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.


Natalie Hartford said...

This story simply touched my heart! It moved me. What a wonderful and incredibly inspiring story to share Jenny (and thanks for hosting Jennie)!
I don't think I've truly discovered my life's work yet but I do believe I am on the path and that it's coming. I believe it will be in writing books so I am thrilled that this year I've invested more than I ever have in making that passion come true. I've felt more fired up, excited, and thrilled than I have in a long time and I know it's only going to grow.
Your brother is a reminder to all of us to make life count and to invest in what we love!
GREAT story Jenny - GREAT post!!!!

Pam said...

What a wonderful post, and so very, very true. No life's work is too big or too small if it fills your heart and your mind. Mine, of course, is writing. But I still grapple with what exactly that means because I don't have your brother's focus. I'm all over the board with where I want that life work to go, and sometimes it shows : ).

David P. King said...

Such an awesome guest post. I've just learned a valuable lesson from Dallas. Amazing what we can gain from each other, regardless of the circumstances.

Thanks, Jenny and J! :)

Marcia Richards said...

Very inspirng post, Jenny! Autistic children are brilliant in their own super-focused way. I'll bet his files are fascinating and perfectly organized. Focus is key when we set our sights on a goal. Different goals require a different level of focus...but focus is what gets the job done. Dallas is a great example of how to accomplish our own "life's work"...focus and take it seriously. Thanks Jenny and Jennie!

David said...

A real life great post!

Kim said...

You had me at "More Cowbell"! What a wonderful story about your brother - thank you for sharing.

Jessie Humphries said...

I never heard of the Ten Terrors before! How interesting.

Gary Gauthier said...

Another great post Jenny. And it seems that we can all learn a thing or two from your brother. He has a head start on a lot of us. Now I have to spend some time and try to figure out what my life's work is!

Leigh Covington said...

Jenny, thank you for sharing this about your brother. Think of all that we could get accomplished if we were that dedicated and focused. Now that I am about through with this semester of school, I hope to get more organized with my writing. I could take a lesson from your brother! Thanks for sharing!

jesswitkins said...

What a beautiful personal story to share with us Jenny. I am envious of Dallas' focus and commitment to his research. How often do we start out passionate and get fizzled out. I'm wondering if I should hire Dallas to help me with my research. :) What perfect timing to share Dallas' story with us as we all prep our way through the holidays. Thank you for sharing again.

Patricia Tilton said...

Jenny, I was more than moved by your story about Dallas. I review a lot of books on the autism spectrum, and I'm always intrigued with the uniqueness of each child and their special talents. I recently ran an author interview on my blog with author/illustrator Tom Lichtenheld. If you haven't seen it, E-mergency, was the result of the author collaborating with Ezra, an autistic teen who got involved in making computer animations. Tom saw the YouTube book called "Alphabet," and asked Ezra if he'd like to turn it into a children's book. You can go to Tom's site, or check out my blog. (Just click on my picture, then on my website. I ran it 2 Nov.) I am reading a book Ezra's father wrote, "Following Ezra," and it is the best book out there. He doesn't believe in "fixing" but "following" autistic kids because they have so much to teach us! So back to your theme. I hear that theme in your beautiful and inspiring story about Dallas. And, yes I do believe in life work. Thank you so much for sharing. And, thank you Jennie for having Jenny as your guest. Best post I've read today!

Heather Kelly said...

Jenny--I LOVE this post! What a great reminder of focusing on things that are actually important to us.

About knowing what is important to us. Sometimes it is hard for me to know if I am doing my writing career justice. I fit it into the edges of my life, but so often, I am mulling over scenes and words in the in betweens.

Singular focus is a great thing!

Thank you so much for sharing with us this touching moment between you and your brother!

Jenny Hansen said...

Oh my goodness! I got Baby Girl down for a nap and look at all these gorgeous comments waiting for me. :-)

Thanks, Natalie! I'm in that same place where I'm investing time in my passion and it's incredible how fast and exciting the journey gets when you do that. Don't you look up sometimes and say, "Wow!"???

Pam, the thing I took from my conversation with Dallas is how much he lives in the moment. He might have a new life's work each month, but it is absorbing and exciting to him at that moment.

David K - Thanks for taking time to leave us a note. I never really know which posts will strike a chord in others. I appreciate your kind words!

Marcia, Dallas' files are a work of art from what I've heard. I haven't seen them myself, but he's just an awesome individual.

David - thanks for the comment

Kim - I'm a bit excited by "More Cowbell" myself. LOL. Thanks for your kind words. :-)

Jessie - be sure to click the links. You haven't lived until you've seen the Ten Terrors if you're a little boy. And their names are the coolest!

Thanks, Gary! My money's on your for discovering a unique and amazing "life's work." :-)

Leigh, I absolutely agree with you. His focus is incredible.

Thanks, Jess! I definitely have to fight the "Fizzle Factor" when I throw myself into a project. It's one of the things I admire most about Dallas. If he fizzles, he finds something else that makes him "sizzle." (sorry, couldn't resist that one!)

Patricia, thank you for your comment! I will need to go read your post and get hold of that book. Did you ever read "The Sound of A Miracle" by Annabel Stehli? That was another fantastic read by the parent of an autistic child.

Thanks, Heather. I don't know why, as an adult, it's easy to lose what lights us on fire, but it really is. Busy-ness so often drowns our passion in the shoulds and the "have to's." Chase what you want! That's what Dallas continues to teach me.

Jim Hansen said...

Terrific post Jenny, it reminded me of a quote from Joseph Campbell.
"Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls."

Jenny Hansen said...

Hi, Cousin Jim!! I agree with that quote. *scribbling it on a card to hang over my computer screen*

davwalk said...

Beautiful post, Jenny. My cousin has a grandson who's a high functioning autistic. Little social skill, but what concentration and brilliance when he's doing something he's really into.

Jenny Hansen said...

Thanks, David! I know exactly what you mean. I used to teach autistic kids and they are all so different and interesting.

Sonia G Medeiros said...

This is such a lovely, lovely post. Thank you so much for sharing! I admire Dallas' passion.

Anonymous said...

As Dallas' Mom, I can say that truly Dallas live in the NOW! Also, he is incredibly persistent, which is a double edged sword. It has gotten him into trouble and success. When he wants something he will try everyone until he gets it. Note: he usually tries to find some redeeming feature in the villains on whom he is focusing. Or he imagines how life would be if they turned and became good hearted. He is quite the young man.

Jenny Hansen said...

That's an awesome comment, Sharon. Thanks for stopping by!