Monday, 29 February 2016

Days of Gratitude - Drums, Darkness and Castles in the Sand

I've got behind with the gratitude blog.  So here's the first of two weeks of my Sunday Assembly gratitude diary.  There have been some really bad days and some really good times too.

I missed a day somehow, February 20th.  Much to be grateful for that day.  I left home and caught the 7am coach to Manchester to stay with Amanda for five nights.  I can't tell you now what we did with the day.  I think we just spent it together doing simple things.

February 20th was also the 26th anniversary of my becoming a Christian in good born again, pray the "Sinner's Prayer" style.  I was going to write a blog post about that before the day but it didn't happen.  That seemed apt.  A post about that period of my life and the reasons that I became a Christian at all - especially apt considering what's going on in my life right now regarding faith and the fasting from church services that I've undertaken for at least the period of Lent.  I've now missed church intentionally three Sundays running and that's not happened at any time in those 26 years.  Roll on the fourth Sunday of missing church!

Picture: Packet of Galaxy Counters chocolate

16th February

Struggling for today. Bad day.

But grateful that I managed to get out and see a friend even though I did spend part of the evening on the floor pressed hard into a corner by the door, nonverbal and unresponsive.

Grateful that she helped by squeezing my head hard from both sides. The effect of that is amazing. And grateful that she bought me this little care package. 

Picture: Colourful painted Celtic drum

17th February

Grateful that I had enough spoons to get to the crazy shamanic drumming session today. Great people, and the homemade soup afterwards was excellent.

This isn't the drum I was using but it's one connected to the woman who leads the group. She has quite a lot of drums and an ever increasing collection of other instruments.

Also grateful for the NHS. As part of medical gender transition I have to be injected with an implant every 12 weeks. If I had to have a private prescription I wouldn't be able to afford it. It can hurt for many days unless you're lucky but it's free and it does what it's meant to.

18th February

Very hard day. I had to admit that I'm not up to something that I had major hopes for and had to contact the people helping me and say that I'm pulling out. I really wanted to do this. It's a damn good idea too. But my head isn't right for it. I'm so called "high functioning" but that doesn't mean any day is easy. It means for me that every day is hard and while I'm intelligent that doesn't necessarily mean that it will ever translate into life skills.

Grateful that the course/business mentors were really nice about it but today it's pretty much impossible not to burst into floods of tears thinking about it. It's a win. Being able to find gratitude when it all seems to fall apart yet again. I never used to be able to do that.

Grateful that it might mean I am forced to take an even harder look at my life. Work out my strengths. Spot the things that this autistic brain isn't ever going to manage. Find suitable passions. And adjust life and hopes for the future accordingly.

Grateful too that I have now cleared out enough clothes so I could put my clothes away!

Picture: Three CDs by Pink Martini
 19th February

Grateful that today is a lot more positive than yesterday.

Grateful to find these 50p CDs in a charity shop.

And very grateful for what's happening tomorrow. But that is tomorrow. 

Picture: Three soft toys, a dog, a unicorn and a warthog
21st February

So grateful to be here with Amanda. We met six months ago today. Of all last year's surprises, she is the biggest.

Grateful for these three new friends all bought for me by Amanda.

The dog is called Nine Friends. Nearly got called Near Twin due to being the near twin of Something Else.

The unicorn is still in need of a name.

Amanda bought me the warthog today. It's called Got A Warthog, but the inflection is important.

Picture: Two very cool people with ice cream
22nd February

Grateful for a day with Amanda.

Eating Creme Egg ice cream in Southport.

Building sand castles in Formby.

Just being together.

In relationship the very ordinary becomes extraordinary.

Sand castles made with beach set from Poundland, and a beach tree.

Friday, 19 February 2016

More Complete Bullshit About Vaccines and Autism

So this lovely image popped up on my Facebook wall today.

Now, this is me.  I can't resist sometimes.  So I just had to respond.  It's probably much blunter than it should be.  A politician wouldn't use words like bullshit.  They would say "In due respect to the right honorable gentleman, he is perhaps misinformed."  Because in politics you're not meant so say "You're talking crap mate, and here's why."  But I'm not a politician.  I'm just a normal autistic person.  And stereotypically, we are not noted for our tact!
There's a ton of information about this subject online, sound information.  I really should read a lot more of it and get it all in my head so I don't have to look anything up.  I should read all of my books on autism too.  I received my first book on the subject just a year ago, an early birthday present from a friend who thought it would be good for me in exploring my own self.  It was.  The book was "Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate" by Cynthia Kim.  Her blog, which is no longer updated, is Musings of an Aspie, contains loads of good material.  I recommend it highly for those who want to know more about autism or are looking into the possibility of diagnosis or what to do with a diagnosis.  Now I have very nearly a shelf of books on the subject.

So.  My tactless response.
This is bullshit.

Please give details of ALL cases where the US government has compensated people for "vaccine induced autism" since 1986.

Can't do that? Okay then. Give me just TWO cases. Just two.

Wow. You can't do that either?

That's because it's bullshit. And there are not two cases to be found.

There was ONE case, just one, in which there was compensation for "autism like symptoms" but that child was later diagnosed with something else that caused the symptoms, a mitochondrial enzyme deficit. (damages awarded to the family of Hannah Poling in 2008)

The previous year saw the start of the omnibus autism proceedings. The claimants, the family of Michelle Cedillo, went to court after being convinced by ex-doctor Andrew Wakefield that MMR caused their child's autism and through a "Defeat Autism Now!" conference. The judgement ruled that the evidence was overwhelmingly to the contrary and that they had been misled by medical professionals.

In fact, a total of zero autistic people or the their families have been compensated for so called "vaccine induced autism."


Yes, zero.

Now can you please stop sharing this total garbage.
I await a reply.

To read more about autism omnibus proceeding, look here, a clearly written web page.  It even has a link to a complete transcript of the trial if you have a lot of time and obsessive interest to spare.  For a scientific, medical view on the Hannah Poling case, there's this.  Then there's this, an article published a few days ago, on the lack of a link between MMR and autism as proved in a study involving 95,000 children.  And for reading on ex-doctor Andrew Wakefield's article that claimed a link between vaccines and autism, you could do worse than this from the BMJ.  To summarise: the article was fraudulent.  Not a surprise.  Wakefield has been called the "father of the anti-vaccine movement."  As such I believe he has a lot to answer for.

People still want to believe even though the evidence is very clear.  This site for instance has nearly 400 articles about Andrew Wakefield.  They say autism is man-made, environmental and can be cured.  They still believe that vaccines cause it.  And yes, they're very into "Autism Awareness Day" too, a day that needs eradicating because we need "Autism Acceptance Day" and then "Autism Celebration Day".

It's understandable people want to find a simple cause for autism.  And it's understandable too when people want to seek a cure for their child.  Because, there's no doubting it, autism is bloody hard work for parents.  It is.  And without decent support it can be easy to despair or look for ways out.  Unfortunately often that support is not available and parents are left to deal with everything themselves.  They love their children and give them everything they can but the honest truth is that it's exhausting.  Without proper education and support and celebration of their child by society it's only natural that parents might want a way out.  Chapter two of Neurotribes, by Steve Silberman gives an account of such a family and all the things they tried - and the reasons why - and how they came to embrace and celebrate their autistic child and how they feel about all the things they tried that damaged their child, including their own involvement with "Defeat Autism Now!".  It's sobering reading but such parents deserve much compassion at all stages of the journey.  These are good people, trying their best.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Days of Gratitude - Freedom and Friends. Failure and Falling.

It's time for another blog post with entries from my Gratitude Diary from the Sunday Assembly Newcastle group.

There have been good times and tough times.  Today my head has rather fallen apart and just getting through the day feels much like swimming through quick drying cement.  I need to be doing things.  And I just can't do them.  On days like this it's important to be able to remember the good things and to know not only that there will be good things again but that even on the bad days there are good things.  If they are "good" and "bad" at all - are those words just value judgments or are they objective realities?

What a difference from yesterday when my brain worked and I was able to be out and pretty free and even the noise in the pub and cafe and main street was not too much.  It took some work but I could do it.

And what a difference from a month ago.  A month ago today - as mentioned in the gratitude diary - this happened.

It was a day on which we did nothing very special together.  Ordinary things. And it was very, very wonderful.

A day on which just being together and holding each other on a beach as it snowed and the tide came in was a heaven.

But not every day can be heaven.  Many of my days are like this one when my head can hardly function.  These are days of "Yes, this is really very hard, I really am disabled, and I do need support."

Thankfully, not every day is like this one and there are the days and moments of wonder and free joy too.

Image from
9th February

Tough day mentally.

But grateful to have had the spoons remaining to get out to something this evening.

And grateful for a feeling I had while I was out: Freedom! It's a commonly used image - but it is like a massive weight and burden has been lifted.

Yes, that's related to yesterday's grateful post which I copied as a blog post yesterday too. Get the word out! Tell people what's going on. And get pretty much no reaction (yet) from church people. (Eight words from the pastor and a response from someone I specifically asked about it)

10th February

Grateful for the little things on random doors, walls and windows at Broadacre House. Anyone else read the haiku on the 5th floor?

Also felt grateful last night because the days countdown until I am with Amanda dropped below 10. At last. Single digits are easier to cope with. 9 1/2 days to go by the end of yesterday.

These words are on a wall by a lift door at Broadacre House.  Sometime I need to do blog some photos taken there during the last six months.

11th February

Get in early today. Grateful that in the next hour this lot will be collected for charity. Loads went to the tip at the weekend too.

Truly we have a super-abundance. What we are clearing is far more than a lot of people could ever dream of owning.

Maybe it's time to learn to use this abundance better. For joy, people, relationship, love, creative passion, for being all we can be. All the things I think God is, rather than god being an omnipotent bloke with impressive facial hair. My heresy has very much in common with committed atheism!

12th February

Totally failed to get to a social event tonight. Not for lack of trying. She left a crucial piece of information out of her address.

But the view over Newcastle from the Trinity Square student accommodation was worth seeing.


And though the lights and escalators are too loud in different ways, it was good to look at the art at Gateshead Metro.

For anyone interested, the mosaics are by

13th February

Grateful that somehow I mustered up some extra spoons today and got out when all I felt like doing was sitting on the bed.

Grateful that when I was getting severely overloaded in town I decided not to go straight home but to go and see if a cafe I'd passed was quiet enough for me to cope with.

Grateful that it turned out to be a very cool place. Very cool.

(My grateful post contained more photos but since I've already written about the cafe I'm only including two photos here.)

14th February

First Sunday of Lent. No church. Because this is my Lenten fast. Not just to stay away from church but to explore the physical, temporal and inner space created by no church. To learn to walk more in my own freedom.

No church, but the Shamanic Sound Journey tonight was quite stunning. Grateful for the person who said they were going - which meant I spotted it - even though they couldn't get there in the end.

And making that conscious choice to let go of church, at least for a while, possibly much longer, feels so liberating and absolutely the right thing to do.

It was the last of these journeys because the person leading it moves away tomorrow. I could moan and say "Why didn't I know about this sooner?" The truth is, if I had known, I wouldn't have been ready to be there.

Anyway, grateful for tonight. And grateful, so grateful, for being able to intentionally choose
differently than the circular habit of so many years.

The lovely changing colours light at The Vault, Wallsend

15th February

Having a day when my brain was deciding to behave and shine and smiles could fall out and even the noise and haste was reasonably easy to cope with.

Meeting a friend at Tea Sutra. Great time. And I spent rather longer with her than planned discussing all kinds of things.

Also great that she's a stunning Christian friend of the kind who cheers and gives big hugs when she learns I've given up church at least for Lent. Glad and fortunate to have met her last year in unlikely circumstances.

(Tea Sutra addicts will not that this picture was not taken yesterday. But it was taken from the spot I was sitting yesterday.)

Saturday, 13 February 2016

A Visit to Vamos! Social Club, Newcastle Upon Tyne

I wasn't feeling that good today and didn't want to leave the house.  And the weather ... the weather had been less welcoming than I would have liked.  A walk by the sea would have been nice.  But a walk by the sea in heavy hail and sleet wasn't particularly appealing.  But the weather improved and I forced myself out.

In the city centre I was heading into sensory overload.  Not pleasant.  But rather than go straight home I decided I'd wander past a cafe I've passed before, walk through the door and see if I could cope with sitting there and having a drink before fleeing the busyness of Newcastle.

I am so grateful that I chose to do this.  Grateful enough that this cafe trip was my entry for the Sunday Assembly gratitude group today.  Forty-four days into the year and so far I've only missed one day.  Possibly I'm the most obsessive poster of gratitude there.

Vamos!  It's great.  And it's currently not busy at all during the day.  I guess they make their money from the evenings and the events that are run there.  In fact for the majority of time I was there I was the only customer.  That's a pity because they deserve more custom but the location isn't conducive to people accidentally finding the place.

It's on Market Street in the centre of Newcastle in the building that also houses Breeze Creatives, directly opposite Broadacre House.  Opening hours are Wednesday to Saturday from noon until two in the morning.  For more official information, their facebook page is regularly updated with all the events that happen there.

There was music playing.  It wasn't quiet but it wasn't excessively loud.  Today I could cope with it.  The music sounded like Cuban dance band music along the lines of the Buena Vista Social Club.  Whether it was Cuban or not I have no idea but it was that style.  And that made it easier for me to cope with than other music because the percussion is well, percussion, so there isn't a pounding bass overpowering everything and the rhythmic structure is more interesting than an average pop or rock track.  Plus I happen to like the Buena Vista Social Club.

I ordered a drink.  There is alcohol available and hot drinks but today I fancied Fentimans Rose Lemonade which a lot of places don't sell even if they stock Fentimans drinks.  And then I gave into temptation and ordered a bocadillo, a Spanish sandwich, with good spicy sausage, grilled onions, and rocket.

And I sat and soaked in my surroundings.

The view into the cafe from the very comfortable sofa I was sitting on.

The view out of the cafe from my comfy sofa.  The top of the Laing Art Gallery can be seen in the centre of the reflected cross.

Almost obligatory picture whenever anyone creates a blog post about a cafe.  Table photo with my drink.

And then I wandered round the cafe and took more pictures.  Lots more.  These are some of them.  It's a really cool place.  It deserved to be photographed.

What better way to relax in Newcastle than on a tropical beach?

Behind the bar.

Sunken seating area in the centre of the cafe.

Looking across the sunken area towards the bar.

Art.  There is much art in Vamos!  And even a little photography gallery.

Where there are dull concrete pillars, let there be much paint applied.
Love this.  It's behind the record decks used for club nights.

Love this too.  Frida Kahlo portrait.

So I left.  More relaxed than when I entered.  I'll go back again and sit and drink and enjoy the atmosphere.  Maybe there will be evening events I want to go to too.  Sometimes there is very cool live music.  I know that Hannabiell has played at something there and I want to get to see her at some point when my brain allows such things.  And one of the people working there and preparing the place for tonight told me that there is a meditation group there every week.  That's worth trying too in the very near future.

As I left I looked back into the cafe at where I'd been sitting.

Farewell Vamos.  I think perhaps this signage is right.  I did reach my destination:  My destination being any great place that I can sit quietly and relax, read and think.

On Not Liking and Not Sharing the Autism Speaks Teddy

This has appeared on my Facebook wall today.  It was shared by a very nice woman who of course only meant it for good.  Of course that's the case and I am not criticising her.  I know her to be a good woman who tries her best for everyone.  Let's face it, not so long ago if I'd seen the photo on my wall I'd have probably shared it too, a little gesture to help people be more aware of autism.  Because on the face of it that's a good aim to have.

And without some autism awareness people aren't to know that this is totally not the sort of awareness we want to be spreading.

The last year has been a steep learning curve for me and one of the things pretty much everyone said to me when I started reading about autism online and when learning to accept that I am autistic was a simple phrase.  "Avoid Autism Speaks."  (Apart from the people who implied I was an idiot or bad to even be wondering if I could be autistic.)

So I had to comment.  Bluntly.  I had to try to stop the progress of Teddy.  It's not Teddy's fault.  Poor Teddy.  They're a cute bear who has been recruited against their will.  If the bear could speak they would cry out "No! I don't want to be used this way!"

I'm posting it here partly because I believe in it and partly because the links below are pretty good and worth reading and if I don't blog them I'll lose them.  The letter from organisations like ASAN and the blog from thecaffeinatedautistic are far better than anything I'd be writing myself on the subject.

Sorry, I can't like or share that. Because I am autistic.

So. To spread some awareness:

It's an Autism Speaks blue bear. You probably don't know about Autism Speaks. I hadn't heard of them until a year ago. I think they're really very horrible. They have so often stood in the way of the rights of autistic people and have usually not allowed autistic people to have a voice or any say in how the organisation is run.

Here's a letter signed by The Autistic Self Advocacy Network and a whole load of other good groups:

This information page is clearly written and has sources for everything:

This wiki page is pretty good too and has lots of links at the bottom to nice people.

Yes - I've ended up with some strong opinions!


To be honest I don't think autism awareness is enough.  I am pushing for autism acceptance, just like everyone in the autistic rights movement.

That word map is excellent.  It comes from a really good website about autism acceptance and which calls, as I now do, for an autism acceptance month rather than an awareness month.  It's another site that is well worth reading.  It also has links to some great material on other sites and autism blogs - and the links change regularly.

Six Months Ago - Positives, Gratitude, Hard Days and Craziness

I've been looking back at old Facebook posts this morning.  And there are things that I'd completely forgotten about.  Six months ago someone inspired me to write five positive things a day for five days.  I ended up writing them for ten days - the days immediately before Autscape, which was itself filled with positives.

The days contained so much good.  And so much bad.  Unless good and bad are just labels we apply to things and not a reality in themselves.  I've added in a few of the photos taken in the good of the days.

Six months ago I was into some quite crazy stuff.  And then I pulled away from it because of my mental health and because living in the security of habitual living was easier than living in the possibilities of craziness.  I think now I am returning to the crazy and this time I might be ready to lay aside the habits.  Time will tell. 

Six months ago today was day three of the positives.  Yes.  Six months ago today I helped plan and then officiated at a pagan dog funeral.  That was such a strange and happy day.  I need more of them.

OK. Someone inspired me. So here goes:

Day 1 of 5 positives.

1. Spending the evening in a healing environment with some rather wonderful people.
2. Eating too much of the chocolate banana bread that Beth cooked.
3. The words received in meditation tonight.
4. Learning that there is a mantra/prayer with the gorgeous name Ho’oponopono.
5. The unlikelihood of having met the person who inspired me and the way Spirit arranges these things.

Very little sleep. Haven't been able to go to the sacred drumming and have spent time collapsed on bed crying my eyes out because the sensory crap is just so damn painful today. All out of spoons today. So this is going to be a challenge:

Day 2 of 5 positives.

1. The friends I've met in the last two years.
2. The books I'm sharing this bed with.
3. The partial relief gained by sticking in Alpine MusicSafePro earplugs.
4. An unexpected decision made about placing tattoos on my wrists.
5. It's been hard work getting to number five but this is just a bad day, not depression and not despair. This - on bed, alone, only semi-functional, with earplugs - is so much better than things used to be when writing lists of positives every day as part of a self-harm support group and some days sitting for an hour and struggling to come up with a list of one. Of course there are many other positives - the roof over my head, having Beth and Kit, abundant water from the tap, the sunlight, and so much more.

Here goes. Far later than planned.

Day 3 of 5 positives. Ooh, they're positive today.

1. Helping to write and then co-officiating at a pagan funeral for a dog owned by some people I've never met before. I kid you not!
2. Spending so much time outside in quiet places and getting mildly sun burned arms.
3. Lying, deeply relaxed and content, in the grass on the route of an old railway while H sang Wiccan and Sufi chants to me.
4. Sticky toffee pudding and cream in the house of strangers and gluten free steak pie in the house of a friend.
5. The sheer unexpectedness of the day and the joy and laughter shared, even on the day of a funeral and that this list could extend a long way today. On days like these it is so easy to so much love my life and how different much of it is to how it used to be. 

Positives. Day 4 of (unspecified number)

1. The completely unhealthy indulgence of eccles cakes covered in left over clotted cream from last night.
2. Being so massively touched by part of "The Dying of the Light" (the last Skulduggery Pleasant book) even if I may be emotionally scarred for life by the trauma caused by what happened!
3. Giggling repeatedly at just how unexpected yesterday was and how different life is than I could have ever planned.
4. The deep love I have for certain of my friends and the joy that knowing they exist brings to me.
5. Spirituality is becoming light-filled and joy for me rather than an excuse to continue to chastise myself and live with guilt or shame.

Positives. Day 5 of however many, written while unreasonably stressed about a missing phone.

1. Buying a nice Celtic knotwork ring in Tynemouth for 50p.
2. Sitting out on rocks near Tynemouth, proving that it's possible to be completely alone at a tourist seaside place in August, chanting and praying and generally getting on with nature.
3. Being lent some books. Obviously someone thinks I don't have enough to read already!
4. A surprise phone call when I got to Whitley Bay resulting in a total change of plans and time spent with a friend by a river (which may now be home to my phone).
5. The feeling of tiredness having walked from Tynemouth to St. Mary's lighthouse before going for a walk.

Positives day 6 of 5

1. Church tonight and completely losing it in giggling fit during the service. Pub after church with friends.
2. The friend whose photo is on the facebook wall immediately under the box I'm typing this in. Love you.
3. I have my phone back and the hug from the friend who returned it was a wonderful hug. Love her hugs.
4. A happy afternoon with another friend, sitting in the deliciousness of Tea Sutra and wandering being a tad insane with her before meeting the friend mentioned in 2.
5. BUS PASS! Wow, so excited. Impatient too because it can't happen yet. But I learn it will be able to happen. Bus Pass. Bus Pass. Wow. Wow. Wow. Hallelujah. Now wondering if another friend knows about this.
6. The number of friends mentioned in those positives. And now I'm home and my family are here. As is another friend.
7. Blimey, when did life start to get good?

Positives: Day 7 of 9. Minor geek edition.

1. Sense8 got renewed for a second season. We walk with pride!
2. Beth says she's going to buy me a Leeloo multipass toy.
3. Person of Interest season 4 awaits me.
4. Skulduggery Pleasant. All of the series. All of it. And that the three of us are going to the Derek Landy talk and signing in a couple of weeks.
5. The hope that Star Wars episode 7 will adequately compensate for episodes 1 to 3. I can live in hope, even if it's unrealistic.

That's enough of that because there has been good on this quiet day. Being outside early this morning. Getting important financial things done and only having to pretend to be my aunt twice in order to get them done. So many good things to be thankful for. And things most of us take for granted - like automatic washing machines. 

Crappy head day. When the social and sensory is massively draining before it even begins. Nyah. Nyah. (But not Nyan. Cat. Not that cat.) But. Here goes.

Positives: Day 8 of 10

1. Daniel Barenboim is playing piano for some Beethoven with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. 'Tis stunning. Love Beethoven. Love Barenboim.
2. Spending time with a friend. Long text conversation with another friend. Friends. And that there are very special ones. The ones with whom the connection runs so much deeper for me than family.
3. Tea in Tea Sutra. Of a variety that the staff pretend to be able to pronounce but they never pronounce it the same way.
4. The name of Valkyrie Cain. And that I'm getting closer to working out my own name. But not my true name. Wouldn't want that of course. At least 4 friends will know what that means!
5. The book Everyday Meditation by Tobin Blake. Among the best £1.50s I've ever spent in a charity shop. So glad to have come back to it, each day with it is a pleasure.

Brain fog, foggy, foggety, fogged.

But the lights that unexpectedly penetrate fog can be incredibly beautiful.
So the plan is to enjoy the lights when they appear rather than spending all the time shivering in the dark and chill of the inner fogginess.
And then the wind will blow and the fog will clear and the greater light will warm and heal.
Blessed be.

Get 'em in early today. Positives: Day 9 of 10.

1. All the overload symptoms earlier were complete horrible (swear words) crud to cope with. But they don't last forever and concerted self care means crisis level has been reduced to "Danger, Will Robinson" level and that feels SO much better. Things DO get better.
1b. Ear plugs. Silence. Closing the door of the room.
2. The jar of lemon curd I bought in Scots Gap last week.
3. Only 117 pages left of the last Skulduggery Pleasant book so I can finish it before going away.
4. Today's sunshine and warmth.
5. The anticipation of the Autscape conference this weekend and the talk and book signing in ten days time. Anticipation can be a wonderful thing.

Positives: Day 10 of 10 It's the final count up.

1. The day improved greatly. Felt so rubbish this morning and everything was still too loud and cried quite a few times. It's much better now.
2. Walking this afternoon with a friend at Shafto and at Bolam Lake.
3. The carrot and coriander soup that friend bought me from somewhere.
4. This: days until we go and get the (signed) book.
5. My counsellor/guide from White Lodge when I was sixteen, who has just published some wise and relevant words.
6. That this is the final day of these positives because tomorrow I leave for the Autscape conference and that's exciting. And it's the unknown too so that's a bit daunting. 

Monday, 8 February 2016

One Day of Gratitude - A Big Decision For Lent

This is today's post in the Sunday Assembly Newcastle gratitude group.
Normally I've been collecting them for a week and then blogging them - for my benefit though I know there are people appreciating seeing them too.
But this is a biggie.  Not a big gratitude thing.  But a big decision.
And if I post it here, now, publicly, then it becomes more of a reality than if it just stays in my own thoughts.
I could write rather a lot about what's going on in my head.  This time, just for once, I'm not going to.
People will react in a variety of ways to this.  Or they might not react at all.
Gratitude Diary - 8th February
Apologies. This is a lot of text. And you now have a church photo in a godless group!

Today I am grateful for a decision I made, half in jest last night and in all seriousness today.

MCC has been my church pretty much since I came out as transgender, got banned from preaching in one place I had joined and got called an abomination by the pastor of the other place I'd been going to. But I've been having faith issues (for much longer than I care to admit) and what Church and Christianity used to give me (the centre of my life and reason to keep living) it doesn't give me now. It's a long story.

Anyway. Decision. Since Lent begins on Wednesday I've decided to do the done thing for once and give something up:
I have decided to give up church services for Lent.

This break should give me some space to find out what life might be without the reassurance of church, without the habit and safety of it. And without some chosen break that's not something I was ever going to allow myself to discover.

So today I've booked up to do something else next Sunday night. It's still crazy spiritual stuff. But it's very different. A lot more free. And it's the kind of thing that doesn't impose a story that has to be believed.

Making this decision and booking to do something different feels good, liberating. But after (very nearly) 25 years of church and Christianity being central to me it's pretty scary too. Hey ho. Others at SA have taken similar steps. And some will look at my decision and would say Hallelujah, if they had a Jah to say Hallel to.

I think at some point soon I need to find some very wise neutral person and have a serious talk about my life. That person will need to be carefully chosen or just turn out to be a completely obvious choice.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Days of Gratitude - The Worst of Meltdowns, New Hope and New Beginnings

Another week and a bit has gone.  Another eight days of posting things I am grateful for as part of the Sunday Assembly Newcastle gratitude group.

In many ways it's been a horrible week.  Horrible.  When you have panic attacks ten days in a row and when some of the days include full scale meltdowns - including what was certainly the worst one ever - then it can be hard to find the positives and say "Yes, I am grateful and my life contains wonder and blessing and beauty and reasons to say that each day is worth living."

Eight days of gratitude, not covering up the struggles.  And there are some good people in that group who offer some support in the hard times, share in the happiness of the good times, and give you gold stars for your writing.   Ten percent of the way through the year and I am glad to have joined up and very glad to have taken the call to gratitude seriously.

31st January

Grateful for these little capsules because without them today would not have been the same.

Panic and things by the time I came out for the Sunday Assembly. But this drug helps. Without taking one I wouldn't have been there or would not have been able to communicate. With it I was able to enjoy SA and smile and sing and was able to meet so many of the good people of this group. Shall we meet for a drink and cake at Heaton Perk?

Shame they're not my meds and that, strictly speaking, my use of this today is illegal. Hoping that someone prescribes them for me soon.

The effect has worn off. Now sitting outside church in the cold, having walked out of the service because I couldn't cope, digging deep for the spoons to get home. Grateful for understanding people in the congregation. 

1st February

Something happened this morning that I'm grateful for - but it didn't happen to me to I can't talk about it!

So a much lesser thing. Grateful to have found this book really cheaply in a charity shop and to have started it today. I have never read any of his books before. I also have a book of his short stories waiting for me.

And grateful for the surprise that someone actually had the slightly obscure book on anxiety reactions and autism I mentioned on Facebook yesterday and she is sending it to me.

2nd February

Worst day in a long time. Grateful that for a while I was able to lose myself and be free by sitting here and making a racket.

Grateful too for the cinnamon swirls I am about to treat myself to. Not a healthy dinner but I don't care!


3rd February

Grateful that I just about managed to divert my head from a repeat of yesterday and for the friend who helped.

Plus she gave me three half sentence writing prompts to play with and my head allowed me to play with two of them so far.

They will be blogged, regardless of quality. One is dreadfully sad. The other is not. What the third will be will be revealed to me only when the free writing falls from my head later.

Grateful too that sometimes, when there are big shadows in life, you can turn around and find the sunlight. (Picture from November not today)

4th February

For yesterday. Grateful to have finally started to receive some hair removal on the NHS about two years later than planned. Electrolysis to add to all the laser treatment we paid for.

Grateful that B could be there and grateful that I managed to not totally melt down with the state of my head.

Grateful even though my face looks like this today. Pretty!

5th February

Grateful that 16 3/4 hours into today I have not had a meltdown. Really very grateful for that and that I actually don't feel too bad.

Grateful for the good feeling it brought seeing this mess of colours still on a wall today - it's a collaborative "slap it on" art from September, the first day since I was at school that I held a paint brush to do anything other than paint a wall. I wasn't signed up for that but gatecrashed the room and didn't get to whatever it was I'd signed up to do.

Grateful for the progress that was made today. Now all I need is to find another director, write a proper company description, company mission, and all the aims and learn the ins and outs of the process and then fill in the forms. After that I can legally form a company. Easy!

6th February

Grateful that a meeting today turned out to be pretty good and full of hope. And at the end I got complimented and then asked if I would like to do something I would never have considered a possibility.  Whether it happens or not is another matter - but it's nice to be asked at all.

Also grateful to have changed upon this when clearing loads of stuff out today. I've wondered for ages where it went. It's an original signed crucifixion picture by Eric Gill from around the time he created the Stations of the Cross for Westminster Cathedral. Not a good photo of it though.

7th February

Grateful that this weekend we have cleared out some of the excess material possessions from the house. There comes a point at which owning things is more of a burden than a blessing, when there is as much clutter as the things that are useful, meaningful or joy bringers. Here's a little of our clutter clear.


For me that point was crossed long ago. It's good to take steps towards the point so it might eventually be crossed back the other way.

And yes, there's more than that.

And I need to clear more sometime.