Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Happiness Project: Order

One of the things I like to do for myself is read wonderful blogs written by wonderful women. You can of course find some of them on my side bar. One of those that I enjoy immensely is Aspie Teacher, written by Sandy. She is an adult aspie, graduate of an Ivy League college, happily married, former inner city teacher. Sandy writes about life as an adult on the spectrum and has become quite the advocate over the year that I have read her blog. One of the more interesting programs that she created was Autism Night Out, where she organized an autism friendly shopping experience. What an inventive and wonderful idea that was. Another interesting perspective that she wrote about was what happened when she was called for jury duty and how the judge actually accommodated her auditory processing disorder. While the trial itself concerned an upsetting societal issue, it was an amazing look into how the world really can accommodate those with invisible disabilities with minimal effort. It truly says something about the parts of the world still so hell bent on ignorance towards those with invisible disabilities and it is not a flattering portrait believe you me. But what I found most intriguing is Sandy’s last article about blogs totally unrelated to autism. The one I love the most was The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin.

What a terrific idea. Think about it. We are all responsible for our own happiness and if we are not happy then we can do something about it. That actually is the challenge of the Happiness Project. I signed the petition and I suggest all of you do too. I think in today’s world of economic upheaval and political uncertainly, we can all look at our own lives and decide to be happy. It doesn’t mean that there are not things that are out there that we cannot control, but there are plenty in our own sphere of influence that we can. Take charge that is what I am going to do. Here are the months and some ideas of where you can review your world, ala Gretchen:

• January--Energy

• February--Love

• March--Work

• April--Money

• May--Mindfulness

• June--Order

• July--Spirit

• August--Fun

• September--Family

• October--Friends

• November--Attitude

• December--Boot Camp Perfect

The petition tells you to start at the moment you sign. So since it is still June, I will start with order. Heaven knows that in a family with two aspies, three dogs, a hubby that works 24/7 and me a control freak, order is something that we all need a great deal.



Hubby used to tell the boys when I went on a cleaning jag to not stand still or mommy would throw you out with the trash. I cannot stand clutter never could. So I think it is ironic that the boys live and thrive in clutter of some kind. It is funny because for aspies life is supposed to be schedule and order, but for them, life is one big pile of mess. So every once in awhile I go through closets, desks, shelves and boxes, to make sure that the items we have are things we really need.

The truth is that the boys outgrow their clothes on a regular basis. OK collegeman not so much anymore. But HSB, woo boy that child is growing. I think he finally hit that puberty stride, and he now has gone from an adult small to adult large in one year. Luckily he can share clothes with collegeman so it wasn’t such a bad thing in the long run, but getting there was a trauma. The clothes that could no longer be worn were happily placed in bags for the community center (Well after a bit of a fight where HSB refused to acknowledge that he needed larger clothes. Any kind of change was never easy for him.) As I have written so many times before, charity is a mainstay and the only way to actually get HSB to give up possession of any item is to assure him that it is going to be donated to those less fortunate. If you don’t have a community center near you, there is always the Salvation Army and I am sure your church or synagogue knows where you can donate used items too. HSB not being able to part with things has always been an issue with keeping things in order in the house. But we are moving on and hopefully we have found a way around this “lovely” OCD issue. By the way used books, can sometimes go to the Boys and Girls Club, your local library or I even have sent books to the local VA for veterans to read during their stay in the hospital.

Another clutter and disorder issue is the boy’s desks. Hubby’s desk is also a mish mosh, but for the most part I never go near that. Once in a while I clean it up so I can really throw out the junk and the old bills and used pens, etc. But as far as papers and books, they stay where they are. I do not touch his books; I don’t go and straighten the top of his dresser either. It drives me crazy but I leave everything as is. I wouldn’t know if I threw a needed piece of paper away and then something he needs for work is gone. No not going to do be responsible for screwing any of that up (truthfully learned that lesson the hard way years ago, not going to make the same mistake twice). That is also why during school I don’t make any real effort to straighten the boys’ desks, apart from cleaning up the left over dishes, uneaten food and wrappers. I do make the boys organize their information and we have draws and files for their schoolwork. Of course it would help if they used it, but that too I am hoping in time. But the truth be told for them it works, at least for now. We are exploring new ways of order and organizing them for the fall. Maybe since collegeman is starting a new course next week, we can try a new system out on this one class first. We shall see.

Now that HSB is finished with his year, I helped him clean up his desk yesterday. (I had done the same for collegeman when his semester was over too) In ten minutes I had all the junk thrown away and all the important books put where they go. HSB was truly amazed. He even asked how I did that. I basically told him that you have to understand when something is no longer necessary and that you don’t need it in your life anymore. The best part is that, HSB did not get upset when he saw how much had been thrown out. He took it in stride. Yeah HSB. (Maybe it also was emotional relief for him to be rid of the past year, especially with such an overt physical act as throwing out the algebra 2 notes. Interestingly he didn’t want to throw away the Chem notes, so they went back into his science draw.)

I know I keep my life in a PDA, and make sure to download it religiously to the computer. Of course if I lost either the computer and/or the PDA I would have no hard copy back up so I think that is my next project. Yes, I know, that is why so many people still use a filofax or a large calendar, but you know it just doesn’t work when you have several kids and several appointments in one day. What invariably happens it that you forget to put in your mammogram appointment and whoop, you miss it. So everything immediately goes into the PDA and it works for now.

We also have a blueboard in the kitchen that keeps a running list of to-do chores for the house. I know everyone has those lists and yes, they keep getting longer and longer without any conclusion. I suppose that is just the bane of being a home owner. Something always has to get done in the house. But it’s ok; at least it’s yours, well yours and the bank. I actually don’t mind the work on the house. Fix things up and order your world so that where you live is comfortable and pleasant. That I think is part of finding happiness. It is simply comfort.

Maybe that is what we mean when we talk about order. It is not the rigid necessity of a fascist existence, but the comfort of knowing what, where and why things are the way they are. I it is knowing that there are just so many cans of tuna in the pantry and that you are running low on diet soda (OK the boys are allowed one can a day. I am not happy about it, but we had to have a little compromise with American culture. And besides the nutritionist we saw years ago, said that it’s better than “real” soda and one would be fine but that was the limit. I’ll talk about how this rule changes at exam time too, but not right now). It is knowing that you are running low on detergent and that it is time to bring in the dry cleaning. It makes your home run smoother so everyone’s life is calmer and then everyone can concentrate on what is truly important; whether it is homework, yard work, chores or playing scrabble at 10 pm, actually the new game is gin rummy.

Ordering your life, simplifies your life and adds to your self-esteem. You see what you really need on a daily basis instead of what you want. You learn to understand a little more about your world and the world inside your home. You begin to understand ultimately a little more about yourself. What do you really need to be happy as opposed to masking your anxieties and worries? Personally by ordering my life a little more, I have come to the conclusion that happiness to me is chocolate and sparkling wine. Oh yeah, definitely coffee, lots and lots of coffee, especially in the morning.

Until next time,