A Moving Mind

I have been thinking lately a lot about moving. Like, I know I will be moving soon-ish, but it could be in about six months (end of May), in a year, maybe 18 months (next May), or even as late as two years from now. A lot of different factors go into which of these times will be “the time,” but I’m not going to get into that right now.

I realized my brain is already in that moving mode. My house is a disaster area, it has been since I moved in, and honestly, it has been since my mom bought it. I keep stopping myself from cleaning because I don’t know where to start. I also found I have stopped myself from packing things away to free up space a lot. Today I got more storage totes. I’m obsessive about my storage totes. I buy them when I get stressed. Majority are one size (a few are just slightly a different one) with a total of four colors between all the totes. Not going to say how many of these totes there are, but there are a lot of them.

These totes represent a lot more than the previous ones. One is the pack up to take to Florida at spring break box. Some mixing bowls, a vintage stock pot that makes me thinking of cooking when I was really little, tea cups that match the mixing bowls previously mentioned because I had to have them. The representation of moving myself to Florida, neatly packed into a Sterilite storage tote. The bits and pieces of myself that were bought to go to my place, not for my mom’s house. Most of these things pre-date Sean.

Totes full of yarn are a depiction of my anxiety. Numerous and disorganized, a small amount of the contents hopefully becoming something that makes sense. Totes full of laundry because I didn’t have a laundry basket, never put away in the disarray of madness. Empty totes that end up piled with random things, needing to be organized and cleared out so they can be packed in order for them to make sense. Totes upon totes upon totes. They clutter my bedroom, taking over the entire floor space at the foot of my bed. They are in the kitchen, catching the randomness that everything brings. They are in the living room, the unused lost space of the house.

All of my totes represent me, whether I want them to or not. I need to get a handle on me to get these all filled so when the time comes, I will be ready to move. Totes are my life, compartmentalized, with each piece needing to be carefully wrapped in paper, packed away for when it is actually going to be truly usable.

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Traveling

I’m sitting here a week away from an epic solo road trip. Its weird to think I will spend over 14 hours alone in the car. I’m driving from Little Rock to Orlando. All to spend Thanksgiving with my husband.

I have the menu all planned out. I have the trip planned out, including a stop to see my aunt in Georgia. I am going to be making dinner for people I haven’t met because I told Sean to invite his friends over. This is my first Thanksgiving married. My first Thanksgiving traveling to spend time with someone.

Sean and I have done two road trips since we have been together. I’m defining road trip as being long enough where you spend at least a full day in the car without really having time to do anything when you get there except sleep. The first was when we drove out to the West Coast and got married on the way. We were in the car for 24 hours before we even made it to Las Vegas. The second was driving Sean to school in September. Those trips were a month and a day apart.

This is going to be my first solo road trip. I have driven to Shreveport and Ruston, Louisiana by myself. Its scary. Its taking me out of my comfort zone. But I guess that is the whole point.

Take Care of Yourself

I was talking to a co-worker, and I said something about coloring my hair. She asked why bother since I always wear my hair up. Since pretty much no one knows this, I have purple hair. Everyone who sees me notices I have purple hair, so it doesn’t matter how I wear it. It got me thinking about how many people don’t think about self-care.

Self-care is defined as any activity that you do for yourself to make you feel better. It can be as simple as making a sandwich, going for a walk or putting on make-up. Self-care is important because it means you are talking care of yourself. Kind of the whole point.

That being said, when she asked why do I bother coloring my hair, it got me thinking. The whole reason I color my hair is because I like how it makes me feel. I first dyed my hair when I was 13. It was a normal color, a shade my mom had in the cabinet because she wanted to see if I really was having a major insomnia episode or if I was faking. No faking was involved because insomnia was the only reason I would sit through her turning my hair pink with light auburn hair color. That was 19 years ago. I have maybe gone a total of two years without dying my hair since then.

So why do I dye my hair? What does it do for me? Well, first, my natural hair color is basically that of river silt: muddy, murky and blah. My grandma used to wash my hair, even if I just washed it, because she said it looked dirty. Dying my hair meant I didn’t have to endure her shoving my head in the kitchen sink and forcibly washing my hair for me with shampoos that dried my scalp out and didn’t do anything to make my hair not look muddy.

The honest truth is, I feel good when I dye my hair, which is kind of what it is all about. Prior to deciding to test the crayola palate when it comes to colors, I stuck to darker shades of blonde and would occasionally venture into the lighter ones during the summer. Right before I got married, I decided to be drastic with my hair. It was a big change so I wanted it to be visible. It definitely is.

My hair is currently purple. I am trying to decide if I want to stay purple, but am more so leaning towards changing the color because why not. I regularly have people compliment me on my hair, from my parents at school to complete strangers at the grocery store. I stand out. My mom and husband have both said I seem more like myself with my purple hair than when I was blonde. Mom even admitted she wishes she could have let me do this as a kid because it would have been a great way to give me confidence.

Its interesting what dying my hair has given me. The biggest thing is confidence. I feel like a more genuine version of myself when I dye my hair. Whether its blonde or blue, pink or purple (all have been on my head before), its the easiest way to feel more like myself. It is something that takes me out of my own head, the place that is the most dangerous for me to spend too much time alone. That is the whole point of self-care: it takes you out of your own head.

When it comes to self-care, you do you. Make a nice meal for yourself if you like to cook, buy yourself a big slice of cake, new lipstick or socks or whatever, you do what makes you feel the most like a more genuine version of yourself and gets you out of your own head. Sean plays with sound equipment and R/C cars as his self-care, though he has started to use cooking to help (as much as a guy who can’t cook can use a microwave). Just remember, if your self-care is eating a whole pint of ice cream, try one of those new low calorie ones so you don’t have to figure out another self-care routine to keep the weight off.

Going the Distance, Part 2

In three weeks, I set off for Florida. Not to move there, but to be able to spend Thanksgiving with my husband. We are currently separated, so this is a big deal. No, we aren’t separated because our marriage isn’t working. He’s in Orlando for school for the next two years, and I decided that I would be too much of a distraction if I went with him.

He’s going to school for something he can’t here in Arkansas, Stage Production and Show Management. We talk every day, Skype most days. He’s working hard and making his way through the program. I’m very proud of him.

His decision to go to school is because of me. He was working at the local Hobby Town (a hobby franchise that does models and R/C cars and the like, no yarn or such here), but the store closed, leaving him grasping for straws as it went down. We have no hard feelings towards the owner because he tried to find a buyer, and sometimes things just don’t work. He had been talking about getting married for a while, so I said in March that we would get married in August in Las Vegas. This was before the store closing was announced, before anything other than me babysitting my nephew on school breaks.

His goal is to be able to make it where I can be a stay-at-home wife/mom/whatever. So he’s almost 15 hours away, sleeping alone. I at least get Ramon, the cat, who is by far the best cat ever, and he’s just about to turn six months. Not working isn’t something I want to do, but I appreciate his goal of having that be an option for me.

I have had so many people tell me they couldn’t do it, be away from their significant other for so long. I have had a lot of people tell me to call if I need anything because of this. I always tell them thank you, that I really do appreciate it and that if I need them, I won’t hesitate to reach out. Oddly enough, I haven’t felt lonely yet, at least not how people would expect.

I’m a distraction. I very well know that for Sean I am a serious distraction. I’m the one who pointed this out and even fought with him about it because he wanted to say I wasn’t. Originally, I had planned to go with him. For about two weeks when he first started to look into going to school, I was going with him. Then reality set in: I have a job here, I have a support system here, we don’t know where will be going at the end of two years, and I’m not leaving my pets behind for two years. In the grand scheme of things, two years really isn’t that long.

Why am I a distraction? I’m loud, obnoxious even. I demand attention unintentionally. I’m kind of like a cat. I need a lot of stimulation because, well, sensory processing disorder is a real thing that persists into adulthood, as does depress and every other part of autism.

Why is it better for me to stay away? Well, I can get the needed affection where I am. Yes, I miss my husband. I miss being with him and all the little things like sleeping with someone who isn’t the cat (no offense to Ray here, but he’s just a cat). My kids at school give me so much that I don’t feel a need to search out sensory stimulus all the time. I have nine boys in my class, which only has 11 kids total. All nine are Ms. Laura’s boys. Six of these kids were in my class last year. Only three of them were new to the school this year. These kids don’t let me have time to be stuck in my head. If I do, someone is going to bite or hit someone else (remember, these are toddlers), and its only down hill from there.

That being said, I have three weeks until I leave for Florida to see my husband. I have an entire Thanksgiving meal planned out. Some of his friends from school are going to come because there really isn’t enough time to go home for most of them, and its more worth saving their money to go at Christmas. We are having our first Thanksgiving be a Friends-giving because I figure we won’t be living close enough to any family for it to be a family holiday for a long time, so might as well start our own traditions. He’s just excited because I plan to fill his freezer with turkey.

Going the Distance, Part 1

So, I got married. August 12, 2017. Las Vegas, Nevada. A random wedding chapel near the office where we got our marriage license, like literally a block away and the guy was standing in front of the office asking people if they were getting married. We had just spent 24 hours in the car, driving from Arkansas to Nevada. And it was perfect.

I was exhausted because we found out I drive the most when we road trip because I don’t really sleep in the car. And it was still perfect.

I managed to do something some people with autism only dream about. I fell in love, and with someone who actually reciprocated those feelings. I never dreamed of getting married, no prior planning, no dress obsessions, no real expectations of what it would really be like to get married. My impulsive nature took over and it was done after just a little trip planning, a lot of figuring it out when we got there.

Sean and I met on a dating site. I went on a lot of dates and got my hopes up too many times because I had a tendency to settle very quickly and told myself not to expect too much because I didn’t deserve much. Childhood abuse does that. I saw no value in myself even though I could be heard screaming it. I have a history of changing myself to be more like the guy I’m with, whether becoming a gamer or an anime nerd instead of just a mild fan of those things. But Sean was different.

We got married 17 months to the day after our first date. I almost didn’t go on that date, in more ways than one. Like I said, I went on a lot of dates, a lot of first dates. I had gone to see a friend up near Fayetteville (and I owe her a visit, which she needs to hound me about so I actually do it) and posted a make-up picture on my dating profile. All of a sudden, guys messaged me a lot more, which is usually what happens when you post a new picture. A lot of ignores and a few messages back to nothing, as it goes with all of that. A guy, an engineer, Indian as per the type I have gone on a lot of dates with, cute with a great body because, hey, Skype. Yeah, I was supposed to have a date with him on March 12, 2016.

That date never happened. Sean had messaged me a day after that guy did. I had a tendency to do the first come, first serve thing with guys who would message me when it came to dates. Well, that guy canceled, Friday, about 7:30pm. We were supposed to have a lunch date at noon the next day. Did the maybe another time thing when you don’t agree to work over (yeah, his manager asked if he could work late and he said yes, so his loss). I had tried to blow Sean off a few times, but found myself responding to his messages anyway. I told him about the guy canceling. He made a big deal (all via dating app messaging) about how he would never do that. He then proceeded to tell me that I could come out with him that night if I wanted.

I’m going to stop right there for a minute. Making plans when you have autism is very weird. If someone isn’t direct, you start trying to figure out if you are reading too much into it, what is this supposed to be. I had no clue. Having had a lot of times that guys have done the passive thing and I didn’t get it, I straight up told him if he was going to ask me out, he had to ask me out. So he did.

And that is when the excitement hit. First dates were something I always got excited about. I mean, I’m a people watcher by nature, so this is as in depth as you can go for people watching. I’m going on a first date with an Asian guy, a first but figured it was going to be an only date and I would just tell my future kids I dated almost every race before marrying their father. Never had a date at a bar either. It was all excitement until right after I filled my car with gas.

And then the anxiety hit. Like a ton of bricks. Driving 20 minutes to a bar I had never even heard of. Pull in. My breathing has been getting a little shallower with each mile, each minute. What in the hell am I doing? Car is in park. Get out my phone. I don’t have the guy’s number, so I wait to see if I see anyone who looks anything like him. And I’m paralyzed. I can’t move from my seat. All I can do is message him in the app that I’m outside waiting. I message Austin to tell him where I am, who I’m supposed to be meeting, all the details because I’m having a full on panic attack. I had just convinced myself to go home when he finally messaged me back.

He tells me he’s going to come out and get me. I’m waiting for a guy who is about 5ft10 to come up since that is what he put on his profile, and well, autism is good for honesty and bad for expecting that from others. He’s all of 5ft6. He comes and talks to me at my car that I have finally managed to open the door of. A full 45 minutes after we were supposed to meet. After talking for a little bit, I manage to regain movement in my legs and get out of the car. We stand outside for a bit longer because I’m still trying to breathe, and then he finally convinces me to go inside. This place is a karaoke bar. I can’t tell you anything he sang that night, except there were a lot of cheesy romantic songs, which I found out was his usual. I just sat there, drinking my water and talking, with this goofy acting Asian guy starting at me.

We talked, a lot. Got near closing time, and he asked what I wanted to do. I said we could go somewhere and get something to eat, ending up at IHOP. Until about 5:30am (OK, it was daylight savings, so the time is only slightly exaggerated. That really was the time when we left) . He made me guess his actual name because he didn’t trust people not to stalk him (surprisingly, it was justified after I met some of the people and got to know him better). And he just kept staring at me. That night I found out he was adopted from Korea when he was a baby. He doesn’t eat bacon (because he is a weirdo). And he drinks Mtn Dew like there is no tomorrow. It was probably the most interesting first date I had had in a long time.

It feels weird to write down the story of us when it comes to a relationship. I know a lot of people who have had panic attacks on first dates. The entire things started outside my comfort zone (I mean, a bar, its loud, I don’t know anyone), but ended up at a place I’m comfortable because of how many happy memories I have relating to IHOP. What I thought was going to be a blip wasn’t.

Let’s Try This Again

Its been a while since I’ve really done anything, so it is probably best to restart like it is all new. Here it goes:

Hi, my name is Laura. I’m 32, married and a teacher in a toddler classroom at a preschool. I also have Autism Spectrum Disorder. I surprise a lot of people just by being me. It’s still weird to me that I’m married, but feels normal at the same time. When I am at school, my kids are my world, and they amaze me every day. But no one seems to believe me at first when I tell them I have autism.

I’m hoping I can address some of the things that have become a big deal in my life that I have just neglected recently (OK, so for a few years. I’ve been seriously slacking here). There are a lot of things going on with my marriage that leave a lot for me to talk about. There is my job, especially since I was working direct care of adults with developmental disabilities when I started this, and now I work with developmentally typical children. Having ASD and doing these things is something not many people think work well together.

I’m not what people think of when they think AUTISM!!! I pass for normal majority of the time. The truth is, I figured out I had ASD at the age of 27. My mom finally admitted that I had been diagnosed with it when I was four shortly after my 30th birthday. What’s funny about that is I have memories from that time and can recall the doctor who diagnosed me (a developmental pediatrician in the same office as the family doctor I saw. My doctor recommended I be evaluated because of abnormal behaviors for my age). I remember my parents fighting about my diagnosis. I remember my dad’s family saying it should be beaten out of me. I remember way too many things.

I have actually been open with all of my parents as appropriate about having ASD. They have all been accepting and think its great that I am so loved by their kids. My kids. I always refer to the kids in my class as my kids, I’m their daycare mama, and their real mamas love how I see their precious babies.

Yeah, so I’m going to do my best to get back to this AA meeting as often as I can. Autistics Anonymous is good for the soul, or at least for working through what I have stuck on my mind.

Long Time, No See

Its always interesting how things turn out. Its been a long time since I’ve posted anything. I guess I should start from the beginning again:

Hi, I’m Laura. Its been a long time since I’ve been to this AA meeting (Autistics Anonymous). Almost two years to be exact. A lot has happened in that time.

Since I last posted, I’ve changed jobs, watched my nephew grow, and even started something that so many high functioning autistics (HFAs) long for, a serious romantic relationship. There are times its surreal.

Changing jobs was a big deal. Its hard to leave something you know for the unknown. It will be two years this summer since it happened. I no longer work with adults with developmental disabilities. It was really hard to leave because these were people who had become a family to me. I am now a teacher at a preschool, spending my time in the infant room, snuggling babies though still changing bottoms.

My nephew is something else entirely. While I write this, he is upstairs taking a nap because I get to spend all of Spring Break with him (even though its almost over). He is almost two now. He is hyper and loving. There is no fear that he has autism, which was such a relief.

The last big thing is probably the most surprising still, even to me. Sean and I have been together for over a year now. He challenges me to be who I truly am. He amazes me every day, even though some of those things make me want to kill him.

Part of why I’m able to write this now is that I got a new computer. Its been almost three years since I had one of my own. I’ve had a lot of things on my mind lately that I have wanted to write about, so it was about time I actually stepped up and paid for one. Hopefully, I will be posting again on a regular basis.

It’s a Crying Shame!

I am so fucking tired of hearing about people being shamed!!! Why don’t you shame me? I can give you a lot of shit, so have fun.  Let’s start with the fact I am a 30 year old woman who lives with her mother. I am not married and don’t have kids. Just for shits and giggles, how about I let you know that six months ago, I had a mustache. Not like Tom Selleck’s epic ‘stach, but more like 13 year old boy peach fuzz. It was still a mustache, though. Not enough? How about the fact that I used to weigh 225lbs, which on my 5ft7 frame is obese? I wore men’s shorts for work and was almost to a 40in waist. Still need more? I have chickens as pets and I refer to myself as their momma.  I pick my nose. I think that about covers it.

Shaming, for any reason, is trying to destroy someone. There is no reason to do it, regardless of if you think someone deserves it. I gave you shit on me, and I dare you, I FUCKING DARE YOU, to try to shame me. Guess what? You can’t. Why? I put it there for you to see and the point of shaming is really to make someone feel bad by making public something they don’t want others to know.

Shaming kills. I have a friend who lost her brother due to shaming. There was a tragedy that he would have never forgiven himself for anyway. He spent time in jail because of it. Upon his release, he was hounded by those who thought he wasn’t punished enough. He made a mistake and they only got worse. He ended up taking his own life. This is a basic outline only because my friend doesn’t deserve to be forced to relive the horror she endured. I love her dearly and thought her brother was pretty cool. I can honestly say he was a good guy who made mistakes that would usually just be stories told, but instead turned into lives lost. He took his own life because being alive meant living in a hell where he wasn’t allowed to move past his mistakes.

Shaming is bullying. Bullying is NEVER acceptable. I grew up in a time and place (aka, the South during the ‘90s) where you were told that you “need to stop taking things so seriously” or to “just get over it.” There is also my all-time favorites, the “you are just too sensitive”, “it builds character”, and “well, maybe if you acted differently, there wouldn’t be a reason to…” I heard those three the most. From my dad and his family, from the parents of kids who bullied me, from the people who should have protected me and definitely knew better.

Recently, a personally trainer made a video where he basically yells at the camera, telling obese people how disgusting they are. Wow, really? We are disgusting? Here I thought I was fucking awesome, as are all of my friends, many of whom have struggled with their weights. I have friends who are morbidly obese. I have friends who have had to deal with diabetes that is a result of weight. I have seen friends struggle with infertility due to their size. I have never told a friend they needed to lose weight, unless they asked if I thought they needed to, and even then, it is still a very sensitive subject. Not everyone is supposed to be skinny. I know the size of my skeleton (yay, x-rays are fun!!!), so it isn’t hard to do the mental estimations of what would be healthy for me. According to the BMI, I should weigh between 136-142lbs to be considered on the HEAVY side of healthy. Wow, really? Well, last time I was in that range, I was 13 and I wasn’t healthy, but it had nothing to do with my weight.

I have no problems letting the world know I currently fluctuate between 181 and 186lbs. Why should I be ashamed of that? I wasn’t ashamed when I was 225lbs. I was sick, but it had nothing to do with my weight. My weight had nothing to do with my diet either. I actually have anorexia, though not in the way people think the disease can manifest. I don’t eat. I don’t physically ever feel hungry and because of that, I can easily get up at 8am and not eat until 8pm, sometimes later. My weight isn’t even due to my disordered eating. I have a condition called PolyCystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS. It is a condition where cysts can form on the ovaries (not always, but usually) and causes hormonal imbalances, usually extremely high levels of testosterone. It’s the leading cause of hair loss and baldness in women. It can also cause some pretty gnarly facial hair, so my peach fuzz mustache was just toeing the water. Want to know what happens when you try to shame a woman who has PCOS that lives with a full beard? She calls you a jerk, laughs at you, possibly hits you with something (maybe a lawsuit, depending on where you decide to shame her), and leaves. I got lucky that my treatment has been pretty easy: medication twice a day and making myself eat regular, though usually small, meals. I am about 40lbs down from my highest weight and I feel better because I’m not as sick as I used to be. The weight didn’t make me sick; it was the being sick that caused the weight.

And then there is Caitlyn. I’m sorry, but I figured she would be in the spot light for maybe two weeks, and then people would be over her.  Sadly, I was wrong. And the worst part is that it isn’t her supporters that keep her there, it’s those that hate her.  What is the point of shaming the LGBTQ community? My favorite argument is that “God doesn’t make mistakes.” Well, God also said you shouldn’t eat seafood (sushi, anyone?), wear garments made out of more than one material (means no cotton/poly blend for you), or eat pork (mmm…bacon). My response is that no one ever said it was mistake until you. Maybe this is just a chance to learn about humility and acceptance. I have a friend who is transgender. He is fucking awesome. When I met him, he was she. She was 17, turning 18. She was very angry, though never seemed to be able to say why. She was very depressed, though she thought no one could see it most of the time. She decided to become he. He started transitioning a little over a year ago. He is happy. He isn’t angry. He has the best smile I have ever seen.  Being transgender has nothing to do with wanting to be anything. Someone who is trans is what they say they are; it’s their body that is telling the lie. Using biology to say they will never be the gender they say they are is the same as saying that a woman who can’t have children because she had to have a hysterectomy at a young age isn’t a woman. Having a hysterectomy doesn’t make her less of a woman; neither does biological sex make her male.

If other cultures have revered those who are transgender as being sacred, two souls in one body, why do we make them out to be freaks, worthy of nothing but cruelty and forced to live in fear? They are as human as anyone else. How do we try to say that gender is a binary, only male or female? It’s more of a spectrum that doesn’t even take into account what you like in another person. Calling someone “gay,” “queer,” or “fag” because they don’t fit your definition just makes you the bad guy. You aren’t God (and if you are, I would love to talk, and by love to talk, I mean take you to an institution to have you evaluated because you are obviously delusional), so you can’t say “God Hates…” because you honestly don’t know.  It is not your place to make that judgement. The Bible even says one of the worst sins someone can commit is disowning their own kin over who they are. It’s Pride, pure and simple, one of the Seven Deadly Sins. You are too engrossed in yourself and what others think of you to love someone for no reason other than they are your family. That’s fine. That is your choice. LGBTQ people tend to be very accepting of others, including those of us who have autism, so we will all just make our own big happy family.

Try to shame me if you want. It won’t do you any good. Being able to shame me would mean I would have to be bothered by the things I told you. Honest truth is that I’m not. Why should I be ashamed? Life would be boring if we didn’t all come in different packages. Some have assembly required, while others have parts not included. We all write our own stories. Make sure your story doesn’t have anything you are ashamed of, lest someone be able to shame you for it.

I Want It

We all have things that we want. Some are big, others little. Some would change our lives completely, some we just want. Here are some of mine.

I want a job where I don’t have to worry about money. Adults with autism are plagued by unemployment and underemployment. We don’t always know where to look and networking is hard when simply going to a job fair is equal to an inquisition. That doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to be able to pay our bills and live our lives. We want to work; we just need some help finding our niche.

I want to take the GRE! So this is my personal one, and it does go along with the previous. The test currently costs about $200 to take, and if you aren’t currently in school (*raises hand*), there are no easy ways of finding assistance. Taking that out of meager budgets is hard and leaves other things not covered, like food. I mean, my monthly grocery budget is about $200, so that is a lot of money that I don’t have.

I want to go to grad school. Why? Because it is the only way I can become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and be able to live my dream of helping those affected by autism. BCBAs don’t only work with autism, but also those with traumatic brain injuries, like soldiers and those who have been in car accidents. The list of the conditions that BCBAs work with is growing as our knowledge of the brain grows. The desired rate is one BCBA to every 100 clients, with various technicians and therapists working under the BCBA to help implement therapy plans. Sadly, the rate is on average closer to 1:10,000. That means majority of the people who need these therapies don’t have access because there is no one available. That is not acceptable.

I want to have a date that turns into a second date, then a third, and just keeps going. Finding someone when you have autism is hard. You have strange interests (have I told you about my chickens?) that not everyone appreciates. You may talk too much when nervous (*raises hand again*) or become selectively mute (think Raj from Big Bang Theory before season five). Meeting people is difficult because bars are over stimulating and dating sites tend to make you feel like a creep! Speed dating sounds like something pulled straight from hell and your friends are all in the same boat as you. The idea of having an autism dating site seems like a bad idea because we may never get past who we are on the computer enough to meet in real life. Take that step and make a friend who is outside your comfort zone (not extreme, like into things you can’t stand, just one who you want to be more like. Think confident and outgoing, but still likes the same things you do to a degree). Do something that scares you. Make a dating profile and send as many messages as you can. Eventually someone will respond. Maybe you two can get some coffee.

Here is the big thing from this:  people with autism want the same things everyone else does. I think secretly, everyone wants to be famous. I mean, how cool would it be for someone just like you to come up and let you know how much you mean to them, that you have changed their life? And isn’t that what it is all about? We are here to change the world. Autism doesn’t define us; it is just part of us. You can break the cycle of fear that comes from letting things scare you. Take the time to look at what scares you and pull it apart and realize that all the little pieces aren’t nearly enough to be as big what you thought was scary. You have to decide to change you.

A friend recently found out, after starting a new job, that the guy training her has Asperger’s. Her son is on the spectrum. This guy is working in sales at a car dealership. He took his autism and said it was part of him, but it didn’t define him. He used it to help him overcome what he had to. He saw what he wanted and got it. I think this guy rocks and I’ve never even met him. My only response to her was that “We are everywhere.” “And I love it” because she knows she will always have support from her friends with ASD.

Call me by My Name

Bruce Jenner coming out as transgender and transitioning has got me thinking about how someone who is transgender has a journey that to a degree is similar to someone who is on their own journey of discovering what it is to be a HFA. There are a number of people in the HFA population who are transgender, which gets you thinking about what it all means.

Autism and being transgender are both something you are born with. It is fundamentally who you are at your core. You don’t feel like you belong in your own skin, though you don’t always know why. Because of what we are taught, we start to hate ourselves for who we are, what we are. How is it fair to be hated for something you didn’t choose? It’s not and we can’t let anyone tell us it is.

You can’t give someone autism or make someone transgender. If you could, neither would exist. But they are here and have been and will be as long as there are people. There is no one to blame; it’s just chance, luck of the draw. Neither is something any sane person would wish on their worst enemies, but it still exists. It doesn’t mean you are sick. It doesn’t decrease your value. You are only different, not less.

I, for one, am someone who has struggled with who I am, before I knew about my own autism and before I knew any terms for any of it. I was labeled a tomboy. I’ve never been any good at “being a girl.” Yet I always felt like I was a girl, even though I had to endure teasing and taunting that tried to tell me otherwise.

Gender isn’t something that is binary. There is no black and white. We live in a colorful world we need to embrace and respect. I identify as my biological sex, but not everyone does. This has no link to malicious intent. Everyone is beautiful, whether a life-long tomboy like me or a loving father who realized he was not only hurting himself but also his kids by telling the world he was a man; whether a straight man with a feminine side or a gay man who no one would have thought could be that way.

What makes life worth living is knowing that someone loves you. If we can’t give another human being our love, then we need to spare them from our hate. Love begets love; hate only breeds hate. Love creates; hate destroys. Love has the ability to become so many positive things, while hate just festers into a cancer, destroying what love works hard to build. Love even if you don’t agree. Love even when you don’t understand. Let love be a blanket that can smother the fires lit by hate, that can shield us from the arrows that hate fires.

Love is free to give while hate costs you yourself. When you give love, it is returned in a way that we can’t explain and in a number that we can’t count. Let us wrap Caitlyn and all of those who are on a difficult journey to find themselves with love so we can be a positive page in their stories, so we can make their roads a little smoother, their loads a little lighter.