The Unexpected Insights of a Newly Diagnosed Autistic Adult

To say that the dust has yet to settle is putting it mildly.

I was just diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) in December of 2022, a few weeks before my 58th birthday. I wrote about what caused me to seek this diagnosis here. I’m rather new at this stuff, and I’ll probably be blogging quite a bit about various aspects of it as I go along, reading and learning and wondering what this means for me. I suspect that quite a few other people are experiencing a similar thing.

Check out my autism category for a list of relevant blog posts, and never forget that 1) I’m just one person, writing about my personal experiences with a thing I only just learned I had. 2) No two people on the spectrum are alike. 3) I am not a medical or mental health professional. 4) I’m not attempting to write a one size fits all autism advice column.

I’m barely one month into my Autism diagnosis, and to say that the dust has yet to settle is putting it mildly. As a friend of mine said, this is a major sea change in my life. I naively expected the waters to be more calm, but I’m learning that sometimes they can be very stormy indeed.

So many of my friends and loved ones have been accepting and supportive. I’m really grateful for that. And I have a newfound appreciation for them, because I can be a lot sometimes. I always knew that, but I don’t think I fully comprehended the extent of my “differentness” until now. Being around me probably requires more patience than I care to admit.

I’ve been observing myself closely this past month. I’ll do something, and then I’ll ask myself, “Do other people do that? Have you ever seen anyone else do that?” And more often than not, the answer to both those questions is no. “That” could be anything from farting with impunity in public to running my hands through my hair when I’m nervous. It could be laughing when others don’t, and not laughing when they do. It’s definitely being bothered or delighted by things that other people don’t even seem to notice.

I guess I thought that the diagnosis would be The Answer. The answer to everything. And yes, it has provided me with a lot of pieces to the puzzle that I wish I had gotten decades ago, but it’s not as if anything has been “solved”, as in, “Okay, we’re done with that thing. Now we can move on.” Diagnosis does not equate to closure.

I can understand why so many adults don’t bother getting an official diagnosis. Much of the autistic community seems to accept people who self-diagnose, so why bother? There are plenty of books to read and groups to join, so many of us can still figure a lot of this out without professional intervention of any sort. And, I mean, we adults have managed to muddle through for this long, so it’s not like a diagnosis is mission-critical.

But for me, this diagnosis has helped me figure things out. For example, I’m starting to accomplish more, because I’m breaking tasks down into smaller pieces. I still plan out the entire task, but then I focus on the first step, then the second, and so on. I’m not as likely to be overwhelmed to the point of paralysis that way. That’s a good tool to have in my toolbox.

I wanted an official diagnosis because, silly me, I thought having something in writing would make the more hesitant people in my life believe in its authenticity. “See? Here’s proof. I haven’t been having tantrums all this time! I haven’t been acting confused to somehow manipulate you.”

But no. Not so much. I now realize that the hesitant people are heavily invested in the lens through which they’ve always viewed me, and just as with Trump supporters, no amount of facts are going to make them see the light. It makes me sad, but I don’t  know why it has come as such a shock.

Another thing that I didn’t expect was how uncomfortable it makes people to talk about my diagnosis. If I bring up the subject, then clearly I’m comfortable talking about it, and I am hoping people will ask questions. But most people seem to squirm, especially if I’m talking to them face to face. That, too, shouldn’t have surprised me, because I now realize that I would have reacted the exact same way prior to my diagnosis.

The unknown makes people very nervous. And it’s astounding how few people know anything about autism. It’s a hard disorder to define, because there are so many potential aspects to it, and so many degrees of intensity for each of those aspects. No two autistic people are alike. Since that’s the case, autism doesn’t fit into a neat little box. It can’t be described in an elevator speech.

And I’m having to confront the fact that I’ve carried around my own prejudices about autism. I thought that most autistic people were incapable of empathy or emotion. I can’t speak for everyone, but it’s more like I feel so much more than most people that it often overwhelms me. I’m not some automaton. It’s as if my nerves are jangling so rapidly that their motion can’t be seen with the naked eye, but believe me, I feel them. I’m here. And there’s a lot going on beneath the surface. I’m only just now realizing that not everybody feels this way.

I’m thinking of making a t-shirt that says, “Autism. It’s complicated.” Hmmm. Maybe I could sell them.

I’m only now starting to realize how few services are available for autistic people who have only just discovered this about themselves late in life. Naturally, the focus should be on autistic children who still have their whole lives ahead of them. I get that. But I’m not done with my life either, and I sure could use some support. I’m still working on that, but I can’t imagine how someone on the spectrum who is less verbal would be able to get past all these hurdles. It’s not easy.

I was utterly unprepared for how much of my life would get stirred up by all of this. I’m an autistic person. I don’t need to be fixed. But now that I know so much more about the how and the why of me, I’m setting firmer boundaries with people, and I’m getting mixed results.

I’ve been struggling my whole life to seem “normal.” Now, I’m saying things like, “All this noise and activity is overwhelming for me, so I need to go off and have some alone time for a while.” And, “I know you want to go to this party, but I’d rather not. Please have fun without me.” And, “I really enjoy hanging out with you one on one. Let’s do more of that.”

An exciting aspect of all this insight is that I’ve got a stronger sense of what makes me comfortable in any given environment, and what really, really bugs me. It will be interesting to see if I begin to feather my nest in a different way due to this knowledge.

Now that so many people know this fun fact about me that I’ve only just learned about myself, I can sense them watching me. I don’t think they’re worried that they’re going to “catch” autism as much as they fear that I will stop being me. Am I supposed to bulk up and turn green like the Incredible Hulk? I don’t know.

I’m still me. Yes, I’m an autistic person, but I have always been that. It’s just that I didn’t know it until now. I feel increasingly authentic. I can stop trying so darned hard. I can maybe cut myself a little slack.

Breathing room is a very precious commodity. It’s nice to have that. A door has been opened wide, and the fresh air is coming in. I’m sure I’ll have good days and bad days. But at least I finally understand that the ability to breathe is out there and within my reach. I may not breathe the way you do, I may not yet breathe the way I’d like to or the way I should, but, yo, I’m breathin’ here! That counts for a lot.

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Inspiring Yourself

If you’re reading this, you are a survivor. Yay, you!

An inspiring internet friend of mine runs a Facebook group called Club Moxie: Bouncing Back from Difficult Sh*t. I highly recommend this group if, like Stephanie and me, you’ve been through some of that sh*t yourself. As she says in her “about” section, “Club Moxie is a place where ordinary people have candid conversations about the ins and outs of bouncing back from all kinds of difficult life circumstances. Honesty heals. Being heard heals. Togetherness heals.”

On any given day, you can go to this group for inspiration on how to reframe your situation into one that you can not only survive, but also learn, grow, and thrive from. The group also shows you that you’re not alone. It is an uplifting place, and we all could use one of those every now and then.

I can sometimes be a fly in the ointment in that group, because I am nothing if not cynical. And sometimes I just can’t join the cheerleading squad. Not that day. Not for that meme. And that’s okay. This group doesn’t judge. In fact, it usually makes me see things from perspectives I haven’t encountered before. It gives me fresh eyes, and fresh ways to cope. And it doesn’t hurt that it has inspired many a blog post.

Recently, Stephanie posted the meme below, and also wrote above it: “We don’t have to look outside ourselves for inspiration. WE can inspire OURSELVES. When I’m feeling down or on the verge of defeated, it can be really helpful for me to recall all the times in the past when I kept going and made it through.”

Wow. Insight!

I have often drawn inspiration from others. It’s my gut instinct to do so. I even did it above, when I said I’m inspired by Stephanie’s group. I think this is a great habit to have, but her Facebook post made me realize that I often overlook a very important resource for inspiration. Me. Because here I am. And that means that I am a survivor.

Good news! If you’re reading this, you are a survivor, too! And you know yourself better than anyone else does. Think of the untapped potential for inspiration you’ve got, just sitting there in your own head.

Many of us have been taught that pride is a bad thing. I’ve never believed that. I think it’s perfectly natural to be proud of your achievements, proud of your strengths, proud of your skills, proud of those moments when, against all odds, you brought your best self forward and did what you needed to do.  The right thing. The hard thing. You may have had help along the way. We all have. But in the end, it’s you who got yourself to this point, and that’s impressive as hell. Own it!

We all have our unique life experiences. Think of yours as pearls of wisdom that only you possess. Even those moments that you wish had gone differently can, at the very least, provide very important lessons that you can draw upon moving forward. You have wisdom that you earned all on your own.

I am setting the intention, right now, to stop overlooking the unique treasure within me. Every single one of us has value. Most of us don’t hesitate to share those assets with others. But we need to remember that we deserve to benefit from our own experiential strength as well. Think of it as a gift from the past you.

And oh, what a gift it is!

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The Wild Swans

Some lessons should never be taught.

You can learn quite a lot from folklore and fairy tales. They were, after all, written to tell a story and teach a lesson. Unfortunately, some lessons should never be taught, such as the idea that in order for you to thrive in this world, you must first be rescued by a handsome prince. Ugh. Don’t get me started.

Too late.

This all had me thinking of a particular tale written by Hans Christian Andersen called The Wild Swans. I’m sure you’ve read his more well-known works, such as The Princess and the Pea, and Thumbelina and The Emperor’s New Clothes. I actually enjoy his writing, when I take it in proper context, but the Wild Swans, while a gripping story, teaches a lot of anti-feminist lessons that cause me to struggle with its whole concept.

The Wikipedia page gives a more detailed synopsis of the story, but for our purposes I will tell you that the Princess Elisa has 11 brothers, and they are cursed by their evil stepmother. All the boys are turned into swans and can only take human form after dark. The rest of the time they are birds who are forced to fly away.

So, clearly, the boys are more curse-worthy because they are ahead of Elisa in, basically, all things, not the least of which is the acquisition of the throne.

But Elisa is told that if she knits each of her brothers a sweater made of stinging nettles, she can rescue them. But she cannot speak at all during the process, or they will all die.

So not only is she expected to take on the burden of this torturous task without question, but she’s also expected to shut up and not complain about the pain, and not explain her strange behavior to anyone.

Somehow, during all this silent hand torture, a handsome king stumbles upon her, and despite being unable to converse with this odd girl, he falls in love, and proposes. Clearly he wasn’t after her intellect. And it matters not what you’ve got on your plate, ladies. If a handsome prince proposes, you should say yes, without question. Hmph.

But, as strange as she has been acting, she eventually gets accused of being a witch, and of course she can’t speak up to defend herself. She’s sentenced to be burned at the stake. She continues to knit, even as she’s being hauled off to her death, because women are supposed to be just that dedicated and nurturing.

But, of course, it wouldn’t be a fairy tale without a happy ending, so her bothers fly in and rescue her. She then throws the sweaters over their heads and they become fully human again. And it’s a darned good thing, too, because before she can redeem herself to her royal fiancée, she faints away from exhaustion, leaving her brothers to do the talking. And then the king steps in and revives her, and they get married.

So basically, a woman half kills herself to take care of the people she loves, she is completely misunderstood, she is shown to be incapable of taking care of herself, and the very people whom she’s been working so hard to rescue become the gallant rescuers instead.

The story does indeed teach lessons, but they’re not ones we need to learn. The true takeaways are more about what the author believes you need to think, and they shine a spotlight on the prevailing attitudes of the culture in question at the time they were written.

Maybe this story is why I never learned to knit.

Stinging Nettles. Ouch.

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Random Memories from Childhood and What They Taught Me

Children are very impressionable.

Children are very impressionable. A flip, sarcastic remark may become a life lesson for them, rightly or wrongly. Here are some lessons that I learned growing up. Some I have worked very hard to unlearn.

I had taken a magic marker and doodled “bad” words on my white Keds. Given my age, around 5, they were probably shockers like, “poopy head” and the like. My mother wasn’t thrilled, though. But she hated confrontation. We went to the grocery store and I was wearing them. After we had loaded the groceries into the trunk, I was getting into the back seat and one of my shoes fell off in the parking lot. I said, “Hold on, Mom! My shoe fell out of the car!” She sped away, saying we were in too much of a hurry to go back, and that there were other cars in the parking lot wanting her to move. Lesson: Adults can lie when it suits their purposes.

We were trailer camping, and the camp manager came up and told us to stay inside, as a man had broken out of a nearby prison. We heard helicopters and saw flashlights in the distant woods. But I had brought no toys or books (I was about 7) and after about an hour I got really bored, and I begged my mother to let me at least go outside and sit at the picnic table. She let me, because she got tired of my whining (which from my adult perspective was a horrible solution), and I went out there and sat in the dark. Then I saw a man walking toward me out of the fog. So I got up, went to the trailer’s screen door, and it was LOCKED. I didn’t want to yell for my mother, because I was afraid I’d draw the man’s attention. So I stage whispered, “Mom, let me in!” and scratched at the door. She was sitting right there, lost in her book. I could see her. She had to have heard me. She was just annoyed that I had been such a pain earlier. “Mom!” I was convinced I was about to be killed or taken hostage. Then the guy walked up behind me and said, “Ma’am, you should keep your daughter inside.” She let me in. I have never been so scared in all my life. And I also learned that my mother was indifferent to my needs at the best of times. I pretty much had to raise myself. When I look back at some of the emotionally neglectful and/or downright irresponsible things she did to me as a child, I’m horrified and disgusted. And kind of proud that I survived.

A teenaged boy, at the swimming pool, once put his hand on my head and pushed my ten-year-old self under the water and locked his elbow while I underwater screamed and struggled. If he hadn’t let me up, I would have drowned. I ran home and told my mother, and she didn’t take it seriously. I learned two things from that one. If a guy wants to kill you, you’ll be dead. And when the sh** hits the fan in my life, I’d be on my own.

When, at age 13, I finally told my mother that my stepfather had been sexually abusing me, she said, “You’re making too much of it.” Lesson: My safety mattered to no one but myself, and grown ups live in convenient little fantasy worlds and can’t be counted on.

My mother had gotten herself a brand new aluminum cake cover. I noticed that if you held it by the handle on top and thumped it, it made an amazing “bong” sound. I was 8, and was also experimenting with my cassette recorder. She wasn’t home, so I decided to record a home cake cover concert. When she returned, I proudly played the recording for her. When she discovered my instrument of choice, she went into the pantry to find her cake cover covered in dents. I had been enjoying the sound so much I hadn’t even noticed the results. Lesson: Not everyone finds joy in the same ways that you do. (And also that when I’m in the zone, everything else tends to fade away. That’s still true to this day.)

My sister, twisting a half a grapefruit in my face and laughing as I screamed and cried. From that I got that my sister (who was 9 years older) genuinely did not like me at all, to the point of taking delight in my humiliation, so I must not be likeable. (She likes me now, and always loved me. But I struggle to feel liked by anyone to this day, and while this incident wasn’t the primary reason for that, I’m sure it didn’t help.)

My other sister, 10 years older than me, got chronic kidney infections. One day she looked at me and said she may have to take one of my kidneys someday. I was 8. It made me feel as though I had no autonomy, even over my own body. (And let’s face it. As a woman, I still feel that way quite often.)

A more lighthearted one. I was sitting in the kitchen with my stepfather. There were about 3 flies buzzing around. He told me he’d give me a nickel for every fly I swatted. So I propped open the door and let in more flies. From this I learned that it pays to think outside of the box.

Lessons can come at you from all directions. They may not always be the right ones, unfortunately. You, too, are teaching, even when you don’t realize it. So it’s important to be thoughtful with your words, kind with your deeds, and make sure everyone feels safe and heard. Anything less can cause a lifetime of destruction.

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Culture Shock

Culture shock has an unwarranted bad reputation.

When people travel to other countries, they often speak of culture shock. I’ve experienced this myself on many occasions. But I think culture shock, in general, has an unwarranted bad reputation.

Many people think that culture shock is something to be avoided. They use it as an excuse to remain in their comfort zones and not explore the wider world. Culture shock may be a bit uncomfortable, but I believe that just as a defibrillator can get your heart beating again, a culture shock can get your brain working and nourish your very soul.

Whenever I experience culture shock, I learn something about myself and the society in which I live. It makes me realize that there are certain things that I take for granted that other people do not. It makes me look at myself differently. It makes me appreciate what I have. It makes me wonder about the things that I lack. It causes me to think about the fact that there are many different ways to live, and my way may not necessarily be the best way.

Culture shock can be something very simple, such as going into a McDonalds in the Netherlands and discovering that they ask if you’d like mayonnaise with your fries rather than ketchup. (To this day, I prefer mayonnaise. I cannot remember the last time I put ketchup on anything.)

Or it can be something huge, such as not being allowed to rent a car in Turkey until I could show the agency that I could actually drive it around the block. (I then realized that I was seeing very few women behind the wheel there. It made me really appreciate my feminist freedoms.)

It can be rather jolting, such as going from Mexico, where I was the tallest person in any room, and where their extremely close concept of personal space made me uncomfortable, and then going to the Netherlands, where I was the shortest person in any room, and where their extremely distant concept of personal space made me uncomfortable.

I always thought I was a nice person until I went to Canada, where everyone is really, really, really nice. I always feel 1,000 times fatter when I go to Europe. In Croatia, I realized that I really should take the time to relax more. Spain made me appreciate a good nap. The Bahamas made me truly get how terrifying the thought of sea level rise can be. Turkey reminded me that all of civilization is built upon past history. Hungary taught me that some past history can be rather terrifying.

I have never, ever traveled to another country without learning a great deal about myself and my place in the wider world. I genuinely believe that if more Americans traveled, they’d be a lot more open minded. This trend toward rigid, “America first” inflexibility is scary and extremely detrimental.

It breaks my heart that because of COVID-19, we’re all forced to stay closer to home. I suspect I won’t leave the country again until a vaccine is developed, and that’s frustrating because the older I get, the more I realize how little time I have left. I need the occasional culture shock to appreciate being alive.

Dear reader, my wish for you is that, in healthier times, you get a chance to be shocked by the wider world.

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I Was Once a Guppy

… but first I had to be a pollywog.

The summer my grandfather taught his children to swim, by dragging them to the end of a dock and throwing them off, my mother was laid up with a really bad knee injury. Skipping that sink or swim experience was the only thing she was grateful for that summer. I think I’d have found it terrifying, too. She never did learn to swim.

Consequently, she was always afraid of the water, and what she’d do if one of her children were drowning. So she made sure that the three of us had formal swimming lessons. She just couldn’t bring herself to watch while they were going on.

The lessons I took, I believe at the local Girl’s Club, were divided up by age and ability. Students in the beginners’ class were called pollywogs. Next came guppies, then minnows. It went all the way up to dolphins.

Being a pollywog was kind of scary. You had to learn to hold your breath under water. You spent much of your time desperately clinging to the side of the pool. You were learning to navigate a new and deadly world.

But I liked being a guppy. We got to go in the deep end, provided we held on to kickboards. We spent a lot of time kick, kick, kicking the water as hard and as high as we could. We wore nose plugs and ear plugs and goggles and swim caps, but we had graduated from the use of water wings. We felt powerful, even if some accessories were still required.

I’m grateful that my mother chose not to transfer her fear of water to me. I love to swim to this day. I now consider myself a slow moving dolphin. I look forward to my aqua fitness classes every week at the local YMCA.

But I kind of miss kickboards. They were fun. And it never hurts to have something to fall back on.

Guppy_Fish

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The Benefits of Playing Pokemon Go

You can learn a lot from this game.

I always thought the Pokemon franchise was for little kids. Cartoons. Trading cards. The stuff of childhood. If I’m honest, I never paid it very much attention.

Then I placed a little free library in front of my house. We get a lot of foot traffic, so a lot of books are coming and going, which is fantastic. But of course, the goal is to encourage as much reading as possible, so I was casting about to find ways to attract more people to the library, especially younger readers, and one suggestion was Pokemon Go.

For the uninitiated, as you go about your daily life, the Pokemon Go avatar that you create in the game is also walking through a parallel world. If you’re walking down a street, that same street exists there. The difference is that there are pokestops within Pokemon Go where you can receive gifts and gather points. These pokestops correspond to landmarks in the real world. Public art. Historical markers. Starbucks coffee shops. Churches. Playgrounds. And, yes, little free libraries.

Players of this game are drawn to these pokestops. I want them to be similarly drawn to my library. But, how do I make my library a pokestop? Obviously, I had to put the game app on my phone. I did so. But I couldn’t find any way to suggest a pokestop.

After a little bit of internet research, I discovered that you have to get to level 40 in the game to make such suggestions. Well, alrighty then. I guess I’ll play Pokemon Go. Just for the sake of my library, of course.

But who am I kidding? By the time I reached level 5, I was hooked. I enjoy encountering, capturing and collecting the “POKEt MONsters.” Each one is unique. I enjoy visiting the pokestops and learning about places I may have otherwise overlooked. I like being part of this secret, all but invisible world.

And by the time I got hooked, I discovered that Niantic, the Pokemon company, only allows a few countries at a time to suggest pokestops, and the US is not currently one of those. I also discovered that each level is harder to get past than the last, because you have to get an increasing number of points. At this rate it will take me years to reach level 40. I only hope that the people in the US can make pokestop suggestions by the time I reach that point.

The frustrating thing is that I’ve seen little free libraries that have pokestops. How did they get them? I don’t know. If there’s anyone out there who has the ability to create a pokestop, please, I’m begging you, contact me. I’ll give you all the information you need.

In the meantime, I play on. And I’ve discovered that this game has a lot going for it. If I had a child, I would be thrilled if Pokemon Go were a part of his or her life. Here are some of the benefits of playing this game:

-First of all, and foremost, as far as I am concerned, is that Pokemon Go encourages walking. That’s outstanding in this couch potato world we’ve created for ourselves. You need to get out there to visit those pokestops. Also, if you obtain an egg, which will eventually hatch into a pokemon, you have to walk a certain distance to “incubate” that egg. And the more places you go, the more pokemon you encounter. I have actually lost three pounds since I started playing this game, and that’s even more remarkable when you consider the fact that I took a week-long, food-ladened cruise during that period.

-Second, it broadens your horizons. Not only are you discovering interesting places that have been right under your nose this whole time, but you also “meet” people from places you’ve never been. You rapidly discover that the best way to succeed in the game is to have friends with which you can exchange “gifts”. You can obtain free gifts to give to friends at pokestops.

But how do you make these friends? If you’re an adult like me, it would be a little creepy to hit up random children for friend requests. (I’m also hesitant to spend too much time at playground pokestops. It just looks weird.) So instead, I put my Pokemon friend code out there on Facebook and got a few that way. But only a few.

But then I got smart. I googled “Pokemon Go Friend Codes” and discovered this website. From there, I’ve made friends from all over the world. Not a day goes by when I don’t receive “gifts” from these friends, and the gift includes a little postcard from the pokestop where they obtained this gift. As I wrote this, I got a postcard from a quirky little statue in a small town in Portugal. Now, how cool is that? And it’s perfectly safe to make these friends. You’ll never actually communicate with them. They’ll never know your real name or contact information. It’s just fun to get the occasional cyber-hello from another part of the planet. (Incidentally, if you play Pokemon Go, my friend code is 2823 6831 5660. Friend me!)

Pokemon Go teaches you a lot, as well:

  • You can’t win them all. You won’t catch every pokemon you go after. You won’t win every competition you engage in. And that’s okay.

  • You get further in life when you’re part of a team.

  • Organization is important. There is no point in keeping duplicate Pokemon. And there are benefits within the game for getting rid of the ones you don’t need.

  • Diversity is great! The wider the variety of Pokemon you have, the more fun the game becomes.

  • It’s important to plan ahead. Some Pokemon will evolve into cooler, stronger, more beautiful Pokemon, but it takes a little effort and focus to reach that goal.

  • You begin to realize that a lot of people’s weird “migration patterns” are a result of Pokemon Go. Why do people park their cars in that deserted stretch of parking lot all the time? Because it’s a pokestop. That’s also why people often drive into that church parking lot but never enter the church. And it’s why you see parents with kids in the back seat driving slowly through intersections. Hidden world, revealed.

  • When in doubt, do some research. Unfortunately, a lot of the rules and tricks about this game are not spelled out for you. It can be a bit of a learning curve, and Niantic doesn’t explain things well, if at all. But there are a lot of forums on the internet that can tell you all you need to know.

  • Delayed gratification is tolerable. Sometimes you can’t achieve your goals or complete your tasks in this game until you’ve received a particular object or reached a particular level, and that’s okay. You’ll get there. Patience is a virtue.

Perhaps the one downside to this game is that if you do struggle with delayed gratification, there are plenty of opportunities to spend money to get to where you want to be. It’s possible to play this game without spending a dime. It just takes a lot longer. This is a temptation I wrestle with whenever I play.

Perhaps the weirdest aspect of this game is that some people protest that it encourages animal cruelty, because you capture these pokemon, and you can battle with them. But this is a far cry from dog fighting. There is no glorification of blood and guts in this game. And I think that any child who is mentally healthy can distinguish between a cartoon monster and the family pet. Give kids a little bit of credit. Sheesh.

To summarize: A) Please make my little free library a pokestop if you have the ability to do so. (And my bridge, and the statue just north of my bridge, if the spirit moves you.) B) Friend me if you play, and C) have fun while learning stuff.

Oh, and pay attention to your surroundings so as not to walk out into traffic and get yourself killed. Because that’s no fun at all. And I’d really feel horrible if you did.

Pokemon Go

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Maturity

There are certain things that one is supposed to leave behind in childhood.

There are certain things that one is supposed to leave behind in childhood. Cruelty. Humiliating others. Petty revenge. Foolish pranks. Bullying. Laughing at others’ misfortune. Selfishness. Name calling.

I have a hard time relating to adults who engage in such behavior. I don’t find it funny. In truth, I find it horrifying. Such blatant lack of compassion kind of scares me, because you never know when it will be aimed in your direction. Be very careful who you consider to be friends.

I am particularly worried about those of us who are just entering adulthood right now, at a time when the leader of our country demonstrates most of this conduct on a daily basis and may very well be reelected. What kind of signal are we sending to our young adults when this is countenanced?

Now, more than ever, we need to model kindness and love and generosity. We need to be the lessons that our leaders are not. And we need to ask ourselves why we have such leaders in the first place.

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Television is a Strange Teacher

There’s no such thing as a bad hair day.

Have you ever noticed that everyone who is struck in the head on TV instantly gets knocked out, and then eventually recovers with no cognitive problems whatsoever? Just once, I’d like to see someone spin around and say, “Ow! What the hell?”

As a matter of fact, when’s the last time anyone ever said ow on TV? And most of the time no one dies from a head blow either, unless it’s a forensic show. (Kids, don’t try this at home.)

Another neat television trick is that you can almost always punch someone in the face and not sustain any hand injuries at all. That’s pretty convenient. It’s also not very realistic. (Not that I’ve tested the theory.)

On television, you can go through a whole host of action scenes and your hair will remain unfazed. I wish that were the case in real life. Most days, I can’t even wake up in the morning without a mirror shock experience.

And on TV, bathrooms only exist if you a) need a place to smoke a joint, b) are nervously preparing for your wedding night, or c) are part of a group of girls who are talking about boys.

On the small screen, too, CPR always works, unless, oddly enough, you’re in a hospital. Then you’re a goner. And bones are never broken in the process, which is vastly different from what occurs in real life. (And the success rate of CPR in real life is abysmal.)

I can’t say I know the success rate of love stories in the real world, but on TV, people seem to live happily ever after a ridiculous percentage of the time. We do love a happy ending.

And it seems as though everyone gets a second chance. And no one ever needs a third chance. If only we all really learned from our mistakes the first time around.

If some alien got all his intel about humanity by watching our television broadcasts, he’d have a very strange view of the planet. For example, he’d think that all men, without exception, are prone to making grand romantic gestures. Gimme a break. But, hey, three cheers to the ones who make the effort!

Sage Advice

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I Miss Afterschool Specials

You just never knew who was going to show up in your living room.

When I was growing up, about once every 5 or 6 weeks during the school year, late on a weekday afternoon (hence the name), ABC would air an Afterschool Special. Oh, how I looked forward to those shows! They really were special. They made me feel like someone was actually thinking about me and wanting to tell me what I needed to know.

They could be about just about anything. Divorce, girls in sports, bullying, blended families, stuttering, alcoholism, reproduction, death, foster parents, weight, secrets, popularity, puberty, friendship, teen pregnancy, drugs, STDs, child abuse, suicide… you name it.

And in retrospect, an amazing cast of stars popped up in these little stories. Actors included Will Smith, Adam Sandler, William H. Macy, Wil Wheaton, Michael Jackson, Marisa Tomei, Michael York, Beau Bridges, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Patty Duke, Rob Lowe, Kristy McNichol, and Jodie Foster. You just never knew who was going to show up in your living room. It was really kind of exciting.

Nowadays an ABC Afterschool Special wouldn’t work. Kids don’t watch live, network TV anymore. They aren’t bound by viewing schedules. They probably don’t even have to consult the TV Guide. They watch what they want, when they want.

It kind of makes me happy that I grew up when I did. I’d have hated to miss out on all those age-appropriate life lessons, courtesy of ABC.

Oooh, but I just discovered a bunch of them are on Youtube now! I may have to take a walk down memory lane!

Afterschool Special