If you want to support autistic people, reject ABA

TW/CW: ABA, torture, abuse, ableism, conversion therapy

This is so loaded, I gotta take a deep breath… 

“ABA” stands for “applied behavior analysis” and it continues to be regarded as the gold standard “treatment” or “intervention” for autism. The methods are based on the theories of BF Skinner (1904-1990) whose work centered around behavior modification using rewards and punishments. You reward or “reinforce” a behavior you want and you punish a behavior you don’t want. O. Ivar Lovaas (1927-2010) is credited with being the “father of applied behavior analysis (ABA)” and creating a systematic method of behavior modification based on Skinner’s theories. As you can read about on Appliedbehavioranalysisprograms.com, his behavior modification methods first targeted homosexual “behavior” of young boys in “conversion camps” that he established. He then expanded his methods to target modifying the behavior of autistic children. Those methods included corporal punishment, screaming in kids’ faces (there are pictures), withholding of affection and shock treatment. Instead of distancing themselves from this monster- and I don’t think it’s hyperbole to call him that- ABA establishments continue to bear his name. People defend him by talking about how his methods were just as bad / comparable to the methods of others in the field of psychology at the time. How that kind of excuse continues to fly in this cultural climate where people are publicly shamed and/or fired for posting insensitive tweets 10 years ago is beyond me, but here we are. Not only is he not exiled, his core methods/theories (although toned-down and reframed in most cases… but still not in others) are now replicated by behavior therapists as part of a billion-dollar industry. 

Today, 50 years or so later, ABA services are covered by major insurance companies. ABA services are provided to students in public schools through intensive sessions and reinforced many times by 1:1 aides who serve to uphold the “behavior support plan.” Parents of autistic children receiving new diagnoses are advised to immediately put their children into ABA services- sometimes for 20-40 hours a week. The Autism Speaks website claims

“More than 20 studies have established that intensive and long-term therapy using ABA principles improves outcomes for many but not all children with autism. “Intensive” and “long term” refer to programs that provide 25 to 40 hours a week of therapy for 1 to 3 years.”

(Ugh… so if you do 25-40 hours a week for 1-3 years, you might get an “improved outcome.” And that vote of unconfidence is from ABA’s biggest and loudest supporter…)

If I ever have the time, I will be writing more about the “efficacy” of ABA therapy according to available research (spoiler alert, it’s scant and inconclusive), but what I believe is the strongest argument in support of rejecting all ABA practices outright is the feedback we are getting from the autistic community. ABA attempts to change “problem behaviors” and this is often how their “success” is measured (they don’t throw themselves on the floor when they want something anymore=success). Those measures do not include or acknowledge the side effects reported by people who have been subjected to these treatments. In a study titled “How much compliance is too much compliance: Is long-term ABA therapy abuse?” the author found that 

“Compliance, learned helplessness, food/reward-obsessed, magnified vulnerabilities to sexual and physical abuse, low self-esteem, decreased intrinsic motivation, robbed confidence, inhibited interpersonal skills, isolation, anxiety, suppressed autonomy, prompt dependency, adult reliance, etc., continue to be created in a marginalized population who are unable to defend themselves.” 

In Invisible Abuse: ABA and the things only autistic people can see” , CL Lynch describes how the “new” ABA is still harmful. She includes several videos of typical current ABA practices. Her criticism is similar to those of other autistic authors- that ABA seeks to make an individual appear less autistic (by reducing harmless stimming, forcing eye contact, etc.), that it demands blind compliance, that it ignores reasons for “problem behaviors,” that it encourages autistic people to ignore their sensory needs instead of advocating for them and ultimately that their feelings don’t matter. 

In “On hurling myself into traffic to avoid ABA therapy” by alexanderstreasuresblog , the author provides a first-hand narrative of his ABA experience including forced eye contact and the labeling of any of his protests/refusals as “scripting” (and so therefore, not valid and counted as a “problem behavior” according to the ABA therapists). 

In the post titled “ABA” from the blog “Unstrange Mind” by Max Sparro we are given a breakdown of the many problems with ABA as well as an account of personal experience. Please read the quote from the post below: 

“A therapist might tell you that “a little crying” is a normal thing, but I was once an Autistic child and I can tell you that being pushed repeatedly to the point of tears with zero sense of personal power and knowing that the only way to get the repeated torment to end was to comply with everything that was asked of me, no matter how painful, no matter how uneasy it made me feel, no matter how unreasonable the request seemed, knowing that I had no way out of a repeat of the torment again and again for what felt like it would be the rest of my life was traumatizing to such a degree that I still carry emotional scars decades later. It doesn’t matter whether the perpetrator is a therapist, a teacher, a parent, or an age-peer: bullying is bullying.”

The article “Why No Autistic Child Should be in ABA Therapy” by Shannon Des Roches Rosa provides yet another autistic perspective and an overview of the issues with ABA and how we need to change the way we support our autistic community: “…autistic children need supports and accommodations, not interventions based on non-autistic child development and conversion therapy.”

I have been researching this topic for over a year now and I keep hoping that there’s something I’m missing. I keep hoping the situation isn’t what it looks like. Because what it looks like is that people are making money compelling vulnerable parents to enroll their autistic children in absurd amounts of therapy hours- services which do not reliably meet their subjects’ target goals (which are problematic in and of themselves). These therapy services are based on archaic principles that the field of psychology abandoned long ago and methods created by an abusive monster conversion-therapist. These therapy services are performed on a marginalized minority of individuals- who have a PRIMARY DIFFICULTY EXPRESSING THEMSELVES VERBALLY- making them the most vulnerable population to abuse because they either can’t protest, or their protests are labeled as “problem behaviors.” I am not okay with this reality- and I keep doing more research hoping to find evidence that I’m wrong, but the more I learn, the worse it looks. This is a human rights issue that we need to, as a first baby-step, make the general public aware of.

More to come.

(I need a graphic artist, clearly)

If you want to support autistic people, do not use the puzzle piece

**MAJOR TRIGGER/CONTENT WARNING: This post links to articles which use ableist language/outdated vocabulary, and highly offensive anti-autism propaganda videos

The ubiquitous symbol for “Autism Awareness” has been the puzzle piece. The puzzle piece symbol was created by the National Autistic Society based in the UK in 1963 and it originally looked like this:

(image credit- Autism Wiki https://autism.wikia.org/wiki/Puzzle_Piece_Logo ):

That’s a weeping child, for those in the back.

Helen Green Allison, a founding member of the National Autistic Society, attributes the puzzle piece design to a parent in the then-fledgling group. In this account**, she explains:  

“The puzzle piece is so effective because it tells us something about autism: our children are handicapped by a puzzling condition; this isolates them from normal human contact and therefore they do not ‘fit in’. The suggestion of a weeping child is a reminder that autistic people do indeed suffer from their handicap.”

The puzzle piece ribbon was adopted by the (US-based) Autism Society in 1999. Autism Speaks was founded in 2005 and uses the puzzle piece as their official logo. It used to be all-blue, some speculate, because they assert that autism is more common in boys (that’s a whole other topic beyond the scope of this post). Of all the organizations related to autism, Autism Speaks is most likely the one that you’ve heard of and you might assume that whatever they’re doing is probably good for autistic people. Here’s where I’ll remind you again to please listen to autistic people before you move forward with that assumption.

Autism Speaks has, from its beginning, approached autism as a disease-to-be-cured. It’s moving at a turtle’s pace to get away from that mindset and is really only doing so due to social media pressure.  The organization has put out propaganda that has served to frighten parents of young children into seeking intensive treatments or else face a lifetime of heartbreak because of autism. Here’s a video they put out that includes a mother-with her autistic daughter in the room- talking about wanting to drive off of a bridge.  Here’s another one called “I am Autism” talking about how autism knows where you live and is going to bankrupt you and ruin your marriage, etc. Here’s the transcript if you, like me, can’t stand even a few seconds of it: I debated over whether to include links to these videos in this post because they’re so offensive- but I think it’s unbelievable that an organization with so much visibility would produce statements like this and it’s important that people- especially potential supporters/donors are aware of it. Many autistic people refer to Autism Speaks as a “hate group.”

So back to this puzzle piece… Imagine seeing the logo of the group that has served to misinform the general public about your identity, forcing your caregivers to subject you to ill-informed treatments… how would you feel about it? The puzzle piece is also considered to be generally infantilizing- as if autism affects only children or renders all autistic people childlike into adulthood. The puzzle piece, now, is a litmus test. Its use means an organization has not sought out the actual autistic perspective (bad)- or they are aware of it and are discounting it (worse). The symbol embraced by the autistic community and the neurodiversity movement is a rainbow infinity symbol, meant to represent the diversity of the autism spectrum(see my shirt below from Peachie Speechie🙂

Again, if you’re going to use April to support autistic people, I will ask you to please seek out #actuallyautistic perspectives by searching that hashtag. You can easily find autistic perspectives on the puzzle piece symbol by doing a quick google search, but here is one article I found that lays out the arguments against using it particularly well: altogetherautism.org.nz/autism-no-puzzle-nothing-wrong-with-us/ Here’s another one with lots more about why the puzzle piece is offensive- as well as symbolic colors to wear in support (#redinstead or gold) instead of blue: https://intheloopaboutneurodiversity.wordpress.com/2019/03/20/the-ableist-history-of-the-puzzle-piece-symbol-for-autism/

If You Want to Support Autistic People, Please Start By Listening to Autistic People

We need to talk, guys. This pandemic has made me re-evaluate almost everything- and there’s something I need to let you in on that I can’t be silent about anymore. It’s big and I’m not done learning about it but I also can’t wait until I feel like I’m “done” learning to start talking about it. Because April is basically here and when you start posting “autism awareness” puzzle pieces, I’m gonna have a fit.

Before I even start talking about “it,” I need to state how important it is to not just include, but hold paramount, the perspectives of people you are making policies about, making treatment plans for, and/or making awareness campaigns for. Also – when people of whatever community/affiliation/culture/identity/etc ask that you refer to them a certain way, you must listen to them. Why wouldn’t you? If you claim to want to support/help a group of people, I would think you’d care about what they have to say and honor their preferences when it comes to what to call them.

So, when you want to participate in April’s “Autism Awareness Month,” I implore you to please seek out and listen to the perspectives of autistic people first. I say “autistic people” because, from the many accounts I have read/encountered, the majority of autistic people prefer “identity-first language.” If you’re someone who works with autistic people, you may have been taught to use “person first” language and say “person with autism” or “person on the spectrum.” This “person first” language comes from the 80’s campaigns to destigmatize people suffering from AIDS- to separate them from their diagnosis. Other examples of “person-first” language- person with diabetes, person with cancer, person with arthritis. Because it would be jarring to be referred to as a “diabetic person,” a “cancerous person” or an “arthritic person.” Diabetes, cancer and arthritis are diseases people suffer from.** Person-first language implies a condition for which a cure is needed/desired.  Autistic people see autism as part of their identity. Autism is not something to be cured. You wouldn’t refer to a gay person as a “person with homosexuality” unless you think there’s something wrong with homosexuality (which you don’t right? Don’t be an ignorant ass, please. If you’ve gotten this far, you must be part of the choir to which I’m preaching, yes?).   

April has been “Autism Awareness Month” since the 1970’s. You will recognize the puzzle piece symbol and also possibly remember the “Light it Up Blue” thing where they put blue lights on buildings at night to “increase awareness.” The Autism Society claims the puzzle-piece ribbon as their trademark and the creation of Autism Awareness Month. The autistic community has MANY things to say about April. The first of which is that it, at the very least, needs to be renamed “Autism ACCEPTANCE Month.” The push for this on social media has been so strong that the actual Autism Society that came up with the whole idea has released a statement that they’re renaming the month. They’re asking you to take the note. “Awareness,” like person-first language, implies a problem-to-be-solved- a disease-to-be-cured, an undesirable/unacceptable condition. “Acceptance” implies something you make accommodations for. “Acceptance” implies we see our fellow humans’ differences as just that- differences, not symptoms to be eliminated. “Acceptance” also means we see differences we can celebrate and value as a community.

I have a lot more to say about this and I’m planning on writing more- but I wanted to get at least this part out there before April hits. Please, please, please, if you do nothing else for Autism Acceptance Month, search any of the socials for the hashtag #actuallyautistic and wait for your mind to be blown wide open. This is a marginalized community of people that is on the verge of what I think will be a gigantic revolution. If you have more time and want to educate yourself about this perspective, check out these websites:

Autistic Self-Advocacy Network: https://autisticadvocacy.org/

Neuroclastic: The Autism Spectrum According To Autistic People: https://neuroclastic.com/

Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism: http://www.thinkingautismguide.com/

**EDIT: It has been brought to my attention that diabetes is not a condition that has a cure- and there is an emotional toll that comes with the general society thinking it’s a condition which was brought on by one’s behavior and something that can be eradicated. The question of whether to use person-first or identity/condition/diagnosis-first language when referring to diabetic people / people with diabetes is a subject of debate among those that have it. As a universal rule, you should use whatever language a person prefers to refer to themselves no matter what. This post is about the message I’ve received from the online autistic community to use identity-first language as a default and only switch if the person in question asks you to do so.

a coronavirus meal plan – and other recipes I’ve recently discovered and loved

Spaghetti with bolognese sauce is my favorite meal. I could eat it several times a week and not get sick of it. My go-to recipe for it at the moment is Martha Stewart’s. I’ve made this with all ground beef and also with ground turkey (because you gotta be flexible when the store’s just randomly out of one of those things…) and all versions of it have been delicious. I’ve also liked doing the America’s Test Kitchen recipe which takes 4+ hours… but it’s also delicious and kind of fun to have a pot on the stove you get to taste all day while you clean your apartment. I must have done that before I had my 2nd kid… anyway… 

 

The Martha Stewart recipe makes a big pot and enough for another meal’s worth of leftovers (after feeding a family of 3.5) which you can easily freeze and/or use for another recipe like these awesome lasagna-stuffed peppers. The stuffed pepper recipe is great for anybody who’s not doing carbs or has other issues with pasta- but it’s also heavenly with pasta. It cooks the peppers perfectly and, bonus, it also looks fancy. I’ll make it for you when you come over after coronavirus is gone in like 2-10 years. What month is it? 

 

Another thing I might serve you is shrimp over broccoli (or pasta if you do that) with this Keto alfredo sauce. Holy crap it’s delicious… I stumbled upon this recipe when I had planned to buy ready-made alfredo sauce and the grocery store was out of EVERY SINGLE BRAND of it. Where are the alfredo-hoarders at? 

 

The menu plan this week doesn’t include alfredo, bolognese or lasagna peppers, but I’m going to share it anyway because that’s what I feel like doing! 

 

Here’s my current menu plan:  

 

Thursday: Thyme Garlic Pork Chops  (grocery store was out of rosemary like the recipe calls for)+ Greek Salad (halved cherry tomatoes, chopped cucumber, feta cheese, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt + pepper). We had this last night with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and it was ridiculously good. This was so easy and will probably be my go-to method of cooking pork chops from now on. 

 

Friday: Salsa Chicken (Chicken in the instant pot with broth, taco seasoning and salsa then shredded, served over sliced avocados with sour cream and lime juice) + frozen brussel sprouts dressed with butter, garlic salt and red wine vinegar 

 

Saturday: Balsamic Pot Roast + mashed potatoes / froz mashed cauliflower + roasted asparagus- This instant pot recipe is very easy and very yummy

 

Sunday: Shredded Chicken Tacos / Taco Salad (using leftovers from Friday dinner)

 

Monday: Marinated thin-sliced chicken over spinach salad – I will most likely use the Italian Herbs marinade from this website

 

Have you discovered any new recipes or kitchen hacks while on lockdown? 

CAN BULLET JOURNALING SAVE YOU?

Scrolling through Instagram for the thousandth time today, I see that the New Yorker posted this article from 2019 titled “CAN BULLET JOURNALING SAVE YOU?” If you needed an example of how things have changed since September 2019 and the problems you might have had then that could be SAVED BY BULLET JOURNALING- here you go. I don’t know why they posted this today when people are asking, oh I don’t know “What can save me from a global pandemic?” BULLET JOURNALING “What can save me from an evil dictator in the White House flushing the country down the crapper?” BULLET JOURNALING “What can save me from institutional racism?” BULLET JOURNALING. “What can save my child from regressing academically and socially while schools are closed?” BULLET JOURNALING. 

These were the thoughts in my head when I decided to go ahead and make hummingbird food again. The feeders have been sticky and moldy for probably at least a month now- the hummingbirds still come around to check whether I’ve gotten my shit together yet and are disappointed every day. So I go to turn on the microwave to heat up the water and turn it off immediately- because Michael has his air conditioning on and running both at the same time MAKES THE POWER GO OUT. I put a kettle on. As I’m waiting for the water to heat up, I see that there’s a packet of hot chocolate mix left on the counter from yesterday when the 6 year old asked to make ice pops because Sid the Science Kid’s parents had time to do that with him and all we had to make ice pops was hot chocolate. I pick up the packet and it’s all wet. I don’t know why. I smell it… doesn’t smell like anything so I’m assuming it’s only water. I go to throw it away and stop because HEY I PUT THE KETTLE ON. I read the directions on the packet and see that it instructs me to add 6 oz of hot water which is ONLY ⅔ of a CUP and that is EXACTLY WHY YOU GREW UP WITH FLAVORLESS HOT CHOCOLATE. Because your mom thought there was enough hot chocolate mix to fill up a regular mug. Who drinks ⅔ of a cup of hot chocolate? NO ONE. Maybe babies. But they won’t because IT WILL FOREVER BE TOO HOT so why bother. 

 My husband walks into the room and as I was explaining all of these things to him, he asked me if I needed to go to the hospital. Because I was laughing and crying at the same time I guess. 

I am taking my car to get an oil change today which will mean that I might also get to pick up coffee at the nearby coffee shop where I remember typing out my musings onto my Chromebook to post on my blog which I haven’t posted anything on in a year. Why? Because this is the kind of stuff my head is producing. And I think maybe it’s not the greatest idea to throw up whatever my thoughts are onto the internet- even though I think I also believed that that’s actually how my favorite writers write. David Sedaris made this video about how you should consider keeping a diary but also “not sharing” so I kept a diary for a while on my Chromebook and didn’t share it and I gave that up too… I think the audience (even if it’s an imagined audience or a very remote potential audience) is motivating to me. Or it’s not. Writing about not writing is the most boring subject ever so I digress from this post that is nothing but a digression. 

ANYWAYZ: My husband has also started a blog about the random quarantine road trips we’ve been doing and has just been spending hours on his computer WRITING ON HIS BLOG. THE NERVE. HE’S JUST WRITING A BLOG. Which I proofread. WTH? I’M THE BLOG LADY! Maybe bullet journaling can save me.

a real-person meal plan

Here’s my actual meal plan for this week:

Friday (last night): Rotisserie Chicken + Salad (from a tub) w/ chopped cucumber and radish with homemade ranch dressing + strawberries and cherries.

Saturday: Bolognese sauce from America’s Test Kitchen *& spaghetti + Salad (from the tub) w/ chopped cucumber and radish with the same batch of ranch dressing

*(I will be making a double-batch and freezing half of it. This recipe takes 4 hours to make but it’s my favorite thing pretty much ever and has ruined meat sauce for me at most restaurants…)

Sunday: Chicken Parmesan (trying this keto recipe for the first time- no idea if it will be good or if it will work at all, fingers crossed) + steamed broccoli *using spaghetti sauce from Saturday’s recipe to top the chicken parm

Monday: Gazpacho w/ a cheese plate. The internet tells me a cheese plate is an acceptable summer dinner plan so I’m going with it. Ours will be salami, cheddar, havarti (I will be cutting presliced slices into 4’s) roasted almonds and ciabatta bread

Tuesday: Garlic-Lemon Tilapia (trying this recipe) + salad (from the tub and dressing if there is any left- otherwise we’ll use olive oil/vinegar)

Wednesday: Chicken (trying this recipe- don’t know how it will be) + brussel sprouts with bacon

Thursday: (or another day we’ll swap out) We’ll probably be out on a day trip so dinner will be out.

 

And here’s my commentary:

I’m putting my commentary AFTER my content because I’ve been so frustrated sifting through recipes on the internet and having to wade through all their pop-up ads and stories about their dogs just to get to the ingredients list. I’ve toyed with the idea of actually printing out recipes like it was the early 2000’s- it’s gotten that bad.

This meal plan above took me like 2 hours. I don’t feel good admitting that. I get so frustrated with how much time and mental energy it requires to come up with meal plans every week. My husband’s on keto so everything I do has to at least have a no-carb option (he’s eating a bowl of the sauce w/ cheese for the bolognese night…).  Keto eliminates most casseroles, all pasta dishes, and most soup (he can’t eat carrots… or beans… it’s ridiculous). We get very bored with the same thing over and over again. I’ve been especially frustrated with cooking large amounts of meat just to have them be kind of bland and dry and then we have to eat them for leftovers later? We get so bored we end up getting take-out instead and that defeats the entire purpose of meal planning.

What I’d really love is a place where actual people- not chefs or food-bloggers or whatever- post their actual meal plans. I’ve looked for this on the internet, and of course, the chefs and food bloggers and whatever have optimized themselves to be at the top of search results for “meal plans by actual people” so I just get more food bloggers. But pretty much EVERYONE meal plans… you ALL have to eat something and you have been succeeding in feeding yourself somehow. I want to know how you do it- especially if you’re very happy with how you’re doing it.

So I’m throwing up a Facebook page. I’m keeping that wording because that’s all the energy I have at the moment: Actual Meal Plans that Actual People Use. Please join it and share your knowledge with us. You can always also post comments here.

 

 

Day trip to Gardena / Torrance CA

I believe the Triple-T Teahouse in Gardena pays for Instagram ads… I think that’s how I encountered them… but I still think it’s impressive that I followed them just because I wanted to see more plates of noodles. OMG the noodles. I couldn’t take it anymore and I planned an entire day trip around these noodles. It was an excellent day trip so I’m doing a blog post about it. Triple-T, your Instagram marketing worked. Good job.

So first, we went to this memorial fountain for JFK which has been in Torrance since just after he died. Is it me or do you think maybe the designer might have had an issue w/ JFK’s politics?

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I mean… it’s a giant potty. That’s what my son said, anyway. It’s referred to on the internet as the “JFK Toilet Bowl Memorial.” Worthy of a detour, I must say. It’s at the corner of Cabrillo and Sartori Avenue in Torrance.

Next stop was the Southern California Live Steamers in Charles Wilson Park. I just happened to look up “stuff to do near Gardena” and was lucky enough to find that these teeny trains run on the first Sunday of the month from 11am-3pm (bingo!). They also run the 3rd Saturday of each month from 12-3pm, fyi. The park itself has a ton to do… batting cages and some kind of roller arena… a splash pad, a tree house structure and a pretty epic playground. And then there’s the trains:

It’s not the most comfortable ride in the world. If you have knee or back or balance problems, you should sit this one out. If you’re good on those though, you straddle the trains like they’re horses and enjoy the ride which is a good… 6-8 minutes? They ask for a $1.00 donation per person per ride which makes multiple rides very possible. We rode 3 times total. The crowd was minimal to nil which made the wait time bearable. We waited mostly for the trains to come back since you get such a generous ride. The tracks take you through a tunnel and little miniature houses / scenes in various states of repair and scale (like the tiny bed and breakfast covered in nasturtiums pictured below). The place was filled with wildflowers and butterflies- mostly under the cover of trees so you’re not out in the sun the whole time. It was lovely.

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The tracks go out farther into the park even but I guess, on this particular day, the tracks out of the garden had been damaged and weren’t being used.

We were hungry so it was time for noodles.

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When you’re short, the angel wings come out of your head… Anyway. The Triple-T Teahouse is in a little strip mall with a very convenient parking lot. The inside is made for Instagrammers (I’d already taken the bait…). We ordered soup (which came in a bowl bigger than my head) and the garlic shrimp noodles. We easily could have shared one of those things… each item was under $10. I got rose-flavored milk tea and let my son go nuts on a milkshake bc I wanted to see it in person. I mean look at that thing:

Epic. This place was worth the drive alone and I’m going back as soon as possible. The Triple-T is located at 15703 Crenshaw Blvd, Gardena, CA 90249.

I couldn’t possibly imagine cramming anything else into my stomach, but we drove to this anyway:

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I can’t tell you how the donuts are since we just came for the picture. It’s a jankier-looking version of Randy’s but fun nonetheless. The Donut King II is located at 15032 S Western Ave, Gardena, CA 90249. They’re cash only and they’re basically a stand- drive-thru/walk-up. I might do it if I have more time after noodles next time…

Oh what a fun day!

I eat all the rice first. Because I suck at maintenance.

A888E0DA-DA1E-47E7-8A3F-DC9FF7209D93.jpegReligious people love analogies. I remember some Mormons trying to tell me that if you nail a board to another board and only use one nail, the boards will swing round and round and won’t be stable- but if you add one more nail, the boards won’t move THEREFORE, you must have TWO religious books (the Bible and the Book of Mormon) to guide your life in order for your life to be stable or whatever. Because the logic of boards and nails is universally applicable to ALL THINGS EVER. I remember listening to a preacher saying that eating peanuts is boring but they give you protein and energy- and that READING THE BIBLE is like that sometimes too.

I was reminded recently of a warning I got from a speaker at a Christian retreat I attended during a summer off from college. “BEWARE,” he said, “Of people who eat only one thing off their plate at a time.” Like if the meal consists of pork chops, rice and broccoli, beware of the person who eats all the rice, then all the broccoli and then all the pork chops. The correct way to eat, he told us, was to vary your bites. HERE’S WHY: If you eat all of one thing at a time, you are probably a person who can only focus on one thing in your life at a time. You have to be all done with your housework before you can do your homework. You have to be all done with reading a book before you can walk your dog. You have to be done cleaning your shower before you can order a pizza. BEWARE of These People because they WILL DRAG YOU DOWN WITH THEM.

There’s a seed of truth in it though that’s true enough to make me remember it years and years later. I’ve written about this recently- I find myself just trying to get through whatever it is I’m in at the moment so I can finally do Something I Want To Do. I think everyone struggles with keeping up all the things. #worklifebalance is a buzzword (buzzphrase?). I feel like I’m particularly bad at “keeping things up” and maintenance of anything in general- housework, paperwork, car maintenance, dental maintenance, friendship maintenance, craft maintenance, houseplant maintenance, blog maintenance- and it comes down to this eating one thing on my plate at a time. I’m the person that guy was warning you about. It’s also something I kind of actually do… I actually eat all my mashed potatoes before moving on to the salmon or whatever. I’m really bad at leaving something undone and then remembering to come back to it.

I listened to this podcast of Emma Cline (author of The Girls which I’ve read and recommend) reading and then discussing “The Metal Bowl” by Miranda July (which you should stop everything and read/watch/listen to everything she’s ever done, please). And leave it to MJ to put into words exactly how it is:

“I find this whole experience—life—gratuitously slow and drawn out. See it crawl, second by fucking second. If I’m a workaholic, it’s only because I hate work so much that I’m trying to finish it, all of it, once and for all. So I can just ride out the rest of my life in some kind of internal trance state. Not a coma but, like, a step above that.”

So I felt validated by having my hero describe my condition, but I don’t think it’s a way to live. I remember being called out by this religious guy, but I don’t remember if he offered any advice to help people who are These People. He probably didn’t. He wasn’t one of These People, apparently. Or he was one of These People and he was filled with self-hate. Equally possible. Self-hatred is a common symptom of fundamentalism.

Are you particularly good at maintenance? Is this a personality trait? Is it something you’ve cultivated? Have you converted from being one of These People to being someone who can actually keep up some things (or anythings…?)? How did you do it?  Or is this a universal problem? Does Everyone struggle with life maintenance? Please tell me in the comments!!

P.S. Dinner tonight is this recipe which is on our regular rotation:

 

channel your inner therapist

I’ve been doing this writing exercise off-and-on for the past two weeks and it’s been incredibly helpful- so I’m sharing it.

Like most of the awesome things I find on the internet, I got it from Joy the Baker’s “Let it Be Sunday” post. She linked to this article which outlines the writing exercise. I’m not going to go into the whole thing bc you can read it yourself, but in case you don’t want to go read it yourself, here it is in a nutshell: You make three columns. In the first one, you write down something you’re telling yourself that you suspect might be nightmare-fuel anxiety talking (I label this column “cray cray”- you can do something less judgmental). In the second column, you check your cray cray thoughts against a list of common “cognitive distortions” and identify which ones you’re doing. Then, in the third column, you reframe your crazy talk into something much more rational. Like the article says, it takes about 5 minutes. What’s great though, is that for me, it has a generalizing effect. I find myself checking the crazy talk, identifying cognitive distortions and reframing my thoughts all in my head- no writing supplies needed.

And “cognitive distortions,” in a nutshell, are common thought patterns people get into which are not productive and lead to anxiety/depression/frustration. The ones I’m usually guilty of are black/white or polarized thinking, overgeneralization or my continual parade of shoulds. I’m picturing this now as a parade of people with protest signs that all start with “You should…” like “You should stay off Facebook” and “You should read more” and “You should keep up with the dishes better” and “You should smile more” (I seriously caught myself thinking that this week- like I mansplained my effing self, really????).

The article has a good list of 10 cognitive distortions- but if you google “cognitive distortions,” you’ll find other versions of the list… or bigger lists (do we need any more? I don’t know if the list of 50 is helpful, guys).

Here’s a picture of my journal from just now making myself be okay without having to do “something productive” every single moment of my spring break:

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I loovveee how simple it is- and that you can do it any time you have paper, pen and a list of cognitive distortions… Do they make a pocket-chart version of those? Perhaps a cross-stitch sampler pattern? Maybe I’ve finally found my Etsy niche……..

Note to myself: You will never have “the time”

This is a note to myself for when I am going to inevitably wish that it was 4pm, that it was the weekend, that it was spring break, that it was summer break or that it was some other time that it’s not right at this moment.

You are stressed out when you’re on vacation too. You are unsure of what is the best way to use your time at all times- regardless of what your current obligations are. Absolutely everything is temporary. You will regret not being present for the moment you’re currently living.

So- it’s unnecessary to wait for that “free” time to be present. That time will never come. There is always something occupying the time. It’s unnecessary to wait for permission- to wait until all your “work” is done- to take care of yourself, to take a deep breath, to get enough sleep, to find joy in things, to be kind, to take time for your passions, to write something on your blog, to read for pleasure, to clean your workspace, to call your friends- to do all those things you’re putting off for “when you have time.” That time will never come. There is always something occupying the time.

Here’s a picture of a contemplative fountain at the Hsi Lai Temple we visited today:

9549F82E-93E2-47A4-89E3-5355D497737AAt the moment this picture was taken, I was worried my son was going to disturb the praying women that walked up next to us… On the drive home, I decided I need to write more.