Posted in Career Change, Identity

The New Normal

Since leaving my own life, my new life still confuses me.

Long Commute

This is both good and bad.  Some days I listen to SiriusXM, and other days, I listen to books.  I enjoy the alone time I guess, but it’s physically draining to be driving so much.  The good news is that I have a flexible start time and I go in early so I can avoid traffic (well, at least the worst of it) which saves me precious spoons.  The bad news is that there are times the construction on the freeway and trucks just wear me out since my spatial sense doubts that I will actually fit in the tiny lane with that truck next to me.

No Real “Homework”

It feels weird not to be thinking about work when I am not there.  I mean, for Autistics, it’s normal to not think of people when we don’t see them (at least, I think it is; anecdotally, I’ve heard a lot of Autistics say they do the same thing: they think about people generally only when they’re with them except for fleeting thoughts (“I wonder what happened to so-and-so; let’s google them like a stalker).  Anyway, so I’m used to thinking about work constantly.  This meant that I was never really just at home.  Now, there’s literally nothing to do at home, so I don’t even think about work except going to and coming from and when to leave the house.  It’s strange to me.

Who Are You People?

This lack-of-work thought leads to another fun one: who are these people I live with?  I’m actually able to pay more attention to them since my mind is less split at home.  I guess I’m noticing things more, that way.

Do I Care About That?

And this also leads me to wonder what I actually do care about.  I play some Final Fantasy online (crafting a bit) every morning, come home, have dinner and chat with my husband and figure out what my kid is doing and try to hang with him a bit (he’s big into hugs, but has a lot of his own projects and likes different meals, so he bounces in and out a lot) and inevitably we do still go to bed kind of early since the TV is there and my knee has been twingy again due to weather and commute (arthritis already? Sheesh…).  But I am starting to think about writing again, and I don’t know whether I have the ability to care about statistics and computer programming.  I want to care very much because I want to conquer that stuff because I was swayed away from it when I was younger, but does it even matter?  Instead, I think about the yard (it’s like a jungle; I swear the people before us were way too much plant people and it’s spread to the point of absurdity) and whether I can rearrange or clean things inside the house and what kind of a schedule that will entail.  I have never thought about things like a yard before.

Part of me worries that I am becoming closer to neurotypical, but that is not it since we do still live a different life from everyone else.  Few people homeschool (leaning unschool) with a husband at home, working, and few people are comprised solely of Autistics in their family, especially where we live.  And, knee twinges not withstanding, for the first time in my life, I’m not tired all the time.

I do not have great joy, like I did in my old life, but neither do I have the depths of despair.

I’m not sure if I feel numb now or if this is happiness of a new kind.  I think, right now, I am neither happy nor unhappy.  I simply exist.

But so does everyone else on this planet, I guess.

Posted in Identity

Trying Again

This week, I received a text from my 8th grader’s mother inviting me to his graduation.  They had apparently moved the date completely and no one had told me.  Why should they?  Out of sight, out of mind, right?

At any rate, he has been blaming himself, thinking that for some reason he did something to make me leave and she’s been trying to get him to invite me himself, but he couldn’t, so she finally did.  Because I overthink things, I said I’d have to think about it and yes, of course he could call or text me whenever, as long as she’s good with it.  I had been planning to explain what happened to him, but not until after the school year was over and all of this was moot.  I knew he’d need the explanation, but I also knew that I couldn’t just tell him and start the gossip.

So, I emailed Father to ask if he minded.  It’s his house, and his rules.  He said it would be great if I came.  So, I said I’d come.

But that opened up a whole lot of other thoughts.

See, now it’s at Sunday Mass, and I was not going back there because I don’t believe anymore, right?

And I surely did not want to go back to that place with that man.

Continue reading “Trying Again”

Posted in Career Change, Identity

Math and Me: An Odd Relationship

So, I have this weird relationship with math.

That’s really the best way to describe it because I have told myself I’m bad at it, and maybe I am, and maybe I’m not.

Regardless, here’s my math story.

So, in elementary school, I was always reasonably good at math, but my major issue was my poor handwriting.  Now we know that Autistic people often have trouble with fine motor control and we can take a lot longer to develop those skills.  You can either yell at us like we’re trying to torment you with our bad handwriting or you could be a reasonable person and let us type things for a while.  One, typing develops fine motor control and two, it means our work is legible in the meantime while our bodies catch up with those of our peers.  It’s literally no big deal.

But back in the 1980’s, that was not an option.  Instead, every report card and parent-teacher conference embarrassed you about your poor writing.  Your teachers even might give you extra credit if you voluntarily submitted yourself to handwriting practice because you definitely needed it.  So, if you know anything about math in the age of “no calculators allowed until Algebra,” you’d know that poor handwriting was a significant problem in math class because you would mess things up a lot.  The thing of it was, though, my fifth-grade teacher saw that I was more than competent at math and somehow he made sure I was placed in the top math class when I got to Middle School.  I think he noticed my attempts at working on my handwriting, and I was getting older, so it was getting better.

That was the peak of my mathematical career: getting placed in that class.

Continue reading “Math and Me: An Odd Relationship”

Posted in Blogging about the Blog, Career Change, Identity, Vocation

No longer a Catholic or an educator; I’m just me now

The details of why I was asked to leave the school early don’t much matter, but I did see it coming.  I had become unnecessary and was no longer this year’s “flavor of the month” so I needed to go.  Add to that a jealous coworker who, I have, over time, realized that her own job security was threatened if I stayed around too much.  She made sure to tell our boss I wasn’t loyal, so I got exited.  We negotiated a settlement and I left.

I had no choice in the matter, really.  My savings had already been decimated based on the dream that was making this school a reality.  I desperately needed my income to continue while I searched for a job.  If I had done the “I don’t quit, you fire me” thing, I would have had to take unemployment, which would have been considerably less and unreliable, too.

I ended up with a two-month vacation, paid, during which point I searched for work and began rethinking my own identity.  I started my new job just in time so there would be no real gap in my income or even, officially, my employment history.  While illegal to pay a settlement over time, that’s how my school does it.  You have to pay a lump sum at dismissal in my state, but they never do and no one ever complains since we’re afraid to say anything and lose the settlement.

Anyway, the thing about being an Autistic female is that we are so very chameleon-like that, over time, we have little idea who we are really.  I realized, during this journey, that I did a lot of things that only make sense given that I am Autistic.  Who makes these grand sacrifices, at the expense of her own career and her relationship with her family?  Well, an Autistic woman does, if she has internalized the societal rules of what a “good girl” does and what a “good Catholic girl” is like.

On the journey, I realized that, as usual, I don’t even want to be a teacher per-se or ever administrate a school again.  The fact is, I’m good with data and not great with people, assuming those people are largely Neurotypical and assuming those people are adults, besides.  Neurodivergent kids?  I’d love to spend time with them.  I always have.  But the thing is I have more in common with a Neurodivergent tween or teen than I do with a neurotypical adult.  That breeds a kind of closeness that can be unhealthy, so it’s not per-se ideal to spend too much time around tweens and teens for me.

Beyond that, why am I in education at all?  School was where I have historically been treated badly by everyone involved, except when a few teachers who were kind to me.  Everyone at the school I just left was trying to stab me in the back last year (and continued for a few beyond that this year).  And yet, I kept going back.  Who does that, unless she is feeling Stockholm Syndrome?

Continue reading “No longer a Catholic or an educator; I’m just me now”

Posted in Catholic leadership, Identity, School Leadership, Self-Care

The Benefits of Unicorn Status: Surviving a Job Change with Grace

I’ve made a variant of a Polish saying my mantra lately: this is no longer my circus, and these are now Father’s monkeys.

I say it a lot.

Whenever someone wants to fight over the gym and how and when it will be used?

Go ask Father.

Whenever someone wants to talk about the fish fries: Go ask Father (or, lately, the secretary he’s decided is in charge of them).

It’s not that I won’t help with these things; but the thing is my decisions have no meaning and are very short-term in nature.  The kids will be gone within two months and we’re none of us good at stretching work out.  We’ll be done with all we can do by May, easily, and yet we have contracts until June’s out.  Well, some of us do.  The rest of us are hourly, and I’d like to protect those hours, but heck if I know what it is we can all do.

Continue reading “The Benefits of Unicorn Status: Surviving a Job Change with Grace”

Posted in Identity

How I Became a Catholic

Around Twitter, people were sharing a story from their past that just illustrates how Autistic they are.

My faith journey, surprisingly, is how I know that I’m Autistic.

I grew up ELCA Lutheran.  The ELCA matters because that’s the liberal Lutheran.  Around here, we also have Missouri Synod and WELS, both of which are nearer Baptist.  ELCA Lutherans are nearly Anglican, and they use the same worship service structure.  Maybe if I had grown up a more conservative faith, farther away from Catholicism, it might have been different.  Anyway, my mother’s family is all Catholic and my dad’s mom’s brothers both married Catholics and converted.  We’re not a long line of anything: my dad’s dad was Congregationalist (not really; they rarely went to church) and my mom’s mom went to a Presbyterian church.  My grandparents picked Lutheran as “close enough.”

It all began when I was in high school, or perhaps middle school.  Whatever the path, I stumbled upon Gladys Malvern’s books (very few of them, but some of them; I’ve tracked down a lot more on eBay) in my public library’s collection.  She used to write historical stories that were researched, but she’d fill in the gaps, and later, I’d find out that her Tudor stories were pretty nearly accurate, as opposed to Carolyn Meyer whom I detest, likely because she is not very good at depicting Queen Mary I of England in any way I found believable.

Anyway, Gladys Malvern had two volumes I read and reread quite a bit: The Six Wives of Henry VIII and The World of Lady Jane Grey.  I fell in love with Tudor history then, because it is unusually female-centered even though historians like to shift things and focus on Henry VIII a bit too much.  His wives, daughters, and niece, Lady Jane Grey, were really huge characters in the story, and he was pretty one-dimensional.  Henry’s story is this: I am paranoid because my dad fought in a big war for years and we won only by marrying our enemy and then we got to be king.  If I die without a male heir (they weren’t yet sure how a woman could be capable of ruling), all my dad worked for would be for naught.

But here’s the funny thing about the story: he totally blew off his dad, right at the beginning of his reign.  He might have been much more interesting if he’d have stuck with that Henry vs. “paranoid Henry.”

Continue reading “How I Became a Catholic”

Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity, Identity, intersectionality

Dear Late Diagnosed Person

To the Late-Diagnosed Person–

I hate that term, Diagnosis, since it sounds like someone had to validate your very existence.

I prefer the term “awareness” or “validation.”

Awareness is when you knew your brain operated differently.

Validation is when someone said, “Hey, your brain works differently” and they didn’t mean it as an insult.  It just was a fact.

How do we ever know what it’s like in our heads, as compared to someone else’s?

I think one of the interesting things about finding out that we’re Autistic in particular, though this really goes for any Neurodivergent quality, is we get to actually think about what other people see inside their heads, and then we encounter a whole lot of interesting information when we realize that everyone is not doing what we’re doing.

Continue reading “Dear Late Diagnosed Person”

Posted in Identity, Parenting, Teaching

What We Mean When We Say, “He’ll Grow Out of It,” at My School

In the Disabilities community, there’s a certain level of irritation with parents of Autistics and of parents of students with ADHD.

They blog everywhere, and they sound really ignorant a lot of the time, talking about their child’s struggles with such an intimacy, and dispensing a whole lot of unhelpful advice.  This crew often hates vaccines and gluten and thinks eradicating both would cure Autism.  They sometimes also insist they cured their kids’ ADHD or Autism by removing it or stopping vaccines or other nonsense.

All of this is nonsense, by the way.

So typically, we never, ever talk about “cure” about things like Autism and ADHD in particular because these neurotypical “cousins” (some of us have both) will continue into a person’s life forever.

But yesterday, I had a conversation with a teacher that only I could have.

Continue reading “What We Mean When We Say, “He’ll Grow Out of It,” at My School”

Posted in Advocacy, Identity

From the Archives: When Doctors and Psychologists Hold Women Hostage

I wrote this piece to give women in particular practical steps on what to do when they know they are Autistic, but can’t get a diagnosis.  The good news is, the general consensus in the Autistic community is that self-dx is completely valid, and this is true more so now than when I realized I was Autistic 2 years ago.

The interesting thing is that if you tell people that you “realized you were Autistic” in an interview, they will, in fact, print that you were “diagnosed as Autistic” anyway since it’s hard for neurotypicals to believe that anyone would self-dx anything and tell people about it.  I get that.  Web MD tells a lot of people they have conditions they do not in fact have.  However, this is different. This is something we do in the Autism community not because we looked up “symptoms” and decided we had them.  Instead, we realized we didn’t fit into society and wondered why that was.  We started talking to others who were like us, and realized we had more in common with those “others” than we did with people we’d known our whole lives.

We pieced together that if many of them had formal diagnoses of Autism and we were so very like those people (and yes, our “symptoms” might be a little different from each other, but we know them in such a way that it was impossible to shake the idea that we were, in fact, like them), we simply had to be Autistic, too.

We had to be.

And some of us went to doctors or psychologists who said we weren’t Autistic.  And some of THOSE doctors had never seen an adult female presenting, so they didn’t know what one looked like when one did, and others knew that we were Autistic and hid it from us because they believed it wouldn’t help us to know.

Instead, we learned, over time, that we were Autistic by being accepted by the people with-and-without formal diagnoses as being part of the group.

We shared our common stories and realized that even if what, specifically can “set us off,” we all had meltdown variants and/or had learned how to avoid them, over time.

And we all took refuge in rules, so sometimes we fight amongst ourselves because the rules we, ourselves, internalized, do not allow us to be open to other perspectives.  As a Catholic Autistic, I get a LOT of flak from people because of my beliefs about abortion, contraception, and marriage.  They believe it’s because I’m rigid, however, I am open to their perspectives being different than mine and want to chat and learn because even if we disagree, I care about them as people and want to learn about what they find important to them.  They, however, rarely are interested in hearing my perspective, so we just don’t talk about those things and sometimes they blow up at me and block me because I said something I believe they disagree with.  We can be a touchy bunch.

Regardless, we are a community and we are very alike in the ways that matter, even if we don’t like each other all that much sometimes.  It’s like when you get a bunch of people together at church and they gossip and fight with each other constantly, but if you add a new person into the mix, they’ll keep gossiping and fighting, and yet all come together to “get” the new person.

That’s family.

So, here’s what I wrote about what to do when you can’t get that diagnosis.

Continue reading “From the Archives: When Doctors and Psychologists Hold Women Hostage”

Posted in Autistic Identity, Identity

But What if I HAVE to Remember: Random Thoughts From Aphantastic Autistic

I’ve written before how I can’t see pictures in my head.  It’s called Aphantasia, and some of us Autistics have it.  Others, think in pictures, and some of us think ONLY in words or ONLY in pictures.  It seems like the average person (thus, a neurotypical) can both visualize pictures and words, I guess?

At any rate, this break to relax I watched a lot of crime shows.  I like them a lot, and no, I don’t know why.  It probably has to do with trying to learn human nature, and my need to understand how the world of people works.

So, I was watching old Unsolved Mysteries shows and they were showing police working with a psychic.  It dawned on me then that I imagine part of why I don’t believe in that stuff is because I am incapable of picturing anything in my head, so the idea that someone can, is already foreign to me.  When I was a child, I assumed if I believed hard enough, I’d unlock my psychic abilities.  As I got older and more religious, I assumed they were all sinful.  Of course, there’s a middle path on this because the Bible does point out some ghosts and is full of prophecies so there’s room for some level of belief.

But heck, I couldn’t even be helpful if I were the victim of a crime.

Think of it!  The police always want to know what the perp or perps look like, and I’ve heard many a crime victim go, “I can’t ever forget that face!”  I do know, from law school, that false identification is common and it’s very common across racial lines, but people do have some idea of what someone looks like.

I can’t even describe people I know.

I don’t per-se know how I feel about this and in terms of disabilities one could have, not seeing pictures seems relatively minor.  But I envision situations when THINGS HAPPEN and it isn’t really that minor at all.

That reminded me how situationally-based disability really is, and for the most part, it doesn’t much matter whether I think in pictures or not.

But what if something happens?

Most people don’t even know not thinking in pictures is a “thing,” but increasingly, as we get to know the brain and what it can and can’t do it does trickle down sometimes into education.  We have these volunteers who come to read with the kids who had some training where they learned that not all kids make pictures in their heads when they read, so they shouldn’t assume it.  This gives me hope that other kids will figure out sooner than I did that teachers aren’t speaking metaphorically when they say “picture a sunny day.”  They literally do mean you should, in your head, make a picture of such a day because you can do that.

I can’t do that, and I guess the advantage of knowing that is that I can explain this to a police officer if I’m involved in a crime.

I just hope that he or she can understand that I’m not making this up.