Posted in Burnout, Self-Care

Isolation

So, ’tis the time of year to prepare to make resolutions regarding what one will and will not do during Lent.

Lent is the 40-day time before Easter to purify ourselves and to get ready for Holy Week, which represents Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice and resurrection.

The joke this year is it starts on a day dedicated to chocolate and candy (Valentine’s Day; St. Valentine would probably not be thrilled with what his day has become) and ends on April Fool’s Day (Easter).

To get ready, we generally give something up and/or make promises to do things better.  On Fridays, we don’t eat meat (in Catholic circles, that means broth and “things from the sea” including alligator are good, but poultry are not; our Orthodox friends get to have chicken and turkey) and on some days (Ash Wednesday and Good Friday) we Catholic fast and abstain from meat.

Catholic fasting is a joke for Jewish and Muslim friends: we eat two “little meals” (together not totaling a meal) and a big meal.  We brush our teeth and drink water and everything.  We are lightweights on fasting.

It’s popular in Catholic circles to give up social media as a sacrifice during this time because somehow it’s destroying us all.

Under an argument that it wastes time, I guess I can see that.  There is a certain time waste associated with social media; the endless scrolling and hope to find something to “like” or with which to interact get tedious.

However, some people use social media to connect because they are unable to have such deep, rich, and varied interactions in their “real” lives.

In fact, for some of us, an in-person visit is insipid and pointless.  I’ll use the time to get to know your cats, dogs, and other pets.  Maybe I’ll talk to your grandmother or young children, but honestly, the “age appropriate,” human types bore me.

That in person visit is a waste of time for me.

And, in my own life, Facebook has become like that pointless visit in the living room; I mostly use it to scan through prayer requests from a group of women I’m in, and I pray for them and move on.  But I don’t develop anything meaningful there.  It’s mostly full of people I knew in my past, but haven’t bothered to keep up with.  Some of these people are parents of Autistics and like to post junk from Autism $peak$, so it helps me greatly to avoid them, particularly around April since they have ignored my repeated pleas to consider dumping the eugenicist organization as a source for news about Autism.

But Twitter is different.  Autism Twitter is fascinating; we meet up there and we chat and we defend each other against the attacks of people who don’t understand Autism.  It is there we meet up with the other big names of the Disability community and share information, all in reasonable-sized chunks of information.

And we can also look at kitties and puppies, too, if we want.

Religious Isolation

I’ve spent nearly a year, semi-isolated in the world that is my work and my parish.  I’ve greatly appreciated the opportunity to focus on that which is most important: God and my vocation, but the interesting thing was, this was only for me, and my family was at home since my child still didn’t want to go to school himself and my husband needed to be at home with him.

Work was quiet (relatively) and fun and I felt so very blessed to be in this space, to focus on the real mission of brining kids to Jesus and teaching them to love themselves, just as God made them.

But, like Autistic Twitter, I learned that when you gather too much joy in one place, the devil shows up more often.  On Autistic Twitter, we’ll be joyfully chatting amongst ourselves, being who we really are with each other, and suddenly the trolls emerge to attempt to humiliate us, to cause us hurt and pain because (I imagine) their own lives aren’t really as joyful as ours.  Maybe they have to mask who they really are and they resent our joy.

Often, on Autistic Twitter, it’s parents of Autistics who hate us because we are joyful and they find taking care of their own offspring to be tedious and painful.  Rather than ask for the source of our joy, they want to bring us down, to make us feel as they do.

That’s what this year has been like at this place, this kingdom of joy which I created on this earth.  The more joyful we became, the more we got attacked.

I had to leave Autistic Twitter and stop blogging and most work became too much for me.

If my work was so joyful, why did it take so much out of me, and give so little back?

Easy Pickings

See, the thing about being out and about in the world, is that Autistics like me end up getting drained because we’re out in the world.  I became both fortunate and unfortunate: I had a bucket of sand with holes in it, but people were helping me plug the holes, so I could keep going every day.

When I stay at home, though, the bucket has no holes in it.  Things go in, and stay in, until I dump them out.  This is, not surprisingly, why my son, who has known he was Autistic since he was around three or four, doesn’t want to go back to school: he’s already figured out how this bucket works, and why it’s easier to have the one without holes in it.

But the hardest part about this year, was watching how my bucket kept getting new holes punched in the side.  Each time it happened, something positive would happen to plug the hole, mostly.  Elevator repair was too expensive?  Open the mail, and there’s a check inside.  The check never covered the whole bill, but it would reduce it greatly, so the bucket would still leak, but it would be a slower leak.

It’s not fun to spend the year under attack, and it’s taken a toll on me religiously, as well as in my non-religious day-to-day life (which is pretty religious).  I’m too exhausted to go to Mass on the weekends, or Daily Mass, even with the kids, because I’m worn out.  I try to make time to go to Adoration, and I can’t do it.  I spend most of my time not at work in bed, watching Survivor and reading books, or, if I’m feeling particularly robust, sitting at my computer, playing computer games while watching Survivor and listening to a book.

This is not tenable.

The Dignity of Work

There are days when I want to never work again.

But I know this isn’t the solution.

See, I think everyone ought to be able to make a living, even if it means a few dollars for doing whatever it is we are able to do.  Maybe all we can do is pray or think or draw little pictures.  Whatever it is, someone should pay us, even a token amount, for what we can do.  This is part of Catholic Social Teaching, by the way, that everyone ought to be able to work, to gain money from labor.  Of course, part of that is also that everyone should have not only enough money to live on, but to live well, as in, going to museums or the movies or a concert or whatever you enjoy, for fun, too.  There ought to be a safety net for those who can’t earn as much as it takes to do those things.

But the safety net needs to take into account going to the movies or a concert or having a steak dinner, from time to time.

When you talk to Autistics, those of us privileged enough to have full-time jobs often wish we could work part-time, and this is really what I wish for myself, I think.  For starters, we’re such hard workers that we’d make that part-time job into a full-time job somehow, but then we’d “only” be working 30-50 hours per week.  We could then figure out how to relax the rest of the time.  Instead, “40 hours” often means much more to us, what with the making up and rehearsing conversations in our heads that never seem to go as planned, the commute, the planning for the commute, and so on.  We also like to work on projects until they are done well besides, which adds up, time-wise.  Employers do well to put us on salary or they end up limiting our hours that we can write down, which is illegal, by the way (also, in the U.S., some people have to get overtime, even on salary; not teacher-types, though).  We are as valuable as a full-time employee, with part-time hours.

But in the U.S., you often can’t get health insurance without being full-time, and the more you work, the more likely even the health insurance marketplace, which was supposed to fix everything, is still too expensive.

So, I work, and I work full-time (and currently, full-time without insurance, which is not tenable; the costs are just too high).

I’m glad I can work, mind, but full-time work outside of the house is really too much for me, if I also want to have a spiritual life.  I did better when I worked at home full-time.

What to Give Up for Lent

So, circling back to Lent, I’m not sure what to give up.  I gave up a whole lot this year, and giving up social media is pointless.  If I give up Facebook, I won’t much care (though I will not be able to pray for these nice ladies there, so how does that help anyone?) and if I give up Twitter, I give up the Disability community, which is unhealthy, too.

Instead of sacrificing something, it’s also possible to do something, to help people in a new way or to try to cultivate a positive habit instead of extinguishing a negative habit.  I’d like to go to Mass more, and Adoration.  To do that, I have to give something else up, though.  Currently, work takes up the lion’s share of my time, and I’m already trying to cut back on that, to help my boss to understand all that I do that he will have to figure out how to replace.

Maybe I don’t work Fridays during Lent.

After all, it has been work that has been the most unhealthy part of my life right now.

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