A Quiet Walk on Lantern Festival

After 6 busy weeks in the Philippines, I am back in very quiet Jimei. Blissfully quiet for now, except for the occasional firecrackers in the distance, as the students are not back from their holiday yet.

Though I miss my son already, I am thankful for the quiet walk I had this afternoon, something that I did not have a chance to do back home.

Every now and then I need to be alone with my thoughts, and today I got the chance.

Here’s what the campus looks like for now.

No basketball games

The cafeteria is closed

Happy Lantern Festival!🎉🏮

T.

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On Autism and Feeling Left Out

Today I read an article written by a mom who says that as a parent of a child with autism, she feels isolated. And one parent commented that she feels the same, that nobody invites her son to anything, and so she never gets invited to anything either.

I am not bothered that nobody invites Eli to birthday parties. For one, I cannot stand the noise of kids for so long. For another, Eli cannot stand the sound of screaming or crying children either. He is more comfortable around older children or adults. However I do throw a birthday party for him and for the last three years, I had McDonald’s in my city organize it, the first year at their store and the last two years at his special education school. His classmates had so much fun, especially when the mascot came out. This year was the noisiest party ever, but Eli was fine with it because he already knows his classmates and teachers, and the mascot no longer scares him. I had a headache from all the noise, but seeing Eli so calm amid the raucous, and his classmates, most of whom are minimally verbal, participating in the games and so excited to see the mascot, was fulfilling.

For the last three years, I always gave a few party bags from Eli’s party to the kids with special needs at the public school special needs center, and they were always happy to get stuff from McD. Their smiles and thank-you’s were enough to make me happy.

I understand some parents’ feelings of isolation, but I guess what I want to say is, we don’t have to feel this way. We don’t have to feel sorry for ourselves because we can do something about this. Instead of waiting for people to reach out to us, we can take the initiative. And we don’t have to reach out to those who cannot accept our children’s condition, we really do not need them in our lives. There are people out there who not only understand and accept our autistic children for who and what they are but also appreciate them for their specialness and our struggles at raising such children.

It is very difficult for Eli to have friends save for his two cousins and my cousins’ son and daughter. Neurotypical kids will always see him as strange, and I don’t blame them. They are children. I have witnessed several times how Eli tried to go near such children, and how they looked at him and moved away from him. It hurt me, but I’m almost sure it disappointed him more. But this is reality. In time he will learn what everyone of us should learn, not everyone can be a friend. Not everyone can be accepting of who we are, but there are those who do care, and they are the ones that matter. There is no need to be friends with people who are embarrassed by usus. They are not worth our our time or energy. Remember there ARE people who will be very grateful for our time and attention. We should give it to them instead.

Life is not all roses, even for neurotypical people. We can only try to live it the best we can for ourselves and for our children on the spectrum.

Fear, Fascination and Autism

There are many things that can make Eli, my 8-year-old son on the spectrum , happy and very few that terrify him. To neurotypical adults, it would seem silly to be scared by the sound of a hair or hand dryer, or a blender or coffee grinder or a drill, but these are sounds that have a different effect on my son and other autistic kids like him. Thankfully, the noise from crowds don’t bother him anymore, and the hair dryer we have at home does not bother him as much as it did before. If we use the coffee grinder, he would just leave the kitchen.

Still there’s so much I envy my son for — one of which is his lack of fear of things that terrify most people I know, from tiny creatures like cockroaches or spiders to pythons. When we went to a zoo in Bohol last week,our guide showed us this yellow python. Thinking my husband was holding Eli’s hand, I couldn’t help screaming when I saw him already inside the cage with the guide. He was the only one inside the cage with the guide who showed him how to pet this beautifully yellow python. None of us adult tourists dared to go in, but Eli did and seemed to really enjoy touching the snake.

Eli also loves the ocean. Unfortunately he doesn’t know how to swim yet. Just like me and my husband, Eli can sit (or stand) on the beach for a long time just looking at the waves or the horizon. The ocean is mesmerizing. He is most calm when he is on the beach. On our last evening in Bohol, he and his father watched the sunset until it got too dark to see anything on the ocean, but I guess he was listening to the sound of the waves, and that too is mesmerizing.

But Eli has no sense of the danger of the ocean especially for people who cannot swim. And if no one is watching him, he will just keep walking towards the water. From what I’ve read, most autistic kids and adults are drawn to water, and in fact when an autistic person goes missing, the first area rescuers would search is a body of water.

The “fearlessness” of our autistic kids may be admirable sometimes, but we also have to remember that fear is one way we, humans, protect ourselves from danger, and if our “fearless” kids are not aware of the dangers that their fascination with certain things poses, it will not be good for them.

Have a lovely and safe Sunday! 💕

T.

Because there’s no such thing as forever…

I saw a picture of a huge graffiti on a wall in my city that read: WALANG FOREVER (There’s no forever) and shared it with my family, joking that whoever wrote it must have been really hurting. But my ever-serious 16-year-old nephew replied: “There really is no forever.” To which I said: “But that’s not what Kenny Loggins said!”

When I checked on Google, there is actually a good number of people asking why “forever” is promised by people in love when everyone knows this is a mere impossibility. I did not bother reading the answers because I think we all know what the answer to that is.

And I am not going to dwell on the reason people say it, but rather on the benefit of there being no forever.

I learned this years ago when I was young and naive and stupidly in love with the most unromantic man I have ever met. We were walking in a quiet, wooded area, dead leaves crackling under our shoes as we walked. I looked up when I heard the sound of the leaves as a gentle breeze blew. It was such a beautiful moment, walking with the man who meant the world to me then. So I told him. And he said casually, “You know why this is so beautiful now? It’s because you know it’s not going to last.” At that time, it made me feel so sad, but now whenever I think of it, I am grateful that at that moment, I learned to appreciate things that have a short life span.

Now when my husband leaves for work in the morning and says goodbye to me, no matter how busy I am, I stop whatever I’m doing and give him my full attention.

As I travel every month, I say a proper goodbye to my family and friends because who knows, we may never see each other again (that plane could … you know?)

This is not to dismiss the anguish of those who are suffering, but I sometimes think those who are told they only have this or that much time to live have the benefit of preparing not only themselves but also their loved ones of the former’s impending departure.

A few months before my mother’s demise, I was telling bestfriend no.2 what a terrible time it was watching my mother suffer. And as usual, he was his brutally honest self and said to me, “This time in your mother’s suffering is God’s gift to you, her children. You will become so tired from not having enough sleep and in pain watching her suffer, you will eventually be ready to let her go.” He was speaking from experience, of course. He gave up his own dreams to take care of his father for two years until his father’s death from pancreatic cancer.

And he was right. Although it was a stressful, exhausting time, we — my mother, my sisters and I — were given enough time to prepare ourselves for what was going to happen, so the last few days were filled with kind words, sweet smiles, lots of tears, of course, but they were tears of love.

The beauty of there being no forever is that we then see beauty in everything, and we appreciate everything, and are thankful for everything.

We become better people when we remember there’s no such thing as forever. Or at least we should.

May we always try to become better people. 💕

T.

Gratitude and Optimism

Yesterday I saw a video called “Life Lessons from 100-Year-Olds,” and it brought tears to my eyes. If you have time, watch it. I’m sure everyone can learn a thing or two from these centenarians.

I think it was fortuitous to have seen that video on the last day of the year, as it reminded me to look back at my own life during the past year (well, I am always looking back, lol)  and to count my blessings and be grateful even though 2018 saw me inwardly distraught about a number of things that I could not talk about with loved ones, as I do not want to spread negative vibes.

Today is the first day of 2019. I will try my very best to continue to be grateful and to believe that everything will be all right.

I hope you do as well.

Happy New Year!🎉💕

T.

Change, Challenges, Moving On

Jimei sky on a winter noon

Introverted, routine-oriented people like me get disoriented when something not part of the routine takes place. The occasional lunch with co-workers is always a task, even though they are nice people, simply because it’s not part of my daily routine, and I always make an effort to be an interesting or even just a lively person (I personally find it rude when a person joins you for a meal and looks miserable. I’d rather that person refuse to join me for a meal than be with me looking unhappy. Hence, my effort at being an interesting/lively rather than boring companion.)

This disorientation is magnified when bigger events occur in my life, like when some 16 years ago, my then-boyfriend left the country (and me!) and all of a sudden, I was left to make plans for the day for only myself. “What will I do with this much time all to myself?” I went to work moving about like a zombie for months!

When my mother died, I felt so vulnerable whenever I remembered (actually, I still do) that I no longer have a “prayer warrior.” In the past whenever I had a problem, I would just pick up the phone and call my mother long-distance and ask her to pray for me. I know it sounds so immature for a grown woman to be depending on her mother so much, but that was all I depended on my mother for. I never asked her for anything else after graduating from university. Just prayers. Still, when she died, I was at a loss not having anyone to call to ask for prayers. I mean I could have called my sisters or some of my friends, but with my mother I was assured that her prayers were most fervent because she was praying for her youngest daughter, the only one to leave her side to work in another country.

When introverted, routine-oriented people like me are put in a new situation, we tend to have an extremely difficult time adapting to change. We may seem to look like we are coping well with the change, but deep inside, the challenge is overwhelming. Yet, we survive and I think our introversion has much to do with it. As introverts, we rely on very few people, but more important and this is most helpful, we rely on ourselves the most. Slowly we learn to start a new routine, and we recover in due time.

And we move on. In due time.

May you find the courage to adapt to change, face challenges and move on.

Happy New Year! Happy New Life!💕🎉

“This is Us” and Bran Stark: A Lesson in Understanding and Compassion

You read that right.

Two of my favorite TV series this decade are GoT and This is Us, and I am glad that both shows support my theory on compassion, which I’ve written about on this blog a couple of times.

I just started watching “This is Us,” and I haven’t even finished watching the first season yet, but already this show has made me cry so many times, not because it’s sentimental but because the characters and their stories are so real and so relatable. No one is extremely bad nor extremely good. They are ordinary people, even the Hollywood actor seems normal (and he does admit he is normal and contrasts himself with the stage actress who is not true to herself.) The stories that really speak to me are the loss of a child, the loss of a father, the worries about starting a family — all those feelings I had when those things happened to me came back as fresh as if they happened yesterday, and it was a cathartic experience. True, most of the characters are beautiful and well-to-do and American, yet first and foremost, they are human and their emotions are not unique to them in their time and place. These emotions are universal. I guess the title of the show is quite apt as it is really about “us”. “Us” being whoever is saying it.

The narrative structure of “This is Us” allows audiences to see and understand the development of the characters, why they act or behave the way they do, thru flashbacks, and this is one reason why there are no extremely good or bad character in this show — because the viewers, who are the ultimate judges of who is good or bad — are made to understand the present person by looking at how they evolved through the years of a variety of experiences with different people in different situations.

In reality this is how we become who we are. We are shaped by our experiences and the people we meet and influence us. This is why, ideally, the people who know us best are our family, especially our parents who have seen us grow. Unfortunately many people grow distant from their parents over the years, hence what parents knew to be their child is different from what their child has actually become. However However, there are children who remain very close to their discerning parents, and these are the ones who have the benefit of having somebody who can accept them for who they truly are. These parents are a witness to their children’s lives and can understand why the children have become such and can therefore accept them and love them unconditionally.

(Just like in “This is Us,” “GoT” also made viewers change their mind about a character, from hating him to loving him. Jaime Lannister was hateful before it was revealed how he sacrificed his name to save the realm.)

My point is this: if we could only know everything that has happened to a person that we know or know of, in the same way that we are getting to know the characters of “This is Us” with every flashback in each episode, then we probably wouldn’t be too hasty or even cruel in our judgment of them. We would probably even become forgiving because we understand what made them become such. We do not have to be their friend or be close to them, but we do not have to hate them either.

Now this brings me to Bran Stark. Bran has become the Three-eyed Raven, which means he now holds the knowledge of the past, present and future, and because he knows EVERYTHING, he understands everything. Bran never gets angry nor says angry words, not even to Little Finger. He may seem cold, emotion-less, but I think deep down, he understands and has compassion because he has seen and sees everything.

Then there’s Jesus. As he was dying on the cross, He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” I am guessing he can forgive because being God, he is omniscient, all-knowing, and therefore he understands everything about us, poor human beings.

As the year comes to an end, I hope you find the energy, the patience to try to know people before you judge them.

Some things to ponder at the end of 2018:

1. What are some of the things you are grateful for in 2018?

2. What do you look forward to in 2019?

I hope you find many things to be grateful for and to look forward to! 🙏🏽💕

T.