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We’re not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.
~ CS Lewis

Painful is how I would describe life as an autism family. I hit bottom around the pain (again) just over a week ago. Joseph is nine now, and the sweet, cheerful little boy has been taken over by a rebellious, yelling, smart-ass, sometimes hitting kid who is almost as tall as I am.

Forget the blues: I had the blacks. I felt swallowed up by a deep, dark hole of despair. Bruce Springsteen sang in my head: “Had a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack. I went out for a ride and I never went back.”

That’s what I wanted to do. Sometimes I wanted to take my husband with me and sometimes I didn’t, but I definitely wanted to ditch the kid. Hop in the car, drive away and never come back. Such a sense of freedom, of liberation, that thought gave me.

Well, on Thursday I did hop in the car and drive away, but it wasn’t quite that dramatic. I was only gone four hours and my friend, Terese, did the driving. It was where we went and what we did that made the all the difference.

We went to session one of a five-week Love and Logic course.

In this classroom, other parents were struggling. Not only parents with autistic kids, of course, but all the parents. Two of the kids were getting emergency crisis intervention. One girl had just called her mom a fat pig who didn’t know anything. Another was getting cyber-bullied. I heard stories that made my curly hair straighten.

Then — ah, then! — we were given tools. It takes two to engage in an argument, we were reminded. If you’re playing tug of war with your kids and you let go of the rope, the game is over. We were taught how not to engage in shouting matches, in power struggles, in efforts to control. And to do our part with love and empathy.

We were reminded — and this one was huge for me — that the reason we decided to have kids was because it would be fun. Raising a family is meant to be fun. AND kids need to make contributions, just like Mom and Dad do. Though Love and Logic doesn’t often use the the word responsibility, it includes everyone doing their part.

On Friday, Joseph and I were talking about lifeguards. Joseph is very interested in lifeguards and the rules around pools. He asks questions like, What would happen if I ran at a water park? What if I was rough with a little kid at a public pool? I was answering logically, saying that the lifeguard would get him in trouble. If he was really naughty, I told him, he’d probably have to leave the place.

Well, this got Joseph anxious and he started to yell. Loudly. And rudely: “STOP TALKING ABOUT LIFEGUARDS! I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ANY MORE ABOUT LIFEGUARDS!”

The old Yoga Mother would try to calm him down. Or maybe even yell back at him. The Love and Logic mother, though, immediately and intentionally went brain-dead. This brain-dead moment stops me from reacting, gives me a second to reclaim my center.

Then I didn’t say anything. I could have used one of the many brilliant Love and Logic one-liners (“How sad.” “Don’t worry about it now.” “I love you too much to argue.”), but it’s much more natural for me, with my yoga background, to exhale loudly. Not sarcastically, not meanly –just a loud sigh.

And that was it. With my sigh I let go of the rope, and the conversation was over.

Replay scenes like that a dozen times a day, and you’ll get a sense of how Love and Logic is impacting our lives.

I’m realizing that I’ve been too flimsy around the boundaries, not modeling the calm, centered person I want him to become. Acting more like a drill sergeant (“Clean this up! Now!”) than a consultant (If it was me, I’d do it this way — but it’s your choice.).

What I know for sure is that it hasn’t been much fun. And now it is again. The autism is still there, but I’m realizing that we can have fun anyway. Saturday eve we went to a waterpark — what a blast! Yesterday we went on a hike with friends, and Joseph copied his younger friend by crossing funky, shaky bridges over the creek without fear. A new milestone for my usually timid young man.

IMG_2745Bottom line? I believe God wants us to have fun. It adds such a richness to life, and then we get to share that joy with others. So what the hell, let’s have fun — and, if we’re not, let’s figure out why and make the changes needed.

It’s funny, in a way. If we hadn’t lost our RDI Consultant, I don’t think I’d have taken this Love and Logic course. John was such a strong support for me that I would have struggled gallantly on. But with him gone, I’m having to fill in the gaps — and it’s turning out to be really good for me, for us.

Even lower bottom line? Even though, as CS Lewis said, God’s best is painful, it’s important to remember that it’s also the best.

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I have just been through a dark time. I landed some painful physical karma and I let it get to me. Everything got dark and difficult — especially the fact that Joseph has autism.

Have you ever seen the different (humorous) religious¬† perspectives around Shit Happens? The Buddhists, for instance, say, “If shit happens, it isn’t really shit.” The Catholics say, “If shit happens, you deserve it.”¬† The Quakers say, “Let us not fight over this shit.”

And the Jews say, “Why does shit always happen to me?”

I am Jewish on my parents’ side, and that one nailed me during this last dance with the darkness. I held a big pity party about autism, and I was there in full attendance.

I also resisted. Sorry, Byron Katie, but I did not love life the way it was. I wanted it different! I wanted it neurotypical! I wanted to rewrite the whole dang script.

Hello, character flaws, there you are again. Will you be staying for dinner?

If it was just me going through the tailspin, it’d be bad enough. But Joseph is very connected with me and, when I nosedive, he nosedives. He gets more autistic-acting, triggering my resistance and self-pity, triggering his flapping and weird sleep patterns and brain fog, and on and on we go. The death spiral.

On the bright side, I did one thing differently: I told people that I was going through it. I cried about it to more than one friend and mentioned it to others. I was vulnerable. And you know what? People offered their help. They offered to look after Joseph. They listened. They prayed. They cared. I also got treatment for my physical ailment and that is improving. I took care of me a lot more quickly than I usually do. That feels good.

The great master Ramakrishna said, “Some of us laugh, Mother; some of us weep; some of us dance with Thy sweet joy.” To me that means there is a choice. I can walk with God in any old way I choose. Moment by moment, I do life with God — how do I choose to do it this day?

When it’s really bad, it appears that there isn’t a choice. But I know there is. There are the very rare examples of joyful, radiant people who lived in the concentration camps; of Tibetan Buddhist prisoners who feel that the worst thing possible would be to lose compassion for their torturers; of the Christian prisoner who, when her torturer said, “I am more powerful than your God because I can kill you!” responded with, “No, my God is more powerful because, as you torture me to death, I can love you.”

Blimey. What heroes these people are. What an example to the rest of us — and to me, who just spent more time than I care to admit in my lonely little pity party.

I conclude, therefore, with the Christian Scientists’ viewpoint:

Shit happening is all in your mind.