I Am Frozen

As difficult as it is for me to wrote about these things, I feel it is important to share my limitations, hoping that it will help others who cannot put to words these feelings.

Today, I am frozen.  A well intentioned thought process has overwhelmed me and now I am physically, and mentally frozen on the set of tasks I must complete.  I do not know why this happens, and I still do not fully know what to do to get back on track.  It’s a very frustrating place to be.

The Background  

I have always been disorganized.  There is something about filing, prioritizing, sorting, labeling, and following up that I just can’t seem to fully grasp.  After years of struggle, I stumbled upon a method called The Action Method.  I spent a little time on their website at behance.com getting an overview of the method, and playing with the free online software.  For the first time, it felt like achieving some organizational skills was possible.  So, I jumped over to Amazon and bought their book called Making Things Happen.


Reading the Book

I have never had help with dyslexia, probably because I didn’t even know I had it until my late twenties.  All I knew was that reading was a skill I was painfully slow in acquiring, and was almost impossible to maintain.  No one ever asked me if the words were moving around the page or vibrating or flipping around, I was just told to try harder.  Most of my interventions are ones I learned about on my own – colored transparencies to cover up the page, low lumen LED lighting so the light is not too bright or noisy, and a guide to isolate paragraphs.  Some days, however, I just cannot read, even using all my little tricks.

Last night, my reading was good.  I was able to read to page 58, of course skipping over all the examples given by the author.  (My autism seems to like bullet points better than stories.)  Words were clear, staying still, and making sense in my head when I read them.  Unfortunately, duty called and I had to go to work.  Reluctantly, I put the book down.

Today, I tried to pick up from where I left off.  Reading was off the charts with a battery of vibrations and movements, causing my eyes to quickly fatigue.  Motivated by yesterday’s good read, I really wanted to learn this system and get my business organized.  I tried with every possible ounce of effort to continue reading, but I just couldn’t.  Frustrated, I threw the book down after covering only 3 pages in an hour.

Try Something, Anything

I couldn’t read anymore, but maybe I could just apply what I had learned so far.  I understood there were three categories to organize everything into – Action, Reference, and Backburner.  I also understood that I needed to gather all my papers, notes, correspondences, and files in order to begin sorting everything into the three categories.  The method is clear, and concise as well as simple.  My mind easily wrapped around the concepts presented in the book.  It was clear to me that I understood, theoretically, how it all worked.
 
People often rate intellectual ability on action.  If a person behaves in a manner that seem intelligent, or if a person can easily complete tasks that are socially interpreted as intelligent tasks, then people assume that person has a high IQ.  Similarly, people often assume that the opposite is true – odd behavior or inability to easily complete tasks must mean a low IQ.  Both assumptions are wrong.  The ongoing frustration I find in autism is the breakdown between my quick intellectual processing and the translation of that processing into a tangible task.  I understand what I must do, but I am paralyzed by the process of projecting my intellectual world onto my physical world, efficiently and in tact.
 

11:01 am – Frozen

I am sitting at the table, absolutely frozen.  I cannot stand up, my eyes are heavy, my nerve endings in my back and seat hurt, and my mind is in an unstoppable loop.  Trying to touch reality, I grab the pen on the table and start to scribble thoughts down (this works for me, though not for all).  
 
 
 
 
I write:
      11:01 am Frozen – Thinking of process to get new organization method in place.  It is to repeat over & over in my head.  Can not seem to make a loop pause or to stop.
     Pictures in my mind – file cabinet -> piles of paper -> computer -> emails -> taxes -> try to sort & can’t -> Repeats

 

     Question in my mind – Fast voiceover way – How do I know difference in action & backburner?  How many years of bills to keep?  What if IRS takes my EIC again?  Why I feel sad?  Why are eyes sleepy all of sudden?  Why can’t I move from table?
 
This loops over and over again for a length of time I cannot describe.  I only noted the time when I finally had the ability to grab the paper and pen already on the table in front of me and write down what was in my mind.  My hope?  That I would distract myself from the loop and be able to move.  It worked.
 
I was able to get up from the table and grab my laptop.  Trying to avoid the loop, I pushed the book from view and started writing this blog post.  As much as I desire to be productive and organized, and even though this Action Method seems like the first real way I can learn, but  the process has me frozen.  It is a change in my routine.  True, it will be a good change, but change is hard.  It is also a task that is not easy for me to execute, so I must learn to use other mental energy, reserved for other tasks, to put this new system into place.  My brain is not able to store this type of functioning in the place it is pre-determined to go, so I must use a different space in my brain.  This means I am actually using mental effort to “re-wire” my own mind.  It is hard and very tiring.
 
Don’t believe this is possible?  The Human Calculator, Rudiger Gamm, is not a math savant, but learned to do complex calculations on his own.  A scan of his brain, done while he performed math tasks in his mind, proved that Rudiger was using areas of his mind, reserved for other tasks, to do the math.  
 
I believe that my advanced adaptations are done the same way.  I work hard to train myself to use other mental space to complete tasks I am inherently poor at doing.  Though, there are some tasks that are so monumental that I just do not have the mental energy to learn it.  I have helpers for those tasks.
 

Answers

I don’t have any answers.  Each day and in each stage of life, autism presents new challenges.  Some challenges are left over ones from previous years when I didn’t have the skill to cope.  Other challenges are just unveiling themselves as I approach new areas of life.  the only thing that is becoming apparent to me is that I may not be able to totally work alone.  In building my business, I will need to make room for an employee or two that can keep me on track and organized.  I am not giving up on this new method, I just may need help executing the method until it becomes routine.  I still think The Action Method is the best method I have seen to date, and I plan on making it a part of my life.
 
If you take away anything from my story today, it should be that being frozen is quite different from inaction.  If I were presented with help from another and I refused to try, cooperate on any level, or apply what I know I can do – that is inaction.  That is a choice I make.  If I cannot move, or cannot ask for help – that is frozen.  I have no power over myself when I am frozen and all I can do is redirect my mind.

The year of r – Opening Thoughts

Family is in town and I have once again been summoned to help them find their way through the autism maze.  I don’t know them well, as is often the case with extended family, but I am always happy to help when I can.  As we talk, I am reminded of my own misery in that I continue to make strides in a life I do not want -and- I continue to accept help to that end.  I am not sure how I am fit to give this woman advise on how to help her autistic child progress when I am still not sitting on the throne of my own success.
 
If anything, these events are making me think about what I really want and how to achieve it.  For the last two New Year’s, resolution wise, I had vowed I would think positive.  Every morning, upon waking I would look at my reflection and say “By this time next year, I will be a millionaire.”  I don’t need to be a millionaire, nor do I care that much about money, but I thought the mindset would propel me forward.  It did, for a little while.  With each month, my income improved slightly and I found myself acting more assertively when it came to getting proper pay for my services.  It also pushed me to rebuild my website, narrow my expenses and improve my exposure by joining in on various forms of social media and scheduling more live events.  I did grow, just not as much as I had hoped.
 
The problem, I have found, is no longer my state of mind, but my state of being.  Your mind can believe that you can move mountains, but if the hands won’t carry the stones then your belief is futile.  I realize that I need a motive to change my state of being.  The phrase “this time next year” has given me hope, but it is an infinite deadline that I do not have to physically make happen.  I have also managed to avoid admitting failure.  Failure; there’s is a word we have made into a social black hole.  When did we decide it was a bad thing to fail?  Failure means we tried.  Failure means we applied effort but found ways that are broken, inconsistent, ephemeral or impractical for our personal applications.  We fear failure where we should really fear capitulation. Maybe what I have really done is found a fancy way to avoid taking action. 
 
 
The act of fearing failure no longer seems rational, but I have to determine the source of my uncertainty. Given my infinitely geeky ways, I immediately think of the uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics which basically states it is impossible to measure the current position of a particle and the future motion of a particle at the same time.  True, this only applies to particles small enough to be governed by quantum mechanics, but I think it could certainly shadow my own existence.  Perhaps I was so busy measuring my current position in life that I was unable to properly predict the proper path to my future position.  Or, maybe I was so fixated on my future progression, I forgot to measure my current position.  Either way, I am left with two fixed points with no real solution on how to travel between them, so it is time to make a change.  
 
If I dilute myself to a word problem, what I really have here is a distance problem, d=rt.  This time, I know how far I want to go, distance (d), and I know how much time I want to use to get there (t).  All I need now is to figure out how fast I need to move, or in this case how much work I need to do to achieve success (r).  It becoming clear to me that 2012 will be the year of r.  To solve for r, I will have to strip my goals of any financial limitations, personal strife or public criticism and funnel my goals into strict timelines, all which will collectively fit into a time period of 1 year.  Please pass the Pepto Bismal.
 
 
Solving for r is going to push me into overdrive if I plan to complete all my tasks in one year.  In order to be efficient, I think I am going to have to prioritize my smaller goals and categorize them into three main categories – Reset, Energize and Establish.  Reset consists of actions that restore my financial life to a debt free status.  (My debt is a status I entered recently following a divorce.)  Energize consists of actions that increase my earning potential or my assets.  Establish consists of actions that settle me into my final destination as a successful contributor to the entertainment industry residing in Southern California.
 
 
I will also have to embrace my failures more specifically so that I don’t repeat them. I think my mistake in the past has been thinking I had to achieve everything with no help in order to be independent.  Maybe I do need to do things on my own to be independent, at least on the popular view of independence as the “I am my own island,” survivor crap, but it is a waste of energy to focus on this.  Why would I work so hard to climb Mount Everest alone?  The self-satisfaction of knowing I made the climb?  That’s not for me.  I know I can make the climb.  I’d rather have someone to share the moment with.  It seems to me that my best energy arises when my dreams come to reality with a little help from my friends.  I will need to ask for and accept help before I lose control.
So, 2012 is the year of r.  Maybe my goals this year are huge and possibly unreachable, to most people, but I don’t care.  I would rather be a dreamer and fail, than be assuaged by realism.
-Laura Nadine