Worth It

blog photo #15 advice for saleThe best things in life are free…

This is one of those sayings that we have heard many times, and we just accept it as truth. And the Beatles helped convinced us, didn’t they?

I, however, live in the “everything has a cost” camp, which at a glance, appears to be where all the cynical kids play. I am here to argue that we are indeed the hopeful campers. Everything that matters in life has cost me something. That’s in part why it matters to me. To prove my point, I’ll illuminate my top three.

My relationship with God is the most important thing in my life. I know that we Christians like to say it costs us nothing, and I agree that God’s grace is a free gift. But I’m talking about the choice, every day, to put my spiritual life at the forefront. To really examine what God/dess would have me do, and align my behaviors accordingly. It’s painful, friends. And costly. There are plenty of times I would prefer to shout at someone in anger or (this one is the biggie for me) keep score and seek revenge. Choosing not to engage in those behaviors is a challenge for people like me.

My children come just after God, and anyone with kids will tell you that parenthood isn’t free from struggle and sacrifice. Need I go on?

And my number three is the development of my nonprofit organization and my writing life–because they are intertwined. I’ve been writing since I could spell “writing,” and it is my saving grace. I can say this without fear of sacrilege because for me, the Divine is born in me through my words. When I set out to be a writer,  as you can imagine, I got nods and smiles and pats on the head. While some of my peers earned business degrees and went on to celebrate with gargantuan salaries,  and others followed a different bliss, maybe one similar to mine in teaching or social services (which I did for a while, too), I was fighting to find MY bliss and live MY truth, as I felt the Universe had asked me to do. I’m not suggesting that my friends aren’t living authentic lives; I’m saying that the predictable schedules and income and the safety those things offer are the things I had to give up to BE a writer–to step into my truest self and honor who I was created to become. I had to risk not making rent. I had to skip the summer trips to the beach. At one time I was working FIVE part-time jobs! I had to piece together a living that would keep us fed and also feed my soul. I had to eschew romance and instead choose the quiet solitude wherein I could hear the voice of God/dess whispering to me. My children paid for it too, which was at times painful to watch–its images full of triggers for guilt, questions, and self-doubt (the mommy’s Holy Trinity).

These are things I value most. And they were not free. I love my relationship with God. It is a highly personal one, and it is my compass in all earthly matters. My children are my heart. They have brought me greater joy than any other experience in life. And my time at the keyboard or notebook is filled with moments during which I am most fully alive. The price tag for all three was crazy high. But totally worth it.

What are your top three, and how much are you willing to pay for them?

Entering the Spectrum

My beautiful son Keegan, who happens to have autism, just celebrated his fourteenth birthday.  I promised I would try not to wax nostalgic, that I would just, for once, let it be a birthday, and not let it be about fourteen years of struggles and tears and goal-setting and victories, large and small. I promised that I wouldn’t get all lecture-y on social media about early intervention and advocacy and so on. But here’s the deal. It turns out I must have some sort of compulsion about this stuff. Keegan might not be the typical kiddo with autism. He is more high functioning than a lot of others on the spectrum. And he is one amazing human being! But  you can’t look at someone and know what is going in his brain. You can’t know the challenge of learning all the nuances of behavior and interaction that have come relatively naturally to you–knowing how long to let your eyes linger in a conversation, knowing how much touch is too much touch with a friend, and why is it different with this friend and that friend, being constantly anxious that you will not know how to behave or engage, wanting desperately to have a connection with someone, but fearing that an interaction will go badly and everything will be ruined. Keegan juggles those thoughts and worries every day.

When he was diagnosed ten years ago, he was placed at the moderate level, NOT mild. This was AFTER three solid years of intense intervention. I did not wait for a diagnosis. I acted on my gut, and got him help, when he was eighteen months old. I read everything in print, I talked to other parents, I dedicated a room in our house to Keegan’s sensory needs. I recall one day, when he was three years old, I realized, with a broken heart, that he might NEVER come out of this world where he lived: a wordless world of staring at the ceiling fan, lining up hot wheels, grunting and spinning in circles, banging his head, licking everything in sight, refusing to be touched. That isn’t the Keegan most of our friends know, because they never met that Keegan.

So on that day of realization, I made a choice. If he wouldn’t come out, then I would go in and join him. That’s the day my relationship with my son changed. It’s also the day that my relationship with autism changed. And it was still one year prior to his diagnosis. It was in the midst of doctors telling me “Give it time, it’s a phase, he is just shy, try different discipline, he is too young to test, some kids develop later than others, let’s watch him for another six months….blah, blah, blah.”

You know your child. You know him because he has little pieces of you inside him. I saw myself in my little boy’s eyes, and I saw him quietly pleading for me to come inside and be with him. So I did. I slowly, but firmly, created a space in his world, a little each day, until eventually it was big enough to hold us both. It wasn’t easy. He got angry at me. He pushed back at me. HARD. But I trusted what I saw in his eyes, and I thank God for opening my heart enough to hear what my son was really saying to me. I believed that even though every behavior he exhibited screamed “Leave me alone,” and “Don’t touch me,” that it wasn’t what he truly wanted or needed.He was writing my name on the wall between us, and it was an invitation I couldn’t ignore.

If you think something feels wrong, get it checked out. If you don’t like the answer, ask someone else. And someone else. Read every book available until you find the one that makes sense for you and your child. If you are resisting a diagnosis, know this: the word “autism” does not have to define your child. That is your choice. Use it as a tool to get the help you need. But those six months the doctors are telling you to wait, are the most precious f-ing six months in the world to a developing child, especially one on the autism spectrum.

So July 16 might never be “just a birthday” to me. And I will probably never stop lecturing about early intervention. But I have zero doubt that if I had listened to what the professionals were telling me, everyone would have met the aforementioned Keegan, instead of the confident and capable young man he is becoming.

 

In Truth and Love,

Alinda

 

 

 

The High Cost of Authenticity

I was chatting with a friend today about how scary it is to be  putting myself out there like I am with my writing. All my secrets are exposed. No more mystery or wonder for new people meeting me. They can just come here and learn about my fears and mistakes, and visit all my skeletons. Men who might want to date me can find my weaknesses, employers can decide if I am worthy for their upstanding company, and so on.

Her response? You must keep being honest. Your posts are engaging exactly BECAUSE you are naked. People need you, and you need to know that you can do this.

I knew when God whispered in my ear a few years ago that I had to start coaching others to live more creatively and to tell their stories, that He also meant I was going to have to tell my stories. Not just the ones with the happy endings, either. I knew it would cost me. But I know better than to say no to the big guy.

So I started thinking that really, everything has a cost. Every choice we make, is, in essence, a letting-go-of all the other options. Every time we get out of bed in the morning, we let go of the safety of staying curled up in our warm blanket. Every time we get in our cars, we let go of the option of staying home, or of taking the train. Every time we make love to someone new, we let go of the security of hiding our bodies and our souls from that person just a little while longer. It’s that small, and it’s that big.

*inhales*

Telling you my stories means I have to let go of the desire for you to only know my pretty parts. You know, the parts where I am educated, published, happily single and the mother of three beautiful and successful children who adore me? You might discover that I have, in fact, said unspeakably cruel things to each of my children at one time or another–things I can never take back, things they can never unhear. You might discover that I am up to my eyeballs in student loan debt and barely make a living wage and wonder why in the hell I took out all those loans just to be a teacher and starving writer. You might learn that my first book, non-fiction, barely sold enough copies for me to buy groceries for a few months. And…you might discover that as much as I love my independence and my alone time, there are nights when I cry myself to sleep wondering if I will die alone and turn into Alinda soup before anyone finds me.

*exhales*

There you have it. Now you can officially be unimpressed with me. And that has to be okay. Because I can’t preach to you to live your truth if I can’t live mine.

The bottom line for me is always this: I can choose to shut it down, to never risk myself. I can choose to build walls to keep out the hurt, the disappointment, the judgment. But that shutdown means I don’t get to experience joy, wonder, curiosity, love, or sexual pleasure, and those walls also keep out the people and things I so desperately seek to hold close to me. Nothing is free in this life. My dad was right about that.  We just have to decide what we want more than safety, and then go get that thing, even if we must do it completely naked.

In truth and love,

Alinda

A Journey of Five Years (and two days)

My divorce has been final for five years (and two days). I, being me, have spent some serious time reflecting during my divorsersary. (It’s my blog. I can make up words). The traditional five-year anniversary element is wood, but I haven’t seen any of that in a while, so let’s make it chocolate instead. After twenty years of marriage, I’m not sure why I expected that divorce would be a blissful journey to independence. There have, of course, been moments of bliss, but they were rare in years one and two. They did begin to show their pretty little faces in years three and four. In year five, however, I learned this: Bliss is mine for the taking. It was always there, waiting for me to be ready. That’s not all I learned, though. In fact, here is what I know today about my self and about surviving (and embracing) divorce and single motherhood:

  1. I always believed I was a thinker, trying to be a feeler. Then I thought I was a feeler who intellectualized to cope with pain. Today, I am a woman who trusts her heart, and uses her brain.
  2. Life hurts really fucking bad sometimes.
  3. Wine (see #2)
  4. The devil really IS in the details, but so is God.
  5.  I am not invisible.
  6. I am stronger than I thought. Strength looks way different than I expected.
  7. I am more sensitive and vulnerable than I thought. And I’m okay with that.
  8. I am happy  now that I was a bookworm in high school while my friends were eating at Chili’s with their boyfriends. Dating is overrated. Books are orgasmically good.
  9. I am a member of  a community.
  10.  The middle of the bed feels AMAZING!
  11. I can (and will) do anything to put food on the table. On a related note, Pinot Grigio  is three bucks a bottle at Trader Joe’s.
  12. I’m a bad-ass ninja warrior.
  13. My kids are evidence that love is a good thing, and also proof that I know how to do it. So take that, Tinder a-holes.

I will stop at a baker’s dozen. It works for donuts, right?

 

In Truth and Love,

Alinda