I’ve concluded I must be boring.

Covid for me has highlighted a problem I’ve been reluctant to admit to. Over the last few months I’ve been able to stick my head in the sand and ignore it because of lockdown, but now restrictions are lifting I can’t ignore it for any longer.

I don’t have any friends where I live.

There I’ve said it.

When we moved here 20 months ago, I hoped to get involved in a few groups, maybe find a church I would finally feel at home in, take a course or two, but between I’ll health ndcovidthats not happened and now I’m not sure if I can bring myself to get out and start all over gain. Part of me wants to, but part of me doesn’t have the physical or mental energy to do it. I nearly burst into tears walking the dog yesterday. I actually met another dog walker who lives just around the corner and we started to chat. I can’t tell you how that felt, however, having listened to all she shared and getting to that point of being able to feel I could share back (judging this point is always a social nightmare), only for another couple to appear with their dog, and as friends they started chatting, and I was thrown back to childhood and being on the outside, literally. Eventually I gave up and headed home despondent. This whole making friends thing is a nightmare.

My self confidence is at an all time low. It feels as if nothing that I do or say is ever good enough, and that when I try to talk it just leads to misunderstandings all round, and yes, I know I sound self pitying. I make no apology for that, and anyone who feels its their task in life to call me to order for that, you can forget it!

I have been thinking a lot these last few weeks about what it means to be a friend. Join a social media site and you become inundated with friend requests. If you look at my fb profile I seem to have lots of friends, but here’s the kicker, most of them I’ve never met in person, and probably never will. As a child we used the expression, friends and acquaintances, to differentiate between those we knew well, and those who we knew to wave to or say hello in passing.

As a society our language changes over time, words come into and out of fashion, and that is as it should be. I’m old enough to remember people praying out loud and using thee’s and thou’s in their language. As children we found this funny, a walking talking king James Bible. I’ve not heard anyone speak like this for a number of years now, except in a period drama.

Equally the term acquaintance has fallen out of use in recent years, in part I feel personally, due to the advent of social media, and its somewhat false use of friends lists. I say false, because it pushes this idea that you can become friends with someone you’ve never met, purely through your interaction on each others posts.

As a child I was taught friendship was a two way process. I’ve always struggled with this and only recently after my own diagnosis of autism did I have a light bulb moment. Yet still I try and relate to people. I try to message friends to see how they are doing. If I notice they are struggling or have suffered bereavement, I try and message them. Is this reciprocated? More often than not, no. Does this mean we are not really friends? I honestly don’t know. I’m grateful to the few people who do message me, I consider them true friends. As for the rest, should I still consider them friends or acquaintances? I don’t know, and that makes me heartbroken.

Living in a city is hard. I found that out in London. I struggle with the idea of travelling miles to find a group, preferring them to be on my doorstep. My head cannot grasp the concept of living in a place that is miles apart, and where villages and towns have been swallowed up into one umbrella metropolis. My head longs for the single street surrounded by fields of my childhood, where everything and everyone is both familiar and known to me.

I have moved around a lot in my life. Each time I’ve moved I’ve been anchored by work, schools and churches. Whether because of covid I don’t know, but this time has been different and I feel rootless, blown around by the wind and without direction.

All the things that occupied my time and space have ended, and I don’t know who I am anymore. I am struggling to put past experiences into the context of my own autism while at the same time coming to terms with my own struggles to communicate. I always thought I was quite good at that, and when people misunderstood I would spend hours, days and even weeks, frustrated and angry at “their” lack of understanding, only now realising slowly tht perhaps I’m not such a great communicator after all. That makes me reluctant to go out and try to meet new people.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m lonely, but I don’t know how to make friends because I don’t know how to communicate with people. What should I say, or ask, or talk about? When is it OK to talk about myself, and why as soon as I do, do people change the subject? Am I that boring?

Loading the dishwasher

Last night I went to bed without loading the dishwasher. The thought in my head was, why should I, I’m always loading the machine while hubby heads to bed early to avoid the task! This afternoon I emptied and loaded it in just a few minutes, without grumbling to myself.

Now to be fair to my husband, he does occasionally load the machine when prompted, and if I ask him, he will help me so that we work together. On super rare occasions he does it without being asked or prompted. It’s not because he’s lazy, it’s simply that it doesn’t occur to him that in order to put the dirty dishes in, we have to empty the clean ones out. He will even admit when asked, that he didn’t think about it.

So what is the difference between my attitude today, to what I felt last night?

My thinking over the last few days has been around what it means to be sacrificial in our giving to others. Much of this has come as a result of crafting the sculpture of Christ for Good Friday. You see in the church this weekend we talk a lot about Jesus’s sacrifice. We use high flowing and theological language;quote scriptures and bandy the word hallelujah around. I wonder though how much we all understand about what it means for us to follow Jesus in terms of being sacrificial, and do we even know what that means?

I asked my husband yesterday, when was the last time he heard a sermon or talk on how our very actions towards each other should be seen in terms of sacrificial living? Neither of us could ever remember being asked to view our actions in such a way.

It’s difficult isn’t it? For starters all the conversations, sermons, talks, lectures etc that I’ve heard (and I’ve heard a lot!), have focused on Jesus, and there is a sense that so it should be, however, when it has been mentioned in terms of the individual its been about money, and our giving to the church, or about giving our time to the church in order to help it with its mission of outreach (do you sense a theme here?). What we don’t tend to talk about, perhaps because there is an assumption that this will carry through into our everyday life, is that we will see our everyday actions as sacrificial. But do we?

OK, before I go further, let’s deal with what we mean by sacrificial. What the hell does it mean? In theological, or churchy terms, it means that Jesus, who even Pilate the roman governor could see wasn’t guilty of any crime, was crucified on trumped up charges by the Roman soldiers. We talk about sin, and how Jesus was sinless, in other words nobody could point to any action, word or event, at any time in his life and say, that is against both God’s law or Roman law. He was therefore killed in order that he could take every single person’s, law breaking, whether civil or religious; whether against an individual or a group of people; whatever it is, past, present or future on himself, so that it died with him. All that is asked is that we admit that we are not perfect, and ask forgiveness. This act by Jesus is seen as the ultimate act of sacrifice, and even today, when someone steps in the path of a bullet, knife, vehicle or other, saving somebody’s life at the expense of their own, we call it the ultimate sacrifice.

OK, so back to the dishwasher!

Hubby and I were talking about all the things we have wanted in our lives but have had to give up for various reasons. From a Christian perspective we would term these sacrifices, because we see our lives as being lived out under God’s control. Not in the sense that he orders us about, but in the sense of not trying to do things for ourself, ie, selfishly, but as God would guide, even if that means giving up our hopes and dreams. That can sound really weird, why would you give something up that you’ve hoped and dreamed about, and for what?

An example. Hmm, that’s tough. OK, let’s see if this works. For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamed of having a rose covered cottage, with a thatched roof and cottage garden. Over the years that cottage has moved from the edge of a village, to the top of a cliff, next to a lake, anywhere where there are no people, depending on how I’m feeling. So far in life, I’ve never managed to find that cottage. We’ve never owned our own home, and the way that house prices our going up, as well as our age going up, it’s unlikely I will ever achieve that dream. Now at various times in our life together I could have pushed hard to achieve that dream. Yet I gave up on that dream in order that our children and my husband could follow their dreams, ambitions, calling, vocation in life.

You are probably asking, why? What about you? Well, good point, and it’s taken me a long time to realise the meaning of true sacrifice. You see I could have pushed for my dream house, but I don’t think I would have been happy. Sometimes our dreams are unrealistic and cause more harm than good. Our circumstances over the years would have meant that in all likelihood that cottage would have fallen down around our ears. It’s not on wheels, so we couldn’t just up and move, taking it with us, and so we would have missed out on all that we have seen and done, the people we have met along the way, and the personal growth we have seen in ourselves and each other. The chances are we would have ended up divorced as that dream became a millstone around my neck.

When we live our lives seeing and seeking opportunities to sacrifice our wants and desires for others, then we are emulating the life of Christ and crucifying a little bit more of our selfish nature each day.

By unloading and loading the dishwasher today, despite any discomfort I may feel, I am able to free my hubby up to devote his time and energy to his job, which is opening up churches today, that haven’t been opened for months, so that people can come, socially distanced and say hallelujah today.

It may not seem much, and some may even think its weird, but by seeing that one action in terms of sacrifice, it turned it from resentment, into a peaceful act of love.

The price of love.

I like to think. The trouble is that thinking, if it is to be really deep, requires space and quiet. When there is constant background chatter, or other people’s thoughts and opinions, deep thought or reflection can be hard to achieve. If like me, you have the ability to remember what someone has said or written on a given subject, it can be a real struggle to come up with your own original thought.

These last few days sculpting the Christ figure has given me time to think about the parallels to be found between the beginning and end of his life. In my blog post Thursday morning, I spoke about how wrapping the frame in bandages caused me to see the parallel with the ceromony of wrapping the body preparatory to its burial. The thought also came to me that on entry to life his body had been wrapped in swaddling bands also. That birth and death see him swaddled tightly, for comfort perhaps, who knows, yet my mind wonders if in birth as in death, the symbolism is more around comfort, not just for the child, but also for the family as they prepare the body ready to be placed in the tomb. Certainly that was the way my mind went as I made this figure, seeing the act of a mother in my actions.

Theology is full of words around the subject of sacrifice, and as I made this figure, I have found myself reflecting on this also. What does it mean to be sacrificial? We talk within the Christian faith of Christ’s sacrifice upon the cross, yet how much of that do we truly understand? Theologically we use all the right words: sacrificial lamb, redemption, to name but two, yet more and more it seems to me, these become hollow words. Just as we display empty crosses, so our words become empty when we fail to relate ourselves to those parts of the story that resonate with our lives today. When we forget to ask people to put themselves into the story, to feel what Jesus must have felt, then surely we begin to loose the power of this act to affect not just ourselves, but others too.

Passion week is called this for the simple fact it is full of the passion of Christ yes, but also because it is full of the passion of those who witnessed it, who were either main players or bit part actors in the unfolding drama. We too are called to place ourselves into this drama. It’s far to easy to sit back from the here and now and say we wouldn’t have been part of the howling mob baying for blood at the end of the week, but we are part of the Happy crowd singing hosanna at the start, yet they were one and the same.

We talk about the betrayal of Judas, and even today we refer to someone as a Judas who has betrayed others. How often though do we place ourselves in his shoes and ask ourselves how we would react to fear, knowing that those in authority are turning against us, and are actively looking at a way to close down our group? What pain Jesus felt to see someone he loved, shared his life with, travelled with and ate with, turn and betray him to the authorities out of fear and greed. There are parallels today if we care to look for them. Let us not be afraid to open our eyes and see that this happens as much today as it did then, and that such betrayal leads to torture and death now also.

When we display empty crosses on Good Friday on the grounds that we need to look ahead to the resurrection and joy that that brings, we run the risk of sanitizing the events of the day. It is too easy to talk about the punishment meted out, as being fulfilment of prophecy while glossing over the blood, sweat and pain experience. The Roman form of crucifixion was designed to humiliate and cause pain at every step of the process. We gloss over in church telling people that the cross was rough hewn. Why would you create a nice, smooth wooden cross for crucifying a criminal on? You wouldn’t. Someone dying in such a way eventually looses control of their bowels, yet we say nothing of that, for fear of offending peoples sensibilities. Death on the cross is caused by asphixiation, as slowly the chest is crushed under the weight of the body. It’s slow and agonising and there is nothing dignified about it, yet for years I have sat and listened to endless sermons that failed to describe exactly what Jesus undertook in order to, in theological terms, set us free from our sins. If we do not truly express what such a sacrifice means then how can we understand what price was paid for our freedom?

That love was nailed to the cross that day, is in some ways easy to say. It’s not so easy to ignore what that meant in terms of pain, humiliation and cruelty, unless we truly describe the price paid for each and every one of us. Only when we grasp the full enormity of Christ’s sacrifice, can we fully understand his call to us, to accept his gift of freedom and live our lives being prepared to likewise be sacrificial in what we offer back.

Waiting with Jesus

I’m writing this at 3 am. I’m not normally awake at this time, however I wanted to make something that really impacted me, and which this week is the focal point for it.

I’ve never sculpted before,but having watched the televised version of Jesus Christ Superstar, I was inspired by the final scene where Christ hanging on the cross, was surrounded by light. This caused him as the camera moved backward to be thrown into shadow, and suddenly the figure of Christ became featureless, sexless, and without colour.

For me this was an epithany moment, that the lack of racial features, skin tone, neither male nor female or other, this figure is suddenly opened up to all, for none can lay claim to him in that moment of time. He was for all in that single moment. Who could say whether he was English or African American, Japanese or Hispanic, gay or straight, disabled or whole. He was all of these and none, the child of God, broken and crucified for each and everyone.

So I decided I would try and create a sculpture that would recreate that one moment in time. I’ve never sculpted before yet once again Pinterest came to my aid, and for weeks I looked at pictures of how to bend wires, wrapped it with tape and so on and such forth until I had my figure of Christ.

Easy peasy! Until I started to wrap the skeletal shape with plaster of paris bandages. Then, this piece of art stopped being an exercise in my head, and became instead a memory of past Easters, when the body of Christ was wrapped in cloth and laid in the tomb.

Eventually having applied a layer of clay I headed to bed, knowing it would take all night for it to dry, but lying there all I could think of was Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, praying, while all around him his disciples slept. And I couldn’t do it. I could not leave this sculpture alone during the night, hence the reason I am here, at 3.30 in the morning, writing this blog while I wait for the clay to harden so I can move onto the next step.

Soon it will be dawn, that time that the Bible hints at the dread he felt, as he asks for this sacrifice to be taken away. Yet he stays where he is knowing full well what was coming. I wonder if he was afraid? The Bible says he was in so much anguish he sweated blood so I’m guessing he was afraid. He couldn’t help but know what was coming his way, Roman crucifixion was not uncommon, so he would know what to expect, and yet he stayed where he was and waited calmly as the dawn came, ready to embrace both his betrayer and his death.

Midnight musings

Years ago, when I went to secondary school, I would sit next to a girl called Angela. She was a year or two older, but we were sort of friends. All the way to and from school she would talk to me and I would hear about one or two words. From this I had to work out whether I should say yes or no at the right time. I got pretty good at guessing, and rarely made a mistake, but to this day I have no idea what we talked about. You see, between the noise of the bus, the deafening chatter of the other kids, and because I was sat next to her so could rarely lip read, her conversation was completely lost to me.

Having a conversation for me, as someone diagnosed autistic, is extremely difficult. Any unfamiliar word can sidetrack me from the conversation, as I grasp hold of that one word and try to figure out what it means. While the other person continues talking, I switch off the sound and instead fasten onto this word. Where have I heard it before? What does it mean? What context is it used in. In my head I am searching my memory trying to remember if I’ve heard it before, if so when and in what context. Rather like Jim Carey, when he opens the draw to one of God’s filing drawers, and ends up several rooms away from where he started, so my filing draw can be deep and full of past contexts, all of which are quickly sifted to find one that is similar so that I can relate to the context given.

Sadly, by the time I’ve done this, the conversation has moved on, often with a change of subject and I am once again left grasping at straws, to try and rejoin the discussion and not offend the person by appearing to loose interest. It is hard. It is physically and mentally exhausting to try and keep up with what someone is saying in the context of a conversation, a meeting, a classroom or a lecture. By the end of it I want to sleep or run away, yet often I have to move onto the next meeting, lecture or conversation.

It’s not just conversations that are affected. Written work is impacted too. I remember struggling to write essays and dissertations. Whole pages formatted in my mind, with impressive arguments and fantastic quotations, all worked out in my head. Each word, each carefully chosen argument lost, the minute pen is put to paper or fingers touch the computer keyboard. You see, trying to type those thoughts is a bit like riding the Bullet train. My thoughts go high-speed, but unlike a train track, my thoughts don’t come back to the same place. I can’t recall what was thought out, while trying to put those words down in the right order. The more I try, the more I loose. The frustration has left me hitting my head in frustration. Even talking out ideas fails to work as questions or comments, no matter how well intentioned, divert my train of thought, and once again I’m left fumbling in the dark, trying to communicate my thoughts.

On rare occasions the words flow freely, often late in the night, or early in the morning when there is no one awake to distract me and the world around me is quiet. My thoughts flow and my finger flies across the keyboard, only occasionally pausing to remember what letter goes next to form the word, that hopefully will tell you, how I struggle to say what is on my mind.

Tonight my thoughts flow freely. My mind is attempting to distract me from the pain my body experiences. I know that writing will only add to that pain as my muscles seize up or go into spasm as a result of all that they have done today, and yet this free flowing of thought comes so rarely these days that it is a price worth paying. Whether you, my reader, can follow and comprehend my journey is beyond my ability to judge, all I can hope is that you gain some insight and dare I hope, a smidgen of empathy for those, who like me, find communication to be exhausting, and lonely.

Silencing the noise.

I’ve been trying to find a way to express my frustration over my frustration to communicate. Many people have told me over the years how articulate I am, which is a nice thing to be told. However, I also know from experience that clearly I don’t because of all the times what I try to say gets misinterpreted, misunderstood and thrown back at me in a way I didn’t mean, but without the opportunity to process, understand and respond to the person in order to clear up that confusion.

I wonder if others know what I mean by that, and whether they have similar experiences?

Then there are the occasions when, as a dog owner, I meet another dog walker. Now my dogs love to meet people. One of mine in particular becomes deaf to all commands and whistles as he hurls himself at this new “hooman” who clearly wants muddy paws up their legs, and whose dog is their to be chased enthusiastically. The other dog just bounces around barking excitedly unused to other humans and dogs due to covid.

I know that this other dog walker is talking to me, I can hear sounds, and due to my upbringing, I try desperately to engage with them, however, that leaves the dogs free to go on a mad romp because I can’t do both. Then I feel bad because my dogs appear to be out of control. If however I work on getting the dogs calmed down, and back on leads, I appear rude to the walker who sometimes is having a go at me for the dogs. I am left confused, frustrated then angry with myself as all the words I want to say, tumble through my mind after we have walked our seperate ways.

Before anyone points out the obvious, one of my dogs has brilliant recall. The other is tone deaf! The number of owners I have met, who say exactly the same about this particular breed reassures me that often it is not my fault, rather the little b….r, knows full well what he is doing and also knows that mum hasn’t got the mobility to get there first!!

Anyway, back to this issue of communication. I have several thoughts about both how this has disempowered me, as well as leaving me open to abuse. Now I want to be careful using the word abuse, as it can be misinterpreted and cause more harm than good. For me, I mean that my inability to express myself to others, along with struggling to process what is said in response, added to the need to then think through MY response back, has led to my mental and dare I say it, my spiritual abuse. I cannot keep up with what others are saying, nor can I process how my comment may be viewed as “wrong” if I have no time to think through both. Conversations, especially those involving more than one person are a nightmare.

As a child in secondary school, being the only girl from my village school to attend that particular school meant that I was at a disadvantage from day one. Other girls had come together at primary school, formed friendship groups which transferred well to secondary school. Those groups often came together with neighbouring villages where they had things in common. I stuck out like a sore thumb. Even today my enduring memory of said school, was standing with my school bag between my feet on the outside of this group of girls who I realise didn’t really want my friendship, but who tolerated me.

When you are that age and have no understanding of why it is you cannot concentrate on a conversation, or lesson without being distracted by a word, or a sound, movement, or feeling, only to jolt back into the here and now believing it to be a fleeting moment, to find both the lesson or the conversation has moved to a new topic and you are completely lost yet again. No matter how hard you try to stay in the moment, even to the point of giving yourself a headache or becoming so exhausted that you literally fall asleep, trying to be the same as everyone else causes you ultimately to give up. The loneliness and pain become hidden, as you put up barriers to a world that seems at that time both cold and uncaring.

Life carries on with no explanation, just a world of frustration, of misunderstanding and moving from one job to another;one friendship to another. Slowly yo withdraw more and more into yourself, putting up walls around you that you are told by those well meaning spiritual friends, that “God wants to break down” when now I think God understands the need for those barriers. Whatever title or none you may want to give to such spiritual being, surely if your belief is in the creativity, love and understanding of such, then you would hold that those very elements would be carried through into the very creation formed by such.

Can we not hold to this truth, that we are all different? In our journey through life, can we not hold to this, that in our differences, we need to hold to this truth, that to show love, care and consideration to others, that we need to give each other the space to evolve into who we are intended to be? The conversations I am having now with my adult children are conversations I could not have when they were younger because neither of us could hear, process and respond in a way that was respectful to each others needs. Not because we didn’t want to be, but because we didn’t know. We didn’t know how to process the information we had seen and heard in that moment of time. It has taken me personally 56 years to process and hear what my mind had been telling me for so long, but which the noise of life had drowned out. I now understand that while I long at times for more friendship in my life, that for me the wall of sound that has surrounded me my whole life, is not for me. Rather the silencing of voices enables the words inside to flow more clearly, both in written and through my art, so saying all that I cannot say with sound itself.

Watch out world, here comes my daughter!

As a parent I find the thought of my children leaving home both exciting and terrifying.

I’m excited at the thought that one day the house will be peaceful and quiet. It’s exciting to think we can cook meals we like without having to cater for so many different restricted tastes, and that we can be adventurous in our palette.

The thought that one day the dishwasher will only need to be on once a day or even every two days, that I won’t need to clean for 4 or 5 people, just 2. Our bins will no longer overflow, nor will I need to sort through sacks of rubbish, because although my children have learnt to clean their rooms, the concept of sorting rubbish between recycled waste and other is an ongoing task.

I long for the day of sitting down to chat with my husband without the constant, “what are you talking about”, “are you talking about me again”, or even, “I know what you are talking about”, only to realise they have completely the wrong end of the stick but insist on being part of ‘private’ conversations. The word private is not part of their lexionary and therefore they find it upsetting that some conversations need to be held without them being present.

To have a conversation that doesn’t conclude in a screaming competition or with slamming door because the topic we are discussing has been misunderstood, or cannot be processed quickly enough. I find this hard to cope with, more so as I get older. Just as my mother struggled with this, and I had little or no patience with her at the time, so I find the boot is on the other foot, and I too am struggling, yet my impatience has not diminished, sadly.

Yet for all my longing for peace and tranquility (I’m fairly sure I will get bored with it pretty quickly), I am also frightened at the thought of these young adults leaving home and making their way into a fairly hostile world, that has little or no patience or tolerance for those who are different.

It seems to me that society as a whole is increasingly hostile to those whose disabilities and differences make it more difficult to navigate the world around them. Instead of holding them up as heroes as they overcome daily obstacles that most would trip over, they are instead seen as scroungers, misfits and worthless.

How many can honestly say that they have struggled through life, school and work on a daily basis, where even the smallest social interaction is equivalent to climbing a mountain, and gone back the next day to try again? For most people the hardest part of school is forgetting to do their homework, maybe having a falling out with a friend or even falling in with the wrong crowd. For my children it has been all of that and more. It’s been the realisation that the very people tasked with teaching, have themselves no knowledge of the hurdles each faces just to get up, get dressed, travel to school, walk into class, try and listen to what the teacher says while being distracted by movement, sound, colours, unknown words, all of which must be identified then processed before they can turn their attention once again to the task at hand. By this stage everyone around them has started work and they are left realising that they have no idea what to do and that to say so will bring a reprimand for not paying attention. This continues throughout the day and does not even include those horror of horror times called breaktime, when now the child is subject to bullying for what, they don’t know; noise of unimaginable levels that torture the ears and leave the child clinging to a corner of the playground in the hope of some peace, only to have a well meaning adult chivvy them out in the belief they are helping them “make friends”.

It’s a school life bereft of return invitations to birthday parties, because who wants that “weird” kid, despite the fact that weird kid has invited every child from their class to their own party. Inclusion is a one way effort, barely reciprocated, much talked about but little practiced, yet expected of the child for whom it is a nightmare in the making.

I am so proud of my daughter who despite all the hurdles put in her way, and a rental market that still discriminates against those in receipt of benefits, is still seeking a place of her own. Somewhere where she can retreat to recharge her batteries away from family and life in general. Despite our love for her, she recognised before I was ready to accept it, that living at home was akin to being in school. It’s taken me time to realise that this is not about portioning blame, but about personality. About what she can and can’t cope with, and what she needs in terms of her own healing space. Even though we moved to a bigger house, it wasn’t enough and wisely she has battled her way to this point, where hopefully she will soon have her own little flat.

Am I happy for her? Yes, absolutely, but I’m also terrified knowing how vulnerable she still is and knowing how ignorant society is towards both women and especially women with autism. I take my hat off to her, I know I didn’t have her courage at that age. I wish I had. All I can do is be there to support her now and to tell her how incredibly proud I am of who she is now, and by god, to be excited to see who she will grow into in the future.

Watch out world, here comes my daughter!

Life can be a downhill path at times.

I’ve reached the end of my positivity. I’ve tried to keep going, and surprisingly managed quite well up to this point but tonight I’ve realised that I’m 56 and in my eyes I’ve achieved very little to show for all those years.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got 3 brilliant children, an incredibly supportive husband, 2 dogs and 3 cats. I’ve got 2 degrees, passed my driving test first time aged 17, had a number of jobs, yet feel I’ve nothing to show for all of that.

I’m one of these people who cannot settle to one thing. I start getting excited at something, a job, book, hobby or fitness regime, only to loose that enthusiasm a few weeks, or months later.

A few years ago I was diagnosed autistic. At the time, the psychologist mentioned that she thought I might also have ADHD. Trouble is, getting a diagnosis and therefore accessing support is yet another long period of waiting. This time the expected waiting time is 2 years, unless I go private, however that has its own problems as its not always recognised, especially for children and where educational needs are concerned.

I’ve realised that I’m tired. My body and mind are so exhausted that every part of my body hurts so much. It is literally agony to move, yet I’m told I have to move about. The slightest movement also exhausts me. Making my breakfast leaves me exhausted and I go to sleep again. To me it seems pathetic. I’ve always considered myself strong, physically, so this leaves me more frustrated. While it can be amusing to see me struggle to get back up from my knees, for me it’s taking a toll on my mental health. I want to do so much, yet can’t.

How do others manage? I sound whingy to myself, yet even taking the dogs out, which I have always enjoyed leaves me struggling to then cook dinner, or clean the house, or even to shower myself. As I write this I realise how much my life has been impacted by four diagnosis that have very similar symptoms and which now I realise are fourfold. I never expected them to all impact me at the same time. If that makes me sound pathetic then I accept that. I feel pathetic. I feel sorry for myself that just when I thought I might have a chance at trying a new route into work, maybe a career or vocation, my body has decided to not play ball, and I want to scream.

The stupid thing though is this, even if I had the energy to actually work, my brain doesn’t latch onto one thing and stay with it for years, it drops things quickly as I get bored, loose interest in it, or worse still to my mind, struggle with the concept that unlike most things, there are some things I can’t pick up quickly and I have to work at it for a long period of time. And yes, I know how that sounds. It’s taken a long time to realise that this is what happens to me, yet I am trying to recognise it, accept it, and work against that urge to give up.

Life has not taken the path expected, and I really don’t know what or where my life will go, if at all. I remember my mum saying so often that she never achieved any of the things she wanted to do as her father stopped her. I feel that despite achieving many of the things she wanted to do, pass my test, get a degree, that she and I share the same despondency and lack of achievement outside of our family. I hope there comes a day that I can reflect and say that I achieved this. Or perhaps I will get to that point in life where I can say I have achieved this, and list with pride those things that society today views as insignificant.

Don’t get scammed

In the last year or so, with so many lockdowns, one industry at least has appeared to thrive where others are closing. It’s the industry of the scam. Just this morning my husband took a call from someone purporting to be from our Internet provider. Fortunately he quickly realised they were not the real deal, but as they keep trying so they get better at their scam. One day they may try again and get further down the line before realisation strikes.

That got me wondering about how we can tell truth from lies generally. How can we tell if we are being scammed? As these people get more practised and more sophisticated, it gets harder and harder.

First and foremost we need to be knowledgeable. Whatever subject we are dealing with, do your research. My husband realised these people were scammers for two reasons. Firstly, they didn’t ask security questions and secondly, the “supervisor” started to threaten him. Having had numerous dealings with our provider in the past, those were dead give aways.

It is too easy to take people at face value. We like to be seen as trusting. It seems rude to be sceptical about what someone is saying. Perhaps it even connects with what we think or hope ourselves. It’s a trick politicians are good at. Find out what the audience wants, and play to that, whether you intend to keep to it or not. We’ve seen a number of examples of politicians playing to both individual and national fears lately, but when it’s come to their record of delivering on those promises, have they really delivered? We need to do our homework and not just believe what the media and social media tell us. When we abrogate our responsibility, then we have to take responsibility for what happens next.

The same can be said concerning our faith. Do we just blindly accept what we are told our scriptures say, or do we actually look?

Do we blindly believe that our God wants the inequality we see in the world around us, or do our scriptures actually have something to say about that?

What do our scriptures tell us about our gods attitude to wealth at the expense of the poor?

What do our scriptures say should be our attitude to foreigners and refugees in our land?

If we don’t know what the answers are to these questions and others then we are going to be taken in by those scammers who claim to speak for our God, and because we’ve not done our homework we get taken in.

The way scammers work is to play on our fears as well as our desire to have one over on our neighbours.

Scripture calls the latter, envy. In my childhood it was called, getting one over on Mrs Jones. That point where the neighbour gets a new TV, so we get one slightly bigger. Next door gets a new car, so we buy a bus.

It can really get as ridiculous as that, and for what? We can’t take it with us when we die. And seriously, does it make us any happier to constantly want what the other person has?

Let’s go back just for a moment to what I said about doing our homework. Scripture calls it knowing your enemy. If we really want to be happy, then understanding what true happiness is, will help us recognise when someone is scamming us. We are too often told that if we change to another company we will be better off, and let’s face it, sometimes we are, but not always. Sometimes that lamb can be a wolf in disguise, so let’s be more cautious in our belief and do our homework!