Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Another Day In Paradise

Tomorrow Lily and I are getting on a plane to go visit my family in Chicago. If you read this blog at all or know me in real life, you probably know that I go there at least 4 times a year. I spend most of my extra money on plane tickets. And whenever I return, I return holding my broken heart in my hands. Every single time I go back to Chicago, it is devastating for me to leave. In fact, people have asked me many times, "Do you ever think of just moving back to Chicago?"

Here's the thing.

Throughout all of my life, beginning in early childhood, I dreamed of living in a place like this. I remember being as young as seven and just knowing I didn't belong in Chicago. Part of it was because my family used to spend part of each summer in the northern woods of Wisconsin, and later on we also went on one or two week camping trips all across the USA. I was happiest when I was around tall trees and large bodies of water. I didn't see mountains until I was in my teens, but when I did, my mind was even more blown.

The pace of Chicago always overwhelmed me as well. From what I've experienced (and maybe you've experienced differently) Chicago, especially the suburbs, is unforgiving of people who are somewhat different. I wished for a place to belong. I never did manage to find "my tribe." I did have friends, but they were almost always people who were friends with me because they wanted something from me... either they liked me because I took care of their children for free (If I had a dollar for every friend who said something like, "I would invite you out with us, but you're the only person I trust with my kids," or "If I hang out with you, I'll have to pay someone to watch my kids!" I'd be rich by now!) or because they liked the attention they got for being kind to someone with a disability, or because I literally would have done anything for anyone. (Not gross stuff. I mean things like lending people money even if I was broke myself, bailing people out of jail, sharing my food, sharing my places to live, etc.) I never quite felt at home anywhere. The last few years I lived in Chicago, I spent almost all of the time in the basement of my parents' house, immersed in the Blogosphere because that world was safe and secure for me.

I dreamed of the day that I would leave Chicago and go to the kind of place where I'd always wanted to live.

Then I landed in Washougal.

Today I was looking back on the past few weeks since my last trip back to Chicago. There was the day that I went and waded in the Washougal River with Kathy and her dog Ellie... where the river is so clear that you can see the rocks on the bottom. The day I went to see "Dominion" with my friends from Odd Man Inn, the animal sanctuary where I volunteer. The day I spent at the Big Float in Portland. I went by myself, which was admittedly a little sad because I am pretty sure I was the only one there alone, but I still had fun floating on my innertube all day long. The many afternoons I've spent with the animals at Odd Man Inn, singing to baby cows, hugging dogs, brushing sheep, holding geese, petting goats, and scratching pig bellies. The day I spent at Veg Out in Portland, also with some friends from Odd Man Inn. The mornings I've spent at Creative Journaling and art classes at the mental health drop in center in Vancouver. Just today I spent a large part of the afternoon just lounging at the river with my dog, talking to some people I met who also had dogs... and then in the evening, got a spontaneous text from Kathy and went to hang out with her and Ellie and the dogs they are babysitting.

I drove home from Kathy's this evening, wowed by the view of Mount Hood and the Columbia River in the sunset. I got to my apartment and had a conversation with my neighbor from the apartment downstairs. Later she came up and knocked on my door to see if I was going to need anything while I am out of town.

Do you see a pattern here? I'm starting to find my place... my tribe. My home.

I miss my parents so bad. Every day it is like I walk around with a wound in my heart. The wound has a scab over it so most of the time I can deal with life, but when I come back fresh from Chicago the scab is ripped open and my heart is bleeding, falling apart, pieces everywhere, me staggering around feeling like I'm dying. But if I stayed in Chicago forever it would be like I was already dead.

It is a hard choice to make. I've totally forgotten the purpose of this blog post. I think what I was trying to say is, I love Washougal, it is my home, and I am happy to be here, and I am even a little sad to be leaving to go back to Chicago. But at the same time I am dreading coming back, because I know I'm going to be in so much pain.

I should probably be packing right now, shouldn't I?

I hope when I come back in several weeks I remember all of the things I am looking forward to for the rest of the summer... more afternoons at the river, the BBQ at the mental health drop in center (although BBQs are not quite as exciting for people who don't eat meat), spending more time at Odd Man Inn, going to autism camp, going to more festivals, etc, etc, etc. And I hope when I get back here my wounded heart scabs over again quickly enough so that I can actually enjoy the rest of the summer here!

Me and Lily at the river today having fun and relaxing and living the dream! 


  1. Such a Beautiful story . . . I miss the trees and the water as well. I was born and raised in Northern Utah. I have lived on the West Coast, in several different locations. ( My favorite time was in the Pacific Northwest, not far from You. And now I live in the desert in Southwest Utah. Very H O T and very dry. Virtually no Trees. Your story brings them closer to my Heart.

    I wish for You and Lily a wondrous stay in Chicago, making many more wondrous memories. I know The Trees and All at Odd Man Inn will be overjoyed at your return.

    Love to You
    -- Stace Sharp

  2. This post made me SO HAPPY! Being away from family is hard, but finding your home and your tribe is a beautiful thing.

    I'm so proud of you, girl.

  3. It's SO hard to find your home, and as we get older and there are more factors to consider it becomes even harder - and more important!

    Go, you!

    Full Spectrum Mama


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