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What I have found through a tumultuous and difficult early life is that acceptance is the road to freedom.

Because of my inability to function “normally,” I was not able to fit in to mainstream society. In the eyes of the culture and consequently my own eyes, I was flawed. I tried over and over again to figure out how I was going to be part of society… get a job, an education, have a family. But no matter how hard I tried to think my way out, I always ended up in the same place. No different than I was.

The truth is, my mind was a liar and the strategies it created promising a different reality did not work. There was utter futility in trying to figure anything out in the hopes that something might change, but my mind kept on trying… planning, thinking, pushing.

The noise of this chatter inside my head was debilitating, always telling me that I was this or that horrible thing, and that I had to BE a certain way in order to survive and be accepted in this world. After years and years of this I was so exhausted that I finally gave up and fell into my broken heart. I was forced to accept my life as it was.

There is incredible freedom when you finally accept who you really are with all your flaws and incapacities. Somehow you realize that you are not those dysfunctions, that all those things that society labels you or thinks about you or even what you think about you, are not YOU.

What helped me to do this was telling myself the truth about who I was. Even the things I did not like about myself, even my worst fears or things I would never admit to anyone else. It is really important to tell yourself the truth, admit to and take responsibility for all you are, the “good” and the “bad.”

But it is also really important to not judge or label yourself as bad. This is not about blame. It is just about seeing what is true and accepting what is true… without judgment. This is the key. I had to accept that the best I could do would have to be enough and that, ultimately, I was enough. Only then could I give up the thoughts, and my mind finally fell silent.

Once you do this… and real acceptance is present, you can live in a flow and life just gets simple.

I believe my story is the same for each human being. Maybe the circumstances of my life are more pronounced, but I see this struggle for self acceptance as universal. And in this human drama what does NOT matter are the stories created by the mind, the manipulations of truth and all the ways we try to argue with reality… trying to get what we want. What DOES matter, and what is my guiding principle, is a devotion for Truth.

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David Patten, author of Dummy: A Memoir, cannot read or write. Born to well-educated parents in Chicago as an autism-spectrum child, David Patten was repetitively misdiagnosed in the 1950’s, a time when autism was little understood. After a youth of a severe disorientation and isolation, the seriously dyslexic Patten made a living dealing drugs and engaging in other street-level enterprises. In his twenties he discovered his native genius in abstract conceptual mathematics, which led him to a successful career as a businessman who worked debugging computer systems for major corporations and American military installations.

David’s deep sensitivity and insight gave him the capacity not only to maintain meaningful and affectionate human relationships, but enabled him to observe that his desperation and limitations need not define who he was. It was this understanding that eventually allowed him to accept his life and move beyond his identification with his personality. Today he is the father of two grown, productive and happy children. He lives with his wife of 30 years, a physician, in Hawaii.


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