Thursday, June 12, 2014

The lofty perch of intellect

Yesterday I gave a presentation on healthy relationships, dating and social skills to a group of adults with Aspergers.  We were discussing things like jealousy, conflict in relationships, the importance of romance.  A few of the people in the group were saying that it was hard to answer some of the questions regarding their opinion on  certain aspects of dating and romance, having never been in such a relationship.  One young man, in his twenties said this:

"It is very difficult, from the lofty perch of intellect, to really get down to the earthy roots of the situation."

If only I could have made that distinction in my twenties.

It made me think about how difficult it really can be, not just for people on the autism spectrum or people with disabilities, but for anyone to really bring together what they understand in their minds and what they feel in their hearts.

In some ways, spirituality of any kind is like that.  People who believe in a God can't necessarily see or be able to logically explain why they hold that belief, why they pray or are drawn to their church every week...but they feel it.  People who believe in energy and Karma, in enlightenment...  That's not stuff you can grab and look at under a microscope.  But they feel it.

People who believe in love can't necessarily quantify the power of the feelings they have for a certain person. "True love" "Soul Mate" and "Fate" are often words used earnestly by believers and scoffed at by others as cliches.  But people who mean those words when they say them...they feel it.

Some children believe in the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus.  In my house we have Winter Wendall and the Sticker Fairy too.  My children have never seen any of those characters; can't prove their existence.  But they feel it.

People who have had trauma in their lives--the trauma of mental illness or alcoholism or violence in their families or childhoods--often grow up and are able to intellectualize what happened to them.  They can logically explain and understand how they were affected, why they are the way they are...but emotionally dealing with that trauma is much, much more difficult to grasp and work through.

The earthy roots of the situation...much harder to explain, to understand, to believe in...  Especially from the lofty perch of intellect.  But what a wonderful thing when you can get there, bring those two things together.

That, I believe, is what faith really is.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Birthday blues

So Friday was my birthday.  I love my birthday.  I imagine it's because I love people saying things to me and looking at me and people look at you a lot and say a lot of things to you on your birthday.

I also love parties.  Being married to an introvert, I have cut back on my party throwing. But on my birthday, I figure, I can have a party if I want!  (Tad says I can have a party if I want anytime I want and that it doesn't have to be my birthday.  Which I should probably listen to because parties make me really happy).

I used to throw parties all the time but I'm a little out of practice right now.  So first I sent the email and forgot to say "Don't bring gifts!" But I didn't want to send another email separately, specifically telling people not to bring gifts. I mean, that would be weird.   Anyway, I like gifts! I mean people bring gifts who want to bring gifts even when you tell them not to. 

Then I was trying to keep it semi-small.  (Why I was doing this, I'm not sure. I mean I could say I was keeping Tad in mind and didn't want to overload our house full of people, lest that would be too stressful. Or that I was keeping Coen in mind because he was having some anxiety over the number of children coming.  I guess it was both...who knows.)  So then I started to stress because there were people I didn't invite..not because I didn't want them to come but I felt like I could go crazy inviting people! So I tried to invite only people that I hang out with on a regular basis.  But then I couldn't stop thinking about the rest of the people who I like and would have liked to invite and had to just tell myself to be quiet.

Then the cake. I ordered my own cake. I mostly do every year because I just really like cake and I want it to be the right cake.  Lucy made me a cake a week ahead of time on the playground at school and it looked like this:

So I thought I didn't want to call and ask them to write "Happy Birthday ALIE!" on it because then when I placed the order they would say "And what's your name" and I would have to say "Alie" all sheepishly since I was the one ordering the cake.  So I just asked them to put yellow flowers on it like the cake Lucy made me.

I picked it up on Saturday morning and upon having it brought to the counter, I saw that it was fricking enormous!  WAY bigger than I imagined and WAY more expensive too (I didn't ask ahead of time what the price was and had I done so, would have realized that it was going to be WAY more cake than I needed). The woman showed it to me and said sweetly, "Somebody's birthday?" And I just smiled and said "Yup." without elaborating. 

On the way out of the store I walked with my big enormous cake down the sidewalk and suddenly I stumbled, tripped and nearly fell right down on the ground. I had to grab the cake box tightly to keep it from falling and in doing so, smashed on side of the cake.

Of course.

I laughed all the way home. Because of course.  Of course I would order my own birthday cake.  And accidentally order a huge one. And then nearly fall down carrying it out of the shop.

That is exactly the right thing to happen to me.

And of course I would still be stressing two days later about the people I like very much and didn't invite and wanting to send them all singing telegrams about how much I like them and hope I didn't hurt anyone's feelings.  If you're one of those people and you're reading this, rest assured, you'll be coming to my fortieth next year.

Man, birthdays are stressful.

But fun too.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as a soul mate....or isn't there?

A lot of my friends are sharing and posting this article a woman wrote about how her husband is not her soul mate
And mostly about how she doesn't want her children to go searching after this unattainable ideal that doesn't exist.

It was interesting to read. Especially as I've been on a love-searching expedition my whole life.

I tend to be a card-carrying member of the great believers in magical love club so I feel as though my opinion might be in order.

Now, perhaps you are already rolling your eyes about what my opinion might be... or you don't really want my opinion at all.  To that I say, that is FINE!  My goodness, if everyone wanted my opinion....
...well I don't really know how to finish that statement.

I just asked Tad. I said, "Tad, finish this sentence: If everyone wanted my opinion..."
He said "They'd be in for a long ride."

There you go.


I think before you go around asking people if they believe in soul mates, you must first clear up the issue of semantics. (I say this as a person who does go around asking people if they believe in soul mates)

I mean, by soul mates do you mean that there is only one person for everyone and that you can only be happy if you find "the one"?

By soul mates do you mean that the other person "completes you"--that you are not whole without them? 

Because if that's what we're talking about, I don't believe in soul mates either. And like Mary Graham, I am not married to my soul mate.

But what if by soul mate you mean kindred spirit.  Ah, so what's a kindred spirit? Someone who is connected to you through a strong and deep bond perhaps.  Someone who you reach on another level?  The first time I heard the term "kindred spirit" is when Anne of Green Gables told her friend Diana that they were thus connected.  And I thought, yeah, I can dig on that kind of connection

So in my friendships and romantic relationships, that's what I looked for.  Kindred spirits.

For me it means a relationship on another level ...almost spiritual.  It is someone who "gets you". It's someone who's eyes you can look into and see deeper.  It's someone who you can talk to without talking.  It's a person who you trust entirely with your full self.  It's a lot of things I guess and hard to explain, but I know it when I see it.

For me, Tad was a kindred spirit before we even became romantic.  Immediately after we became friends, I knew I would know him for the rest of my life.  And when we got together, yeah, I thought what a good partner he'd be for me and what a great friend he already was. And how fantastic to be with someone you laugh with and understand and who understands you.  But when we fell in love, it was magic.  It was outside my logical mind. I can't think of another way to explain that.  And I don't think everyone gets to experience it.  But it is true and real to me.

 In the end of her article, she says that God is her soul mate. And her children's soul mates.  I am a spiritual person, but not a religious one.  And I would no more tell her she's wrong about her soul mate than I would want someone to tell me that I'm wrong about mine.  In the end, what we believe about what LOVE means in our lives, can only be understood and experienced by each individual person.  That's why it's so hard to talk about and explain.  But that sure doesn't stop us from trying!

So yeah, does my husband complete me? No. I am a whole and complete person on my own.  And so is he.  That is one thing that makes our relationship strong, I think.  If he never came into my life, there would be things I would not have learned or experienced, absolutely, but I'd still be me.  If he left my life, it would leave a deep deep hole. But I'd be okay.  I'd still be me.

And if that's there, whatever you want to call it--love, soul mate, kindred spirit...that's a wonderful, beautiful thing.  But you still have to be whole. And you still have to work hard on being true to you.  On being strong in who you are and keep on making yourself whole. And that other person does too. 

So I think that the article is right, that we should not give our children the idea that they should go looking for someone to be their "other half" to make them whole. Let's teach our children to be whole all on their own.  But I feel like it's also okay to look for kindred spirits, both in friendship and in love.  To make sure that when (AND IF) you decide to spend your life with someone else, that you have something between you that connects your spirits, your souls.  Maybe that something is a shared belief in a higher power like God. Maybe that something is a shared experience that bonds you indomitably.  Maybe its something else, something that floats around you in the air that you can't quite catch and you can't give a name to. I don't know.

But I think it's okay to look for that kind of connection.  In that way...if a mate can connect with you soul to soul...I think that can be called a soul mate.

But only if you want to.