The Pencils of Life..

“My Pencils outlast their erasures.” -Vlad Nobokov

Fairly recently, I’ve discovered that, despite the happy-go-lucky personality I showcase to the world, I’m damaged goods. There are times where, like Jean Luc Picard, I’m found myself thinking of my own mortality and thinking of those timeless questions philosophers greater than I have wrestled with, all to little avail.  I know that I’ve mentioned “masking” before on my blog before, but now I feel the need to tell my own story.

It happened when I was first diagnosed, when I was very young. Through ABA or applied behavior analysis, I was taught that conforming was the “norm” that I needed to emulate, to suppress my stimming habits and attempt to be “normal.” It vividly reminds me of an episode of Spongebob Squarepants where Spongebob tries to be “normal” to Squidward’s irritation, ironically since it was his idea in the first place.

I’ve often wondered recently why I can’t act goofy and silly at times, like my NT friends (and even some fellow Spectrumites.”It makes me really appreciate my friend and fellow author Jesse, who despite his status as a published author, can be silly and funny when he wants to. As a result, a reoccuring habit that I have is saying sorry for even the smallest thing, even when it’s nothing major; when it wasn’t my fault.

It’s something I wish I could change, honestly…

Recent talks with my parents make me feel that-given the results, which include improved manners, improved social ability and my ability to mask in the world- they don’t regret the decision at all, even as they do see my social awkwardness at family gatherings, a challenge that I’m still trying to overcome.

That said, I think it’s important to put this note in: I grew up in the 1980s, where Nintendo would make its mark on gamers as it still does today, where Apple was just starting out to grow its massive empire, where the luxuries of technology and information were not so widespread as they are now.

In light of this, I’ve made a decision..to forgive my abusers. They didn’t know what would happen or how good I would turn out.

I can’t even imagine what I’d do in their shoes, under the pressure of cold stares; whispers and decisions from people who (quite honestly) didn’t understand what it’s like to be a young Spectrumite who doesn’t know any better. My parents were trying to find answers, to find relief; to not “cure” me but only to understand and to help me….

Shine on as only I (and we by extension) can!!

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Poetry Packed Out: A Somber Start to the Month

Well, it’s that time of year again, the first of October, a month that creates bittersweet memories for me, one of which comes at the end of the month when I like to commemorate my late mentors passing, which will be 12 years this year.

To start off the somber month, I’d like to share my recent poem that I wrote in my mentors character, Charley. I like to think of it as me carrying on his memory, a small way (but not the only) I can do to honor him and give others the hope he gave me. I wrote this poem because of videos his son has been doing to talk about depression and his hero growing up…

But more on that later this month…here’s the poem in question:

9.21.18

-in memory of the Late Larry Berk, and for his family and son, Jonah, who inspired this piece-

Charley looks

Outside studio window,

Sees Paris-

His home

Brightly lit

In spite

Of scars

History leaves

On it-

On us all,

Good or bad.

He can’t

Help muse

On history’s

Lessons-

One we learn

Others need time

To grow;

Take root

In all of life itself.

We all face

Battles-

Even Paris

Isn’t exempt

In history’s

Blood soaked

Pages,

Tears,

Suffering;

Joys all

Embedded

In long historic

Tomes.

Through everything,

Charles sees

Resilience,

Fortitude,

Light in

Darkness,

Even as

Conflicts

Arise,

Paris will

Always

Survive.

Let’s help each other and show each other how to always…

Shine On!!

Poetry Packed Out: Whose power platform is this?

Greetings from the Spectrum Side!!

I was inspired to write this poem for two dear inspirational friends of mine, both of whom are artists (as well as people I’ve mentioned here before.) I wrote this piece for them because of a position that I (and perhaps many Spectrumites) shared with them, being “on stage”. By that, I mean being in social situations that can feel natural to nuerotypicals, but can be exhausting to shift from working to communicating seemingly at will.

At my job, I’m constantly saying the same things over and over again to the point where my speech becomes blurry, everything blends together, where I was almost considered “robotic” by a former co-worker. Even though his words hurt me, I know now how important that was for me, especially in light of a recent article from the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, the article is listed here: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/autism-spectrum-disorder-communication-problems-children. The article explains that:

Some children with ASD speak in a high-pitched or sing-song voice or use robot-like speech. Other children may use stock phrases to start a conversation. For example, a child may say, “My name is Tom,” even when he talks with friends or family. Still others may repeat what they hear on television programs or commercials.

The point I try to make is that socialization can be challenging for people on the Spectrum and artists alike, the demands it places can make it hard to be yourself and #takethemaskoff, whatever one you wear. My friend Carol always feels like she’s “on stage” at a recent Artists Studio Tour during this past summer and I felt this acrostic just come to me by our shared experience:

Stage

-for my dear friends, Carol Zaloom and Mik Horowitz-

Space may be final frontier, but sometimes Risa

Turns out to be better of two worlds, need for work,

Actively recharging batteries seems needed in

Grand stage; grace periods in life’s pressure cookers

Ever willing to better community, even Iron Horses need to relax from time to time.

This is just my hope for people to be sure to make others feel like they’re important to the community, that their voices matter and together we can make our lives and the world…

Shine On!!!

#BeYourself and #Takethemaskoff

I know I mentioned the weight of my mask before, but I think it’s time for us to consider the positives of being on the Spectrum.

But first, thanks to Blogging Astrid, whose post about masking is: https://bloggingastrid.com/2018/07/23/takethemaskoff-what-is-masking, perhaps she could explain what masking means to the Spectrumite community better than I could, simply put:

Masking…is pretending to be something you’re not. This can be done either consciously or uncnsciously. Many autistic adults have learned to mask so well it’s almost second nature. We’re also encouraged to mask on a daily basis when people judge us about being autistic. Then when we mask successfully, we’re told we don’t look autistic.

Masking may seem natural to NTs, or neurotypicals, but they don’t really understand what a challenge it is for us to be “on stage” every day. It can be challenging enough to mask, without having to guess social cues that can vary from time to time, which leads us to script our responses meticulously, as the blogger describes further:

For example, I’m often told that I don’t appear autistic. After all, when I hold a conversation, I appear pretty “normal”. I am told I can hold down a reciprocal conversation that doesn’t sound stereotyped or like I’m scripting. I ask people about their interests, for example. Now that it’s been extremely hot here for a few weeks already, I have even mastered some smalltalk about the weather.

This obviously (to me) does not mean I’m not autistic. Autism, despite what many people think, is not about social niceties. Autism is not the same as a lack of interest in others. Besides, I have 32 years of experience being told how selfish I am for not appearing to show an interest in others. So instead of showing a genuine interest in the people and topics I’m genuinely interested in, I learned to appear to be interested in whatever and whoever I am supposed to be interested in. In other words, I learned to mask my autistic curiosity.

Speaking for myself, I like to be around people who understand my autism for what it is, a different way of thinking; those people whom see me as I am, autism and all. Disclosing to friends and co-workers is first and foremost to me, mostly because I want people to understand my quirks, my difficulties and my strengths, if for no other reason, to help me be myself, really myself and allow me to take my mask off,

To do so, I’ve had to look deep inside myself and find my positive traits (as do we all) and it’s easy to discount whom we are in the face of the neurotypical society we see, but if nothing else, know that you are strong, you are smart and you are enough. Don’t be afraid to be yourself and dare to take your mask off and let your true self…..

Shine On!!

Poetry Packed Out: What fuels us but drains others?

A recent poem of mine was just recently accepted in a local arts magazine, which as a staff who looked at it told me, “requires multiple reads” to really absorb its message.

Upon doing so, I see how wise and accurate the poem is; how deep it is in the long run. I wrote the acrostic “Powers” as a way to show others how power can be overwhelming in some cases, but also can be used to corrupt those who have it. Countless video games, movies and even politics show that struggle in the real world, but I never really delved into it before this poem.

In my life, I’ve seen power make people feel overwhelmed by it, how it can corrupt, but I’ve also have seen (and read how) people use their power, their inner strength, their resolve to overcome challenges and make others better and feel better about themselves. I guess that’s the reason I never sought power, because I’m ill equipped to handle it without checks, which inspired this poem:

Powers

Pressure comes from the responsibility that can

Overwhelm; drown those ill-equipped for the flow that

Washes over them. The struggle becomes daily battle over time as

Empires have fallen due to imbalance, instability,

Rescuing poor; helping themselves? The struggle consistently

Saps weaker souls; yet strengthens communities.

So, for those who seek power, seek it wisely and use it only if needed, not to oppress but to help people express themselves and let everyone…

Shine On!!!

Spotlight on a Superkid

I know it’s been a while since I last posted (for which I’m sorry for) but it’s not without a good reason.

Last Saturday was the culmination of a dream of mine as a writer, my first book signing at Woodstock’s notable bookstore, The Golden Notebook. Honestly, I can’t imagine my first book signing being in any other town than Woodstock, considering my strong ties to the town that has a strong arts connection. I got my writing start in Woodstock in the Year 2000, my late mentor was buried at Artists Cemetery and every time I go, I leave full of inspiration because of the various scope the arts have on me.

One could say that it was fitting for my first book to debut in Woodstock…

It was a good sized crowd for the space we had, but it was the group that was there that made it a great event. There was a book signing and I had the opportunity to recite and explicate my poems, mostly how they came to me. This was a completely different experience than I ever had in book signings in the past, where usually I was in the audience listening to literary masters read and answer questions about their own work.

This one was different, it was me as the main eventer.

Like I mentioned before, it was a good sized crowd for the space and it’s a place I can highly recommend to my author friends and book lovers alike. This post is mostly a thank you to the owners of the Golden Notebook especially Jacqueline Kellachan for opening her space to me. Thanks also goes to my great friend Gabby Baker for her snacks, as well as Jim Peppler for taking photos of the event. You all are examples of how you can make a Spectrumites dream come true, giving all of us hope that our dreams can truly…,

Shine On!!

Being Open…

The hardest thing one can be in daily life is being open about your life, being open about your victories and your pitfalls. Even as can be scary to do so, for fear of the consequences, the struggle to answer your critics can be overwhelming for even the most experienced person, Spectrumite or not. From day one, I’ve always been open about me being a Spectrumite, even as I’m aware of the struggle for those who decide not to disclose.

That said, though, there’s more that people may not be aware of whom I am, even friends that know me to be an optimist by nature, who is creative and kind. I’m not afraid to share my demons on my blog, if I need to do so, if it can help others in need, i’m not afraid to share the help I’ve gotten, but need to preface this by saying that just because it worked for me, it might need different things in anyone’s circumstances. Everyone’s different so that means that what I write about this isn’t a “one size fits all” deal.

But first, some context is in order, I just came back from a friend’s funeral and my friend’s Mom told me that her son dealt with drug abuse which was compounded by very bad bouts of depression. It, honestly, hit home for me in so many different ways mostly because of the fact that I personally deal with depression and it’s not something that easy to talk about openly, so I figured that this is as good a time as any to do so.

I’ll go into detail only if needed, since there’s a lot to cover and so much that’s unknown when it comes to depression, it could be personality, societial expectations, but the one thing I wish to say about depression is that it’s okay to talk about to anyone you trust, friends, family, co-workers, so long as you trust them. You’re not a weak person to do so, because talking about your problems and your life can help you find solutions to them. Another thing I need to say about depression is that  You are important, you are unique and you mean so much to others, perhaps moreso to those who care about you and your well being. If nothing else, I hope you know that much, it may be hard to believe, but trust me when I say you mean so much in the world. If you need more convincing that there’s hope, then late this month (on my Birthday, in fact) Hope Rocks will be having its second annual festival, founded by a beacon of hope, not only for his community but for myself personally, Joe Defino. The Website is listed here and I really hope you consider coming: Www.morserocks.com

Hopefully, you can be hope for the world, or can find hope in your darkest time and find your own way to..

Shine on!!!

A Tale of a Book

Greetings from the Spectrumite Side!!

Ever since I last posted, there has been a lot happen in my life, my first book, Through Autistic Eyes, has been published via an online book publishing company (Blurb.com) thanks to a great friend of mine. The book has made me feel so many words: excited, nervous, concerned, proud, worried, but there was one word that can sum up my feelings more than anything…

Vindicated!

The context of this story needs to be told in order to appreciate my feelings. Through Autistic Eyes has been a project that seemed to be instantaneous, but in reality took me and my friend eight years (or more) to complete.

It all started in my first featured reading in the year 2000 in Woodstock’s Colony Cafe. The host asked me if I had books to sell, to which I sheepishly said that I didn’t, that was when my friend offered to help me make that dream a reality. We had a set plan when we first started in a small cafe in Upstate New York, but there were curveballs that set us both back a long time before the book became a reality, I won’t dwell on them because honestly there were so many setbacks for both of us, suffice it to say that it took patience, courage and a little growing up on my part to make the dream a reality. Now, I’m proud to be a published poet with two book readings and signings in my area: one on July 21 at the Golden Notebook in Woodstock and another in August 25 at Inquiring Minds in Saugerties.

But if you can’t make it to either but still want the book, I’ve included the link to the book below, the proceeds of which go to the Hudson Valley Autism Society (of which I’m also a Board Member.) I only hope that my story and success can help us all reach our individual potential and help us all…

Shine On!!

FYI: Through Autistic Eyes info: https://www.hudsonvalley-autismsociety.org/single-post/2018/07/03/Through-Autistic-Eyes-by-Brian-J-Liston

Pride: Part You

I know I shared about pride earlier this year, but it’s something that I feel bears repeating to most of my fellow Spectrumites.

First, let me explain that the subjects I’ve shared so far are things that I go constantly in my own life. I struggle with self esteem issues, lapses of self confidence, speaking up when I need to just to name a few. I know how hard it can be to speak to others, let alone be yourself around Neurotypicals. I can only relate that experience to the movie Selena, which chronicles the late Tejano star’s life and career before her tragic end.

In one part of the movie, while contemplating going to Mexico during her music career, her father says that they need to be “more American than the Americans and more Mexican than the Mexicans.” The next line sums up the feeling we share when we mask whom we are, the bright, intelligent, quirky people we are: “It’s exhausting!”

With that being said, though, it’s time for us to be proud of the wonderful, the intelligent, the simply au-some people we are inside. The best thing we can do, Spectrumites and Neurotypicals alike, is talk to people that we can trust about our problems and our concerns. Who knows how many Temple Grandins, Albert Einsteins and Donna Williams can be discovered by disclosing who we are deep inside? Of course, that is a choice that I leave to you, my readers. That said, there are organizations (Autism-society.org and Grasp.org, just to name a few) that can support you and help you follow your dreams and help you….

Shine On!!

Packed Out Poetry: There’s Power in Pink

Greetings from the Spectrum Side!!!

I was tagged recently in a Facebook post due to a wonderful friend for a poem I posted for thier late mother’s memory, it’s a poem that I take great pride in creating and I consider the poem, Gentile Pink, one that’s very powerful and poignant considering the muse and her life.

Allow me to elaborate: the late Mother’s family have been, then as now, a constant source of faith in action and genuine inspirations to me in more ways than one. I know that, when I’m around them, I know I can be myself, no pressure, no mask, nothing to hide because they know me very well, my best friend is an elementary school teacher, as is his sisters, his brother and father were, then as now, coaches in multiple school sports teams.

The friend in question, Joe Defino Jr, is someone I’ve mentioned on my blog before but he bears repeating because his kindness is only second to something he lives in his daily life, his faith. He’s actually challenged me and makes me want to be a better person because of who he is: his creation Hope Rocks (which is happening on my birthday this year after a successful first year and who’s website is here: http://morserocks.com/) all stems from his compassion for others, specifically those who are dealing with addiction and suicide, all the more prevalent in current news. As a former Bartender’s son, who has seen the best and worst of life, it’s something that I try to plug every year, because I believe in his mission to help others, just like I try to do in my life….

But I digress..

His faith and his compassion was the byproduct of his parents, his father was a teacher and a coach, his late mother was a wonderful person, so strong in her faith that her husband was moved by it early in thier relationship, so strong was her faith that she was in the pro-life movement, something that her husband passionately fights for her. Her death was due to breast cancer and it only solidified thier faith in God and helped in the long run. All that was encapsulated in the following poem, her faith, her compassion and her zest for life was something that was passed on to her family, much like a gentle breeze, like the ending of the 1994 movie Forrest Gump, hence the title and tone of this poem:

 

Gentle Pink

 

-for the memory of Beverly Defino-

 

Gentle pink

wind calls out;

tells all that can hear

the broken hearted;

discouraged athelete

a sick person:

Even as enemies close in,

times when hope seems

distant,

promise me one thing:

That through it all,

to never give up.

My wish

helps

all in need,

battling whatever comes,

knowing

heroic fight

with its ardious

difficult

trials,

all too well.

 

Faith,

love

may seem

insignificant

in world deluged in dismal news.

Those small things

done out of love;

kindness

mean so much

in the long run.

 

Love

from all who love you

inspires;

radiates itself

to others;

permeating

throughout life’s

peaks and pratfalls.

 

“Gentle wind,

those who get the message

say silently

as if in prayer

“We know

words so heartfelt

how much you care,

even now,

you inspire humble people

with your

faithfulness;

courageousness;

precious jem

the gifts

we celebrate;

guard

we will never forget

nor the memory you leave in us.”

 

May this poem help you all in times of need and help you all overcome all the bad times that come in your life and help you….

 

Shine on!!!