2020 Vision or Hindsight in Plain Sight

Today has been interesting, which in itself is interesting because not much has happened.

  • Gymnastics practice drop-off, unusual for a Saturday
  • Surprise live quartet performing at the library, from whence I am writing now
  • Awful neighbor dogs barking all morning, which means I need to move to another house ASAP
  • A sense of settling into all the new changes the last year has brought
  • Finally reading an Umberto Eco essay (“Travels in Hyperreality”) that I’d sought out unsuccessfully for a good couple of months before today

My life hasn’t turned out the way I expected it to and I think I’m to the point where I can actually write about this without too much terrible fallout — either personally or from other people.

  • I’m Autistic, which most people in my life already know
  • I have Prosopagnosia, or Faceblindness, another commonly known fact
  • My aptitude for using, hearing, and deciphering tones of voice is pretty much nil
  • I communicate far more effectively via text than via speech
  • I’ve never really considered myself to have a gender (agender), but I guess other people see me in very gendered ways, which is really weird to me
  • I’m not, nor have I ever been, particularly attracted to men, yet I’m fairly happily married to one and have been for 16 years
  • My family now looks very different than it did a year ago
  • My marriage now looks very different than it did a year ago, but it’s stronger (somehow, amazingly) than it was then
  • I have a great deal of trauma from my childhood, which I’ve known since college, but only recently figured out the source of, because I did grow up in a loving family
  • Growing up in a loving family with parents who believe that they’re doing the best for their children doesn’t prevent trauma to Autistic children, we just seem to be more susceptible to trauma than most people are
  • And me being an Autistic child (with all the increased trauma susceptibility that comes with being Autistic, chronically misunderstood, and unable to communicate as expected) was the missing piece

TW: depression, suicidal thoughts (no details)

I almost died in college from childhood trauma (buried, built up, broken free, breaking me; but so confusing as to why, since my parents always loved me and I never experienced the sorts of abuse that usually lead to the amount of trauma I clearly carried). And again at the beginning of this year, on the morning of January 1, 2020 I nearly died again.

This wasn’t wholly unexpected, at least not by those closest to me. My husband and my girlfriend both saw it coming. Five days before the end of the year they sat me down and told me that I needed to start antidepressants because I was starting to go down a very dark path. Of course, I was already much farther down that path than they (or I) realized at the time, but it was a start.

Most of you reading this blog don’t know about my girlfriend and you not-knowing is nothing personal, more a testament to how little I’ve felt able to communicate with people recently, even those who are most important to me. Anyhow, she’s amazing and is one of the best things to happen in my life ever. We’d been friends for a long time before dating and I’d been so broken recently that I wasn’t sure anyone would want to be subjected to post-broken-me much at all. But she rushed in (where angels would’ve surely feared to tread) and if she hadn’t then my life very well might’ve ended on January 1st.

December 30th I was taken to my doctor’s Nurse Practitioner (NP) and put on Wellbutrin. Two days later, I was confronting my past traumas as they’d ceased seeping and begun spewing forth, turning my mind into a bombed-out ghost city.

But before that happened, I had to choose to live. My first act of choosing to live was to disappear to the gym (for a workout I’d semi-planned to attend the night before) where I lamented the fact that completing the workout wouldn’t kill me. A thought that had previously been comforting and encouraging during past workouts became a sad reality. I tried my hardest to exercise myself to death, but my friend was there, and talking to her was comforting so I got through the workout and headed home to an unexpectedly horrifyingly empty house.

Method by method, alone in my house, crying in my cold bathtub post-post-workout shower, I confronted dying. One way, then another, each time thinking of my children finding me afterwards and realizing that I couldn’t do that. Once I had exhausted all the dozen or so ways of dying I could think of, I confronted the possibility of running away and starting over. But that option still left me with the inevitability of still being (with) myself and wanting, more than anything else, to not be alive any longer.

For the next two weeks I wasn’t left alone unless it was unavoidable and planned well in advance.

Under different circumstances, as in college, I would’ve been institutionalized. I’m fairly certain that I even asked to be admitted somewhere. But my husband and girlfriend came up with an alternative plan.

It was over those next few weeks that I realized how depressed I’d gotten over the last several years. It probably started in late 2015 or early 2016, when we came very close to having no food and being evicted onto the streets because of financial issues that I’d found out about only once we had maxed out credit cards and had no money coming into the accounts for food, let alone to pay off the immense amounts of debt we had amassed without my knowledge.

I don’t know what we would’ve done during that time without the assistance of many MANY friends who gave us money, loaned us money, gave us food, bought us food, and were generally supportive.

But that’s when I stopped being able to easily leave my house. That’s when I stopped being able to do much more than the bare basics to keep people alive and the house clean. That’s when I got my autism diagnosis, right around the time I was crashing hard into burnout.

That’s when I stopped being able to reach out or spend much time with people. That was when my words became frighteningly less reliable than they’ve ever been at any point since my childhood.

And now…. now. I see it. I look back and I see. It’s so clear, looking back. Plain as the nose on my face (as long as I’m looking at my face since I can’t visualize it in my mind), plain as the Amish wagons I used to see all the time while attending my Pennsylvania college, plain as pudding when it’s still milk.

It’s there. Simple.

But I can’t go back. I can’t do anything about it. Those years are gone, lost, beyond my reach.

The only thing I can do now is to move forward with intention. To do better in the future. To make sure I don’t ever go back to that debilitating depression. I had walled off my childhood darkness and trauma, but the walls have fallen. I know what it is so now it’s out in the light, weakened, instead of hidden and gathering power.

My life is more unconventional now than it has ever been, but it is the way it needs to be for right now.

I have an amazing husband and an amazing girlfriend and they both saved my life this year. Anyone who has an issue with that… well… you might as well wish I was dead because that’s what would’ve happened if either one of them had not stood by me during January 2020.

And that’s the truth.

Home Comforts – The Art & Science of Keeping House

by Cheryl Mendelson has been such a help to me lately. It may very well rank right up there with The Tightwad Gazette and Clutter’s Last Stand as one of the most useful and helpful books I’ve ever owned.

I was never taught how to take care of a house. I never learned how to straighten as I went or how to keep up on chores so that they weren’t always completely overwhelming. In my family, while I was growing up, we only cleaned on Saturday and it was a huge deal. It took practically all. day. long. So I learned to hate cleaning/picking up after myself and others. I learned that it was an all day chore when it happened and that I should put it off as long as possible because it always took forever.

I was also never taught how to get rid of anything. Everything I had, I just assumed I would always have. My parents modeled this behavior to me quite effectively. My dad had shelves and shelves of books that would periodically end up in piles on the floor and wait for weeks before they were reshelved. My mom kept everything. Every. single. thing. She still has boxes of junk mail and coupons from four years ago (maybe longer even) because when we would “tidy” up the house we would just put all those papers in boxes for her to go through at some mythical later date, but “later” never came.

Enter: my husband and two daughters. Now it wasn’t just my own mess that I was procrastinating about picking up. It wasn’t just my own clutter that I didn’t want to get rid of. Now it was my husband’s mess (which, admittedly wasn’t too bad) and my older daughter’s mess (toddler mess… pretty bad!) as well. I decided that I didn’t want to raise my children in clutter and mayhem the way I was raised.

“Clutter’s Last Stand” by Don Aslett came into my life through the Library Book Sale. I now know better how to decide whether something stays in my life or needs to leave ASAP. The fewer things I have, the fewer things I have to take care of and the less time I have to spend putting them away.

I still wasn’t comfortable with the cleaning aspect of keeping house though. I was never sure whether I was doing it correctly or often enough (or too often?). The book Home Comforts – The Art & Science of Keeping House fairly leapt off the shelf at me when I was at Border’s a couple of weeks ago. I was glancing through their selection of house-keeping and organizational books and this one was by far the largest housekeeping book on the shelves. It was practically corpulent!

I flipped through it and found that it contained information about how to take care of almost every aspect of house keeping. It covered how to make your home clean and yet not institutional. It covered how to choose fabrics and how to wash them without destroying them in the process. It covered how to make a schedule so that housekeeping doesn’t become overwhelming due to handling it from crisis to crisis.

I bought a copy.

It is changing my life. I have set aside one day a week to do baking so that my family has bread and breakfast muffins every day. We have a budget now and have put it down on paper so we will be sure to stick to it! I’m vacuuming the house several time a week and I don’t feel overwhelmed by the kitchen because the dishes are done after almost every single meal (breakfast only dirties a couple of plates that can wait until the lunch dishes are washed).

I’m getting my online life under control so that I have time to do the things that really matter – spending time making my house comfortable and safe. Spending time with my husband and daughters. Spending time LIVING! I’m cleaning more than I ever have before, but I feel so much better. I used to hide from my messy house by spending excessive time online and now I am able to spend time in my house because it’s a nice, pleasant place to be.

Now I just have to keep it up!

Happiness is….

  1. A clean kitchen.
  2. Sleeping children.
  3. Pretending that I actually know what I’m doing (’cause I’m an adult, right?), and succeeding!
  4. Organic toast with lots of honey on top.
  5.  A snuggly baby.
  6. Listening to KPLU Jazz station all day long.
  7. Surviving a drive to West Bremerton.
  8. Fresh veggies from the CSA.
  9. Singing in the car.
  10. Getting ready to travel to a warmer climate for 5 weeks.
  11. Tandem-nursing.
  12. Using a wrap to carry my baby while sniffing her head!

On Clutter

What is it? It is anything that I do not use, love, or have space for.

What purpose does it serve? It is currently serving to drive me absolutely nuts.

Where does it accumulate? It accumulates on the table, on the desk, on the floor, and on the bed. It accumulates in the kitchen on every single available surface and then some.

Why on earth do I have so much of it?  Where does it come from? It doesn’t just appear, does it? I suppose it comes from stores, yard sales, and generous friends who pass along items or give us gifts. However…

I never accept anything that I won’t use. Someday.

I never buy anything that I won’t use. Someday.

What if someday never comes? Why should I keep things that I don’t use *now*?

More importantly, why *do* I keep things that I don’t use now? Sentimentality? Hoarding instinct – “just in case”?

Does it make me feel better to have all this stuff just sitting around? No? No. NO! It makes me feel horrid.

Clutter saps my energy. It makes my house much more difficult to clean. It makes my house much more difficult to organize. I have to keep my kids out of all this stuff because much of it is not safe for them to play with.

So why do I still have it?

%d bloggers like this: