Just falling asleep

Yesterday I had a dental appointment first thing in the morning. And it was time to take x-rays. When the lead apron was draped over me, I felt this sudden calm wash over me. I sleep with a weighted blanket, but it is quite a bit lighter. I wished I could have had the lead apron on for the entire appointment. Next time, I might actually ask!

My bedtime routine is undergoing some adjustment. For the last six years, I have been watching M*A*S*H. I have all eleven seasons on DVD, although many of the discs are very temperamental from wear and tear. Well, now my portable DVD player is acting up. I only bought it three years ago, but it was a rather cheap model (I was amazed it was still possible to buy a DVD player at all) — and it has seen a LOT of use. I could look into getting a USB-connected DVD player to plug into my Chromebook, but that would hardly be convenient in my bedroom. So I decided to bit the bullet and try bedtime without M*A*S*H.

I always take my iPod Touch to bed with me because it serves as my alarm clock. So now I am collecting podcasts to listen to. I used to be a huge podcast junkie. But now that I work from home, I do not need to load up on podcasts to for my bus commute (that can be ridiculously long for the distance when Seattle traffic is gridlocked.) So, I am not sure what I want to listen to these days (apart from the various Ted Lasso podcasts.)

I found a really interesting podcast called The Rise And Fall Of Mars Hill, about the megachurch that was once a phenomenon in Seattle. But I have kept falling asleep about twenty minutes in, even though I find it really interesting. I am finding myself nodding off very quickly to other podcasts as well.

Perhaps I have rediscovered this crazy idea of just going to bed and falling asleep 😴 How wild is that?

My Autistic Experience: Religion

Religion has played a relatively minor part of my life. As a kid, when I visited one set of grandparents, I accompanied them to chapel. And when I visited the other set, I accompanied them to their Jehovah Witness congregation meetings — and addition to hearing them talk about their religion all day. And at my common-garden-variety English state school, there was Religious Education — something that many Americans would find a scary proposition but was actually not too big a deal at my school. (It was just like English Lit class, except that the book open in front of us happened to be The Bible as opposed to a Shakespeare play. We took turns reading from it and then the teacher tried to get us to talk about it. Parents could request an exemption for their child to skip the class and spend the hour in the library.) And that is about it!

However — I very much believe in God! But that is a different matter altogether! I once worked for a Jewish boss who admitted to me that she did not believe in God, despite keeping a kosher house — and she was astounded that I, as a trained scientist with a PhD, DID believe in God. She did attempt to distance herself from the Jewish religion when she was younger because she worried about being a hypocrite. But after a few years, she realized that the religious practices served a purpose that she was now missing — and she also missed the culture and the community. So after some serious soul-searching she returned to her religion— although not to God. (I suspect He does not mind — He’s bigger than that!)

Anyway, any structure or rituals I have established in my life have largely had nothing to do with religious observance. As an autistic person, I have daily/weekly routines for mundane things like showering, breakfast, bus-riding, laundry, tooth-flossing, grocery shopping, exercise and lots more — and I tend to follow these routines religiously. And when I am a student, I set up very strict study habits for myself.

I suspect that if I had been raised by a religious family, I might have found strict religious observance helpful. Although the autistic experience varies widely from person to person, it seems that most of us have difficulties with those “unwritten rules” that we are all expected to know about but autistic people do not always pick up on — so living life via a system of written rules that we are all educated on might be beneficial.

On the other hand, if I had been raised within a strict religion, but amongst people who pick and choose which rules to follow, then I might be even more confused than I am now — and so it might have made things harder.

There have been times in my life when my own self-doubts resulted in me being overwhelmed by other people’s religions. In childhood, the biggest influence was the Jehovah Witnesses. Their Armageddon narrative scared the heck out of me — so I read all the books and pamphlets my grandmother gave me because I felt I owed it to myself to follow the rules so that nothing bad would happen to me. In 1974, I was literally being told that the world would have ended by 1980. Well, 1980 came and went, and I went off to university and did not trouble myself thinking about Armageddon again. (I actually do believe in some form of armageddon — but more a chapter in history as opposed to a discrete event — something like the world is going through right now.)

I think my autism, with a dangerous combination of curiosity, gullibility, and overall reluctance to stand up for myself, has sometimes made me an irresistible target for religions that evangelize. Back in the days when believers went around knocking on doors, I noticed that I got far more visits than my neighbors — and I suspected my address had been shared as a good door to knock on.

One of the more troubling associations involved a mature Hare Krishna devotee. Once again, a frightening account led me to feel obligated to find out more. I do not wish to elaborate on what I went through, other than that for a year or so, I did chant the Maha Mantra every evening. I was told that this would be a “shortcut” to realizing Krishna. I was rather troubled (and also a bit amused) by the idea of there being a shortcut to anything as important as God — but I felt I owed it to myself to try. It took me an hour to do a single round, far short of the eight rounds suggested (or was it 12!) — but I chant slowly and there is no way I could have made time for more. Fortunately, a mental health disturbance interrupted. In the recovery aftermath, thinking more clearly, I did see some value in the chanting — and I continued to do it as part of a gentler ritual. I would light some candles and then chant the mantra, dedicating each iteration to someone I cared about in some way — family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and anyone I might have seen that day who perhaps could use some love and help. So it evolved into a more secular kind of prayer. I no longer do it — but it helped rebuild my confidence — and I do not let people badger me with their religion any more.

My relationship with God has been considered by some to be highly questionable because it has not been nurtured within the structure of a religion. But there is an example in popular culture that rather nicely represents how I have experienced God. In 2003, there was a TV show called Joan Of Arcadia which summed it up quiet nicely.