What matters most to you?

Jimei, Xiamen

Why do people feel the need to be always doing something exciting or at least perceived by other people as interesting? They put undue pressure on themselves to be perceived as an interesting person themselves. This sounds exhausting to me.

I can understand young people being under this kind of pressure because it is a normal phase of every person’s development. If you are past your 20’s , you still can’t be as obsessed with being the first one to discover a new bar or restaurant, to be the first one among your friends to have seen the latest Marvel movie, or to have climbed Mt. Everest. As an adult, you need to be out of that playground mentality. Though competition can be healthy in that it encourages you to better yourself, it ceases to be when you constantly compare yourself to others in every aspect of life and put yourself down for not reaching the standard you, yourself, have unnecessarily set to achieve.

Some lives are indeed more exciting than others given the nature of their occupations or their personalities. My life as a wife, mother, and teacher may not be as exciting as that of an artist or a single woman who is a paragliding instructor or a UN volunteer in a war-torn country, but who says there’s an ongoing competition as to who has the most exciting life? Given my personality, I don’t think I’ll find satisfaction doing what they do. We all have different personalities, talents. Hence we create our own stories about our lives. It’s not a competition.

This sense of competition is so obvious to me in daily life. For instance, I have been living away from home for almost 2 decades, and most of my friends have left the country. The ones who are still around I seldom see because when I’m home I spend most of my time with my son. When I go on Facebook I see photos of new places of interest in my city, and it makes me happy. When people ask me if I’ve been to such and such a place, and I say “No,” they have this incredulous look on their face as if I had just come out of a cave!

If I were still in my 20’s I would have gone to the place right away just to prove to them that first, I could afford to go. Second, that I was one of the “in” crowd. Third, that I will not be the last to know.

But I am in my 40’s, and knowing the latest gossip about celebrities or the newest restaurant in town, or what is currently “lit” is the least of my priorities.

I would rather know what my teenage nephew is learning at school; what new sentences my autistic son has learned to say; how my husband solved the problem at work; what my sisters are busy with; how my friend is coping with the big change in his life. These are more important to me than Bradley Cooper and Irina Shayk calling it quits (though as a Bradley Cooper fan, that truly made me sad!)

I would rather go out for a quiet walk with my husband, read or sing to my son, read Dostoevsky, have coffee with my friend as I listen to him complain about life, or have a noisy meal at home with my sisters and nephews than go out with a group doing things that do not really interest me.

But then again each one of us is different. Some are more extroverted than others and prefer the company of more people in a variety of settings. Some of us, introverts, though are pressured into socializing — we are told we have to go out more often; it’s healthy for us to socialize; we have to widen our circle of friends. Is socialization always healthy though?

I force myself to socialize with a group once in a while, and most of the time I only get stress from it — it is too much of an effort. I prefer socializing with a friend one-on-one, but then again I have a very small circle of friends.

My point is: my life may not be as exciting as most people, to most people. But it is MY life, and I choose to live this way.

Something my friend said to me the other day made me think — that being away from home “so much has gone on you.”

Though it may be true that so much has changed in my home city or country in the last 17 years, that my cousins now have grandchildren or great-grandchildren that I have not even met; that my home city has more restaurants in an area I did not even know has been developed; that there’s a new TV series that everybody is talking about; that this or that celebrity has finally come out of the closet and I know nothing about these things — I am fine with it. It is life. There is so much going on every second in every corner of my small city. I cannot possibly make myself care about every thing that is going on in it. I am not bothered by the fact that I am the last to know.

I know myself and I know what matters to me. For as long as I know that the people who mean most to me are happy, healthy and safe — I’m good.

Everything else is for another time or others to care.

What matters most to you?

Have a lovely weekend! ♥️

T.

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On Autism and Feeling Left Out

Eli at Panglao, Bohol

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 used to feel hurt am that nobody invites Eli to birthday parties. But after a year, I DECIDED not to let it bother me. For one, I cannot stand the noise of kids for so long. 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’s was the noisiest party so far , 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 us. They are not worth 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 more importantly, for our children on the spectrum.