Stop Searching

The healing hum that reverberates
through all the small, silent moments
can become buried beneath the louder
frequencies of frustration and forward motion

The panicked pace of ungrounded grasping
the breath that's stolen while being swept off your feet
it can feel like dying to slow down, to surrender momentum
in favor of savoring the soft rustling outside your window

Finding peace can be counterintuitive
stop flipping over rocks and just pause
to feel the cool stone against your skin
and hear the whispering stream gurgle past

It's hard to accept that happiness is here
when we've wasted so much time searching
learning to laugh at ourselves like when we've been
seeking the object that's been in our hand the whole time

It's the simple things that will save us
if we can sit with the fear that they
won't be enough in the end
they will
Advertisement

ASD and Decision Making

One of the many struggles I have in life that I attribute to my undiagnosed Autism is my utter inability to make decisions. I’ve felt like decisions were so much harder for me to make than my peers even as a young child, but I feel it’s only gotten worse as I’ve gotten older and the decisions I’m faced with every day have become more and more serious and important. It’s hard enough for me to decide what to wear or what to make for dinner, let alone if I should take a new job or move.

I used to be more able to make a decision if I felt somewhat forced into it out of discomfort. I’d wait until I reached my breaking point, where the discomfort of not choosing a different path exceeded the discomfort of change. However, that threshold for discomfort has become larger and larger as I become more dependent on and attached to my routines. It feels impossible to make a big decision regardless of how certain I feel it will be good for me, because I know it will inevitably cause turmoil and disrupt my normal patterns and habits for awhile. Despite unhappiness with where I am, it still feels easier to just let things remain how they are. At least I know what to expect, even if it’s nothing good.

I’ve been trying to focus on the positive things I stand to gain from making a change. Part of me does get excited at the idea of beginning a new phase of life for myself. Who knows what wonderful new things might enter my life if I only have the courage to make room for them? However, I am immediately terrified and overwhelmed with the idea of the immediate future that lies before any of those benefits. How on earth can I bear the pivotal moments of action? It seems like an insurmountable task. I wish I was able to press a button, make the decision, and wake up a few weeks later beyond the initial aftermath.

Possibly worst of all is the feelings of guilt, shame, disappointment I feel with myself for not being able to do this. It’s hard to even talk about with other people, because I am so embarrassed. I can’t really ask for advice, because it’s obvious what they’ll tell me I need to do. Part of me is afraid that their certainty will push me into action. No matter how sure I am of something, there is always a small voice in the back of my head pushing me in the opposite direction, warning me that I might regret this. I know that’s not something I can ever avoid for sure. But I already have so many regrets. I’m afraid to trust myself. I’m afraid to be the one that chooses how my future will unfold. I don’t want to blame myself for making the wrong choice someday.

On the other hand, what if I am making the wrong choice by remaining where I am? There may be wonderful opportunities and people passing me by because I haven’t been brave enough to create space for them in my life. I hate feeling like such a coward, like a child, that needs someone else to make all the important decisions for them. I just want to ask for help, but I know that there is no one that can help me to live my own life. Some things we just have to do on our own.

Lifestyle Vloggers

One of my favorite things to watch online are lifestyle vloggers. But it can be hard to find a good pool of content, given I am only interested in the vegan ones. Even so, I never get tired of watching them. There is just something so immensely soothing about watching the picture perfect life of someone else. It feels inspiring and motivational, but also comforting, as if I’m spending time with a close friend.

There homes are always so bright and beautiful. There plants are all huge and healthy. White linen, candles, big open windows, picnics, fresh healthy food, and tender moments between partners. It all just makes me want to sigh and keep watching forever. To lose myself in this postcard existence of another. Until… it starts to become overwhelming.

There is a certain point I always reach, where I just start comparing my life to theirs’ and feeling bad about myself. Strangely enough, it usually isn’t because of the aesthetic differences. I’ve never cared much for having money or an extravagantly decorated home. My crumbly little cave is quite good enough for me. (Although, I do wish I had the time and energy to keep it spotless like them.) No, what really starts to make me feel down is their seemingly superior ability to maintain a productive work schedule, to work for themselves, edit and upload videos, and make progress towards their career goals.

One of the most frustrating parts for me is the confusion. Why can’t I do that too? It’s not like I am unable to keep routines or stick to a schedule. My routines and schedules just happen to not be very useful or productive in the long run. All of my hobbies and habits are small and focused on the moment. It is unimaginable for me to set big, long-term goals for myself that I can work towards incrementally in those same hours I allot to more frivolous pursuits consistently.

It’s partly about not knowing where to even begin setting up something like that, but it’s also my fear of commitment to any one interest. If I do something that can be completed in an hour or two, I have a reasonable expectation that I’ll be able to maintain interest. However, if I begin a project that will take a month, or a year, I am second guessing myself the whole time. Is this really worthwhile to me? Will I be able to make it to the end result? What if I lose my drive and I’ve ended up wasting a huge chunk of my life on something that was never even finished? With me, losing that initial motivation and interest just seems inevitable. It feels pointless to even begin.

The more I learn about myself and my mental health, the more I think this has less to do with personal failures and more to do with ADHD. Still, that doesn’t make me feel much better or less frustrated. Am I really just incapable of completing big projects and reaching more lofty goals? It sure feels like that’s the case. Maybe if I keep trying and allow myself to fail, I’ll learn more about myself and be able to find a way that works for me eventually.

Until then, I’m just going to keep gaining that feeling of fulfillment and contentment vicariously through watching others live their best lives. Sometimes it feels like that’s all I’ll ever be able to do. But either way, I’m grateful for their content and the warm, fuzzy, inspired feelings they give me.

The Search for Novelty

In my endless, possibly misguided quest, to diagnose my own mental ailments, I’ve now stumbled into the realm of ADHD Pinterest. Although it’s difficult to distinguish between autism and ADHD symptoms because many are so similar and often these two overlap or co-occur. As it stands right now, I honestly think I have both. If I could afford it or even had access to a mental evaluation I’d love to have one done. Unfortunately, I’m stuck with internet memes to diagnose myself with for the time being.

Anyway, my newfound knowledge about ADHD has helped me realize my brain’s need for novelty. I can be completely engrossed in a new hobby or interest at first. I could spent every hour of every day learning about it or practicing it, but then without fail, I lose all interest after the initial magic of the “shiny new toy” wears off. This used to cause me a considerable amount of distress. I felt like a failure, unable to stick with anything for any significant amount of time. I would avoid committing to things even if I was obsessed because I knew that feeling would inevitably wear off and I would abandon whatever project or goal I had set. Then I would spent months feeling anxious and guilty about quitting.

Now that I know doing new things, or doing old things in a new and interesting way is what keeps me focused, I have a better chance of keeping myself happy and engaged in the tasks I want to perform or the goals I set for myself. It’s no easy feat to come up with ways to keep changing up my routine though. My autistic traits make me crave consistency, which is at odds with the need for novelty. I get very anxious at the idea of changing up a habit, even once it has become tedious and unpleasant. It takes a lot of mental effort to think of how I can alter my routines in a way that is small enough so it doesn’t overwhelm me with anxiety, but big enough to help me maintain interest.

So far, I’ve only seemed to make progress with this in the realm of my physical fitness. After over a decade of working out, I can get really frustrated and bored doing the same things every day, even if they are always a somewhat different HIIT workout. The one thing that I’ve found to help me stay motivated and excited to workout is having a clear goal in mind. Now before this, while my workouts would change periodically, my goal was always the same: lose weight and/or build muscle. These goals were far too vague and also, for me personally, deeply frustrating and unsatisfying as no matter how hard I try, I can never seem to do either of them to any noticeable degree.

If you’re someone like me who may have ADHD and/or someone who just has trouble staying interested in a regular workout routine, I would suggest picking a goal more fun and specific than losing weight. Something that you can measure without risking tipping over the edge into unhealthy body image and eating habits as I have in the past. Lately when I workout, I try to work towards gaining a new ability through my physical fitness journey. For instance, I want to be able to do a handstand one day in my yoga practice. There are a plethora of exercises I can incorporate into my workouts to build up the necessary strength and balance to achieve that. Doing a handstand is a goal that is fun and feels worthwhile for it’s own sake.

Another goal I’ve had since I found out about the exercise, is being able to do a pistol squat. Essentially this is lowering down into an extremely deep, low squat with only one leg, then raising yourself back up into a standing position. I really never thought I would be able to do that, but for a few months, I’ve added in a lot of pistol squat prep exercises into my weekly leg workout. Today, I am proud to say, I managed to do three sets of six reps of pistol squats on each leg! I was so overwhelmed with happiness. It’s the first time I’ve had that much fun in my morning workout for awhile. They may not have been perfect, but I can’t wait to get better and better at them.

At least as far as physical fitness goes, this strategy seems able to provide an endless supply of novelty. I can keep building on my physical ability more and more over time. Once I’m able to hold a handstand with a wall behind me in case I fall, I’ll work on doing it without a wall, then I’ll work on lifting up into a handstand, then handstand pushups, then handstand to crow pose, etc. I can’t wait to see what this body of mine may be capable of one day. Now if I can only find a way to implement this same principle of finding consistent novelty into my other passions and pursuits. Let me know if you have any ideas or suggests or if you struggle with this quest for novelty as well.

Balance of the Mind

There is a fine line between
fascination and frustration
a challenge that grips and sparks
quietly slumbering curiosity
can burn us up just as quickly

The feverish fixation of one day
becomes a chore for the next
reluctant to make commitments
for fear of past experience that
all of these flimsy fancies will fly away

Incapable of great works that require
the steady, faithful persistence of years
this fickle heart flares up at the idea
of being tied to anything for so long
longing to be cradled, not caged by consistency

Tireless effort to balance between
a comfortable edge and overwhelm
the impossible choice of stagnation
or the violence of self-destruction
left hanging idly in the middle

Christmas is Over

Soft warm light suspended
in the brutal vacuum of snow
one final day of indulgence
before the empty months commence

January is the longest part of the year
a vicious nod to immaterial time
that contracts and expands as it pleases
to trap us in the cold violence of winter

The sunshine tide will slowly ascend
further up the shores of frozen evenings
to melt the aching numbness of 
vitamin D and dopamine withdrawal

But even the faithful repetition of 29 years
cannot convince me that the trauma of winter
will give way to green abundance once again
and melt this ice inside my veins

Waiting in this black and white is a reminder
that I still haven't found the patience
I was promised would come with age
just more pain piled on with yearly practice

Be Your Own Inspiration

As seasonal depression has slowly but surely sucked all of the life and motivation out of me in the last few months, I’ve been finding it harder and harder to write. An overwhelming sense of shame and mediocrity grip me as I attempt to do my daily poetry. I’m so distracted by the idea that I am not good enough, that my words are ignorant and hollow, that I can’t concentrate for long enough to create anything. Then this only reaffirms my crippling self-doubt, making it harder to come back to my laptop the next day.

Yesterday after finishing a poem that I wasn’t particularly proud of, I decided to read some of the older ones I had compiled for publishing this coming year. Even though I’ve done this in the past, I was still surprised at just how wonderful I felt these older poems were. I know I was partly moved because they reminded me of the times when I had written them, but I can’t deny that they are also excellent poems in their own right. I think anyone could enjoy them just as much as I have. The more I read, the more thick the wall of tears became against my eyelids, inevitably overflowing into hot streams down my cheeks. I wrote these. I had to keep reminding myself.

Today despite still not feeling particularly creative or inspired, the sense that I’m a failure and I’ve never written anything good nor will I ever write anything good is absent. I know that inspiration will find me again. I believe in and am proud of the things I have already created. I feel at peace inside this artistic dry spell.

Looking back at my old work was exactly what I needed. I’ve done this in the past not only with my poetry, but with my art as well. One day I was nearly in tears, wondering how I had ever believed I could draw or use my drawing tablet at all. Then I decided to pull up some of my old drawings. I was so happy looking at them. These are really good! I was delighted and surprised that I was so easily able to forget my own talent.

Sometimes the combination of mental illness, writer’s block, and exposure to so many other people’s amazing work online can leave us feeling inadequate. In these moments I try to remind myself of Lizzo’s wise words: “I am my inspiration.” We don’t need to be at the same level or have the same style of writing or drawing as other people. It can be hard to be an impartial judge of our own talent. That’s why it’s important to go back over our older work. So many times I’ve found that something I once hated or didn’t think much of has turned out to be one of my best creations when I look back. The poems I wrote as a teenager that I was embarrassed by seem simply beautiful to me now. I’ve even decided to publish them, and they’re available on Amazon if you’re interested.

I guess my point is, don’t trust your opinion of yourself or your ability when you are feeling low. The mind has a way of convincing us of things that aren’t true, especially when it comes to our perceptions of ourself. Just be patient and remind yourself through hard evidence. If your brain is telling you that you can’t write, go back and read what you’ve already written to prove it wrong. If it says you can’t draw, take the time to enjoy a personal art show of past works to silence that critical voice. Hell, sometimes this even works if I’m having a particularly bad body image day. I’ll look at somewhat recent photos I’ve taken of myself to remember that I can feel beautiful.

The only person you need to compare yourself to is your past self. Be your own inspiration. And most importantly, I want you to remember that every single thing you have created or will create is incredible and worthwhile, because it is a piece of your mind made manifest. When I look at something someone I love has drawn or written however silly it may seem to them, I love it. I love it because it came from them, and that’s all that matters. That’s what makes everything any one of us creates special and perfect. And lastly, let yourself rest sometimes. I promise your inspiration will come back soon enough.

Burning to Be Enough

This ever-present emptiness
aches as it echoes
quick, shallow breaths
catch on inner absence

Wanting to wrap the words of others
around my wounds in place of proper dressing
no sentiments offered are ever satisfactory
to sterilize this self-induced infection

The inflamed ego agony of not enough
cannot be extinguished by anyone else
decades dedicated to feeding the flames
leaves little room for course correction

A wall of fire rising so high
sometimes it feels like all that is left
is to be asphyxiated by the smoke
and silently submit to the blaze  

Sorrow and Joy

Sorrow sticks to me
with the tiny talons
of woodland things
clever velcro claws
that trap and tear

Joy is thick and sweet
like dense droplets of oil
that slip easily through
the liquid membrane
of my water-logged mind

As if my soul were fine tuned
to the piercing puncture wounds
of even mild misfortunes
but immune to the equally
abundant presence of pleasure

Cursed to carry the wrong container
and collect only itching burs
but not buoyant blessings
regardless of the quantity of each
that happen to come my way

A cup for gratitude that has a crack
or even worse, a burlap sack
that can only attract and hold
the heavy, solid moments that hurt
while every drop of delight drips through

A faulty, backward magnetic field
that repels the currents that heal
but quickly aligns with what's unpleasant
the unnatural effort to help myself
is more tiring than circling the drain

Animal Spirit

the body loves me
even when I don't love it
this animal spirit inside
is fighting tirelessly
to keep me alive

Intricate networks
of blood vessels and veins
muscles and sinews
and breathing stardust
cleverly conspiring to keep me safe

I poison its efforts with casual harm
cutting and gagging and straining its limits
imperfection is not justification for punishment
blinded to the enormous, exhausting efforts
of a body trying its very best

This quivering creature that cradles my soul
only craving compassion and care
the bare minimum of reciprocation 
for non-stop, selfless service
offered in a myriad of unnoticed ways

I cannot fault it for not following vanity
and dangling me just above death
to fit in a smaller dress
it doesn't understand that desire
true love is keeping me healthy

The fierce physical innocence of this form
continues to create blood and breath and bone
to buoy me forward in this life without thanks
the precious animal that is also me
doesn't deserve such callous disregard

The mind and the body are wards of one another
it's time my mental faculties begin
carrying their own weight in the ways
of consistent loving-kindness
for this creature doing the best it can