It’s hard to talk about for a number of reasons,
(a) because the heart of the issue is about what my child, my son, my Tito is going through and I don’t want to reveal details about his life without his permission. And I certainly am not going to say, Honey? How about if I blog about that time when you felt terrifyingly out of control as if your body and mind were being repeatedly assaulted, when your parents, having exhausted every strategy their limited triggered human mind could think of, collapsed into yelling entirely unhelpful commands like “Stop That! Stop it! Calm Down!” because we all know how effective that is, yes? Like telling a forrest fire to knock it off.
(b) because it’s nearly impossible to talk about anything in these sort of forums without inciting some reaction or outrage or admonition or debate or comparison or advice. I tell you, it’s quite something to be the parent of a child whose neurological wiring elicits SUCH passionate responses from perfect strangers. Ev-er-y-bo-dy has an opinion about autism.
(c) because I’m a little shell-shocked, punch-drunk, where’s the wine? got any chocolate? has Netflix released the last few seasons of Dexter yet? what? someone has to make dinner again? can’t we order take-out? can’t you just take those pants out of the hamper and wear them again? put a Star Wars sticker on that stain–SORRY!!! I FORGOT THAT STAR WARS IS NOW EVIL AND SO IS ANYONE WHO EVEN MENTIONS IT!
(d) because what’s the point anyway? Storms come and then they pass and if I spend my time rehashing the events then I’m missing the mystery of the cold blue night and the shadows the moon casts on the freshly fallen snow.
(e) because as much as this is about Aspergers and ADD and OCD and puberty, about amygdalas and their knee-jerk flight, freeze, and flight responses, what it’s really about is human fear and foibles, love and forgiveness, blame and shame and all of us wanting to feel okay, to feel we are enough, that we are safe.
(f) because it breaks my heart and challenges me at my very core, this not knowing what to do, what to do, how to do it, where to find the support, this reaching, grasping, only to touch the nothingness of air, where is the answer? not to the whole question, but to one portion, help help help, how do I hold on to the trust in myself, in this situation, in my child, in my husband, in the larger world, to not fall into two things, right or wrong, this or that, to not drive tight circles seeking to figure out why what is happening is happening as if anything is that neat, as if everything can be predicted, understood, managed, controlled.
(g) because the marriage is buckling under the stress or our own failings and misperceptions and there is only a finite amount of energy and do I want to use that to tell the story of the mess? from my shoreline?
(h) because that’s the image that came to me today as I drove with Dave to see the therapist that brought us back from the brink of divorce about five years ago–it was of me, standing on the high cliff of the shore, looking out across a body of water to another shoreline, also precipitous, also hard, made of stone or pressed earth or even ice. I knew where I stood was just that, where I stand, my position, and that standing there would keep me separate and hard. It wasn’t about getting to the other shore or even about bringing the shores closer together. It was about falling into the water. Falling into the water = vulnerability. It’s uncertain, messy, but it’s also fluid. It sinks, covers, seeps. But it floats. It moves. It changes.
The therapist listened to us for over an hour, Dave and I, sitting across from each other, telling our stories, repeating them back to each other, Is there more? Is there more? And then she said, “You’re all struggling with the same thing, all three of you. You’re feeling bad about the things you don’t do well. And that’s making you scared. And mad.
“I’m having a crazy thought,” she continued, “a radical thought. What if you created a zone of zero negativity. No negativity. Whatever the situation, what if you stop, and search instead for something to say that is positive, something to appreciate. Ask a question that is about truly partnering. What can I do? How can I help?”
It made enormous sense to both of us, like Nurtured Heart, a commitment not to give energy to the negative. An ideal perhaps…how can we avoid ALL negativity? Will it have to spill out somewhere? If I manage to wipe it out at home, will I be compelled to take to the streets, shouting obscenities and insults in a Turrette’s-like spasm?
It’s an exercise, a practice.
Which brings me to my last item:
(i) it’s been hard to talk about because I didn’t realize until this afternoon that the struggles over the last few months are best seen as part of a deeper lesson for me: How to be part of a team. I don’t think I know how to do that very well. Being part of a team means knowing how to (1) ask for help and (2) ask others how I can be of help to them. That requires vulnerability. And that emerges from being wiling and able to embrace my imperfections.
So, my personal zero negativity 365 challenge begins today. I will not do it perfectly, but I am determined to return and begin again and again.
Anyone want to join me?