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Self-Isolation

  • Posted on December 11, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Socializing is work. It takes effort. Even when the people I am socializing with are people who mean the world to me, the people I love, and even the people I love who I also live with, it takes work to socialize. When I’m overwrought, overwhelmed, overextended, overcommitted, and overtired, it takes a great deal of effort just to function. In those times, it’s easier to pull in on myself than it is to socialize.

I’ve been there a lot in the last few months. I’ll horde a small bit of energy for minimum-necessary-interactions, but I just can’t “be there” whenever I’m wanted, or even whenever I’m needed. According to a great deal of literature touching on a broad range of topics, this is not a “best practice” for human relations. The emphasis is almost universally on “being there,” wherever you are, whoever you’re with. If you’re at work, then be there. If you’re at home, then be there. If your home is your work, then set boundaries so you can be there with whatever set of tasks/people you’re with at the moment.

My conscience knows this is right and true. But, in these times of high demand and low self, it feels like a matter of survival to hold back.

When it comes to minimum-necessary-interactions, I force myself to be there, as best I can, no matter what. When I get the boys up and off to school, when I tuck them into bed, and the little moments that happen every day in between. I know my children need me to be there during these moments. But even then, even when I try my best, I tend to be so tightly strung that it’s far too easy for me to snap.

Ben, my baby, my willful young man, tends to trigger my breaking points. He’s not cooperative. He resists going to sleep. He resists waking up. Even with routines in place, there are transitions that he just doesn’t like. Oh, sure, eventually he will fall asleep, and eventually he will wake up, and if these transitions occurred according to his natural rhythms, he’d be just fine. But, like me, his rhythms are out of sync with the general public and the general public determines when school starts. To be honest, I don’t like it any better than he does. There are times when homeschooling seems all too attractive, if only because we could keep our own wacky schedules. Then, I remember that there would still be doctors’ appointments and a myriad of other engagements that have to be on someone else’s schedule. So, while I sympathize with Ben, I don’t give in. Except, sometimes I just don’t have the energy to do it right and my being there just makes things worse. His stubborn streak sets in and our volumes rise and Alex gets upset and the reassuring morning routine turns to chaos.

I’m a kids-first kind of person. It’s wired into my worldview. As the parent, it is my job to satisfy my children’s emotional/social needs as best I can. I feel a great deal less responsibility for the emotional/social needs of other adults. This is especially hard on my husband. We’ve been married for nearly seventeen years. We’ve been through the proverbial fire together. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether we are interdependent or co-dependent or both, but we function best when we are in sync. But, when I pull back, I can’t provide him with the emotional support he needs. I do save up some time/energy for him, too; but, it’s not enough. He keeps trying to engage me when I have nothing left to give. And then there’s my mother, who needs me too, and I have even less to spare for her. The guilt just adds to the stress.

I live in a society that admires those who can “stand alone.” Self-sufficiency is encouraged. But there’s another side of that. There are people who stand alone because they have to and there are people who stand alone because they can’t/won’t stand with others. Those of us who isolate ourselves may do it out of a need to survive—a feeling that we have to pull in on ourselves, rely on ourselves, suffice ourselves in order to survive—but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

I can already hear the surge of criticism: I’m defining “healthy” as “normal” and all that. But that’s not it. We isolate ourselves to survive, because we feel endangered by others. Sometimes this danger is real—it is a learned response, after all—but the response becomes ingrained, it becomes triggered not out of any true danger, but out of habit. Human beings, even those of us who function differently, are not wired to be alone, even when we tell ourselves quite convincingly that we are. We’re not.

Socialization may be work, but it’s also a need. I know this, I understand this, yet the defense mechanisms remain. I know they can be changed. I know that I can change them, yet I feel as if I cannot. I feel as if I’m trapped in the isolation of my own making. My husband reaches out, my mother reaches out, but I am as intangible as mist. I slip through their grasp. I go it alone through the dark, even as I scramble for the light. But there’s no switch to flip. A lifetime of learning cannot be undone in a single moment. The darkness I see is behind my own eyes. It’s inside me. It’s a choice made too many times. But I can choose differently.

Wrapping It Up

  • Posted on December 8, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Yesterday I was absorbed in a necessary, cathartic task. I took my finals for this semester. The first one took longer than I expected. When I came upstairs, I told Mark, “My statistics final tried to annihilate me, but I reign victorious!” My statistics instructor “cheated.” She presented the questions of the final as real life scenarios. She gave us a few hints, but we basically had to figure out for ourselves how to get the answers to her questions with the data given. I don’t know how well I did. At this point, I’m just glad I’m done. My HR final was essay questions, so that went much more quickly.

As far as I know, I’m all set to restart in the spring. I’m registered, funded, confirmed, and everything. The only thing I have hanging over my head, school wise, is one final paper that was, surprisingly enough, due after the final. I have my first draft finished. Since writing is kind of my thing, my first drafts are better than many of the papers that are turned in as polished copies, or so I’ve been told. The one time I ran out of time and had to turn in a first draft I got an A, so I guess it’s true. It kind of takes the pressure off, especially since I do have time to polish it up.

Anyway, school is almost wrapped up for the nice winter break. (I don’t start up again until January 20th.) I’m also almost completely caught up with my work. Pretty soon I’ll be able to sit back and relax, at least for a few moments. For now, though, I’m still plugging away.

Try, Try Again

  • Posted on November 24, 2014 at 10:00 AM

I’m on a new prescription to fight the illness that has been lingering far too long. According to the doctor, it’s still just sinusitis and bronchitis. I haven’t developed any tertiary infections (bronchitis is the secondary one), including and especially pneumonia. So, I’ve got that going for me. The doctor also changed the antibiotic and extended the length of time I’m taking it. So, while I’m not better yet, chances are good that I will be by the time this medicine is through. Meanwhile, I am coughing a bit less and getting a bit stronger. So, I am getting back to work.

Working has been a problem for several weeks now. My work is very cerebral in nature, which means I have to reach a minimal level of concentration before I can produce quality work. The length of time I’ve been away from my work, along with other complicating factors, has also made it necessary for me to start from zero.

Basically, along with the concentration (which is improving) and the knowledge (which I’ve retained), my work depends on my confidence (which was depleted) and my skill (which has become rusty). A final ingredient, which is a bit more mysterious, is the creativity factor.

Creative writers—novelists and memoirists, for example—often speak of “the muse,” which is a nod to Greek mythology. Personally, I see creativity as being less dependent on external forces (like a demi-godish being whispering in your ear) and more dependent on internal forces, like a bubbling “pot” of a variety of inputs and a willingness to put different things together until you create something fantastically new. Though, I believe there are internal and external forces that interplay and interlay amongst each other, which is what makes creativity such a mystery.

For me, the biggest factor is that my creativity is most robust when it’s used abundantly. The more I use my creativity the more creativity I can bring to bear on a new project. Concentration tends to work in the reverse: the more I concentrate the less capacity for concentration during a given day. This creates something of an X-factor, where the one is rising, the other is lowering, and the optimal time to perform the hardest work is when they cross each other. Finding my X-factor is a matter of trial and error, because it is dependent on factors that change from day to day. If I spend long periods of time not working, then I get out of practice. My moments of optimal work time become shorter and finding them becomes harder.

As my strength has improved, I’ve devoted time to getting in the practice I need. So far, my X-factor has eluded me; but, the last few days, I’ve gotten pretty close. This is a sign that I’m ready to get back to producing end-product work for clients.

It’s about time!

I’m Still Sick

  • Posted on November 19, 2014 at 7:35 AM

Back in October, I had a sinus infection that became bronchitis. I also had an overwhelming amount of stress. I got a prescription for the infections, but there’s no prescription for stress. I took my meds, they helped for a while, but even with their help my immune system couldn’t fend of the infection. So, weeks later, I’m still sick.

After sleeping for most of two straight weeks, you’d think I’d have been rested up for this. But I’m still sleeping more than usual and I’m still struggling more than I’d like. I’ve been trying to get back to work, but I haven’t produced much yet—particularly for my clients.

Now, it’s time to go back to bed. I’ll catch a bit more rest before my busy day—taking Alex for a checkup, and then I’m heading back up to Madison for another speech appointment. (We’re booked through March now.) Wish me luck, because I’m going to need it!

Roles

  • Posted on September 12, 2014 at 10:00 AM

We all assume roles in our lives. We’re parents, children, students, employees, professionals, and more. Some of us are advocates. Whatever our other roles may be, we choose to engage in advocacy in order to change the outcomes we experience and to improve the outcomes others will experience. We want the world to learn from what went wrong in our own lives.

In First Things First, Stephen Covey and his co-authors instruct us that the limits of the mind indicate we can best organize our lives around seven roles, plus the role we owe ourselves, which they call sharpening the saw.

With such a limit, I’ve devised the following roles:

  1. Mother: I will nurture and care for my children, enriching and empowering them to become the people they are meant to be.
  2. Wife: I will build a resilient, satisfying, and loving marriage with my husband.
  3. Builder/Servant: I will rely on my loving Heavenly Father to open the way for me to answer the callings He gives me, while I do everything in my power to build a righteous, faithful life on the Rock of His salvation and to endure well to the end.
  4. Marketer: I will build satisfying, sustaining, long-term business relationships with clients that deliver their products and services with honor and integrity by providing high-quality written and consultative services and by delivering them with honor and integrity.
  5. Writer: I will uplift other writers in such a way that I empower and inspire them to live their dreams.
  6. Advocate: I will build a peaceful and sustaining community of advocates to serve people with neurological differences and disabilities, that the people we serve may be enriched, employed, and empowered.
  7. Student: I will excel in my field(s) of study and earn my degree(s).

There are certainly other roles I could have, but most of those activities would fall under another umbrella. This way I emphasize what is most important for me to do with my time, my energy, and my life.

What are your roles?

My Myopia

  • Posted on July 21, 2014 at 10:00 AM

First of all, I am myopic—in the medical sense of the word. Myopia really refers to nearsightedness and I’m nearsighted. I’m also farsighted, but that’s another story and another eye. Myopia has come to mean lack of foresight, obtuse; narrow-mindedness, intolerance. This is similar to how idiot used to refer to people who had an intellectual disability and is now used in a derogatory way to suggest that a person without an intellectual disability is foolish, senseless, and does things without thinking—which, if you’ve ever met people with intellectual disabilities, doesn’t often correlate to them at all.

Anyway, in common usage, I’ve come to hear myopic and myopia to refer to someone who is overly focused on one thing at the exclusion of other things, like the way a person with myopic vision (without glasses) will hold a book right up to their nose to read it, and will therefore not see what else is going on in the room. This is the sense that I’m using the word, and I feel wholly comfortable using it in that sense, because I’ve been both the person who is literally myopic and figuratively myopic, especially lately.

Most of my posts have been about me, my health, and my children, at the exclusion of everything else that has been going on. I’m not up on the news. I haven’t heard the latest. And I’ve actually found that I’m totally and completely okay with that. Unfortunately, I imagine that reading as I prattle on about my little life has gotten rather boring.

So, I’m sorry for being so myopic. I’ve put my glasses back on. Later this week, I’ll tell you what I’ve been seeing.

Still Progress

  • Posted on July 16, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Two steps forward, one step back. It’s not the kind of progress I want, but it’s still progress.

Willy got sick. He felt unwell for less than 24 hours. I got sick, too. I felt unwell for three days. Neither is particularly unusual. Willy has a robust immune system. I don’t. Willy inherited his from his father.

So far, neither Ben nor Alex has shown any signs of illness, though I suspect my mom might have it. Willy had gone over to her house to play, ended up getting sick, and then spent the night. Still, I was the one who came down with it second, after Willy. If my mom got it, she waited a few days before showing signs of it.

I may have been exposed earlier than her, but neither Mark nor the younger boys are showing any signs of it. It comes down to my physical weakness. It was a rather mild illness, as far as those things go, consisting of headache, a slight fever, and nausea. The weakness lingered for me, forcing me to sleep even though I was too comfortable to sleep well.

I had just gotten back on track to where I wanted to be, then I got sick—and I was forced to sleep—and got shoved off track again. My battle with my to-do lists is so tenuous it doesn’t take much. Losing a single day sets me off track. Losing three… *sigh*

The only thing that’s saving me right now is that I wasn’t going at my full pace. I wasn’t even trying to be full-time. So, in that sense, it should be easier to catch up. Of course, the reason I wasn’t going full-time was because I don’t have the strength for it, so I doubt I have the strength to “catch up” either.

Two steps forward, one step back. It’s still progress, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Speaking of Progress

  • Posted on July 11, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Having surgery, then sleeping through a good portion of my recovery, gave me something of a power boost. I felt better than I have in a long time. My mind was clearer, at least for a little while. After I came back to work full-time, I realized two things:

  • First, the time I put in when I could only work part-time wasn’t as clear, coherent, or organized as it seemed at the time.
  • Second, my priorities had shifted because I’d had plenty of time to consider what was going well, what wasn’t, and what I could do about it.

I cleaned up my messes. I cleared up my backlogs. Now, I’m feeling like I’m really and truly back. I’m ready to walk my walk and make it work. My priorities truly have shifted.

I’m going to keep these shifts close to the vest, but I’ll give you a hint…I’ve talked about doing this before, but then I lost track of it. I’m starting fresh, breaking free, and doing a little cheating.

It’ll make sense in time. For now, I’m just going to enjoy being back and keeping my little secret. :)

Recovery-In-Progress

  • Posted on July 9, 2014 at 10:00 AM

So, I went to my post-surgery check-up, but the surgeon wasn’t there. I don’t know why I thought he would be. Instead, I met with another assistant. She checked out my incisions, but other than that the check-up was all verbal. I told her what I had experienced, good and bad, with my recovery thus far. She was pleased with my progress.

Her informed assessment, however, was something of an obvious conclusion. I’ve had too much stress. On the one hand, my life is stressful. This is seen as being particularly true whenever I bring up the boys. I brought up the boys to make the point that I’ve spent too much time putting their health (and educational) needs first; and that I’ve been putting my own health on the backburner for far too long. Her point was “Wow, three with autism, that’s got to be stressful all by itself.” Hm. Yes, I suppose it is, but not nearly as much as people might think, especially now that we’ve figured out what works for them.

On the other hand, she also made a point of stating that my body has been under particular stress lately. My crash or flare up, my diagnoses, my sleep issues, and now surgery – there is absolutely no “wondering why” I’m physically fatigued. No matter how much I may want to accelerate this process, and just be better already so I get back to things that matter, the fact is that my body is still healing, still recovering, and that this matters, too.

There’s so much I want to do…but if I focus on that, instead of on what I can actually do right now in this given moment, then I just add to my stress unnecessarily. For some, this might seem self-evident and obvious. For me, it’s kind of revolutionary. My idea has generally been: “Get through this as quickly and thoroughly as possible, so I can get on to the next thing.” It’s not that I am in such a hurry that I forsake quality, because that isn’t effective. It’s that I’m so focused on doing as much as possible that I’m actually reducing what I’m capable of because too much of my energy and focus is spent worrying over or planning for things I can’t do yet.

Here I am trying to recover, trying to build my capacity, and I’m eroding my good intentions with unnecessary stress. [Grumble, grumble.] I swear I’m going to get this balance thing right one of these days.