Home of the Weird

Ah, Portland; a place full of devilish details:

Beards. Man-buns. Lumber-sexuals. IPA beer, craft beer, sour beer, gluten-free beer. Voodoo Doughnuts. Swinger clubs. Food cart villages.

There’s the Scottish Darth Vader guy who rides the uni-cycle in a kilt whilst playing flaming bagpipes. There’s an all-vegan strip club (“Eat pussy, it’s vegan!”) and another that serves grass-fed beef raised and slaughtered by the owner himself (RIP, owner of The Acropolis).

Clothing-optional wellness spas. Nude beaches. Topless rights in the city. Naked bike rides. Sex dungeons. Vintage, vintage, vintage!

It’s a city in the woods. Beautiful and peppered with parks, one could almost forget they’re in a large city until they encounter the usual metropolitan issues: trash, homeless camps, rats, the horrid smell of piss and vomit, strung-out ramblers ready to fight their hallucinations and probably you, too, and a recent uptick of protests and anti-fascists looking remarkably fascist..

Air shows. Comic Cons. Festivals. Pirate Invasions. Carnivals. Floating discos. Silent discos. Art walks. Farmer’s Markets. Cannabis stores.

It’s a place where you have to buy your liquor at a liquor store (forget getting that big ol’ bottle of JD at the supermarket for only $10 bucks!), you aren’t allowed to pump your own gas, and you can open-carry a loaded gun if it makes you feel safer (but Heaven forbid you touch your cellphone while driving).

Dog-friendly restaurants. Dog parks. Dog-friendly apartments. Doggie Hotels. Dog boutiques. Dog meet-ups. Dog fanatics. “You have a dog? Me, too! Let’s be best friends!” Dogs, dogs, dogs!

It’s a land of a thousand cuisines. A land of a thousand cocktails. A land of a thousand whiskeys. A land of a billion coffee shops.

And in those coffee shops are your bloggers (not it, I’m at home!), your artists, your screen-writers, your researchers, your work-a-holics, your studious students, and that dude in the back trying not to be obvious that he’s watching porn on a public network. In public.

By the way, they’re all dressed like it’s fall even though it’s summer and sporting aviators like they’re vintage or something.

Skinny jeans. Yoga pants. Sweater dresses. Flannel. Suspenders. Beanies. Long socks. Loafers. Converse.

I love this city. It’s quirky. It’s predictable when it wants to be but still catches you by surprise. It’s like Denver, CO, and Austin, TX, yet not like either at the same time. It’s like San Francisco yuppies and Humboldt County hippies got together and had a “hipster” baby and you can’t help but marvel at how it seems to succeed despite itself at times. You just have to remember that it marches to the beat of its own drum.

It’s all in all a fun place to be with endless options for entertainment and adventure. I moved here in 2013 and, although I find it tough to deal with our almost constant cloudy and/or rainy weather, I really can’t imagine living anywhere else (except, say, Hawaii or elsewhere tropical). It’s a place where you get to be yourself–truly, authentically you, and you kind of just blend in with the local ambience. You may not go unnoticed, but most likely you’ll go unbothered, and that’s a haven for “weird” people like me.

I believe that’s what is meant by the bumper sticker “Keep Portland Weird”. What big city isn’t weird? What’s truly, uniquely weird about Portland is that by and large it accepts you for who you are.

Unless you’re a person of color.

#truth

‘Cado Toast for Dayzzz

Spotlight: Comfort/Insistence on Sameness –Breakfast style

In my mind there are two types of people in this world: those who love breakfast and those who don’t. I’m not so sure about those who don’t. . .

Personally, I love breakfast and could eat it for every meal of the day, every day. Not only do I need to eat breakfast in order to calm the ravenous beast that is my belly upon waking, but I just really struggle to function if I don’t have it first-off. And forget about just grabbing some left-overs from the night before, I have to have breakfast food or nothing is right–especially not my stomach.

Of course it can’t stop there, oh no–we must take it a step further because it can’t be just any breakfast food, really.. It must be avocado toast.

Side-bar: I’ve always been very particular. Very. When I was a kid I would have meltdowns at the dinner table if my “special spoon” was not available for me to use. I insisted upon it day after day, meal after meal; breakfast, lunch, dinner–if it required a utensil it had to be my special spoon. (I can still remember the beautiful curve of the cursive ‘W’, the elegant twist of the floral etching along the gently crenulated sides. I miss that spoon…) Not much has changed since then except that spoon is long gone (taken and discarded in my parents’ effort to rid me of my “bratiness”, aka insistence on sameness).

Instead these days I just insist on eating the same meal(s) again and again, like ‘cado toast. I am capable of eating other meals for breakfast but nothing feels right in my world if I start my day with anything other than that satisfying and delicious avocado crunch. If I can’t eat the toast until 1pm and had to eat something else to ease the morning hunger, it isn’t until 1pm that I feel like I’m not either ill (scattered, agitated, drained) or frantic if my stress levels are already high. Because of this it’s important to start my day the same–it sets me up for success, it makes me dance-level happy, it lets my body know it’s taken care of and lets my mind know its needs will be met.

Day 1 to Day 1 million: Two pieces of gluten free toast topped with two slices of tomato each, lightly salt & peppered, with 1/4 of a large avocado spread over the toast and also peppered, topped with a handful of basil leaves. And if I’ll be doing some muscle training that day I’ll add an egg or two on the side–sunnyside-up. Hey, don’t knock predictability, it’s the best comfort food.

Avocado toast? But isn’t that basic AF?

Look, I’m a lot of things but basic ain’t one. However this blog post isn’t about defending my choice in breakfast foods or railing against the idea of “basic-ness”, it’s about me taking a moment to honestly address a trait that can sometimes be disabling but is, truthfully, a trait I like to laugh at myself for and take lightly when I can: insistence on sameness. So in the spirit of humor–yes, my brain just insists that I be a “basic bitch” every day and eat my avocado toast. If it means I get to start my day with the confidence that success is in the cards for me, so be it.

So about that insistence…

What happens when I don’t get to have my avocado toast? Probably not the same thing that happens to your average neurotypical adult and it varies based on how well I’m functioning that day:

Higher-functioning days = I can cope, with mindfulness practice, and I can find a suitable alternative and lean on a different sameness for comfort (such as morning coffee). Heaven forbid I’m out of coffee, too, or so much for “higher functioning” in that case. 😖

Lower-functioning days = Cope? BAHAHA! 😭 Melt. Down. You’d think the world was ending or something; sobbing, shouting, throwing stuff, slamming doors, frantic stimming/pacing, hyperventilating, often followed by a period of dissociation (shut down). In other words, explosion followed by implosion and unintended nutrient depletion because it’s harder to force myself to eat something different than it is to just not eat anything at all.

Clearly it isn’t just avocado toast. It must be magical. Or drugged. Or this girl has crazy OCD.

Or…perhaps this is just what it can look like to be neurodivergent; specifically, to be on the autism spectrum. It doesn’t look like this for everyone on the spectrum, but this is a facet of how it is expressed in me. I’m not going to get philosophical, psychological, or too terribly thoughtful at all here because this post isn’t about diving deep, but rather dusting off the surface so that the picture is a little clearer. For example, in this picture one might see how females on the spectrum can sometimes be misdiagnosed with anorexia and struggle with proper nutrition for years because their doctors don’t understand it’s autism and not self image issues or anxiety. 🤔 (Being particular, having sensory sensitivities triggered by textures and smells, and insisting upon sameness can be a daily challenge when it comes to getting proper nutrition (not to mention the whole gamut of digestion issues that come with ASD) but all that’s for another blog entry!)

If my executive functioning was consistently at its lowest I would starve. The more stress I am under, the lower my executive functioning; the more I insist upon sameness, the more susceptible I am to meltdowns and shutdowns from changes in routine, the harder it is for me to make decisions and take action, and the longer my periods of dissociation can last (this is where I really struggle to get my needs met because I struggle to communicate them when/if I can even recognize what they are). Eating becomes stressful, almost burdensome and anxiety-inducing, and the double-edged sword that is predictability is either my savior or destroyer because I can either find comfort in the reliability of that same breakfast every day, or I can find turmoil in its absence.

It’s a little thing, this desire for avocado toast for breakfast. In an autistic world, however, it is literally everything: a detail that, if bypassed, can collapse the entire structure of a day, week, or longer depending on my overall stress load and level of functioning at the time. Today I might get excited at the idea of my partner making me gluten-free blueberry waffles and eggs just how I like them, and I can negotiate the acceptance of this different breakfast with myself, but tomorrow even the suggestion of a different breakfast might spin me out.

Solutions make challenges fun.

Needless to say, when I travel out of town I take my own panini press (the whole gluten thing, yo) and fixings for ‘cado toast so that I can set myself up for success every day (some genius I owe to my husband). In this way I feel kind of spoiled when I travel because I know my breakfast will be my (current) idea of the best ever. This is how I adapt when adapting itself is a challenge–by setting myself up for success in being who I am, because trying to force myself to be neurotypical–as I have done for 34 years–has done nothing but destroy my psyche, self-esteem, and hold me back from being the best version of myself. And yep, the best version is my authentic autistic version despite how “dysfunctional” that might sometimes look. By spending the time to work with my challenges rather than constantly battling them and demanding that I be “more normal”, I have come to finally love something more than I love avocado toast (that isn’t also my husband):

Me.