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January 18, 2014:  Both Sides Now Measuring by behavioral reports and memories, I have always been autistic but spent the majority of my life thus far waiting for the world around me to catch up, so that the limitations and circumstances it provided could finally become less oppressive. The answers which could not be provided simply because no one had the knowledge to explain my differences to me, the strategies and methods of empowerment that even now have only barely been discovered, and the myriad of ways that my struggles were dismissed with the disappointing phrase, “you just need to try harder,” are collectively responsible for the oppressiveness of my experience.  What do I have to do to convince these people that I am already trying as hard as I can? Would it help to persuade them if I literally died because I became too exhausted while trying to be something Godde never intended me to be? Mm...maybe, but I’m not ready for the conversation to end there; I still have much more to say, whether or not they’re particularly interested in listening.  I also have a certain fascination with exploring just what it is that Godde intended me to become. 
My so-called disability, what a few now instead refer to as “autism spectrum condition,” since it is a disability primarily because of its differences from prevailing societal norms and not because I am truly unable to do anything of value, has been professionally confirmed. Resources with which to successfully engage the world’s general insanity, however, are conspicuously lacking. My mind has been racing without pause since I took my first breath. Even at night, my senses are filled with nightmares, as my subconscious mind seeks to sort out humanity’s hypocrisy, schizophrenia, and irrationality. “How about an autism service dog,” one suggested. Legal definitions are at odds with themselves, however, validating on one hand that a service dog must empower a handler to do what the handler could not otherwise do, but simultaneously insisting that the service provided must be something other than an effect of the dog’s presence--even if that presence is exactly what is needed. “If the dog makes it possible for you to do something you could not otherwise do, then it is a service dog,” I am told. Specifically because my thoughts are perpetually drowning within a potentially overwhelming sea of detail and heightened perception, providing structure to a service dog’s behavior brings structure to my own thoughts as well. Without such structure, I would avoid all chaotic and overwhelming environments, I would stay home and starve, or perhaps I would even become homeless and have nothing for which to live and no hope of any desirable future. The service dog consequently becomes my anchor, by which to safely navigate life’s turbulent oceans. The law also says, however, that if no trainer can take credit for teaching the dog to bring structure and focus to my thoughts and to act as an anchor for me within potentially overwhelming social situations, then the dog is not a service dog. The situation is rendered all the more absurd by the absence of any sort of licensing or quality controls upon trainers, as well as the absence of sufficient efforts to place and maintain approved service dogs with every person who would benefit from such assistance.  It is certainly not true that there is an insufficient number of dogs available for such training.  Regardless, according to which part of the law do I choose to live, since the law in its current form is self-contradicting? I find my experience of autism makes me compulsively honest. “Honesty is the best policy,” I was instructed throughout childhood. Yet honesty is why I struggle with this question of how to cope and there is no question that the world within which I live is not an honest one. From traffic violations as common as speeding to cheating on government tax forms to the consumption of substances confirmed to be poisonous, virtually everything around me seems resolutely pointed toward self- destruction. One might wonder whether anything capable of promoting holistic health and self-empowerment must be illegal-- but even that question lacks a clear answer.  Maybe that’s because humanity hasn’t actually decided yet whether it wants to continue committing suicide, one person at a time, or conversely whether we are finally ready to do the work necessary to truly live.  Even with my autism, I know that I want to live--as long and as deep and as beautifully and as meaningfully as I possibly can.  Perhaps the world’s time of indecision, however, is the best opportunity I will ever have to blaze a trail of faith in myself, in that which is truly Godde, and in a myriad of yet undiscovered positive possibilities, which others who come after me may find useful to their own life adventures. Somehow, I must persevere in trying, because the future in all of its expansive and wondrous mystery depends upon it.   March 6, 2014:  Reaching for Empowerment It's been just over a year since I was diagnosed with high-functioning autism and it's been quite an interesting journey. At first I was relieved to finally understand a great many of the relational difficulties I've had throughout my life. Then I wanted to know what resources were available to help me cope with these challenges more effectively. Unfortunately the answer was almost none. I found myself slipping toward agoraphobia. Now that the myriad of invisible demons had a name, they somehow seemed a hundred times more real, more threatening, and more overwhelming than they ever previously had. Then I began hearing about autism service dogs, but I didn't have thousands of dollars to purchase one from an established trainer and numerous people told me I "wasn't bad enough" to need one. I could virtually feel the life being sucked out of me, as I found myself more and more isolated. Then I discovered how extremely sensitive and trainable my pitbull puppy was and began searching the Internet to find out precisely what, after all, an autism service dog had to know or do to be an autism service dog. Everything I found indicated that it depends upon the needs of the particular person, but that most essential were ways that the dog could prevent or de-escalate potential melt-downs (as well as also doing behaviors essential to appropriate conduct within public places). While there are specific programs that focus upon the creation of specific behavioral patterns, the truth is that the training never ends. Having a service dog is about maintaining particular complex behavioral patterns specifically oriented to the empowerment of the associated handler of the dog. When I thought that significant progress in training my dog had been made, I began asking friends and acquaintances whether any difference was obvious according to whether or not my dog was with me. I wanted to be sure I wasn't just fooling myself. The responses were unanimous, however, that there was an obvious difference in my ability to cope with challenges, whenever my dog was with me. Nonetheless, because my natural tendency is still to avoid environments that overwhelm me, my dog may not have a lot of practice within certain situations. Within the places I typically go, however, I am doing much better than I otherwise would and I find myself wondering how on earth I was able to manage as well as I previously did. When I take a closer look at how I previously managed, however, I would describe it as "not actually that well." Whew. Thank Godde for Bedivere. With all of this in mind, however, it now rather baffles me whenever someone asks, "Why can't you just leave the dog at home?" I wonder if they ask people with other disabilities to leave their tools out of sight also, to avoid making anyone else uncomfortable. Is it inconvenient? I suppose every disability is at least inconvenient, but wanting to include people with disabilities within one's life is a matter of including both them and the ways that they cope with challenges. If you genuinely love someone, how could you want anything less? In my opinion, love is the conviction that including that person is absolutely worth whatever is required. March 28, 2014:  Losing Gareth      He arrived nearly nine years ago as the most wonderful ball of fur I’d ever seen, having been flown all alone from Tennessee after arrangements had been made by telephone.  He was an amazing combination of spirit, mind, and body, trying to make sense of his own peculiar transitions, perceptions, and feelings.  At one point he even unmistakeably demonstrated an ability to see ghosts, but somehow always had difficulty responding to basic commands.  When my diagnosis of autism was finally given, after my fiftieth birthday, I thought perhaps he would become my autism service dog, since I’d been told that what he really needed was a job to do.  His lack of prompt response to commands and his nervousness in unfamiliar spaces, however, ultimately recommended against such an occupation.  Still, I loved him almost more than life itself.       We stumbled through all sorts of developmental challenges and even once attempted to climb a high mountain together, but had to turn back when the terrain proved to be too uncharted and adversarial.  I never hesitated to rub his ears and assure him of my love, when he occasionally interrupted me while I worked at my desk.       About six weeks ago, I noticed that each time I left the house and often while I was home as well, he would lie on the floor next to the altar in my living room.  In retrospect, I find myself wondering if he was preparing himself for a most important spiritual journey, but had no way to inform me of its rapidly approaching occurrence.  The morning of Gareth’s last day-- yesterday--began in a relatively usual sort of way, although my youngest dog, Bedivere (who’d become my autism service dog), was so disturbed about some mysterious something that he wouldn’t even eat his breakfast.  I had no way of knowing that Gareth was to suddenly experience some sort of unanticipated internal brain injury only a couple of hours later.  There was no incident, no obvious cause whatsoever, when in the blink of an eye he was suddenly unable to stand, unable to do almost anything.  I knew he was getting old, but I thought we had at least a few more months to get ready.  I got him into my car and hurried to see his veterinarian, but she said it was already too late and there was virtually nothing that could be done.  I accepted the responsibility of authorizing his departure, to put an end to the struggle and suffering.  I held his head in my lap, stroking him gently as she inserted the needle--at which point he made eye-contact with her for the one and only time that morning and clearly impressed upon her the words, “thank you.”  Then, without fighting the process at all, he was gone.       I would give literally almost anything to have him back.  As has often been said, “If love could build a stairway and memories a lane, I’d walk right up to heaven and bring you home again.”  Absolutely and without hesitation.