The Eye Gel Tells Me So (Or, A Love-Filled Life)

Just over a month ago, I went to have my eyes checked. Turns out, in addition to needing a change to my lenses and very nearly needing reading glasses, I have really dry eyes. My tears aren’t up to the job, apparently. So I now have two sets of pills to remember to take and eye drops. Or eye gel as it says on the pack.

The eye gel is supposed to be three to four times a day. That doesn’t happen. And then I forgot to refill the prescription, so long story short, if you put eye gel that has expired in your eyes, it really stings. Also, when you have been using eye gel and you stop, it’s like your eyes are being stabbed with teeny tiny razor blades all the time, and you find yourself thinking “But it never used to hurt this much.”

Which got me thinking. Because sometimes we can be like that with love. We can be all dried up and wrinkly and not realising that love is something missing from our lives. And then something happens, and we are richly drowning in love – not that smushy romantic movie kind of love, but the kind that really makes a difference. The wash your dishes when you’re ill kind. The accepting that you’re different but not letting that be an excuse for bad behaviour kind. Hard working, hard wearing, generously applied. Like tears are supposed to be. Making it easier to see – all that is both good and bad in the world.

But then, we get lazy. Or offended. Or whatever. And the love stops. And the equivalent of the eyes drying up happens. And it hurts like crazy. And what do we say? I tell you what we tend to say – “Oh, well, it’s love’s fault. If I hadn’t loved, I wouldn’t be hurting now.” And then we go back to wrinkly glary lives, where we can’t see anything if the sun shines too brightly.

Let’s live lives abounding in love – not just occasionally standing under a waterfall, but generously, frequently, applying love wherever and whenever we can.

Gratitude And The Sore Ankle

Sofas are dangerous. And not just because when you sit down in them when you’re tired you feel like you will never move again. Sofas are dangerous because the other week, I was standing up from one, and I tripped over my toes, and hurt my ankle. I have been hobbling around for these last three weeks, or maybe longer. Sometimes I even have to use a walking stick. Sofas are dangerous. Ban al the sofas, before they hurt somebody else.

Or maybe carpets are dangerous. Maybe it’s because the floor was carpet that I tripped over my toes. Never mind that carpets have cushioned my feet for every year of my life, and allow us to play safely as a family, and keep us warm. I tripped over because of the carpet. All carpets should be pulled up and burned. Stone floors all the way. Okay, maybe not stone floors. But not carpet.

Or maybe it wasn’t the carpet. It was actually my toes that caused the trouble. They got caught on something, somehow, and pulled under my foot, and then my foot got dragged down until something in my ankle popped. So if I hadn’t had toes, I wouldn’t have tripped over them. Toes should be banned. Maybe, as soon as a child has learned to walk, we should remove their toes, just to be on the safe side. We could replace them with detachable toes, so if you are going to trip like I did, the toes just detach, and save you an injury. Definitely. All the toes’ fault.

Or maybe, it was just that I was tired, and you know, physics. Maybe it’s because I’m somewhat double-jointed and therefore prone to these sorts of injuries. (The plus side, I have excellent party tricks….) Maybe the point isn’t about ooh, got to make sure I never get an ankle injury again. Maybe it’s about learning to look after the injured ankle.

I have been trying to learn to live a grateful life, and the ankle incident reminded me of something. Sometimes you just have to keep going. Be grateful for ice-packs and walking sticks and the opportunity to catch up on sedentary projects. Be grateful for friends and family that support you, and ready meals. And yes, be grateful that it doesn’t mean getting rid of the sofa, or the carpet, or my toes.

 

Staying Positive

Turns out I am doing a slightly better job of staying positive than I realised.  Especially considering I gave up on trying to stay positive and decided to concentrate on getting through and finding moments where I could.

I was going to write a negative post you see.  About how special needs parenting is hard and then you feel bad about it being hard and then that just makes it harder. I started it and everything. And then I read what I had written and realised it wasn’t true.

Don’t get me wrong, parenting Little Person is more challenging than it would be if she didn’t have a different sort of brain. But I don’t feel bad about it. I don’t feel all heroic either. Mostly, I just feel messy. And that’s really not a problem. Because I guess Little Person feels messy too.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling how you think you should feel. Or trying to make yourself feel like you think you should feel. And there’s a million people with an opinion on how you should feel.

The online people do not know how you should feel.
Your friends and support system do not know how you should feel.
Sometimes, the worst thing you can do is think about how you should feel.

I have made a few changes to my thinking in recent months.  I have worked hard to find a space where Little Person would be accepted and happy, where I would be accepted, where The Dude would be happy. I sort of forgot about accepting myself. Letting myself feel the feelings.

And here I am having felt all the feelings.  And somehow, positive at the end of it. Who knew?

Gratitude And The Art Of Practice

This is supposed to be my year of gratitude and as lessons go, I’m not doing very well. I told myself that the main reason I hadn’t written about gratitude for the last two weeks or so was because I was too busy. But I’m not convinced.

I think maybe I just didn’t have anything to say. Except I did have things to say, but they weren’t nice things. Like how annoying it is when people don’t appreciate your effort. Or some contrived list or other, because I had to say something, because it was Monday and that’s when I write about gratitude, don’t you know?

So basically, I got side-tracked on my gratitude journey by the writing about gratitude journey. I turned it into a “Thing”, when it was only meant to be a part of the journey. It’s easily done. It’s also easily solved. (I hope.)

The problem is when the thing you enjoy becomes the thing that stresses you out, the thing that has to be done rather than the thing you want to do. It stops being about the process and starts being about the end result. The easiest way to fix that is to focus on the process – to always be practising and never actually doing (obviously, you would be doing, but in your head it would just be another practice).

This has application in the area of gratitude too – when it’s all about the process, all about the learning and the being and the trying, it’s easier to see the positives. When you are less afraid of doing it wrong, or running out of steam, or any number of negative things it is easier to find the moments of gratitude.

If it’s all just practice, you’re not trying to be perfect, you’re just trying to be better.

And that’s something to be grateful for.

Tea, Lists And Getting The Important Things Done

I was thirsty. So I did what any sensible mother would do and asked Little Person if she wanted a drink. (Bonus points for sharing a joke. Minus points for thinking “Oh, look, we’re sharing a joke.”) And went downstairs to get the drink. Except then I saw I hadn’t folded the clothes.

Clothes folded, I went to turn the kettle on, and decide what kind of tea I wanted. Remembered a conversation about the various types of tea I drink. Decided to take a photo of all the different choices to make my friend laugh. Went to get Little Person’s cup out of the cupboard. Spotted some clothes on the drying rack. Folded them onto the top of the laundry pile (sort of). Went back to get Little Person’s cup, spotted the ketchup from last night still on the table. Put ketchup away. Finally managed to get Little Person’s cup. Couldn’t put it on the counter because all the boxes of tea were in the way. Realised I hadn’t boiled the kettle.

Eventually, Little Person got her drink, and I got my tea, and then I looked in the bedroom and saw a pile of clothes on the floor. In the exact place I had cleared a pile of clothes from the floor yesterday. And I got grumpy, went to put them in the laundry basket and realised why they were on the floor.

And suddenly, I wished I was one of those people who could just follow the morning clean-up routine and just have a tidy house. Make a list, tick it off, and everything gets done. If there’s a routine for getting everything tidied and put away, I have tried it. But inevitably the whole thing falls apart.

Because, real life. And maybe even, real priorities. Or maybe even, I don’t like doing things when I’m tired. So all the fancy teas in the world, and all the nice lists in the world, aren’t going to get the job done. Sometimes you just have to realise that you have to do life tired.

But on the plus side, all the laundry is folded.

 

 
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What does Autism Awareness mean to me?

This time last year, I was pretending that an autism label wouldn’t make any difference at all. Little Person with autism label was the same Little Person as she was before the label, right? Yes, and no.
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Because her diagnosis means that I have had to become more autism aware – in terms of my behaviour and the behaviour of people that Little Person comes in contact with.  Because somehow, in my head, autism awareness means being sensitive enough to be able to change your behaviour so that the person with autism has a chance to actually engage with every day life instead of hiding from it.
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It means knowing that when you said you will do something,  you must do it.
It means taking the time to talk about how things will be the same and how they will be different.
It means ice cream as a starter.

It means letting people think I am a bad parent.
Knowing that sometimes the words disappear and that’s okay.
It means boisterous cuddles in the middle of the supermarket.
And whispering “Thank you for being brave.”

It means phoning up the company and asking for help.
It means meetings with people who think you are making it up.
No birthday parties, no after school chats, and no regrets.

It’s knowing that as hard as it is for me, it is harder for her and it’s my job to make it easier.
Autism awareness means knowing she’s not joking when she asks “What is funny?”

It means knowing that I will never really know, and somehow that’s okay.

I am learning every day what it means to be autism aware, and I hope you will too.

*

There’s a saying that when you’ve met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism.  Sometimes, autism doesn’t look like you think it should,  and sometimes it does. And sometimes, those caring for people with autism are so worn down, and so accustomed to being judged, that they don’t ask for help. Sometimes being autism aware means helping the carers take care of themselves.
Chances are you know someone affected by autism.
Chances are, you can be part of being autism aware.

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Can a Woman Be Strong?

A friend and I were discussing societal gender differences. Imagine it – two women trying to work out what it must mean to be a man.
Because even though the narrative of society is that it’s okay for men to express their emotions, on an individual level it’s a different story.  Maybe there’s a generation coming up behind where boys can be confident and express their feelings, but it’s not commonplace.
As women, there’s an expectation that we should share our feelings. We’re supposed to go to sad movies so we can cry, and spend hours talking over our feelings and other people’s feelings,  and perfect the art of passive-aggressive conversations. (I missed those classes.)
But there is no societal narrative that says it is okay to be strong and a woman.

Agree? Disagree?

The Gratitude And The Cold, Or This Could Go Just About Anywhere

Last night, as I lay in bed thinking about writing this post, I had a really witty beginning. Quite frequently, when that happens, I can remember it the following morning. Except those of you who follow me on Facebook will know I have a cold. Some moments it feels like it’s almost Manflu. (It isn’t.)

But I didn’t want to quit my streak of writing about gratitude. I like writing about gratitude (and it means I can keep this blog ticking over while I do the Big Edit). I like thinking about gratitude.

I do not like having a cold.

But a cold is very good at pulling you into the present. When your head is all fuzzy and your nose is blocked, and getting up off the sofa is an event that has to be strategically planned, you’re not living in the future or the past. You’re not making plans for the future. You’re just trying to get to the day when the cold is past.

This morning, I was a little late dropping Little Person at school, which meant we had to walk speedy-fast to get her into the building before all the doors closed. We made it, but I had to walk back to the car very slowly. My chest was sore, I was gulping down breaths like I had just sprinted for the line at the end of a marathon.

What does that have to do with gratitude? Not a lot. Except that, a) I was not having a heart attack, and b) I was not having a panic attack. I knew what was going on. I knew it was just my body under stress because of the cold. And knowing what it could have been, and yet it wasn’t, was something to be grateful for. Knowing what it was, is something to be grateful for. Because then I could come home and rest.

So these are my take home points about gratitude and having a cold:

  1. If nothing else, be grateful that you know the things you do. (Sometimes)
  2. Being able to be in the moment can make it easier to find gratitude. (Sometimes)

Like I said in the title, this could go anywhere.

The Grammar of Gratitude (Or The Small Matter Of Faith)

In February last year, the church I had been attending for three years decided that it wasn’t worth the bother to train their new lighting technicians to set up the lighting so it wouldn’t be a potential trigger for my epileptic seizures. I walked out of the meeting with a smiley face (because that’s what you do, or else they won’t let you go) and I sat in my car and cried. And then I said, “Well, at least God still loves me”, and drove home, tears rolling down my cheeks and dripping onto my clothes.

I am not grateful for that experience. I am not even grateful for the lessons that I earned from that experience. I could really do without having that level of betrayal in my memory bank.

There’s a school of thought in certain Christian (or quasi-Christian) circles, that you need to be grateful for everything – even the bad things. That if you can show God how grateful you are for everything, that somehow makes you more worthy, more holy, and therefore He has to bless you. So gratitude for everything is basically a way to get God to give you stuff. And we all want the stuff.

But there’s a big difference between being grateful for something, being grateful in something. (My English teacher was right – prepositions are useful!)

Back in February, March, April of last year, when my heart was bruised and I honestly never wanted to darken the doorway of a church building again, I was grateful for other things. Not for the hurt and betrayal, but for a God that still loved me. And then, for a God that still loved the ones that did this thing. And being thankful for a God that loves was key to my ability to move forward. It gave me a focus for my own spiritual journey. It enabled forgiveness. It gave me courage.

There is a certain kind of gratitude that walks hand in hand with faith, a gratitude for something bigger than yourself, and your own small life on this earth. It’s a robust sort of gratitude, that doesn’t rely on warm feelings and sunny days. It’s a proactive remembering of what you believe in, and being thankful that it matters to you.

So when bad things happen, it’s alright not to be grateful for them. When bad things happen, you have nothing to prove – being grateful for the thing doesn’t make you a better person. Sometimes not being grateful for thing makes you more honest, and that has to be a better way to start the journey.

When bad things happen, sometimes you just have to decide that you will find a way to be grateful for something. Anything. Even a God who loves you.

Why Gratitude?

I thought I was going to find this whole gratitude malarkey a walk in the park. I mean, I think I’m a positive person (when I’m not all depressed, that is – and even then…), others certainly think I’m a positive person, I have been practicing the craft of learning the lesson, finding the good for years. Years, I tell you. So realising that I really don’t know as much as I thought I did has come as something of a surprise.

And yet, I haven’t given up. I’m curious to see how being thankful for the things can fit in a lifestyle of a deeper gratitude. I’m wondering why gratitude? If I take the gratitude away, what am I left with? Why are some people more willing to express gratitude than others? What does gratitude do?

Over the last few weeks, I have been part of, and observed, a number of interactions where I would have expected an expression of thanks to be forthcoming and it wasn’t. It’s like a sponge soaking up all the water in the basin, but then you squeeze it and it’s bone dry. Made the whole experience a little more hard work that it needed to be. But it made me realise, some people don’t see the need for gratitude. Bonus lesson: you can’t make someone see the need for gratitude.

Because gratitude has a significant contribution to make to our mental health. It reminds us that we are part of a community – we are not in this alone, if we are doing and being something for others, and they are doing and being for us. It takes the pressure off, because we can’t do and be everything. We weren’t meant to. It requires humility – because we need to admit that hey, something happened and it wasn’t my doing and it’s kinda cool. Gratitude and control freak don’t go together very well, because if you control everything, then when something happens, it is either as you expected, or bad.

Gratitude is an opportunity to live differently – to see the world as it is and embrace the possibilities of that, rather than seeing only what should be and isn’t. So why gratitude? Because it makes life less about hard work and rules, and more about relationships and love.