Ready, Set, Goals!

For most of my life, “goals” has been a 4 letter word. Now, I am fully aware that “goals” has 5 letters, but it might as well have been “fuck” or “shit” or “twat-waffle” (which also doesn’t have 4 letters) because goal setting is not something that I have the ability to do.

I don’t know about you, but in every grade from middle school up, the school provided a planner, which we were just magically supposed to be able to use effectively. And most kids did (at least as well as a 12-year-old can organize their life). This was one of those things that made me feel like I was lazy and stupid and a whole bunch of other words that ruled my life in childhood. Teachers said I was ‘smart but insert word here‘. Lazy, unmotivated, not willing to change, inflexible.

I believed all of these things about myself, until 2016, and then again in 2019, when I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and 2 Specific Learning Disabilities (Reading and Writing).

This is how education changes live, folks. I believed that I was lazy and stupid and all those other things negative identities that got gotten lodged in my self-identity for 28 years. That’s a seriously long time to think those sorts of things about yourself. that’s a whole childhood. Especially since all it took was a handful of hours and a bunch of tests to show that I’m not, in fact, lazy. I’m autistic. I have learning disabilities. I have Auditory Processing Disorder, and I’m Hard of Hearing.

Turns out, with hearing aids, aural therapy, and occupational therapy to help me, I’m actually pretty great at organization!

I’m not going to proselytize about Bullet Journals again, but I did want to show how I set goals and using my Bullet Journal has led to my success, both in organization and in goal setting.

I’ve never been able to make a pre-made planner work for me, and oh how I’ve tried. This makes sense if you’ve really think about it. Journal, planners, and calendars are made for the neurotypical majority, and autistic minds simply don’t think that way. This led me to the realization that if I wanted something that was going to work for me, I would have to be the one to design it.

I’ve been Bullet Journaling for more than 2 years now, and I’ve gone through a lot of changes because I started out knowing that I needed something, but not knowing how to do it. I did a lot of trials. I tracked a lot of things that didn’t actually need tracking, and I set goals with no support or follow up. None of this was effective. I’ve spent years tinkering and I’m pretty satisfied with what I’ve got, especially with this new goal system I’m trying out for this semester.

I begin the month by setting 3 or 4 goals. These are monthlong things that I want to work on. I also have a to-do list that has single things that I want to get done before the end of the month. I have daily trackers for things that I’m aiming to do every day. These used to be located on my weekly page, but they cluttered it up, and I’ve found that being able to see trends monthly instead of weekly is better anyway. This is what I fill out out the beginning of the month- it has a follow up at the end of the month, and that’s what makes this so effective.

The end of the month goal page lets me analyze how the month went. Thinking about what worked and what didn’t work not only helps me change to how I make future goals but lets me figure out how to make changes for the next month. Next month changes can either be solutions to the ‘didn’t work’ stuff, or it can help guide goals for the coming month.

There are also less analytical parts that aim to be positive and fun. I love reading and I read a lot of books a month, so picking just one can be a satisfying challenge. It’s also really interesting to be able to see what songs have been stuck in my head over time (does anyone else have an earworm at all times?). Successes is a feel-good after analyzing what went wrong. Successes can be related to the goals, or they can just be stuff that I’m proud of and want a record of.

I’m totally okay with saying that the numbers cloud was borrowed from a bullet journal Instagrammer because it’s awesome. Like the earworm list, it’s fun to track over time, plus, it can be a catch-all for little things I want to remember, and is the place for humor (like the ‘doing nothing as self-care’).

So there we are. This is how I set goals. Is it always perfect? No, but that’s the point of goals, at least for me. I need to work through what I actually want and how I’m going to get it, and this set up allows me to do that.

I never would have thought before that organization could be so individualized, and  Occupational Therapy definitely taught me how to figure out what I want from being organized and how to set goals, and most importantly, techniques for figuring a system out on my own.

If any of you folks have a goal system, an organization system, a bullet journal, or anything that you feel inspires you, I would love love love to hear about it!

5 Reasons I Want to be More Like Hawkeye

I don’t know about you, but for the past few days, my social media pages have all been focused on one thing: the Avengers: Infinity War trailer. Of course, whenever a new Avenger’s movie comes out, I always get disappointed, because my favorite Avenger, no, my favorite Superhero, is criminally underrepresented.

If you’ve seen the movies, you may recognize his as the guy with a bow and arrow, who never really gets much screen time. His name is Clint Barton, code name Hawkeye, and I swear I’ve never been this attached to a comic book character before.

Everyone’s favorite archer currently stars in his own comic book, written by the wonderful Matt Fraction, and he skillfully highlights the humanity of a hero. All the stories take place in between big battles, and builds up Hawkeye as a person I’d really like to be like.

And here are a few reasons why:

1. He’s not Super: Clint Barton is just a person, who is very good at one thing- archery. And while I am only ok at archery, I am also just a person, and I really admire the bravery it takes to go out and save the world armed only with a bow and arrow. Hawkeye doesn’t have a super suit. He doesn’t have super speed or super strength. He doesn’t even have advanced healing. The fact that he is so utterly human is what I love about him. He goes into battle again mutants and gods, and once the world has been saved, he drags himself home to ice his bruises and tape up his ribs. I want to be the sort of person who throws myself into things knowing that I may have to patch myself up afterward, and being ok with that.

2. He’s invested in his community: In Matt Fraction’s comics, Hawkeye literally goes to battle over his apartment building. Not in a business sense, but to make sure that his neighbors have a safe place to live. Clint is definitely a worrier at heart, but for whatever reason, he doesn’t hesitate when it comes to the wellbeing of his community. This is the advocate that I aspire to be. Right now I’m pretty comfortable with self-advocacy, which, as I say to make myself feel better, Hawkeye is terrible at. But taking that next step still worries me, and unfortunately, the comics don’t provide a great guide to advocacy. If I were to what Clint did, I would: throw barbeques, rescue people from a hurricane, watch Christmas Specials with the children, and fight off the Mafia for control of the building. I think I’ll take the spirit of Hawkeye and make my own plan.

3. His disability doesn’t run his life: There are lots of Superhero’s with disabilities out there. In fact, after accidental radioactive exposure, disabilities are one of the top reasons that superheroes are born. It’s like the writers are saying “yes, you’re blind, but hey, at least you have superpowers now!” Canonically, Clint Barton is Hard of Hearing, and he gains nothing super from it. No powers, unless you count reading lips as a power. But I don’t think that he would. He also communicates with ASL throughout the comic (Issue #19 is done almost entirely without spoken English.) I like that since he’s been dealing with disability since childhood, it fits him like a really comfy pair of shoes. Like, if he were to list 5 things that describe himself, Deafness wouldn’t make that list. I still fight my disabilities sometimes, and the comfortable acceptance that Clint has is what my goal is.

4. He gets back up (even if he quits first): We all fall down, even superheroes, and Clint Barton does his fair share. I can’t really blame him, he’s got to have trauma from the constant stream of people dying around him, and sometimes I have trauma days where I don’t have it in me to leave the house. But even on his bad days, hell even on his bad months, he always comes back, and I think that’s a really healthy behavior. No shame in needing a break, right? It would be so easy for Hawkeye to walk away. It’s not like he’s irreplaceable like Captain America or highly recognizable like Tony Stark. He could take his dog and start a new life, one without violence or pressure to save New York, again. And yet…

5. He does his best because it’s important: I said up at the top that Hawkeye is my favorite because he doesn’t have superpowers, but he still goes out there every day and saves the world. And to me, him doing this is almost more admirable than someone who did have powers doing it. Hawkeye does the best with what he has, and he does it because he knows how important it is. I go through stages where I want to save the world. Just like Clint, I know that it’s important, and that me doing my best could really make a difference. But the idea of saving the world is scary too. To quotes a certain other superhero, “with great power comes great responsibility”, and I’m not sure I’m ready for that. I’m hoping that, with time, the fact that I could make a difference will shift from a worry to a simple fact: that it’s important, so I should do it.

So there we are! Superheroes are written to be idols, but I hope I’ve shown how much I appreciate one who is an everyday hero as well. Because that’s what I strive for, making a difference just by being me. And hey, if I can have a dog while doing it, that’s even better!

Anti-Resolution 2018

Happy New Years! It’s 2018, the Year of the Dog and the year of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang South Korea! We all know that the New Year comes with the ball dropping, lots of sensory unfriendly fireworks, and the worst thing- New Years Resolutions.

I hate resolutions. Every year that I’ve tried to make resolutions, I’ve felt terrible pressure to always be working towards them, and terrible guilt when I fail. That’s a terrible way to start a new year, right?

In treatment, there’s a big focus on making goals, and as I’m sure you can guess, that’s didn’t go so well for me. I got lucky though, I work with an Occupational Therapist, and she suggested rather than put the focus on making goals, I should think about things I want in my life, but don’t have. Ways that I want life to be different. Then I could find ways to make those things a reality (which I know is just a different way of saying goals, but hey, it works for me.)

So instead of posting about my New Years Resolutions with you, I’m going to share what I want to be different in 2018

  1. I want to be more independent. I didn’t realize until recently that I don’t really do things by myself. I rarely leave the house alone, mostly because I’m worried about autism problems, like getting lost, becoming nonverbal, and having meltdowns. Going new places, and going places that trigger sensory overload (like grocery stores- why must your fluorescent lights be so bright and everything be so loud?) I feel like a need a buddy just in case something goes wrong, and it can be very limiting. So here’s hoping that 2018 is the year of independence!
  2. I want to be more involved in my community. I wasn’t diagnosed with Autism until 2016 when I was 28, and it wasn’t until almost a year later that I, with great joy, discovered the vibrant and brilliant autistic online community. I immediately knew that this was something that I wanted to be a part of, even though I rarely used social media in my “real” life. I’ve taken small steps, this blog being one of them, but I want more. I want to educate, I want to be an advocate, I want to lead.  I’m planning on continuing to do what I’m doing and to look for opportunities and contribute and connect.
  3. I want my health to be better. I’ve mentioned before that not only do I have a neurological condition called Dysautonomia (POTS is the specific syndrome), I’m also dealing with some hip/nerve issues that we haven’t really found an answer for yet. They’re both highly limiting. There’s not a lot that I can proactively do about my hip, but once it’s doing better, there’s a lot I can do for the POTS, it can’t be cured, but I can reduce the symptoms. Right now, I can stand for about 2 minutes, and walk for about 5, before I become at risk for fainting. There’s a physical therapy protocol that I’m going to try, so I can get back to doing things that I love, like hiking, longboarding, and rock climbing.
  4. I want to be more comfortable with my gender. Right now, I identify as Nonbinary, which is a word I love, because it gives me so many options. I spent so much time being frustrated because I knew that I wasn’t a girl, but I didn’t think that I was male enough to be transgender. I’m happily settled with the Nonbinary identifier, but one thing I haven’t figured out yet is pronouns. She/her/hers makes me uncomfortable, but they/them/theirs bothers the grammar nerd that still lives within me. Xe and Ey and everything else don’t seem to fit either, and I’m not sure that I’m boy enough to use he/his. So this year, I want to figure out my pronouns. This year I want to figure out what will be necessary to help me deal with dysphoria. This year, I want to be more comfortable with who I am.

I know sharing resolutions can be sort of stressful, but if you’ve got any that you’ve like to talk about or share, I’d love to hear them!