t explain why the sound of someone singing on a video triggered a magnitude of agony.   I don’t know if there are words to describe this meltdown; if there are, I don’t know them.

I left the area to an adjoining room but I could still hear the sound.  I didn’t know what was being sung on the video and why it triggered an eruption in my soul.  I could not tell someone to turn the volume down or turn it off.  That would not have been socially acceptable.

I was alone so I curled up in a fetal position, held my hands over my ear, bounced my leg up and down, and silently sobbed.  What seemed longer than a few minutes, I went elsewhere to pace the floor in another empty room.  When I was certain the music was off, I could start breathing again as if I had been sinking and was able to come back up for air.

The meltdown left me utterly exhausted!  I sat down and rocked for comfort.  Before my diagnosis a few months ago, I wouldn’t have known it was a meltdown.  Just me acting crazy.  I wouldn’t have known my rocking and pacing was “stimming” and how such is essential during and after meltdowns.  Such repetitive behavior is the insulation from a meltdown’s cold and cruel wind that sometimes blows in from seemingly out of nowhere.

 

 

 

In a Tough Spot

It was a 5th grade math class.  I am there to help two special education students who are in a regular classroom setting but need help with staying on task.  The teacher asked me to help the two students with the math assignment.  Then she continued her math lesson with all the other students in the classroom.  I walked into this math lesson cold turkey.  I had no preparation or review time.  I didn’t have in my possession the teacher’s answer book.  Not that having the answers would have helped all that much.  It’s one thing to know the answers; it’s another to know the steps of how to arrive at the answers.

A diagram was on the board.  It was a coordinate grid.  I only knew that because that’s what it said on their worksheet.  I had seen one of these grids before in one of my earlier lives.  HA!  Now I only had 15 minutes with them.  Well, that was 14 minutes too long.  I was saved from utter embarrassment only because one of the two students knew more about coordinates than the other one.

A moment etched in my memory was when the one who was more or less clueless about the grid said to me, “Ms…., I need help.”  I didn’t say this since I didn’t want to admit my grid ignorance; I only thought: “You and me both kid!”