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

 

 

 

An Invitation

My very first blog post. The phrase sounds overwhelming, doesn’t it? Mixed with excitement, curiosity, eagerness. My bestie keeps telling me I should do this, so here goes. You can read the resume/first-date version of who I am here on my page, but I thought today I would focus on talking about YOU, and US, less than I talk about me. Some writers can be quite self-absorbed. You can’t blame us, we are a solitary bunch, so connections can be hard for some of us. Not because we lack empathy–in fact–we understand you and feel you with such a depth that we must spill out our feelings on the page or go mad. We are solitary because, well…our task requires much introspection and quiet time. But here I go, talking about me.

I love people. They inspire me, surprise me, teach me, love me,  horrify me, and entertain me. I want to do those things for you as well. I hope to talk about a variety of topics here, with really only a few rules: I vow to be honest, and I vow to honor you as readers, both imperfectly so, but both to the best of my ability. I vow to stay accountable for what I say. I encourage you to be accountable for how you use these words. I plan to write regularly here, but with no real plan otherwise. We will go where the words take us, if that’s okay with you. I anticipate that I will share with you my ideas on womanhood, feminism, spirituality, motherhood, creativity, recovery, sexuality, friendship, intimacy, HUMANITY in short. What makes us who we are? I want to talk about the ways we are damaged, but more importantly, the ways we are healing from the damage. The ways we are fallen, and the ways we rise above our defeats. The ways we are scared, and the ways we are brave. I’ve been fortunate enough, personally and professionally, to see some of the very worst of humanity, and to witness how utterly cruel and remorseless we can be, juxtaposed against the ways we can be selfless and relentless in our commitment to helping others. I see this world as apparently hopeless at times, broken, seemingly beyond repair. I’ve observed it, and I’ve lived it. I struggle daily to ward off my own dark thoughts. I am not “outside” watching humanity rise and fall; I am human, and so are you. I am in the middle of the chaos. It might surprise you to know that I think the human struggle, dark and futile as it seems at times, is in fact unbearably beautiful.

 

I invite you to join  me with an open mind and an open heart. I invite you to allow me to break apart the things we once believed about ourselves and others, and re-examine them in new light (sometimes harsher, sometimes softer). I invite you to make full use of anything that speaks to you here, and I invite you to let me know when you think I’m way off the mark. This blog is ours, to do with what we will. Take from it anything that honors you. We can do this!

In truth and love,

~Alinda