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Why Does God Allow Trials? (pt. 2)

December 10, 2013 - Author: Michy

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

During my time away from God, the time I spent calling myself agnostic, I let down a lot of standards. Certain things weren’t temptations for me, so I stayed pure in some areas not because of my morals or standards but because I just had no interest. I did, however, try out (more) forms of self-medication and escapism. I left my family, turned my back on their attempts to help, and ran off to Arkansas where I moved in with a guy I barely knew. Then later I ran off with another guy I barely knew. I lied and snuck around and let things come out of my mouth that I’d not previously allowed.

My coming back to God was a process. It didn’t happen in a sudden transformation. In fact, it’s been an ongoing thing ever since its beginning, but I guess that’s how relationships work.

After several months of wandering, I hit a new low. My depression and anxiety were untreated because, of course, I had no insurance and no money. My Asperger’s had never been diagnosed, let alone had I learned how to handle it. I had no job. I was alone with a guy I’d only known a couple months with all my family hundreds of miles away. I had a suitcase of clothing and books, a pillow and blanket, and a tent with a leak, and it was winter. And it was in the mountains of North Carolina. And it was raining. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

For once, it wasn’t just me who was lying awake at night.

He was cold and frustrated and, now, wet from the leak in our tent. I was miserably curled up on the half-deflated air mattress, my precious Tempurpedic pillow hard as a rock from the cold. We had moved our camp down the mountain a bit, so it wasn’t quite as freezing as it had been the previous nights, but it was miserable nonetheless. My one beige blanket wasn’t enough to keep us warm.

It had taken hours, the first night, for my hip to touch the ground, but apparently the hole in the mattress had grown, and this time it only took half an hour. I couldn’t help but think of the waste of money both the tent and the air mattress had turned out to be. What useful things we could have bought when we arrived in Asheville, NC, if we hadn’t purchased these wastes. Food, for instance, would have been good. Shampoo, maybe. A camping stove. But we had none of those.

The rain began to fall harder, and we realized we couldn’t stay in the tent all night like this. Instead, we let ourselves out into the dark woods with our jackets and single  umbrella and began to walk into town. There was a 24-hour diner down the hill and about a half a mile past the Greyhound bus station (where we had arrived several days prior). We took seats and ordered coffee and hot chocolate, and I pulled out my old Nokia cellphone, grateful once again that my sister had let me remain on the family phone plan when I ran away.

While he lay down on the bench on his side of the table, I dialed my mom in Texas, and I told her about my miserable predicament, but it didn’t take long before I realized I couldn’t accept any offers of help from her since they would involve leaving him here, stranded and alone. My parents – no, actually, every one of my family and friends disapproved of my choice of companion. I could see their point. If I had not gotten involved with him, I would still be in Arkansas with a place to stay and a not-so-bad job at a daycare. Instead, I’d brought home a stray and decided to take care of him, sacrificing what little I had because he liked me and gave me attention.

The staff in the diner grew tired of us, of him sleeping in their booth, of the fact that we were obviously just using them as a place to hide from the weather even though we couldn’t afford any real purchases, and they told us we needed to leave. We ended up walking about 3 miles down to Walmart, the only other business open in the middle of the night, and we spent the rest of the night pacing around the store, killing time.

The next day, we were sitting in a church waiting for the attached soup kitchen to open for lunch, when I received a phone call from an angry-sounding man asking for my companion. My companion filled me in after the call, telling me it was nothing – a misunderstanding or a wrong number. They said he owed money, but he didn’t, and they had the wrong guy. They claimed to have a recording of his voice, but it wasn’t him. Feeling confused, I tried to shrug it off, but the ball dropped later that day as we were in the bus station.

It was my sister who called, this time. Michelle, I need to talk to you about the cellphone bill. I knew it was going to be bad. And it was. He had racked up hundreds of dollars on my phone, which was in my sister’s name. What was worse, the charges weren’t all innocent like the text messages that cost $0.10 per message or the calls to information (411). Most of the charges were from calls and texts to 900 numbers. Hotlines. Inappropriate, embarrassing secrets, all going on behind my own back on my own phone.

Finally, I was disgusted enough to agree to my mother’s offer. That same day, I got on  yet another Greyhound bus and headed back home to Texas, leaving my companion behind. (For a time.)

Mom and Michelle in 2006

(My mom and me eating cake for my Bday about a month after this story takes place.)

Categories: Christianity, Narrative

Why Does God Allow Trials? (pt. 1)

November 22, 2013 - Author: Michy

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

The first time I really, honestly questioned God’s existence was when I was 18 and facing a rough spot in life, a trial. My trial was mostly internal and invisible. At the time, I wished I had been crippled or had cancer or something, anything that someone else might be able to see from the outside. I hated the fact that people could look at me and think, “She has it pretty good!”

I went through a long trial, and I was a Christian, so I prayed. I prayed things like, “God, I know you’re there, so please help me,” and like, “God, I’m not asking you to change my circumstance. Just help me through it. Please. I need you.”

But I felt nothing as I prayed. And I felt nothing after I prayed. And I saw no sign of any supernatural help from God.

I thought I wasn’t believing hard enough or wasn’t living perfectly enough, so I put more effort into doing the right things and praying the right way and believing harder because that’s what was supposed to help. Eventually, though, I crossed a line and allowed myself to consider something else.

My rationality became: If God exists, I believe He has to be the God of the Bible. I believe He is everything the Bible says He is. Therefore, God must be holy, just, omniscient, omnipotent, merciful, and loving – all these things I’ve always believed Him to be. I don’t doubt that He is those things. But a loving God wouldn’t do this to me. If God exists and loves me, He would be helping me, not ignoring me. I’ve been pleading for a year, and nothing has happened. There’s no chance that God is simply not those things; therefore I have to conclude that maybe God doesn’t exist at all.

After I figured that out, I started calling myself agnostic. I stopped going to church. Stopped praying. Let down my guard and my standards. Went about my life as best as I could without God. (For a time.)

Categories: Christianity, Narrative

Spoons

November 4, 2013 - Author: Michy

Christine Miserandino wrote an article about a metaphor she used to explain her chronic illness (Lupus) to a friend. The metaphor was called The Spoon Theory. You should read it if you haven’t already. Please, go read it. It is interesting and eye-opening, and it will shed a lot of light on the rest of this post, too.

As I read Christine’s article, I was surprised how much I felt my own eyes were being opened. At first I thought, yeah, she’s ill, and she’s fatigued, and she has to think more about things that much of the world takes for granted. I knew that. I didn’t think I’d be learning too much, but I really wanted to see how the spoons came into play. As she got into the metaphor/comparison/whatever, I started to feel a little twinge of guilt. I thought I knew it all, but some of those things were catching me off-guard. It brought up emotions I didn’t expect to feel. It surprised me. I came away with a deeper understanding and sympathy, and I also began to form an idea for how I might be able to explain at least one aspect of Asperger’s to those who don’t have any experience with it.

I thought about changing the name and the metaphor around more, but I want to stick with Christine’s idea of the spoon theory because she should really get the credit for the creativity. I don’t want to change it to forks and distance myself from her original thought. Or whatever. So here we have The Reverse Spoon Theory – Too Many Spoons.

Here’s the background: you have an Autism spectrum disorder, but you are considered “high-functioning.” You work from home, you live alone with your cat, and you’re going through a stressful time. You can pick the stressor. Maybe you just found out you’re pregnant. Maybe you’re separated from your spouse. Maybe a friend or parent is terminally ill. Maybe you are about to lose your apartment and you have to move right away.

Yesterday was a bad day for you, and you got to bed late. You were exhausted and stressed, so you didn’t sleep well, and you had bad dreams. Come this morning, you wake up to your alarm tired and grumpy, and you have six spoons in your hand already. You know that every action you take today could land you with another (one or more) spoon(s), so you must choose wisely what you will do.

You shut off your alarm and throw back the covers and manage to get out of bed. Maybe the first thing you do once you’re up is get dressed. A blue button-up shirt catches your eye, and you put that on. It has a big brown stain right in the middle, and you know you have a video call this morning for work and a trip to the store to make later, so that won’t do. There’s another spoon for you to hold on to. Stinks because it was a comfy shirt, too. You throw it on your bed and search the closet. Two more spoons in hand because you can’t seem to decide which outfit to wear. Finally, you throw on another outfit. As soon as you get it on, you know it was a mistake, because the way the collar is rubbing on your neck is driving you crazy and you feel so constrained that you can’t even move. You’re holding on to 10 spoons now as you try to undo the tiny buttons, but you’re getting anxious so it takes much longer than it should. Now, you throw that shirt on the bed and start the process all over. Eleven spoons. twelve spoons. The longer you stand there, the more spoons you get. You find a comfortable t-shirt and throw it on, deciding you can always change later – at least you’re dressed.

Leaving the discarded outfits on the bed, you move on with your morning. It’s just about time to get to work, which simply means getting your computer running. Hopefully, it will be a good day. An easy day. You could use an easy day.

Fifteen spoons now jingle in your pockets as you sit down at the computer and find a grumpy email from a client that gets you down. Then you have to make a phone call where you get stuck on hold, passed around to 4 different representatives, and finally end up with someone who refuses to help and says there’s no supervisor for you to speak with and eventually hangs up on you because you accidentally started to yell because you have a hard time controlling your voice. By the time you hang up, you have 20 spoons altogether, and what’s more you’re shaking and your face is red and you realize, suddenly, that you forgot to eat anything for breakfast.

As lunch time approaches, you’re starting to feel a bit sick, and you have 20 spoons in your pockets and 5 more in your hands. Simple things start to become more difficult. They require more concentration and effort. Lunch time arrives, but you can’t cook lunch. You can’t cook because the frying pans are all dirty and the sink is full so you can’t wash them and there are no clean bowls so you can’t eat cereal or soup and the sink is full so you can’t wash any bowls and you’re so hungry you feel sick but you can’t wash any dishes but you’re hungry and you can’t cook lunch or prepare anything because the sink is full and all the counters and tables are full.and on and on. For each time you think the same loop, you gain a spoon or two, until both your pockets and your hands are full, and you know  you can’t take much more.

Don’t think. Whatever you do, don’t think about the clothes on the bed or the dirty litter box. One thing at a time.

Just before you lose it, instinct kicks in, and you start to stim. You start flapping your hands and pacing around on tiptoe. A few spoons disappear, to your relief, and you are finally realizing that you simply have to clean some dishes or you’ll be stuck forever.

You get in to the dirty sink and rearrange some dishes, getting your hands dirty but managing to get just enough space cleared out so you can wash a pot and make some ramen for lunch. You eat it, and you lose another few spoons. You can breathe again, even though you gain back a couple spoons when you go to put the bowl in the sink and catch sight of the pile of dirty dishes that you know you can’t tackle right now.

What will you do with the rest of your day? You still have over 20 spoons, and you can only hold so many. The problem is that any number of things can add spoons:

  • a messy environment
  • an annoying “feeling” (from your clothes, hair on your neck, moistness, light touch, grit underfoot, the button on your pants)
  • certain sounds (types of music, a piercing voice, snoring, ticking clocks, someone clearing his throat, coughing, too much bass)
  • bright lights
  • not enough light
  • forgetting something simple
  • getting stuck in a loop (like the lunch situation)
  • being hungry
  • having to repeat yourself
  • having to ask others to repeat themselves
  • being in a crowd
  • going shopping
  • making decisions
  • trying on clothes
  • chaotic environments

If you get into enough bad situations, you will end up with simply more spoons than you can carry. Then it just takes one more. A wrong look, a complaint from someone, a stray thought. You may be home alone, or walking the dog, or at Walmart, or in front of your parents / kids / spouse / friends / strangers.

If just one more spoon appears, you drop them all. Your pockets rip apart. You lose it, and you are suddenly unable to see or focus on anything but your spoons. You know where each on e came from, and they’re all laid out in front of you. You will very likely lose the ability to form sentences or even words, so forget trying to explain to anyone around why you’re freaking out. For the duration of your meltdown, you’re pretty much incapable of doing anything productive. If you’re like me, you’ll be bawling the whole time, but it’s slightly different for everyone. There do not need to be tears for it to be a meltdown.

Meltdowns feel a little like what I imagine a panic attack to feel like. A little. Anyway, it’s terrible, especially if you’re in public.

You may think you’re free & clear after a meltdown since you dropped all your spoons – not so. It has a lasting effect, and you come away with a lot of spoons back in hand. Not quite as many, but you’re already well on your way to the next meltdown. Spoons multiply like that.

Christina, who wrote the original spoon theory, has a trick for dealing with a spoon shortage: she always keeps a spare tucked away. For me, the problem is an abundance, and the trick I have had to learn in that situation is to keep the numbers down consistently. I’ve got to recognize if I’m on an upward trend and catch myself long before I reach the breaking point. If I wait too long, it will be too late. I’ve got to find things to do and ways to think that break the trend and bring the number of spoons down to a manageable handful. I may need to “veg out” in front of the TV, nap, vent, or have some time with my current “special interest.” I may need to stim or do something creative or change my environment. None of these will work every time, so I also have to know when to do which thing to manage my spoons.

It’s a challenge, and this is far from the perfect way to explain it. but I thought I’d try, anyway. I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts on the matter, so please share them in the comments section below. Smile

Categories: Asperger's, Narrative

August in the RV

September 13, 2013 - Author: Michy

At the first sign of raindrops on the roof, Tumbles dashes for the protection of the couch, hiding underneath until he falls asleep, not to be seen again for hours. Leela is sleeping, as well, sprawled on the floor in front of the couch. She would be closer to me and my desk if the rabbit’s carrier was not in the way.

Rain by *suika *

Photo: Rain by *suika *

Marty is away at school, learning to be a chef. I won’t have seen him at all yet, since he leaves before I wake up, usually. So it’s just me and the pets and the rain pounding on the roof and the wind that tries to grab our home by the awning and throw us around. I keep hoping that if we ever get a storm violent enough to succeed, I will at least have enough advance warning to put up the awning.

It will have been sunny all day until just a few minutes before those first rain drops. It’s Florida, so we get rain most days, but we also get plenty of sun in between. In fact, the rain will usually stop within the hour. Not so, this time. Just as I think it’s letting up, it starts to pour even harder, as if it intends to go all day. I have to turn on a light in the kitchen to make my mid-morning coffee. As I return to my desk with the steaming cup, I realize that I will probably have to run the main engine this afternoon.

A few hours into the rain, and Marty is finishing up school for the day. He won’t come straight home, though, because he’s working hard to find a job. I’m okay with that. I’m busy working through lunch. What I’m not okay with is the heat and moisture gathering inside the RV, and it doesn’t take me long to catch on to the fact that the AC fan is blowing warm air. We’ve lost power again.

Until we can get our power issues fixed, we’ve stumbled upon a temporary solution: running the engine. I pause my time-clock for work and take a few minutes to start the motor and stretch. Ten seconds later, the lights flicker and brighten. I walk back to the thermostat, turn it off and back on, and now cold air is blowing. It might be time for more coffee.

Categories: Narrative, Writing