I have started a gratitude journal. Based on the promptings of Karl from the website Bring Gratitude.
I have tried this many times in my life, but this one is profound. It is really hitting me where I need it. The difference is, not only do you state what you are grateful for, but also state why. This takes it deeper into our feelings, and we connect with it more.
I also find my body relaxing. As I mentioned in my previous post, I struggle with feeling safe enough to uncurl my senses and my body. I think I live life in a perpetual wince, guarded against the next blow to my senses. This is natural as I have a hypersensitive system, but I also think I feed into this in a negative way, by being a perfectionist, as I focus on the details that are incorrect in my life. The details that need fixing.
My gratitude journal is allowing me to unbox this a little because it is absolutely the opposite. Kind of the antidote if you will. Because it still makes use of my detail minded brain I can really get behind it. It taps in to my natural way of being, but this time focussing on the positive, on all the things that are going right. And truth to tell there are many more things going right than wrong. So the perpetual tensing is actually not necessary most of the time. What a waste!
So I am using this new tool to help me learn about my environment in a new way. To tell myself it is safe to unfurl, to open to life because on the whole it is good. People are friendly, and things have a way of working out, even if not to my timetable. Sure things can be too loud and grating on my senses causing me to shut down. But I can't stay shut. I need to allow myself time and space to unfurl. Otherwise I will miss all the beauty and music and light.
Do you relate to this? Have you ever done a Gratitude Journal? How did you feel?
I have been musing on the concept of "safety". I believe this is one of my basic needs, well don't we all want to be safe? I need to feel safe to allow me to connect in to the flow of life, to feel in harmony. I need a sense of peace to allow my senses to unfurl safely, a rarity in this autistic body. As an autistic person I spend my life tensing against perceived threats. Due to my sensitive senses and hyperactive nervous system, my body reacts to the world intensely. I need to prioritise healing, to allow my own safety.
Minimalism, prioritising, and decluttering are ways forward. One of the filtering questions I have heard in minimalism is "Do I need this now?" This fosters a sense of presence, a living in the current moment, not worrying about the past or the future. Unexpectedly, as I ask this question I am imbued with a sense of gratitude as I answer "Yes". Allowing me to appreciate all I have that supports my life.
Over Easter I had the sublime experience of walking out of time into our property "Heartwoods". How restorative it was to read a book instead of flicking through short videos. I find it leads to simple deep learning. Allowing my brain to consider and contemplate between times. Reading about something deep and calming such as the wider story of minimalism which addresses our mindset and soul needs allows me to experience slowing down of my system, which imbues a sense of safety. It is such a great mantra for me "Slow Down". Do you need the pedal to the metal ALL the time? As an extension to the previous question, I am also asking myself "Do I need to do this now"?
What is safety anyway? Is it an illusion? When do we know we are safe? Do we ever know? I think the answer to this is very individual. Each person will draw the lines in different places according to their story.
I think we can wind ourselves up into tight little balls like slaters and then forget to unwind when the danger is past. What a waste of a life. But we need to feel safe to start the process of unwinding. I think self care is very important for me in this. Some of my self care moments are: reading(obviously), watching movies, physical pampering, taking time out in nature, and writing poetry, And recently, increasingly, feeling grateful.
Vulnerability is a funny idea. Be vulnerable and others will reciprocate. We create a space for vulnerability. It can be the opposite of what we expect or strive for. We become less to become more, to speak our truth into the world. We need to tell our stories encouraging others to tell theirs. We discovered this during our mother's group. We were all feeling overwhelmed at having to clean the house before the group came over, but we all did it. One person needed to lead the way and be vulnerable, showing their truth and that would have opened the door for others to be honest.
Is it possible to be too vulnerable? Showing our soft underbelly? Throwing pearls before swine? This is something I find very hard to judge in my autistic mind. Something is either on or off. I either talk about myself or I don't. The finer nuances are beyond me. So often I will feel like I've overshared but not sure. Worried I haven't judged the situation correctly. Is there such a thing as oversharing?
My extreme sensory system leaves me feeling vulnerable often. I feel like the world is attacking me. I am counselled to work out how to put up barriers to protect myself, but I haven't been very successful so far.
How to bring more vulnerability into your life? Take the time to show more of ourselves in communication situations. Tell the truth when someone asks the formulaic "How are you?" or "How was your weekend?' Tell your family when you are finding things hard and need some help.
But on the whole I feel vulnerability is worth it. There is a strength in showing weakness. A contradictory truth. If we all keep our facades up, our society is weaker because we never know each other.
It leaves us communicating in a purer way. Soul to soul, without defences. My truth to your truth, and that has to be a good thing.
We are fine, but have had a busy time with travel and birthday and wedding anniversary celebrations which come around every March. So no time and energy for blogging or Youtube. And now I'm stuck in bed/ on the couch recovering from oral surgery. I have been confined to quarters for a week, which seems excessive but apparently is to do with clotting. Must be a modern thing because my Mum went supermarket shopping after hers!
This week has been confronting me with some of my prejudices and thought processes. Being told to stay put when you would rather do, is not easy. I know this about myself. But I am dutiful and being good. Asking for help and getting people to carry stuff or bring things to me, or not being able to do housework that you see needs doing has been harder than I thought.
But the main testing has been in the acceptance of the gap in my mouth. I have lost the first molar on one side. It feels weird, and although not super obvious it is still visible when I smile because I have a wide smile...something I've always been told is one of my nice qualities. Now it is tempting not to smile so wide. Hmmm. Am I that vain? I am constantly having conversations with myself in this healing time about being grateful it wasn't a finger, or being grateful I don't need further debilitating treatment like radiation. I realise there is a lot of shame behind my thoughts. Shame about how I feel it is my fault I lost a tooth. "You didn't look after your teeth properly, and so see what happens?!" When I deconstruct my life to pinpoint the blame, I realise it is noone's fault.
It's not my faultI had a genetic undiagnosed autism spectrum condition that made it hard for me to know how to look after myself. It's not my fault that I was raised in a third world country that barely had any dental care available. It's not my fault that my genes have made my teeth grow the way they have with deep gum pockets, poor enamel and propensity to decay. It's not my fault my teeth may have reacted to my pregnancy at the time requiring a root canal treatment. The surgeon actually said I'd done "all the right things", and the endodontist explained my roots are so fine and angled he couldn't do a proper root canal. He was actually amazed it had lasted 16 years. And yet I still blame myself! This is my attempt at trying to whack the message into my stubborn old brain.
I see other people having teeth removed for crowding problems, but somehow that doesn't carry this burden. Because that is just how their teeth are! Fancy being able to let go the blaming and say that to myself.
I do have the option to buy a tooth to replace it, to have an implant. Of course it is horrifically expensive, thousands and thousands of dollars and not something I would easily do. I think if it was cheaper it would be easier to approach. There are messages there too around not feeling I am worth it because I let it happen in the first place. So I should be punished with a gap? And of course, maybe I can sacrifice my smile so I can spend it on something more constructive for my kids.
Please realise these musings are my own destructive thoughts, and not in any way meant to represent how I feel about others in this situation. Which is kind of ironic, and gives me an insight into how others feel about me. Of course we all know we are harder on ourselves than anyone else. And I also realise that this is really a first world problem and not something to really dwell on at all!
I wonder if I have absorbed messages about beauty that revolve around "perfect" images. Model airbrushed beauty. Complete bright white smiles. I'm obsessed with people's teeth on TV and movies now. Of course I'm comparing myself to the most beautiful people in the world. Probably not realistic!
Along these same lines I have been mulling over my dress sense. During this time of rest I have given myself "permission" to dress in my slobby clothes. The ones I love that have baggy pants and full dresses. Old shirts with sleeves rolled and saggy bottomed jeans. I am aware of an urge inside to apologise to those around me for having to see me like this. Since when has it been my duty to provide a beautiful image for their gaze?! I think we are fed stories as girls especially, that we need to be beautiful. If we can't be beautiful, at least attractive or well put together. We need to "make the most of yourself"... Whatever that means. I don't think men are immune from this feeling either. I do think we have deep stories in our minds that tell us how we need to present ourselves to the world and those we love. It can be very difficult to ignore them. Whether they are from society or our parents, or even old relationships and or past comments, we need to be brave. To stand up and say, this is how I want to present myself, whether it is flattering or not, whether it is the best colours or sillhouette or not. I want to live like this for now. Please understand that and accept it. So this includes in my case having a gappy smile right now :-)
You may notice my profile picture has changed. It reflects my new reality (pre-tooth extraction). I am growing my hair and wearing contacts now! Miles recently turned 17 and Aiden turned 14. Miles has now graduated from homeschooling and has the option to take his driving test. Watch this space! Aiden has become a proud new owner of a folding ebike named "Eli". He is kindly doing regular shopping trips for me while I am laid up. And of course Cris is being his usual gorgeous cutie supportive self.
I leave you with a photo of us all from my 56th birthday in early March. Such a fun day!
Til next time, I hope you know that you are beautiful my friend...no matter what!!