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!!

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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!!!

 

The Curing Caring Circle we Create..

It’s important for us to give back to our communities, Spectrumites or not, as we should give back and help others in their times of need, never seeking or wanting anything in return. It may be hard to do at times, but consider if the roles were reversed and ask yourself what you’d like done for you.

I’ve given back in my life for that reason, to give others hope, help, or even some inspiration. From my late College mentor, Larry Berk, to countless poets that have made me a better person, my co-workers, my friends and my family, they have all looked up to and inspired me in some way, shape or form. I feel the need to bring the same light that they all have given me, then as now.

That said, it’s important to take care of yourself above all else. I’ve discovered recently that, as much as I do for other people, I need to do as much if not more for myself and my own needs. There are times where I’ll just go inside my bedroom and just watch TV, or write poems or clean my apartment. It’s things like these, things I like to do and what I need to do to take care of myself, which is paramount to helping me function in the “neurotypical” world.

So I want to ask (or more like challenge you) with a question? What do you like to do to keep yourself happy? Whatever it can be, then don’t be afraid to go out there and do it to the best of your ability and never be afraid of whom you are, deep inside and let that passion help you..,

Shine on!!

The Massive Weight of my Mask..

The early 1990s movie The Mask, which starred Jim Carrey as lovable loser Stanley Upkiss had a premise that saw Stanley become a crazy superhero all by putting on an ordinary mask. For those who haven’t seen it, I’ll spare the spoilers, but the reason I mention this is because I sometimes wonder how it must feel having to wear a mask to conceal whom you are inside..

All this was before I discovered something about myself recently: the fact that I wear a mask daily. People see me as a high-functioning Spectrumite as someone who doesn’t seem like a Spectrumite. That’s when I discovered the answer to my question about masks: wearing a mask is exhausting.

Like, really exhausting..

The question that arose from my end was simply, “Why?” I found my answer that sounds much like the writer of Planet Autism Blog makes in the article “The Root of Autistic Masking”(found at this link, (https://planetautismblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/13/the-root-of-autistic-masking/). The writer poses:

Why do autistics mask?  Anxiety and/or inhibition.  Inhibition because they realised or sensed from early on, that they were different and struggled in interactions.  They are likely to have been excluded, ridiculed or bullied for being different.  They pressure themselves to fit in, because all anyone wants is acceptance.  They may also have developed a phobia about being told-off by teachers, or being unpopular with peers.

Anxiety and/or inhibition. Seems like that describes my current situation quite nicely. I’ve been taught, through no fault of mine or anyone else, that being myself (swimming and all my quirks) can be disruptive or could be seen as a bad thing, not the calming and natural things I’ve discovered later in life.

Another thing I’ve discovered is my difficulty of reading certain social cues, following and not leading, socially speaking. What people see in me as “normal” really has been a long fought battle with myself, really. The problem with that is I see that what nuerotypicals may not realize is that the social games and/or interactions that may seem natural for them isn’t how we see it, we learn mostly through trial and error. It’s been the same for me, as the writer stresses:

Obviously it’s not as simple as these professionals not understanding or realising.  It’s also highly convenient to blame parents, if blaming parents saves money.  Many professionals bask in the glory of their position and the power it gives them.  Some relish misusing that power to become playground bullies all over again, but this time it’s sanctioned by policies and procedures that are conveniently designed to be misused.

Professional bias goes a long way, it’s like a Mexican wave, one starts with a particular viewpoint and the others all willingly join in, oblivious to other possibilities because agreeing is an easy ride and also lets them off the hook if they have been responsible in any way for exacerbating the child’s difficulties (whether by accident or design).

Like I said before, it’s no one’s fault but my own and the time which I was living in, the 1980s, where the information about Autism wasn’t as widespread as it’s become now. That said, the writer explains the unknown consequences of these actions:

You know what’s sad about this situation (aside from children not being given either the diagnosis or help that they need that is)?  Is that autistics cannot be themselves.  That autistics have to put on an act, adopt a persona, to be considered acceptable to society.  That they have to live in fear of being judged for their differences.  Misjudged.  That to not be negatively targeted, they have to mimic others and suppress their natural traits.  And it is exhausting to mask.

That’s what I’m dealing with at present, but it doesn’t have to remain that way, just know that you’re not alone, that there is a community ready and willing to help you break free of your mask and help you, the real you, try to find your way to…

Shine on!!

Packed Out Poetry: Melodic Master makes his entrance..

Greetings from the Spectrum Side!!

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I’ve been really busy with the recently completed Walk for Autism that was just in the area, I won’t tell you all what role I played in this particular Walk, but I will soon; it was a great event nevertheless, I feel like it’s my way of leading by example and shining on from the inside out.

But I digress…

This edition of Packed Out Poetry is for a dear friend of mine, a fellow Spectrumite whom I met 10 years ago (give or take) and over the years, he showed me that being a Spectrumite is always a good thing even when neurotypicals don’t understand us.

Over the years, he also invited me to his 40th Birthday Party as well as accompanied me to our friend Jesse’s Birthday Party Over time, we’ve bonded over such things as The Simpsons, Big Bang Theory, the movie What about Bob? Another thing we’ve bonded over is our shared admiration of Billy Joel, commonly known as the Piano Man. It’s because of that bond and his friendship that I present this poem for my friend and our musical icon:

Maestro of Music

-to Billy Joel from a longtime fan-

Long Island

laments of Brenda and Eddie

Manhattan musings from Dodger.

Blues from Billy the Kid,

both the major,

minor keys;

highlights from the Hudson Line

got a lonely listener

through many a busy night

both the good and bad.

Those songs;

your creations

speak of love,

war,

life in general,

getting your Second Wind

during life constant letdowns,

like saying

Goodnight

to an angel;

to someone taking their last breath.

To my musical idol as well as my friend, this blog is just my way of saying thank you for inspiring me, for being there for me and helping me (and others like us) find a way to…

Shine On!!!

Pride: it’s not just for Lions

At a recent Woodstock Book Fest panel about autism, with a great friend of mine (co-founder of a fantastic school, The Center for Spectrum Services) Jamey Wolff as moderator, a question was mentioned to John Elder Robison, the author of Look me in the Eye, about what an autistic leader should have to inspire others.

It honestly gave me a reason to pause and reflect on my life, I know that I’ve often brushed aside the idea of myself being a leader, but the question of being qualified to be one seems to be one that I’ve been answering a lot these past couple of days.

The leaders I’ve been fascinated by always seem to be strong, self assured but aren’t afraid to be firm. The problem with that and Spectrumites I know, myself very much included, need help with self-worth, which includes self esteem and self-confidence.

We always think of others’ needs when we should think of our own needs, wants and desires. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be something we need to work on over time. John Elder Robinson’s answer to the question about Autistic leaders ring true, not only for Spectrumites, but for us all: Don’t look for leaders, be one yourself.

My local parish priest always says that a good leader should lead by example and it’s always been something that stuck with me. I’ve always brushed aside the notion of my being a leader because I’ve seen what power does to those ill-equipped for it: it ends up corrupting them. Napoleon from the Orson Wells satirical tale Animal Farm is one such example of how too much power can be a bad thing and because of that, I’ve always been modest when it comes to power or pride, in that sense.

But, here’s the point I bring up to my fellow Spectrumites, we should be proud in our accomplishments, no matter how large or small, we’ve come a very long way, not just personally as individuals but as a society. It wasn’t so long ago where Spectrumites like us would be put in institutions, where our talents would be lost at worse or go unknown at best. Hearing of the horror stories of people who were institutionalized make me winch, inwardly if not outwardly, but it shows me how lucky I am to be in a caring and thoughtful community.

That’s not to say, however, that we can’t do better. We should be volunteering and helping those less fortunate, we should be speaking up about issues that matter, standing up for the communities we live in, and most importantly, we should be leading by our examples and inspiring people that way. That way we can all do our part to help heal our wounds and help us all….

Shine On!!!

Standing Up is Hard to do…

Recently, I had to make a tough decision since my last roommate was moving to another apartment. I was worried that I had played a part even as his Mom told me that it wasn’t the case, but I felt, then as now, that it was the best decision to be made for both of us.

The aftermath, though, made it hard for me to decide who would be my next roommate. The pressure of the two people that were chosen made it harder still, especially because both people had good things going for them. For me, it felt like being on Deal or No Deal, the pressure was that intense.

Long story short, this decision made me realize what was important to me, qualities that I have that I need to sees in others. It made me feel like a leader, which as I mentioned in an earlier post, isn’t something I’m used to being called.

More importantly, it made me stand up for myself, something that I feel like I need to do a lot more of. I was becoming another George McFly from Back to the Future and this ordeal was talking to me, forcing me not to be a doormat. It’s been hard to do but I realize now how important standing up for oneself:

  1. Realize Your Limits: Realize that you’re only human and that you can’t please everyone. Focus on your strengths and don’t dwell on your weaknesses.
  2. Take Time For You: Breathe, recharge your batteries (however you choose to do so) and be creative.
  3. Be (or Re-Discover) Yourself: Don’t be afraid to blaze a trail of your own and learn new things. The best people know how to change things to their advantage. This can also be a way for you to rediscover values you may forget in the moment.
  4. Celebrate Your Victories: When you stand up for yourself, especially if you’re used to be a doormat, you’ll feel a change inside yourself. Celebrate the changes, no matter how small.
  5. Build Up: When you become stronger, one day at a time, one victory at a time, you’ll find yourself stronger over time and that will build up your confidence.

I can’t say that this change will be easy to deal with, in fact this is could be harder than you’ve ever dealt with. But standing up will indeed be the most fulfilling thing you ever do in your life and you’ll become stronger and be able to push forward to your brighter future, one where we can all….

Shine On!!!