I have been changed for good

It well may be,
That we will never meet again,
In this lifetime.
So let me say before we part,
So much of me,
Is made of what I learned from you.
You’ll be with me,
Like a hand print on my heart.
And now whatever way our stories end,
I know you have rewritten mine,
By being my friend.

I sometimes hate myself for choosing to love. By loving deeply, I pay the price of grief. I often question if it was worth it. It hurts. It hurts so badly to pay such a significant price for allowing someone in my life.

I tread the waters of love with care, but when I start swimming in it it’s a fiery passion. I delicately choose who I choose to love so deeply, who I choose to immerse myself with because it hurts so much when I bestow my final, never ending gift – my grief.

I’ve lost so many people I cared so fervently for. It never gets easier when someone else is added to the list. But I carry a piece of them with me as I journey on throughout my life. They’re a part of me forever.

And I can say yes, without a shadow of a doubt, it was worth it. Choosing to love, choosing to grieve, choosing to allow people to impact my life so deeply… it was all worth it. It’s worth the years. It’s worth the long nights where I wish I could just have one more text exchange. It’s worth it…because I wouldn’t be who I am today without them.

So for every soul that left this earth… I am grateful I had the chance to love them. I’m grateful I had the chance to allow them to enter my life. And I’m grateful that their legacy lives on in me every time I talk about them. I’ll continue to live a life to do them justice, continue to live a life to make them proud.

All because they changed me for good.

Like a ship blown from it’s mooring,
By a wind off the sea.
Like a sea dropped by a sky bird,
In a distant wood.
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better,
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

Go light your world

 

So carry your candle, run to the darkness
Seek out the lonely, the tired and worn
And hold out your candle for all to see it
Take your candle, and go light your world

I went to a Christmas Eve service on, well, Christmas Eve. We closed with Silent Night by candlelight. One of, hands down, my favorite part of any Christmas service when they do that. How one candle lights another and another and another…

My candle, though, was the most hilariously small flicker I’ve ever seen on a candle. I mean, it was seriously a tiny flame. But a tiny flame still lit the darkness in front of me. A tiny flame still lit larger flames around me. And eventually, my flicker grew into a flame.

One small flicker of light can light the darkness, both figuratively and literally. One small flame can make a difference in a terrifying world. Everywhere we look these days it’s darkness and despair. And sometimes even a small flicker struggles to stay lit. A small flicker can light darkness. A small flicker can be enough for someone to hope again – a flame that stubbornly stays lit against everything surrounding it determined to blow it out

I may be weird, but I search for symbolism and analogies in everything. It’s how my brain makes sense of the world and it’s what I find comforting. There’s something perfect about me having the tiniest flicker of a flame. It speaks about my life – a tiny little flame, too stubborn to go out against the odds of not staying lit. Too stubborn to give up, despite the forces against it. As a child in Sunday School, I remember singing “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”  I didn’t pay much attention to it, as a child, it was just a thing I did.

But now I’m older, and it holds a new meaning. Not one just about faith, not one just about a simple little childhood memory. No – it’s about my tiny flame refusing to go out. It’s about my little flicker still holding out, despite the odds for it to blow out. Tomorrow is the first day of 2018. 2017 was a bit of a roller coaster of a year in many ways, and that’s an understatement. But despite everything, despite all the odds, my tiny flame stayed lit.

My tiny flame still holds strong. Against ableism, against racism, against homophobia. Against all the injustices in the world. My passions, my hope, my dreams, my friend-family, they keep that tiny flame shining in the darkness. Despite all the forces around trying to snuff that flame, it still shines as bright as it can.

I often feel that my life is a tiny flicker. I feel like my voice is too tiny, too week, to feeble to reach the darkness. But in just mere hours, it will be 2018. The forces of the world will be trying to snuff my flame. The world will be dark and cold (and not just because I live in the frozen tundra of North Dakota!). There’s a lot of people who need a light – even the smallest flicker of one.

in 2018, I’ll keep my light shining. In 2018, my small stubborn flame will keep shining for all who need it. For anyone who needs a light in their darkness. For anyone who needs a reminder of light, love, and hope. My resolve for 2018 is for my light to be shining against all the odds, as a reminder that as long as there’s a flicker, there will always be hope.

So carry your candle, run to the darkness,
Seek out the hopeless, deceived and poor
Hold out your candle for all to see it

Take your candle, and go light your world

Lyrics from “Go Light Your World” by Chris Rice

If there’s any hope for love at all, some walls must fall

Some walls are made of stone,
Sometimes we build our own
Some walls will stand for years,
Some wash away with tears
Some walls, some walls

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a ball of nerves and anxiety. Most people know I have a fairly traumatic past, albeit  bits and pieces of the details. And many have asked how the heck I survived  it. They’ve asked how I’ve gotten through. I’ve always just kind of shrugged – I kind of survived to prove the whole world wrong that I couldn’t (want me to do something? Tell me I can’t or tell me it’s impossible. I WILL prove you wrong.)

I survived by building walls. It wasn’t safe to cope with things as a child, it wasn’t safe to let anyone know how broken and upset I was. So I built walls. For years, those walls have kept me safe. It’s how I survived a painful childhood, it’s how I coasted through college. I wasn’t in a safe place to cope, I wasn’t in a safe place to deal with with everything being thrown at me.

Some walls are lined with gold
Where some hearts stay safe and cold
Some walls are made of doubt
Holding in and keeping out

And so, I built careful walls to keep myself safe and to, quite literally, survive. I didn’t know who was safe and who wasn’t. I’d been backstabbed so many times that the thought of letting anyone see past the walls was terrifying. I’d break down the walls, little by little, and then realize it wasn’t safe and go back into hiding behind the walls.

After so many years of hiding behind careful walls, it has a tendency to blow up spectacularly  in your face. You see, those walls have been up to keep my heart safe. To make sure that no one can hurt me. But here’s the thing.

How will you ever know what might be found
Until you let the walls come tumbling down
If there’s any hope for love at all,
Some walls, some walls must fall

It took years for me to build the walls, years of closing people out and pushing the world away. I don’t know how to let the walls fall. Everything has been cooped up, pushed in, so tightly protected for so long that while the walls need to come tumbling down, I am absolutely terrified of what will happen if I start breaking down the walls. It feels like a dangerous game of Jenga – that if just one brick is removed, things may stay stable but if too many bricks are removed, everything comes crashing down out of control and I won’t be able to stop.

But yet…if I want love to win, if I want to ENJOY my life, if I want to THRIVE, the walls have to come down and I need to deal with the reasons I built them in the first place. If I want to live without fears, pain, and anxiety consuming me…the walls need to come down. I just have so many fears of what will happen if I let the walls come down. But what is scarier? Living with the walls I know and the familiarity of depression and anxiety  or finally seeing what is beyond that? Which one is more worthwhile? I just don’t know how to bring the walls down, but I think I’m finally ready to learn.

When chronic illness becomes acute

I am chronically ill. That is no secret. I cope with it as well as I can – I have my good days, I have my bad days. I have the days where I can do things, and I have the days where I lay in a pitiful puddle on the couch with blankets and my stuffed monkey (ideally, a cat or two has joined me).

As a result of chronic illness, I’m pretty tolerant of pain and even the occasional acute illness. But then, you have your chronic illness becoming acute. And that’s when it gets hard. That’s when things start falling apart. That’s when my coping becomes not coping as well as I once did.

As you may have noticed, I’ve not been updating as much as usual. November considered of three ER trips, one urgent care trip, multiple outpatient trips, and an inpatient hospital visit. Things are still bad. My health is still gone.

Things got better for a few days, and then came crashing down again. I try so hard to strike the balance – how do I ration my energy? How do I do the things I need to do? How do I do the things I want to do? How do I live my live and enjoy the ride, vs just hanging in there?

I try so hard to be a good disabled person. I try to stick to my upbeat, happy-go-lucky, spunky self. I try so hard to not be bitter, to not be cynical, to do all the things sick people are supposed to do – roll with the punches, act like I’ve got my act together, keep the delicate balance of keeping real while still keeping certain things quiet.

But it’s at the point where I can’t hide how sick I am. I can’t hide how exhausted I am, despite sleeping. I can’t hide the coughing. I can’t hide the fact that I’m in an incredible amount of pain. I can’t hide the fact that I’m terrified my NF is taking over my life and it isn’t just a minor hiccup. It’s scary. And it’s so *hard*.

I hate the blurred lines between acute and chronic. I hate the fact that my activism and advocacy – the two things I love doing almost more than anything, are taking a hit. My relationships with friends. The things that need to get done simply don’t. I try so hard, I struggle so much, but when chronic becomes acute… it gets hard.

Most of my acute health updates will be published on my CaringBridge, but as this is more general related, I put it here. Because I am sure others can relate to the struggle. The struggle when chronic becomes acute. When accepting being disabled becomes desperately searching for answers and hope and treatment. When trying my damndest just to stay comfortable becomes a struggle.

Be gentle. Handle with care. Because when we cross the delicate line from chronic into acute, that’s when we need your support and for you not to leave us.

Babyz and my venture into “fandom”

In 1999, a now somewhat obscure computer game called Babyz was released. It was a three years later when someone I went to high school with gave me a copy of it. In retrospect, it was really kind of bizarre. I was essentially a digital pageant mom, y’all. The game was about, well, raising babyz. You taught them to walk, you fed them, you played with them. There were also versions of the game calls Catz and Dogz, and I recently found my discs for those… but that’s another story.

In 2002, I was fifteen years old. I went to a private Christian school. My home life was, without giving explicit details, less than ideal. The details are horrific, but unnecessary. I’d been online before then – I’d been on other message boards, read fanfic, wrote aardvark fanfiction, etc. But Babyz? Babyz was my introduction to fandom. I’ve said off and on that Harry Potter was, but that’s not entirely true. It was Babyz.

There was a Babyz RP board, so even after my aardvark fan fiction days, there was roleplaying. Of a computer game. About babyz. I never said my younger internet days weren’t weird, y’all.

I got my early internet message board moderating experience. I learned HTML and CSS thanks to Lissa Explains and fansites (which unless you know my info from those days, those websites are staying buried in the abyss, thanks). I made friends I still talk to frequently today and as a direct result of those message boards, I moved to North Dakota.

 

People make fun of internet communities, but as a lonely teenager, late nights talking with my Babyz friends saved my life (until I discovered JCY and the Zee a few years later, and gained even more lifelong friends). As a lonely, isolated teenager in Ohio, having a game to escape to? Having a website to run? Entering my digital kids in pageants? Really, this is odd to explain to an outsider…

I often joke that you can tell when I met someone by what nickname they refer to me as. I no longer answer to my birth name, but the Zeeps called me Angel for years, and I still answer to that though I think they’ve mostly switched to Nora. My Babyz Community people that I still talk to call me Nora now, but the nickname Anniebear is still very recognizable.

It was one game. It was one friend saying “Hey, I think you’d enjoy this game.”

And that one game changed my life.

 

There were other communities I was involved with as a young teenager – some of the more typical ones, like Neopets, and some other more offbeat ones, like Wajas. But nothing, bar none, will be like Babyz.

 

I reach out to the truth

Now I face out, I hold out
I reach out to the truth of my life
Seeking to seize on the whole moment to now break away!

Oh God let me out, Can you let me out?
Can you set me free from this dark inner world?
Save me now last beat in the soul.

My entire life I’ve been told there are so many things I cannot do because I am disabled. I’m a victim of both being told there are so many things I cannot do and that Ic an do anything I set my mind to. How these both work, I really don’t know.

As a result, I’ve been trapped in lies. Lies that I’m not good enough. Lies that because I’m disabled, I cannot achieve anything. I’ve been told that I need to not let my disabilities define me or hold me back. It’s confusing. And I need to find my own truth. Make my own truth. Find my own path.

Something I’ve learned is I need to reach out to my own truth. Reach out to it, even. Because it is within reach.

Because it doesn’t matter what I’ve been told. They were wrong.

It doesn’t matter what I believed.  It was wrong.

But what matters is the truth I know now and what I do with it.

 

To the autistic child

To the autistic child,

Hi! I see you. My name is Nora and I’m an autistic adult. We’re pretty awesome, if I do say so myself. It isn’t easy being autistic, and I wish there are some things that I had been told. That’s why, little one, I’m writing this letter to you. You may not know me, but maybe someday we’ll get to meet each other. Maybe we never will and we’ll only talk on the internet. Either way, you’re loved and so very amazing. Your brain is so COOL! Isn’t it nifty how different people are? Isn’t it nifty how different brains can be?

I don’t want to sugar coat things. Sometimes it’s hard being autistic. You know all those bright lights and loud noises? Yeah, sometimes I want to melt down, too. And sometimes I do. My brain just gets all these signals from different directions all at once and cannot tolerate it. And you know what? It’s okay. It hurts, and it’s okay to let people know we’re hurting. People may get annoyed or frustrated when we melt down, but we simply don’t have the words to articulate what’s going on inside our heads. And you know what? That’s okay. It isn’t our fault that sometimes we’re overwhelmed.

Sometimes, you know those little movements we make? We flap our hands, we rock back and forth, we spin around. We fiddle with toys in our hands or we wear special bracelets or necklaces. Sometimes we chew our shirt collars. Sometimes we make certain sounds. This is called “stimming”. Sometimes it calms us down, and sometimes it makes us feel good. You know what? It’s okay. It helps settle us down in a big, scary world. If it doesn’t hurt someone else, it’s okay for us to do it. Part of taking care of ourselves is doing things that helps us cope, and so that’s why we stim.

Sometimes we find a topic we like and just want to talk about it a lot. Our brains are like soil – the little info seeds take root and grow into various things we just love to talk about. Some people call them “special interests”, others call them “obsessions”. I just like calling them “interests”. Sometimes we just kind of info dump on them, which means just blurting out everything we know about the subject. This is okay! It’s part of what makes our brains special.

Maybe you have trouble doing, what many call, “using your words”. I don’t like that phrase. Words are hard. Not everyone can talk with their vocal cords, and that’s okay! Some people use sign language, which means they talk with their hands. Some people use what’s called AAC, which means they use a special device or iPad app to talk. They type the words into it or tap a picture, and it says their words for them. Little one, all forms of communication are valid. It doesn’t matter if you speak it, move it, or tap it – your words MATTER and we (the autistic community and those who love you) want to hear what you have to say.

Sometimes when we talk to people, we use words we’ve said before. Or maybe phrases we know from video games, TV shows, movies, or books. Or maybe phrases we’ve made up that have special meaning. This is called “scripting”. Sometimes, when we’re asked a question we just repeat it back. For example, maybe we’re asked “Do you want milk or juice?” We might just say “or juice”. This is called “echolalia”. Sometimes people got frustrated that we don’t seem to understand what they’re saying. But most of the time, we do. We just are communicating in the best way we can. But when people can learn our scripts, we can adapt and learn to communicate with them in a way that’s accessible to everyone.

People WILL sometimes talk about you right in front of you. People WILL sometimes say you don’t understand what they’re saying about you, because you’re autistic. People who say they love you may say mean things about you in front of you. People may record your most vulnerable moments, and place them on the internet for the world to see, claiming to raise awareness for you. They’ll claim you don’t understand. I know you understand. You may not look like you’re paying attention, but in your own way you are taking in the world around you. But even if you feel like no one else understands you and no one else loves you, know there’s one person who has never met you who would move the world for you, if she could. Know there is one loyal, passionate person who is fighting for your rights as an autistic child.

Precious child, you are fine as you are. You don’t have to change to fit in. You don’t have to be not YOU in order to be loved and accepted. Some people are autistic. Some people are not. You’re autistic. It’s okay to say no, even in a world that teaches you to say yes and obey every order. It’s okay to let people know you’re in pain. It’s okay to stim. The world wasn’t built for autistic people, and we have to learn to live in it in whatever way we can. Sometimes, people don’t understand our ways but that’s okay, because we don’t understand their non autistic ways!

I hope that one day you find acceptance, and not awareness.

Love,

Nora.

Sometimes I’m not okay

Sometimes it’s hard being disabled. I talk a lot about how I’ve accepted it and I’ve talked a lot about how I’m at peace with some of the paths I’ve walked down. I’ve talked about how many doors have been shut, and some of the windows just haven’t opened.

But sometimes I’m not okay with it. Sometimes I am just very frustrated with being disabled. I long to get a job, I long to work, I long to do something more with my life than typing on a keyboard or staring at a square device in my hand. It’s hard to see my friends and whatnot working jobs when I know it’s out of reach for me right now.

I try to accept it. I try to say I’m okay with being disabled. And, you know, for the most part I am. It’s the card I’ve been dealt, I’ve accepted it and made the most of it. But yet… sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes I wonder what my purpose is. Why I will be like this… I just find myself questioning WHY.

And I wish I had an answer to why I’m sometimes not okay.