“Hindsight is twenty-twenty” was one of my Father’s favorite sayings. If you’re not familiar with the phrase, it means that it’s easy to know what the right thing to do was…after the outcome had been determined. The idea is congruent with, “Well, what I shoulda done was….”
My Father’s favorite subject was History. As a minister, he himself, was a history teacher of sorts. While I focus on science, I believe it’s important to know history.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Mark Twain. He said, “History doesn’t repeat itself…but it does rhyme” (adapted). I believe that’s true. I also believe others’ hindsight could help our foresight.
Like me, my Father had physical issues starting in his early adulthood starting with his weight. His weight was a lifelong concern for him…as it is for many people of color. And he heard plenty of ideas about how to lose weight.
As far as diet goes, Dad did a couple things common for people his age. He did the grapefruit juice diet (a type of restrictive fasting). He did low fat (And OD’d on Snackwells).
As far as exercise goes, he did LSD (long slow distance). He did this first around the track and then later on the treadmill. This was “by the book” for my Dad’s time…but it didn’t do him much good.
He put off taking medication for as long as possible. He let things go far too long…things that medication would have helped, if not “solved.” Avoidance has major consequences.
He was hypertensive and it contributed to congestive heart failure. He had chronic tophaceous gout that not only deformed his connective tissue but likely his organs, as well. Both of these conditions could’ve been better managed with sooner and better with pharmacological interventions.
His health conditions left him less functional so he wasn’t able to exercise without bringing out more dysfunction…and this hastened his end. Towards the end, he was just trying to squeeze what enjoyment he could out of life. And a lot of his enjoyment came through food.
Most of the time, Dad put off eating until the evening and then feasted. Many others have utilized this same approach of a fasting and feasting window to great effect. But it didn’t work for Dad.
Most of what Dad did that didn’t work was by the book..but it wasn’t his book. Dad’s heritage probably made it to where he needed higher fat, low protein, and very low carbohydrate diet that would have satiated him. But you won’t find that in many, if any, books.
Dad’s body needed to exercise intensely for short periods of time most of the time. Maybe he needed to go a medium intensity for medium duration of time. And he probably needed to go low intensity for a long period of time very rarely…but again, it would be hard to find that in a book.
Now I could take everything my Father did and try to do the opposite. Instead of doing Long Slow Distance, I could do High Intensity Interval Training. Instead of having 1 large meal, I could have 5 small meals. I could go to the Doctor right away for every ailment.
I sort of tried that approach once. Whenever my Father developed Chronic Tophaceous Gout, I decided I would put my health first. So I followed a prototypical Corrective Exercise Approach.
You see, I was a by the book guy, too. Everything the author said to do, I did…to a “t.” 11 months later I developed a Chronic Pain issue that forever changed my life. If you’re going to be by the book…you better get the right book.
I’m no longer by any particular book. I’m by something greater…and far more dynamic. I’m by my body.
When I feel good, I eat higher fat, moderate protein, and lower carb. But when I feel bad, I eat higher carb, lower protein, and moderate fat. When I feel good, I do medium duration higher intensity exercise but when I feel bad, I may no do nothing or very low intensity short duration.
It all depends on how I feel…on my body. And if you follow my body, it’s like following a book. Don’t be by the book, don’t be by my body.
My Father was by the book. For a certain period of time, so was I. It cost us both…gravely. Let our hindsight contribute to your foresight. Don’t be by the book…be “by your body.”
(Newtonian) Physics is fate. Chemistry is fate. Biology is fate.
And yes, even psychology is fate. So what does one do when one is fated? How does one feel when can’t simply make his own fate?
There are certain things that are inevitable. What’s the old joke? Death and taxes?
When one is fated, it can feel like a certain kind of life is inevitable. You were destined to win. Or worse, you’re destined to lose.
How can we change our fate…if it’s fate? How do we alter our circumstances when we can’t choose our way out of it? It has everything to do with what you’re conscious of.
There are factors that shape our fate. Included in those are the time, the body, the geography, and the culture in which we are born. Those things are very resistant to change.
But there is one factor that shapes our fate that is the most accepting of change. That factor is our consciousness. Most of the time our consciousness is blown about like a leaf in the wind.
Whichever “wind” in our life is the strongest is what we’ll be conscious of. If we’re driving and there is a car wreck in front of us, we won’t be thinking about anything else. But most of the time, there aren’t stimuli that intense that require our attention.
Like anything else in our body, our brain changes with use. A part of what the human brain does is produce consciousness. And what we’re conscious of can dictate the direction of our lives.
Where some see problems others see opportunities. But how can we change our perspective, or what we’re conscious of, when it isn’t simple as choice. It’s all about advertising.
There’s an old trope in ads. It’s something like it takes 6-10 exposures for the ad to “work.” But what does work mean?
When and advertisement (or anything outside of you) works, it means you buy it. The multiple exposures bring it to the forefront of your consciousness…and you act. We can use this same strategy with ourselves.
Being conscious of something is an intermediate step in change. Conscious Incompetence, right? But there’s more.
It’s not enough to simply be conscious of something. Does that consciousness make you feel like you’re going to do it…or not do it? As Bruce Lee would say, it’s about “emotional content.”
If you want to do something…and it doesn’t feel like you can, find out which of these two directions are possible: Can you find out more about it? Or can you take some small step towards that thing you want to do?
Keep doing those one of those two things until it feels like you can do more. And keep doing more until you can do the whole thing. And a similar approach applies to stopping doing something, too.
If you feel like you can’t stop doing something, you have two directions, as well. Can you research stopping that particular behavior? Or can you take some small step in the opposite direction that would lead you to doing it a little less often, shorter, or with less intensity?
Odds are, you’ll find change possible…even with the reality of fate. But change isn’t as simple as choice. We can’t choose our fate. But our consciousness is a factor in our fate…and the more conscious we are of our fate, the bigger factor consciousness plays in our fate.
Why are doing this? What’s wrong with you? Nothing.
You’re not being slovenly. You’re recovering. You’re practicing self care.
I love productivity. Maybe too much. Nothing like getting things done…except getting even more done.
I hate not getting things done. Being unproductive is not who I want to be. But is unproductive the best descriptor?
When I’m being “unproductive,” am I really doing nothing? No, we’re always doing something. And there is one thing that is the most important thing to do.
If I’m binge watching Stranger Things 2, I’m not doing nothing. If I’m eating chocolate cake donuts, I assure you…I’m doing something. And what I’m doing is important.
But no matter what I’m doing, doing is only half the equation. The other half is feeling. And my feelings should dictate my actions.
Whenever we hear that statement, we’re inclined to disagree with it. After all, if we want to succeed, we have to ignore our feelings, right? We have to do the “right” thing, the productive thing…no matter what, right? Wrong.
The most important thing to produce, or action to take, is the one that makes you feel better. That’s why doing something typically considered non-productive is often the best thing to feel better. But you won’t only feel better.
When you feel better, you’ll also do better. I often see two extremes. Those who won’t ever “indulge” over work themselves until they crash. Then I see those who do nothing but “indulge” overindulge…until they crash.
There is a third way, a middle way. Do just enough of the indulgent acts: “junk” food, mindless entertainment, gaming. Pay attention to how you feel…and once you feel better, see how you can once again become productive.
One of my biggest fears is not being alive to usher my daughter into being a fully functional adult. You see, my three year old daughter is autistic. She came by it naturally. She’s autistic, like her Father before her.
And since I’m autistic that gives me a distinct advantage and disadvantage in being one of her guides. I know where she’s coming from. But I can only get her so far.
I’ve thought of making videos or recording audio for her, but that’s not how I communicate. I write. So this is for her and all those other weirdos who have come before her…those people like her that need to reach functional adulthood, and it’s for those people like me who are helping them to get there. This is my love letter to you.
If you’re autistic (or another brand of weirdo), you haven’t had it easy. No matter where you find yourself on the autism spectrum, how many sensory sensitivities, motor impairments, emotional deadspots, how much emotional dysregulation or how many social deficits you have…you’ve had more than enough challenges. And you have more than enough to improve.
Since you’re reading this, you’ve already achieved multiple things your parents likely feared would never happen. From where you started, you are a high achiever despite your limits. And you’re reminded of your limits constantly.
You’re in the race, but others are lapping you. And yet, you’re still going, aren’t you? Well, keep going.
You’re a stranger in a strange land. If you’re going to make it, you’re going to have to learn the customs. You’re going to have to learn the language of more typical people.
Your language, your customs are alien, foreign to the natives. You’re only going to be able to share the best of your personal culture. And beware challenging the ineffective parts of the native culture.
But there will be a few natives that can appreciate you, at least parts of you, It’s imperative that you find these people. As different as you are from them, you need them.
Typicals are able to live playing to their strengths. You’re not typical. You can’t just accentuate your strengths.
You’re going to have many more kinks in your armor, more weaknesses than others. You’re going to have to shore up those weaknesses. Work on the ones that are most necessary first.
Those may be sensory issues you have: lights, sounds, touches, smells. There will certainly be social issues you have. Find some way to address each of these…but only a little at a time. If you take small steps, you can get anywhere you want…with time.
I wonder if you know where you want to go…or even what you want. As an Autistic, it’s likely you also have sensory sensitivities. It makes it easy to know what you don’t want.
You may not want noises too loud. Lights too bright. Touches too light, too hard…or at all. You need things just so.
It’s like your life is about simply avoiding what you don’t want. That can take up a lot of your time. Don’t let it take away your life. You have to find out what you want…and focus on that.
What is your life going to be like? It may not be best to compare yourself to your typical peers. It would be better to compare yourself to other autistics…who had similar levels of functioning that you’ve had.
But here’s how it’s likely to go. Just as you’re getting used to something new, it’ll be time for an ever newer sort of thing. Your typical peers won’t really find those new things all that challenging. They may even like them.
This will clue you in to a necessary strategy. It’s not enough to just make it through the day as best you can. You’re going to have to prepare for tomorrow. I mean really prepare. As the great Dalton said, “You’re going to have to expect the unexpected.”
What you like and what you want for yourself will likely be a departure than what the typical person might want. You may want something more unique than being a Doctor, Lawyer, or Computer Scientist.
You may have to make your own way. But, at times, you may have to follow others to find your lane. Who do you follow?
Follow those who aren’t trying to make them into some other versions of themselves. Follow those who are trying to make you the best versions of yourself. Like most things, it’s going to require you to push yourself out of your comfort zone.
For a large percentage of us, we’re going to want social relationships, even romantic partnerships. This will require more of us than ever before. It will require more of our friends and partners, too.
If you grew up close to your parents and siblings, this will be easier. If you grew up with strained relationships, it will be a mountain of a task. But you’ll still want to climb that mountain.
The people who you relate to will have their own peaks to ascend. They may have natur(e)ally inherited a “diverse” neurology, such as yourself. Or their strain in relationships via nurture may have disabled them developmentally, as well. That’s OK…rise and evolve together.
There is no weakness that you have that can’t be addressed by objectivity. If you can see beyond your and others’ biases, you can strengthen your weaknesses. Your bias and filters will be strong and hard to see past.
Typical people will see what they believe to be the big picture. And they will see far more than you for quite a while. But as you pick up more and more of the details, you’ll see the big picture, too.
But you’ll end up seeing more than what typical people see. It’ll be up to you to convince them that they’re things they’re missing. Most won’t like that. Find the ones that do.
I have some final thoughts for you, for now. You’re going to highs and lows in your life. Your highs may not be as high as your typical peers…and your lows may be even lower.
But let me tell you something this old(er) autistic has found to be true. The ONLY way to move forward is to go both up AND down. You’ll be tempted to avoid the lows in your life: don’t!!!
More than most, many things will be outside of your comfort zone. But just because something is outside of your comfort zone doesn’t mean it is beyond your ability. While you cannot make yourself typical, you can make yourself more than you ever thought you could be.
But in order to do all these things you have to take life on one bite at a time…at whatever your bite size is. Sample and savor all the parts of life. There are parts of life you wouldn’t predict are for you. And there are parts of you that you wouldn’t predict are you, as well.
Life is about evolution. No matter how far behind you think you started, you can get farther than you think can. Not even autism…or whatever it is than makes you different…can take away your ability to become more than ever before.
In most forms of fiction, the most interesting character is the villain. But what’s most interesting is the villain as they are…not as the were. Let me explain.
I think most villains’ backstories are wholly inadequate…with few exceptions (Walter White, anyone?). But there is a recipe for a villain. You take anyone and have them live through certain events and the hero within is destroyed…and the villain is born.
I’m writing about this for one reason. We need far fewer villains and far more heroes. And if we know the recipe for a villain, maybe we can stop making them.
No one is born a blank slate. We all have a slightly different natures. But no matter our natures, very few of us are born villains.
The worst villains we call psychopaths. Those with psychopathic traits only account for about 1% of our population with about .6% of the population having the full blown disorder. But these aren’t the only villains.
There are other psychopathologies with antisocial tendencies. These tendencies are brought to the front through the complement of nature. Nature is where most villains are made.
We are born incomplete. Compared to mammals such as horses or cows, we’re born half baked. Within hours of birth, they’re completely ambulatory and able to do almost everything an adult of their species can do. For us, it takes years to achieve adult level of functioning.
To reach this level of functioning requires nurturing, connection with a caregiver. The caregiver has to connect enough with the child to provide all the things a child needs. And that child needs more than things than to be fed and changed.
A child needs regulation. And that regulation comes in a few forms. And all of those forms come in the form of connection.
The unique viewpoint we offer at THE MOVEMENT is the connection between sensation and action. But these connections aren’t all the way inborn, or embodied. They are something we learn…from our caregivers.
When a child is upset, the caregiver attends. The caregiver figures out what the child is upset about. And the caregiver acts.
The child learns from this interaction. But what does the child learn? Does the child learn his upsets can be quelled…or does he learn that upsets cannot be rectified or are they simply ignored?
When the child learns their feelings don’t matter, the effect is profound. It isn’t just that they learn that their feelings don’t matter to their caregivers. The child doesn’t learn to value their own feelings, either.
We are born so immature, that we are born somewhat disconnected. Caregivers, at their best, teach correct connections. When you feel this way, this action (that I, the caregiver, do for now) makes you feel better. When you feel this way, you’ll eventually be able to do this for yourself.
Conversely, when the caregiver ignores or doesn’t act effectively based on their feelings, misconnection, even disconnection occurs. And any form of “dys-connection” makes up the blueprint of the villain. That villain’s dys-connection can wreak havoc on the rest of us.
Whether it be trauma in the form of neglect of abuse, a dys-connection occurs. The caregiver is dys-connected to the child. And the child is dys-connected to himself.
The child will learn to neglect or abuse himself when he feels a particular way. Maybe he’ll even start to neglect or abuse others. If neglecting or abusing others makes him feel better than he did…the villain starts to emerge.
And disconnecting dys-connection, especially connection that was made at a young age, is a daunting, sometime impossible task. It’s so impossible that we’re content to sequester those dys-connected in cages…guarded under lock and key. And as bad as we are treating dys-connection, we’re almost as bad at preventing it.
If functional, stable, and secure connection doesn’t occur between child and caregiver, all other connections in that child’s life will be disrupted. Those connections include the ones the child has with himself. And it’s all about connections.
While we are born with prosocial tendencies, if these tendencies aren’t wired correctly we can’t connect with them. And when we’re not well connected within ourselves, we can’t feel the positive reinforcement from connection to others. This can start a downward cycle.
When we don’t connect well with others, they lose interest in connecting with us. We lose the opportunity to learn to better connect to others and ourselves. And if we cannot connect with others, it is hard to value others…and makes it easier to act antisocially towards others.
If someone, anyone, makes a connection with us, it can be all the momentum we need. From that momentum, we can more thoroughly connect with ourselves and others. This leaves us with a moral imperative.
For those of us with more connections, we must help those with less connections. If we see someone less connected, it is up to us to succeed where either nature, nurture or both left them dys-connected. This is what heroes do.
That doesn’t mean we have to connect with everyone less connected than ourselves. But if we cannot connect with them, we can help them or find someone else to connect with them. Most villains are made, not born, which means they can be unmade.
They’re villains because they’re dys-connected. They’re dys-connected from others…and themselves. How we make ourselves (and them) a hero is through reconnection.
If caregivers didn’t connect, it falls to the extended family. If the family fails, as well, it falls individuals within the community. The problem of connection is too big for something so big as society or government to address. We, individually, must find a people and a place for everyone…or risk making ourselves the victim of a newly made villain.