Posted in Burnout, Career Change, Self-Care

Learning to Breathe Again

I had a meltdown at work Friday, or almost did at any rate.  My body told me to go home before I think it would have happened.

We’d been running air conditioning all week and I have this thing where I can’t be too hot so I need it but if it’s running for too many days in a row, I get sort of fuzzy headed and can’t think.  This was the first cooler day, but being inside all the time, I didn’t really have the benefit of outside air yet, and beyond that I had had a work training where two men sat on opposite sides of me, completely ignoring the standard buffer I try to get around me and I also had to interact and stuff.

None of these things were big things, but suddenly everything was enormous.

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Posted in Autistic Identity, Burnout, Career Change, Self-Care

Regret: Learning to Unmask

This is a bit rawer than I usually write, but it explores what I’m feeling and where I am now.

I am finally beginning to get back to the way I was before I ever entered that school.   I’m working around what used to be my home office and I am finally able to pick things up and am trying to figure out where they go. I have listed books for sale that represent my academic and professional life. I have thrown a lot of things away, and for a pack rat it’s very difficult to throw things away because I might need them in the future.  I think now that I see that my life will definitely be very different. I realize I no longer need to hold on to the clutter.

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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.

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Posted in Burnout, Self-Care

Wiggling Past Worry: Autistic Resilience in Adversity

I’ve been told that being Autistic is kind of like having some anxiety and some depression at all times, but otherwise by itself it’s fine.

You’re anxious because of the constant stress to fit into this world not designed for us, and you’re depressed because this is just “normal” for you to be in a highly stressed state all of the time.

And the thing of it is, the anxiety and depression are connected to real, verifiable incidents.  We’re not making things up in our head about how the world treats us and how it hurts us to be out in public, even though we might want to be out of the house.  It is, objectively harder for us.

But, you know, we keep going.  This is status quo for us.  It’s never going to fully go away, and we learn how to mitigate the worst of it by changing our behaviors and/or medications, depending o the severity of symptoms and whether or not we are able to change our behaviors.

We generally have to work, for example, and work is a constant stressor, particularly when it takes places outside the house (as is the thought of interviewing and looking for work, etc.).

But you know what’s interesting about us?

Despite the constant anxiety and depression, we are freaking resilient people, especially if we have the right people around us, affirming us for what we are good at doing.

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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.

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Posted in Self-Care

Vocations and Friendship

Less than a month ago, a parishioner and I were walking in the sub-basement of the school during Fish Fry talking about the chaos in the room.  His wife came down and while he continued to look at it (he’s compared our storage spaces to Beirut, presumably during wartime, which isn’t necessarily an inaccurate description), we talked about school and life.  She called what I do my true vocation, which it kind of is: if I am doing anything outside the house, this was it.  I felt the most “right” and at peace with working here.  She and I are on the same page on a lot of issues, though she’s in my mom’s generation, though a little younger, so one could say we were verging on friendship.

Autistic friendships: all the older and younger people you want, but never people in the same generation (aargh).

I suspect it helps she has many Deaf siblings (a lot of Autistic culture owes much to the Deaf community; they started this whole idea of we do have a language and a culture and you all are the weird ones, which we in the Autism world appreciate so much).  She’s quirky, likely because of navigating the hearing and Deaf worlds, and because, like me, it sounds like she didn’t get involved with too much in the way of office politics and focused on her work more than average.

Also, like me she doesn’t do small talk and, like me, loves to talk politics and religion and really doesn’t care what the Kardashians are doing.  It limits her friendships with her neighbors.

Anyway, we went out to lunch yesterday, and it ended up being a five-hour experience, talking about all kinds of things.

A highlight of the conversation, of course, is what I should do next.

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Posted in Catholic education, Catholic leadership, Self-Care

Quality is What Counts: Letting St. Michael the Archangel Take Care of the Demons Sowing Doubt

In the library field, numbers matter.  There are really only two statistics anyone cares about: your circulation (the number of materials “checked out”) and the patron count (who comes to your programs).  It can be maddening.  I interviewed a teen librarian in my last career as an academic researcher-type, and she was properly irritated with this.  She’d recounted times she’d had two or three people attending a children’s or a teen program and the quality of the interaction was so high, it was fantastic, but on the paper, she had to write that three people attended.  Over the past few years, our own library’s storytimes have exploded in popularity and it’s getting hard to fit more people in the room.  The “quality” of the interactions is not great since the librarian nearly has to shout over the babies and toddlers’ babbling now, but heck, they’ve got the numbers!

In education, it’s the same.  Everyone wants to know how MANY you served and how MANY are where they ought to be.  Few even care how MUCH growth each one has, really.  Numbers only matter in aggregate.  This is why special education programs are always getting picked on by taxpayers: why should we help the few with stuff that costs so much (or bodies; extra aides can be pricey, so we do our best to avoid giving them full-time hours or benefits) when the gifted get their needs ignored?

Why, indeed?

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Posted in Self-Care

Zelda: My Furry Burnout-Avoiding Cat

We have three cats.  Tommy is older, grey, and was supposed to be a feral, but apparently developed a love for people since some nice person fed him a bit during his first year.  We’ve had him the longest and he’s going to be 10 this year.  Zelda, a former stray, came next.  She will be four this year, and we’ve had her also since she was about one.  Then there’s Baxter, who is our messy cat.  Someone else had him at first, then he got an infection of the sort that is more typical in unneutered male cats and they couldn’t afford to fix him, so the humane society did and he’s ours now.  He’s neutered now, but he’s got some odd habits that came from a life when he used to make baby kitties with other cats.  He’s sort of dog-like in that he’s messier, clumsier, and a bit too interested in my fuzzy blanket if you know what I mean.  Baxter will be six this year and he’s a black-and-white cat.   Tommy and Baxter are both tuxedo cats with white tummies, but Tommy is greyscale and Baxter is black-and-white.

Even though Baxter is our most dog-like cat, Zelda is really our odd duck.  A cat with medium-length hair, she spends a lot of time grooming and “posing” since she knows how adorable she is. She’s highly sensitive, and she’s the reason we keep what we call “happy cat smell” going on in the house.  It’s this pheromone that supposedly mimics mama cat rubbing baby kittens and is on a plug-in diffuser.  Because the house is large, we have three or four of them going and also she gets weird litterbox spaces with newspaper on top because she really has to have her own smell around her to feel completely happy.  She’s getting better as she’s lived with us for nearly three years, but it was a rough go for a while.  She’s the kind of cat that will pee on clothes left on the floor, but she won’t go out of her way to do this anymore, like she did when we first got her; she gives us a brief window in which to pick up our stuff or she figures she’s good to go.  She’s our anxiety cat.  We’ve altered our space a lot to accommodate her, and I know few people would do this, but she needs it to feel safe, so we just sort of carry on and do what she needs.  She’s quite happy now.

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Posted in Self-Care

Stimming with Casual Games: Trying to Recover

Hi, all.

I’ve been trying to write for over a week, but I’ve been too busy.

Any times I’m not busy, I’ve been stimming with casual games I love, like those time management games (most recently Spa Mania and Spa Mania 2) and puzzle games like Patchworkz and Gizmos.  These are basic, casual games, and I play them while watching dull things like Unsolved Mysteries (I think Amazon has them all now; I keep not being able to come to the end of it) and Survivor (some of these seasons are maddening) in my other monitor.

I also burn three Yankee Candles in my office.  They help a lot, too.

I’ve been too tired to play anything remotely immersive, though I’m almost getting there.

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Posted in Self-Care

Spoon Theory and Commerce

Uhm, this is from the archives and I forgot to bring it back.  Given how often I talk about spoons (including the one I’m writing for today, I realized, hey, I can’t link to what’s never been brought back and posted….), I thought it’s a good time to bring this one back.  Another post is forthcoming!

Shopping can be either a relief to or a heavy burden to Autistic shoppers.  On the one hand, there are the crowds and with them noise, distractions, and the constant possibility that one might have to actually engage with strangers and/or people one knows, but can’t quite place in this context.  On the other hand, a good store can be neat and orderly, with wide aisles and fantastic employees who can really save you time and money.  Some autistics love looking at the neat stacks of fruit, for example.   As such, some Autistics find pleasure in shopping while others consider it akin to entering a warzone.

Hopefully this post will help you to understand just a little bit about why it can be hard to shop with us!

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