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Archive for July, 2011

Sorry for the Buddhist-poem-flake-out.  It’s all part of the necessary path, I guess.

“There’s no earthly way of knowing… which direction we are going…” ~ Willie Wonka

Not only don’t I know which direction we are going, but I don’t even know now where I am.  I sleep as early and as much as possible – greedily falling into the cushion-y darkness where everything turns OFF for long, glorious hours.  I wake confused, then teary, and I gulp down the pills that help me through the day.  I’m just not hungry lately either.  It’s as if I got to an anxiety/fear point so high I smashed through its glass roof (Willie Wonka style, speaking of the great confectioner) and now I’m flying around grasping at different ideas, completely ungrounded, definitely dazed, and evidently, flaking out as well.

All these thoughts.  I decided I ‘m going to learn Spanish.  I want to visit Mansfield, MO, home of my beloved heroine, Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I’m going to read books even as an English major I’d never dared attempt:  Les Miserable and War and Peace.  I’ll learn to play guitar.  Write a novel, maybe even out of this blog.  Visit my relatives, send them all care packages.  Volunteer to read to kids at the library.  Walk dogs at the humane society.  Do yoga.  Learn to paint.  Anything, everything.  Something so I’m not nobody doing nothing.

Sometimes I have these grandiose plans to change the world, at least my world and the people in and around it, making positive deposits in the great big bank of karma.

But still I play out scenarios of the day we drop off our son, over and over, with different circumstances and outcomes each time…except he is always gone at the end.  In the scenarios we always have to go, we always drive away.  He is always, always gone, and he will be gone, and he will be gone soon.  No wonder I am meditating on impermanence.  I can’t really comprehend any of it.

Andy and I met with a mediator and we have workbooks to fill in, just like we did at the church when we were planning to marry.  Everything is cyclic.  We will wait until Jonah is at his new school and then we will re-convene, workbooks completed, bringing yet another thing to its conclusion.

My friend H (bless her) invited M and me and Jonah to her pool again tomorrow, thank you thank you thank you little H.  To her it may not be much but to us it is everything.  Yesterday M and I had to drive Jonah around the entire time we had him; there was simply nowhere we could go.  It poured rain and Jonah didn’t want music.  I got him singing at one point but then he started his repetitive requesting-phase:

Wannatakeabath?  Wannatakeabath?  Wannatakeabath? Bye Bye M.  Wannatakeabath?  Daddy?  Wannatakeabath? Bye Bye M.  Daddy?  Daddy?  Grandma?  Swim-pool? Swim-pool? Wannatakeabath? Wannatakeabath? Wannatakeabath? Wannatakeabath? (Insert BLOOD-CURDLING SCREAM instantly followed by giggling laughter).  WannaseeJack?  WannaseeJack?

And I curse myself for gritting my teeth and wanting to shout SHUT UP because soon enough I’ll wish I could hear his little voice, no matter what it was saying or shouting or screaming.

Oh, what a weird place in time & space this is.

“For the rowers keep on rowing,
And they’re certainly not showing
Any signs that they are slowing…

~Willie Wonka

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“Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature.”
 
Our signatures, then, over all the world,
with every moment we exist,
like fingerprints – your hand on my bare shoulder; its mark of love…
Our footsteps on the ground;
the way we meet the earth, walk & mark the earth.
 
~ Lie still & breathe ~
 
or rise, enraged, to rave & blame, mark & judge,
to find an other & lay upon it all the pain, the wrong
There is no other. 
 
Lie still & breathe.  Be still.  Breathe.
 
Stream-of-consciousness poem there.  Sorry to flake out on you all.
 
I am reduced to – or, quite possibly, fortified by – breathing. 
Smell the rose, blow out the candle.  Smell the rose, blow out the candle.
Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Now and now and now and now.
 

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“The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy.”
Thich Nhat Hanh (The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching)
 
I am losing a lot, like it or don’t, as P would say.  But I’m tired of myself, tired of carrying on in my grief, so I’m turning (as you may have noticed) to Thich Nhat Hanh, one of my favorite Buddhist monks, for guidance and peace.  I’m turning to the Buddhist view of impermanence – that which says nothing has permanence, that permanence is an illusion we cling to.
 
Well I’m a Buddhist by circumstance, then. Yet I am also many more things: raised Catholic, I still go to Mass on occasion and cling to my roots, finding solace in the ritual of the Mass.  I may be other things I haven’t even discovered yet.  So it goes, to throw in some Vonnegut.  This is my favorite little story about Kurt Vonnegut, taken from Wikipedia:
 
In the mid 1950s, Vonnegut worked very briefly for Sports Illustrated magazine, where he was assigned to write a piece on a racehorse that had jumped a fence and attempted to run away. After staring at the blank piece of paper on his typewriter all morning, he typed, “The horse jumped over the fucking fence,” and left.[17] On the verge of abandoning writing, Vonnegut was offered a teaching job at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. While he was there, Cat’s Cradle became a best-seller, and he began Slaughterhouse-Five, now considered one of the best American novels of the 20th century, appearing on the 100 best lists of Time magazine[18] and the Modern Library.[19]

The lesson I take away from all of this is I can’t abandon life by sitting in my soiled self in the sorrowful, shallow end of the pool.  I have to keep writing because it saves me.  I can come out the other side of this, make myself into someone good, be Jonah’s mother as best I can, be the change I want to see in this world (thanks, Gandhi) instead of complaining about the changes that aren’t happening.  I may moan and rave, cry and bitch, but I’m not going down without a fight.  I am recharged with people all around me, some who don’t even know me.  They care and they tell me so and it helps like they will never know.  I am not alone, I tell myself, mantra-like.  I am not alone.

Mary helps me too.  Yes, that Mary.  The mother of God Mary.  She sure had a difficult child, an only child (it seems) and she lost him too, in many ways, before she really lost him.  She understands. 

  • St. Josemaria Escriva: “Love our Lady. And she will obtain abundant grace to help you conquer in your daily struggle.”  “When you see the storm coming, if you seek safety in that firm refuge which is Mary, there will be no danger of your wavering or going down.”

How can I believe all these things simultaneously? 

“Do I contradict myself?  Very well, then; I contradict myself.  I am large – I contain multitudes.” ~Walt Whitman

(I’m actually quite scrawny, but I think Walt was being metaphorical). 

I am going over to see Jonah-boo tonight, to take him on the “Groundhog Day” tour of his favorite things:  the train, car ride, maybe grandma or a peanut butter roll.  If it is warm enough, swimming and splashing. 

I am looking forward to it, whatever it brings.  I love him so much.

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“For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.”
Thich Nhat Hanh (Being Peace)

Thank you for everyone who voted for me – I seem to be see-sawing back and forth between #20 and #19, and I don’t expect to stay this far up on the list, but I cracked the top 25.  I appreciate your votes, all of you. It’s funny – Elizabeth Moon has a blog on the list (I haven’t looked at it yet) – but she wrote a fantastic book about autism, The Speed of Dark, set slightly in the future, which gave me the idea for the name of my blog; one of her characters said it in the course of a conversation.

So I am relentlessly counting.  Twenty two days – three weeks from tomorrow – we pack up Jonah and all the things they’ve asked us to bring for him, and we drive him away to live at an educational residence for kids with autism.  It’s like a movie I am watching, or a book I forgot what chapter I’m on…a dream I am consciously trying to end.  Sometimes I literally can’t even breathe… I can feel the pressure in my lungs, my heart, my bones, my center.

Tomorrow Andy and I go for our free consultation for divorce mediation.  M is tired of me being miserable and often “snippy” as he calls it.  He helps me watch Jonah 4 times a week and it is wearing on him – he has his own children and he wants time to relax.  My sadness wears on him too; he says I am not the person he met and fell in love with.  That it true – I am not and never will be again.  It is not his fault that I am a mess.  I wear this like a cloak and I shed the cloak sometimes but then I wrap it around me again.  How many metaphors can I use to describe this kind of helplessness, this form of pain?

Maybe I should be alone.  Maybe I should be done.  The counting won’t stop, this ticking ringing in my ears (I go next Friday for a hearing exam but it won’t stop the clock).  I hold my breath and hold my breath and pray I don’t burst out crying at the gas station or the grocery store. 

I try to hold my son tight and he says bye-bye mama, bye-bye mama

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Someone nominated me for Babble’s Top 25 • 2011 autism spectrum blogs, which is cool and kind of humbling.  Even though the title says it lists the ‘top 25′ it actually has the top 100 or so, based on readers’ votes.  If you read my blog and like it, will you please click on the link above, find Normal is a Dryer Setting (I think I’m number 33 or something right now) and then click on “I like this?” 

My goal is to make it into the actual top 25. 

Thanks.  🙂

It’s supposed to be 95 degrees or so today, and we’re planning to go back to my savior-friend H’s house after work so fish-boy can swim some more. 

This morning when I got to work, I was unloading the dishwasher.  We have these very tall, heavy glasses and I held one in my hand for a second and really, really wanted to throw it at a hard surface, just to watch it smash…to see the shards fly…to destroy something.

But I didn’t.

“Suffering is not enough. Life is both dreadful and wonderful. How can I smile when I am filled with so much sorrow?  It is natural–you need to smile to your sorrow because you are more than your sorrow.” — Thich Nhat Hanh

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My good friend H, bless her, invited me and M and Jonah over to her house tonight and Thursday night to swim.  It’s all for Jonah, of course, and I soak up every moment of his dolphin-happiness;  at his request, swimming sans swimsuit again.

At one point he came climbing, seemingly happily, up the stairs of the pool and onto the deck, where he ran past me and went to dig his little fingers into H’s son D’s face.  We managed to avoid any injury, but only by a hair.  We re-directed Jonah back to the pool, and brave little D spent just a moment hiding behind his mom before smiling again and throwing balls into the water for Jonah to play with.  He’s a sweet little boy, almost 4.  I marvel at his words – his brain and how it works so differently from Jonah’s.

It’s always a swim-and-run, as Jonah decides abruptly when it is time to leave and simply starts heading toward the car – but this time Jonah scored himself a hot dog and some black soda as well, the little scamp.

When M and I got home, he surprised me by having DVR’ed old-school Bugs Bunny cartoons, and one of them was my absolute favorite – with Marvin-the-Martian:

Now Lewis Black is on TV; M and I saw him at the Palace Theater last year.  He just said:  “The Republican party has bad ideas, and the Democrats have no ideas.”

I think he’s right.

Anyway, I feel better tonight.  I feel grateful.

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I don’t consider myself much of a poet, but I wrote some poems for Jonah when he was a baby, when I expected something far different than what my life has become…when I saw a path clearly before me and walked it with something like confidence… 

…when I expected to be sitting in the bleachers now, cheering him on at his little league game.  When I expected to be friends with other mothers whose kids played with and shared activites with Jonah.  When I expected to be able to bring my son to a child’s birthday party and watch him scream with joy as all the candy came pouring out of the piñata, instead of hovering over him as he opened and closed the host’s sliding glass door incessantly. 

Instead of taking him to the park by myself, pretending other parents and kids weren’t staring, wondering, maybe judging, but never approaching us except when some child would ask with curiousity, “Is he a baby?” or “why can’t he talk?” – and me choking on my tears as I tried to explain.

…instead of losing touch with most of my friends because I became a hermit and uncomfortable around (and often unfairly resented) NT families.  And all this before any aggression and violence.   And all that before checking myself into a mental health facility.  And all that before making the decision to take him to live at a residential school.  And all that before ending my marriage. 

Do I sound like I feel sorry for myself?   Sometimes I do.  My therapist even gave me permission last night, so long as I don’t martyr myself or wallow.   In 4 weeks my son will be gone and my legal separation will be taking place.  Doc tells me I have osteoporosis with a lower vertebrae fracture.  I’m waiting on results from two biopsies, can’t keep weight on, have this strange ringing in both my ears, and sleep as much as I possibly can.  (I”m definitely not Darwin’s poster child).  I’m so tired of crying and feeling anxious, missing parties and weddings and picnics I am invited to because I can’t bring myself to go; if anyone asked me anything at all about Jonah, I feel like I’d lose it and ruin all the fun. Plus for me right now there is nothing to celebrate except “I am doing the right thing” with Jonah, so people tell me. 

Some people insist they couldn’t do it, “put their child away.”  You can when you have to.  You can do anything when you have to, I guess.  I know this is just a hill I have to run up and over, but my legs are cramping and I have no breath.  I don’t know what’s on the other side of the hill, and that scares me too.  Weakling, a voice inside me whispers.  WorthlessYou are superflous now.

I’ve revisited my poems from Jonah’s babyhood, and I thought this one strangely prophetic:

I am your mother.

I may hold you clumsily close, my
sharp angles & skinny arms awkward,
but I hold you close anyway.

You find a comfort in my bones
as walls of a former residence;
as familiar pillars echoing womb whispers…
as fetal backdrop for acrobatic feats.

I may sing you nonsense, silly snippets
of all kinds of songs, lazily off-key
but I sing them to you anyway.

You find a diamond in my song
as the voice you heard awash, internal;
as divinity, a speaker in the sky…
as soundtrack to gestation’s miracle.

I may love you with a racing heartbeat
composed of odd & syncopated rhythms,
but I love you with every heartbeat anyway.

You find a living element in my love
as the cycling pulse of ocean tides;
as habitat for emotion magic, undefined…
as something inside you that can never die.

I will always be your mother.

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