Friday, November 20, 2015

Autism Answer: The Value Of Less Words


His deep brown eyes pleaded with me to take away the anguish while his newly accepted maturity knew that I could not. 

But we both also knew, my youngest brother and I, that—as always—I would try. 

His anguish was manufactured by his perseveration of the moment (having to do with the shape of cars in the future) and a strong frightening certainty that things would not go his way. 

I took a breath and distilled the words that usually helped him. Tossing away any unnecessary fluff or digressions I attempted to gift him with a soundbite he could hold onto and clearly remember. 

“The Universe doesn’t speak English or French, Rye, it speaks the language of mood. The more joy and faith and love you speak to it and envision for it, the more it will return that same communication.” 

I put the dish I was washing in the dish strainer, rubbed my wet hands on a nearby towel, and returned my brother’s gaze. I spoke to him for a moment clearly in the language of mood, sending understanding and supportive energy his way and felt a surge of appreciation returned. I was encouraged then to add more words. 

“Right now you’re speaking fear to the universe. You saw a car shaped the way you don’t want them shaped and rather than laugh, believing in a playful Universe that teases, you chose to fear a Universe that refuses to care about you. You thought words like I don’t want that shape but the Universe speaks mood, not words, and is giving you what it thinks you want based on where you put your energy.”

My twenty-eight year old baby brother relaxed then, and sat comfortably in a chair in my kitchen, looking at me expectantly. He wanted more words.

“The Universe is kind. It listens. So use the language of mood to tell it what you want.” 

My brother smiled then and we started making up scenes and situations where he could choose to feel afraid or instead choose to feel encouraged. Admittedly, we got pretty silly! Because by then we were speaking the mood of comfortable sibling silliness. 

This wasn’t the first time I had helped my brother by sharing this idea with him, but it was the first time I was able to bring it down to a smaller number of words; the necessary ones. 

Ever since that day I’ve been able to remind him of the entire conversation and concept by simply saying: Use the language of mood. 

Words are powerful. Communication is even more so. Often the clearest and most honest way to communicate is by using less words. 

I’m in a unique position to know this. As a writer I spend a delightful amount of time tweaking my meaning by weeding out words. A practice I first learned to value while growing up surrounded by autism and siblings with immense challenges in communication. 

I am the oldest daughter of eight now grown children. My mom always planned on being the fabulous mother of at least a dozen kids and was heartbroken when she had to have a hysterectomy after my sister and I were born. However, after a brief dance with depression, mom started again speaking the language of mood purposefully; the Universe saved many lives by introducing mom to the world of adopting children with brain dysfunctions. As a child my mom had felt forever unwanted and misunderstood, and she was drawn to save my brothers from that same fate. 

Which she did!

My brothers were challenged in many ways. Among other things they all landed in various places on the autism spectrum, so they all had issues to some degree with communication. The most challenged were the youngest and the oldest of my brothers. 

My youngest brother, the one who sat with me in my kitchen contemplating the language of the Universe, was echolalic. Though he could say words he only copied what he heard others say, often creatively using the words and phrases of others to say new things. Things that would get him what he wanted in the moment. 

The oldest of my adopted brothers couldn’t speak almost at all. Though he tried and tried; getting a clear word or sentence out only about once every few months. 

I’ll admit I spent too many years assuming they had nothing to say. 

I know now that I was cruelly mistaken. When I began to put aside my assumptions (and the assumptions, sadly, that society encouraged in the language of mood) and really watch my mom with them, I saw true communication. Communication that was far more real than the gossip and lies and attempts to be cool that my friends and I were involved in. 

My mom and brothers spoke the language of the Universe. The language of caring, believing, letting go of judgement, loving, and action. 

They spoke the language of energy and mood. 

My brothers (and most autistic people) respond more quickly to energy and mood than words. This is true, I believe, for most of us. But we also lie with words more easily, pretending we’re not. We put our words out there to play the game of lies while we engage also in a battle of moods. 

Growing up with my brothers, while also always harboring a deep desire to become a writer, put me in a fantastic position to consider this conundrum. 

After all, as a writer words would be my only tool. Words and punctuation are how I would communicate my stories and ideas. What value could there be in seeing the lie words often represented?

And here is the gift. Words are not a lie. They are a powerful, meaningful, and impressive way to communicate; especially when we distill them down. When we recognize them as a direct line to our mood and truths. 

The joy of less words, then, becomes the joy of discovering our truth. 

I do this now as a writer. I delight in the tweaking of words, searching for exactly my meaning.

I do this also as a mom, friend, and sister. Although in spoken word I always first use far too many. That’s fun also!

My youngest brother and I had discussed the value of mood for almost a year before I really understood what I was trying to say, and before I really knew the best way for my brother to understand it. We had many chatting sessions where we overused words and followed where they lead. Too many words is often where I start. 

Luckily my life and my family have taught me the value of simplifying and seeking the truth amidst the mess. Whether I’m looking for the problem within the symptoms, or the person within the behaviors, or the truth amidst too many words. 

I try to always be intentional and careful, to speak the language of mood, and to honor the joy and value of less. 

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

My youngest brother