Just being honest with myself here….A visitor came to an open studio event last year. After browsing my studio and engaging in conversation, they mentioned they had been mentoring an artist with autism. Their time was up, due to life stuff, and they suggested I would be a good ‘replacement’. I said okay, and forgot all about it.

Recently, the case manager for this person reached out to me. They said my visitor had recommended me, and asked me to meet up with them and their client. I was hesitant, but then thought, “Okay, what the heck? I’ll check it out.”

Then I proceeded to do my usual thing: I overthunk this to within an inch of my life, and wondered how to back out ASAP.

But I kept my word and met up with them. I’m glad I did!

This artist has amazing talent and skill, and love love loves to make things. I was blown away by their work, and realized there were many ways I could be of use to their journey.

But I still was unsure if I had the skills and experience to work with them. It kept me awake some nights. Okay, along with my worries about the next California mega-quake, what I would do if my partner died, and who would have to take care of my extremely well-packed studio if I died. (Yes, this happens every. Single. Night.)

On our third meet-up, my client shared some behaviors that are perfectly normal with their wiring, but I wasn’t sure I was handling it well.

The case manager is with us the entire time, though when they left the room for a short while, I was a little nervous. The case manager “reads” our client really well. But I can’t.

Again, I wondered why I’d gotten involved. And wondered if I were “doing it wrong”. And if so, if that would be detrimental to the client.

And so that evening, I fell back on my go-to strategy when I find myself in a dark tunnel:

I wrote in my blort notebook.

My blort book is where I dump everything that’s bothering me. I write about where I’m stuck, my frustration with myself, my frustration with others, my fears, my triggers, etc. (Yes, I’ve told my family that when I die, it’s okay to burn all the blort books.)

But here’s why maybe they shouldn’t be burned:

I always get myself to a better place through my writing. 

In some recent in-person chats, I’ve shared what I learned from teaching preschool for years before I finally walked away from full-time teaching back in the day.

I share insights I gained by exploring hospice, and working with clients with dementia. And creating a healing workshop for people who were in deep grieving mode. (We never really ‘get over’ our grief, of course. But sometimes people get really, really stuck, especially in what is called “complicated death”: Someone was murdered, someone who was supposed to love us actually made our lives miserable, caretaking for a loved one to the point of physical, mental, and spiritual exhaustion, etc.)

In all these situations, I had at least one person who was an excellent teacher, someone who gave me insights, support, explanations, encouragement. From the online friend who explained the destructive side of perfectionism. The hospice manager who loved to answer every single one of my “stupid questions” with patience and respect. The people who helped me create that grief writing class that was so powerful, it made me cry at the end.

And that’s when I realized this experience is going to be my next learning experience.

The case manager is kind, thoughtful, and very clear on what is needed to work with our client. They even sent me a sheet of guidelines for working with THIS CLIENT: Their habits, their process, etc. Their own intuition has been hugely helpful, and my goal is to try to get better at following in their footsteps.

I still worry, of course. That’s what me-in-the-dark/the-dark-in-me does: I question myself, over and over, I worry what I did wrong to contribute to a problematic friendship, I wonder if anything I do matters in the world.

But then I remember these teachers, these spiritual guides that have proven to be exactly the people I need at just the right moment. The people who can walk me back when I goof up (or explain how I didn’t goof up.)The people who help me stay the course, who help me find clarity, respect, and astonishment in what is possible.

So here I am, in my 70’s, still excited and worried about “school”, yet grateful I’ve been given another opportunity to learn better, so I can do better. Not to strive for “perfection”,  but to aim for compassion.

Oh. And boundaries. Setting them and acting on them. Still learning about that, too.

Wish me luck!



Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

5 thoughts on “ETERNAL STUDENT OF LIFE: My Next Lesson”

  1. I am going to tell you something that I know about you after reading your blogs for years. You do not need luck. You have all that you need within you. You are caring and compassionate. Of course, a little luck never hurt any of us. Go ahead and make a mistake…your autistic person will understand. Especially when you apologize. They have been there. You can do this!! P.S. I am a successful retired teacher.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your vulnerability and your sense of adventure!
    What an interesting process you will have with this.
    I’ll be interested to see how it impacts your artwork, if it does.


  3. Wow to what the first commenter said. Nonetheless, I wish you luck. I know you will do well. Being a teacher is a great way to learn. I have to say I learn a lot from you.


  4. Oh, Luann… you don’t need luck, just judgement :-).
    Take a look at for insights into sensory overwhelm and other common autistic traits, and how they have an impact on the way autistic people navigate the world.
    There’s plenty of blogs by autistic people too, here on WordPress and elsewhere, and the hashtag #actuallyautistic on Twitter. You’ll learn a whole new set of meanings for ordinary words :-).


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