Friday, December 2, 2011

Have You Discovered Your “Life’s Work?” By Jenny Hansen

I LOVE being part of the Life List Club. There are some seriously awesome people involved and I always feel uplifted after I read everyone's posts! Today I have the lovely Jenny Hansen from More Cowbell once again talking about Autism and achieving goals. Take it away Jenny!  

Thanks for hanging out with mehere at Jennie’s place today! She’s over at Gary Gauthier’s blog today,kicking up her sassy heels.

The inspiration for today’s postcame from my little brother, Dallas. He’s my youngest sibling and is twenty-fouryears old, going on eight. You see, Dallas is a high-functioning autisticindividual who lives in a group home in New York. And even though Dallas willbe forever a child, and is not yet able to hold down a job, he’s a blast forhis family to hang around with because he is a man of serious interests.

Most autistic people have a topicthat lights them on fire and, if you’ve ever interacted with someone who’sautistic, you’ve seen that they will find a way to steer the conversation backto their topic. It’s impressive towatch.

If they’re lucky enough to have agood “elevator” topic like weather or sports, this is usually a very positivething for them – people really enjoytalking to them. If they’re more into a niche topic like space research orfriendly insects…not so much.

Dallas’ topic has typically beenvarious animated characters and he’s most fascinated by villains. He’s beenthrough a Darkwing Duckphase, a mythicalRoman creatures stage and, currently, he’s in a Mighty Morphin PowerRangers phase with an emphasis on the Ten Terrors.

We had a conversation the otherday that went something like this:

“SisterJennifer, this is your brother Dallas.”
“Hi Dallas, how are you?”
“I am fine. I am calling you today to let you know that I have discovered mylife’s work.”
“What is it?”
“Do you know who the Ten Terrors are?”
The Ten Terrorsare villains in the Power Rangers Mystic Force. Mylife’s work is to discover everything about the Ten Terrors.”
“Huh. That’s pretty cool.”
“Can you look them up for me? And spell their names?”

So I followed his (very precise)directions until I found the Ten Terrors. Hewanted me to spell each Terrors’ name letter by letter. It took us about forty-fiveminutes to get all ten spelled perfectly on his paper and all his questionsanswered.

I immediately called our sister,Cory, with some questions of my own:

“Whatis the deal with Dallas calling me about his life’s work?”
“Oh, he called you with that? How sweet. Usually he calls me or mom.”
“How serious is this ‘life’s work’ thing? I want to be supportive.”
“Well, about every 3-4 weeks he discovers a new life’s work. You’ll learn a lotbeing on the list for this. I warn you though, he get’s unlimited phone time.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means that he can talk on the phone as much as he wants but he only getsone hour of computer time a day and he has to earn it.”
“Oh, he’s VERY serious about it. He calls us to have us look stuff up for himso that he’s ready when he gets his hour. He doesn’t have to waste any of itbrowsing for what he wants, he can just go right there and print it all. Thenhe takes it to his room and organizes it.”
“What a smart little guy! But what do you mean, he ‘organizes’ it?”
“Well, he keeps two milk crates in his room with folders. He prints stuff up,reads it, and writes new episodes for some of the shows. Periodically mom orsomeone else will go through his folders with him and clean them out, but someof his stuff is like ten years old and he keeps it pretty organized. Those are‘his files.’”
“Holy cow! When he said, he needed the information for his files, I wanted tolaugh. He was really serious though, so I restrained myself.”
“He IS serious. His life work consumes his every waking moment.”
“I love that!!”

And I do. What would it be liketo have that kind of focus about our goals and interests?

I’ve thought about myconversation with Dallas quite a bit in the last few weeks. Although there aremany, many things that I can do that Dallas can’t, I’m kind of envious that hehas the time and perseverance to pour all his energy into his life’s work,whatever it may be that week.

He’s a lesson and inspiration tome that it doesn’t matter how big or important your life’s work is, as long asit is big and important to YOU.

Do you have a “life’s work?” Howdo you organize it? How much time do you give it? How would you like to beremembered by others in terms of your “life’s work?”

About Jenny Hansen

Jenny fills her nights with humor:writing memoir, women’s fiction, chick lit, short stories (and chasing afterthe newly walking Baby Girl). By day, she provides training and social mediamarketing for an accounting firm. After 15 years as a corporate softwaretrainer, she’s digging this sit down and write thing.

When she’s not at her blog, More Cowbell,Jenny can be found on Twitter at jhansenwrites and at her group blog, Writers In TheStorm. Every Saturday, she writes the RiskyBaby Business posts at More Cowbell, a series that focuses on babies, newparents and high-risk pregnancy.
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