Recently, I was talking with a friend I had not spoken to in a while. As I updated her on all the current happenings in my life, we both came to the realization that I have much to be grateful for right now and should write something about gratitude; so when things get bumpy, I will have something to fall back on. Also, as my autism diagnosis/professional identification turns 20 this year, it could not be a better time to do this!
There is a lot of talk around gratitude in popular culture, social media memes, and psychology right now and usually when a topic gains popularity, I usually do not want to write about it with the worry of sounding redundant or cliché, or even worse, looking like another bandwagon jumper. I am making an exception here.
I have not written in a while due to the usual writers’ block, sensory overload, and a busy job, thus with this newfound inspiration and encouragement, I am going to talk about how practicing gratitude has been reshaping my overall outlook on life.
Life ebbs and flows, and through the hard times it can feel unnerving to find much positives whilst shrouded in stinging and glaring negativity. If your brain tends to venture off to the darker side, like mine, you will know that this is no easy task and the last thing you want to do is force yourself to think positive.
Personally, I cannot force myself to be an eternal optimist, but I have been teaching myself to be real and honest and focus on what is still right in my life when everything feels wrong, and I have to say that albeit difficult at first, it is changing my life for the better and helping me feel more grounded. I am even finding I am starting to automatically practice gratitude almost, but not quite, daily.
When it comes to gratitude, I think it is something we can all reflect on, journal about, and share with others if we are comfortable doing so.
Knowing what we appreciate in life helps us to further endeavor for more of what we need out of life. It does not have to begin as a laundry list; or even a list for that matter. It can be one thing, no matter how small it may seem as long as it is something significant to you.
I had a very difficult year last year. Without going into all the details, it was a year of many losses and transitions, but many gains as well. It was stressful, taxing, testing, and exhausting; especially when I was changing jobs, dealing with the death of my cat, and other personal issues.
There was a positive silver lining and that was writing my contributions to our book Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think my writing would appear in a book. It was a daring leap of faith and a real challenge that I am now beyond grateful for undertaking.
One thing I decided to make was my own gratitude list. As I was writing it, I realized I had even more to be grateful for than originally thought. Here it is:
Things I am Extremely Grateful For
- The phenomenal people in my life (family, friends, colleagues)
- Having a fulfilling good job I studied hard for
- Being content as my true autistic self (finally!)
- Being a mentor to a young autistic person
- Going to College when I did not think I would
- My snakes Athena and Lilith
- Weekly coffee with my awesome work friends
- My apartment, which is my sanctuary
- Being a published writer
- Speaking to young people about autism
- Knowing myself and cultivating self-awareness
- The organizations I have been involved with past and present
- Books and other written material
- Being able to understand my students in ways others may not
- Getting a better grip on managing my mental health
- My new therapist
- A strong will to call out injustice
I could go on, but I think that pretty much sums things up for me right now. What are some of the things you are grateful for in your life as an autistic adult? Feel free to comment on our social media.
Happy Holidays, Everyone!
About Jen Elcheson – Prince George, British Columbia, Canada
Section Editor / Feature Writer
Jen was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 1998, back when very few people were diagnosed, let alone females. She has devoted her life to supporting and mentoring children on the spectrum. She currently works as an Education Assistant for the public school system, and respite caregiver and autistic mentor. Jen also runs an online support group, has written articles for AAN magazine, and is a lifelong music fan, especially metal and classic rock. Jen lives in northern British Columbia in Western Canada with her two ball pythons Athena and Lilith. facebook.com/jen.elcheson