Monday, May 2, 2022

Guest Post: There is Nothing Else

I rarely publish guest posts. When I do they are always written by someone I love who is writing while on the cusp of something. Considering or reacting to a transition of sorts. 

I am kind of addicted to learning from transitions. 

And when someone I love takes the time to share their own version of things, the way they think and feel and worry and hope, particularly during the vulnerable time of a transition, well, I love to listen. 

This guest post, written by my stepdaughter Meagan, is a stunning example of that. On the precipice of adulthood she shares her observations and apprehensions with clarity.  She expresses and explores her thoughts with sincerity, asking us to join her. Asking us, even, to provide answers. 

Originally published on Disabled World, she has given me permission to share the piece here with you. 

Take a journey back in time, to April 20th, 2022, and travel Meagan's thoughts with her - thoughts she will never have for the first time again, in precisely this way. Thoughts she chose to share with us, and share well. 

Perhaps because there is nothing else. 

Silhouette of someone standing by a field

 

 

Nothing Else 

by 

Meagan Langtree




 

Lately I’ve taken to trying to wrap my head around the way the world works. Maybe it’s because I take the first step into adulthood 66 days from today and I can’t help but ask ‘why?’. It doesn’t sadden me, or at least not all the time, but I keep finding myself stuck acknowledging the world as it is, with its horror and delight and passion and cruelty, and desperately trying to be content with it. Is it not traumatising to be human? To have power and freedom but, no, not really, and to know that the path you’re on of school and work and marriage and kids and death is a system set in stone that billions of people before you have already played out? Isn’t it traumatising to continue anyway, knowing that’s the only way you could ever possibly go?


Things only happen once, and they will never happen again. Today is April 20th, 2022, and this is the only April 20th, 2022 there will ever be. The way our history has played out was a roll of the dice every single second and the things we take as facts could easily be thrown on their head if history went even a little bit differently. What would the world be like if instead the British had been murdered by the Indigenous peoples? If we never even lay a single finger on each other at all? The single flap of a butterfly’s wings can set in stone the path of a tornado. How do we cope with this incredible, unstoppable power we hold knowing that our family, friends, and enemies have the same incredible, unstoppable power that we do? Is it worth any less knowing there are billions of people who have that same power too? Do bugs think us ungrateful for crying over a lost child when we so often crush their own without thinking simply because there’s not a thing they can do to stop us? The tears I cry from the stress of a midterm fast approaching pales in comparison to the tears I cried when I realised late one night that my mother doesn’t love me, or instead, that she did love me, but it has always and will always be just half an inch away from enough to try. Are those tears worth any less because of it? 

 

There’s no answer really, and it’s up to the person who I’ve asked the question to (whoever that may be) to decide when really no answer will ever be truly right. How do you cope knowing that the answer changes depending on who you ask? How, in a world of eight billion people, do you choose who to listen to? How do you cope knowing that who you are now was determined by the people who have hurt you the most? How do you cope knowing not one of the eight billion people on this earth will ever, ever really see you, because no matter how hard they try, information can never be truly accurate once it passes through the selfish filter of the mind? I’m not entirely sure how to live knowing I will never be able to see the world through the thick prison bars of my cones and rods.

 

My sight is one of the many senses I am so lucky to have, and it has brought me nothing but pain. I have seen the cruel stares of hundreds of my childhood peers, the look on a loved one’s face when I’ve hurt them so purposefully (why, oh why, did I do that?), and I have seen my brother’s knife at my mother’s throat and a three digit number blinking on the teeny tiny screen of my childhood telephone that I just didn’t have the strength to call. And yet, if I had my sight ripped away from me in a freak accident, I know I would surely end it all. It’s so easy to forget that when you look around it isn’t the world you’re seeing but your own projection, and there exists a possibility that we may be surrounded only by poorly rendered video game models of our ‘pets’ and ‘families’ and we would never really know, and it would never really matter. But if that projection were to leave me, I would surely die. Anything is better than nothing. Our minds create such vivid images of beauty in people and sunsets and forests and lakes to keep us alive, because surely we can’t be suffering for nothing, but at the end of the day if your vision fades away, the world goes with it. Blind people have not lost a sense but instead they have broken free of a prison only to find that there exists nothing beyond our own eyes’ interpretation. There is nothing behind the projection, not even poorly rendered video game models. Still, when your vision begins to fade and the doctor breaks the news to you, you cry, because you can no longer ignore the truth; this world does not exist, but it is truly, truly fucking awful. At least before you had something pretty to look at.

 

I’m lucky I’m not blind. I’m lucky I had only lost my sense of smell and not my hearing or my wealth or my intelligence or my perceived value. I’m lucky my mother still found herself pregnant despite having only one ovary, and I’m lucky I was born well off and healthy and ‘gifted despite being a geriatric pregnancy, and I’m lucky that I had people who loved me even before I existed (when it is easiest to love someone). I am lucky, and oh God I am so, so grateful, and yet I can do nothing but cry. It’s too hard. I’m only a child.


I would wish I was never born at all, but I’m much too selfish for that.


Please don’t misunderstand me: This isn’t to say that the pain I’m experiencing now is caused by the way of the world. I am painfully aware of it whenever I’m not quite distracted enough. No, I cry because I know exactly how the world works, and yet I have no other option but to go along with it. There is nothing else. There is no more zooming out to do, no other path you can walk, no other option. It’s this or it’s nothing. I cry because this is all we have and all we will ever have, and it is so horrible. I cry because I will love and kiss and scream and destroy and feel and it will be nothing but a fraction of a millisecond of a flash in the world. No matter how hard I cry, no one will ever see it, and even if somehow someone could truly understand me, the sun will still rise in the early hours afterwards and the sun through the window will bathe my wooden floor with warmth and I will surely appreciate this as I walk from the bedroom to the world outside in silent mourning for home. Our lives will only be one fraction of a millisecond. I know my feelings mean nothing, and they get me nowhere, and they don't matter, and yet I will keep feeling them every single day for the rest of my life. I simply can’t control myself. Not even the only thing on this earth that belongs to me is even truly mine.


As cold as the world is, if death had not been quite as terrifying, we all would have killed ourselves a while ago. If religion had never existed at all, and hadn’t scared us into procrastinating our death as long as possible out of fear of eternal damnation, how many more millions of people would be hanging from their bedroom ceiling by their necks today? If we as a society knew for sure there was no afterlife, and death was only an infinite sleep, would we feel more comfortable accepting our fate? Maybe the only reason we run from death is the fear that if we die, we will have to keep living, and we can’t risk being born in a life that has even less than we do now. I will run from death with my riches and my talent because even though I’m suffering, at least I don’t have to worry about money. To know that we wake up and breathe and live each day only because we fear the alternative is itself traumatising. Knowing that every single day the universe flips one coin for each and every one of us that decides whether today we will live or die, is traumatic, and it’s a miracle that for the past 6,508 days, my coin has never once predicted death. For this I am grateful. But how long do I have left until my luck runs out? Will I know which kiss will be my last? Would it even matter?


I think of the roman soldiers, the housewives of the 50s, the dictators who slaughtered millions, the homeless people I see by the station, and I wonder; did they cry the same way I do? Did their mother, the only mother they would ever have in all of the six million years we have existed and the thousands more to come, hold them in her arms when they were born and love them the way only this specific mother could love this specific child? Their blood is remnants of the only world outside of suffering we will ever live yet never remember, as it would surely only make us mourn what we once had. How long did those remnants stain the bed sheets before they were cleaned and forgotten?


The people of the past have also cried, and loved, and feared, and screamed, just as I have, and where has it gotten them? Where will I be? 


It is traumatising to know that even though I can’t get this idea out of my head, when I am wronged sometime today or sometime tomorrow or in a month from now, I will still scream and yell and belittle, as if the person in front of me had never felt the way I have when my favourite song comes on the radio and I just can’t help but smile, or felt the same racing heartbeat standing in front of the class to speak, or the warm feeling in my heart when I am surrounded by those I truly love. I will forget. The truth will always slip away from you. Living in a fake world with fake issues is simply much easier to digest.


It is traumatising to know you will forget, and then to do it anyway. I betray myself over and over and over again when I let memories of the heartbreak and sorrow and helplessness I often feel on lonely nights slip away from me in the morning light. I betray the girl who’s terrified of growing older and doesn’t quite understand anything at all and who thinks for a moment that it really would be better if she jumped off a high rooftop to escape the pain of being human. I leave that girl, screaming and sobbing and aching from the inside out, to rot in the prison of yesterday. I have survivor’s guilt each and every day I wake up alive and know that that girl had died yesterday and no one will ever remember her. No matter how much I grieve, or how strong her pain was, I too will forget it all after only a few hours.


The hardest part of it all is knowing that this pain is not my own, and it is something that every single person deals with and has dealt with at some point. I am not special for these thoughts. Even though every moment is its own and special in the way that it will only ever happen once, they are all the same in that every single person alive is suffering. It is April 20th, 2022, and I am suffering. I look forward to tomorrow, and to my 18th birthday party, to my summer vacation in California, my school and my marriage and kids, despite knowing I will be suffering. What else is there to do?

 

# # # 

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Book Review: JEFF: A Sexually Realized Spiritual Odyssey of Stepping Into Love by Lynette Louise

 

This book, written by my mom in the form of a letter to an ex-lover, is the story of a woman who discovers and heals herself while gathering and guiding others. In this poetic pursuing of truth, of self-discovery, of creating an environment her eight challenged children can thrive in, my mom does not shy away from raw emotion, naked passion, or vulnerable positions. Indeed, she steps into them with love.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, it is also Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month. It is also my mom's birthday month. Of all my mom's books this one, Jeff: A Sexually Realized Spiritual Odyssey of Stepping Into Love, is the most timely. Though all her books teach and tell about abuse prevention and autism acceptance, this one holds the audience’s hand and brings us intimately into the journey itself. This is the book mom wrote that took her to the places where she was able to write the other books.


Mom met Jeff a few years after leaving an abusive husband (my step-dad), moving into and then graduating out of a home for battered women, while raising six, then seven, then eight children. Mom had given birth to my sister and me before meeting my step-dad, then adopted my brothers (four boys, all with a variety of disorders and dysfunctions, including autism and fetal alcohol syndrome) just before leaving him, and then got custody of two more girls a few years later, since they had nowhere else to go that was safe.


Mom, who had a history of being abused, including sexually so, had gathered so many children to love and save. But she herself had not yet felt loved or saved. Enter Jeff. (Pun intended.)


Jeff gave my mom love. He accepted all her strangenesses in stride. (In my memory, Jeff had rather long legs which must have helped fit all that strangeness into his naturally long stride. Giggle!) And he found ways to take care of her, to pamper her, without ever giving her the feeling of being needy, of not being strong.


In this letter mom reminisces with Jeff and catches him up on her life, particularly filling him in on the relationship she’s in at the time of the writing, and on relationships along the way.


Throughout the letter that is this book mom is not shy. She does not cover up her nudity but, instead, encourages us to explore it. To recognize ourselves, our world, our own truths, fears, judgements, kindnesses and cruelties, while traveling not only her gentle curves but also the dark spaces. To bring with us an open mind and soft lights.


She exposes the burden of her own bi-sexuality, a secret sin she felt was sinful due in part to a homophobic ex-husband, and invites us to discover with her the beauty that is not a sin.


From the book:

And though I have intensely sexy memories of her feathery soft hair whispering on my thighs, what truly made the experience so heady, so overwhelmingly amazing, was the discovery of the me… in her.


Up until that moment I had felt that men were only pretending to like to look at my slimy, ugly genitals. That they were only putting up with touching me, in order to get the part they wanted, the part where I touched them back.


A little later:


It was so erotic to feel the hot, secret flesh inside her body, as it opened and closed, held and let go, pulled and released, pulsing like the heartbeat to some pagan ritual It was so amazing to discover that nothing, not a smell, not a taste, not a touch, not even a sound was repulsive or ugly or even undesired.


And I felt,
As I felt,
That I was feeling me,
And finding me sexy.


The discovery of herself, while discovering others, while giving and receiving love, is such a consistent theme in mom’s life. And in this book she brings us along.


It is almost as if we, as an audience, leave the controlling name calling clutches of my step-dad and fall into the work of breaking patterns as well.


From the book:


I counted on my husband to control me into respectability and teach me how to behave so that I could like myself and my family could be proud of me for finding someone who agreed with them. Called me a slut. I hoped to change myself into their version of good.


I guess that’s why, when my husband molested my daughter which reminded me that my father had molested me, I felt my complicity in the fact that I had followed the family pattern for success.
And so finally I stopped listening to what others told me and began searching for my own truth,
And discovered that all the work is done in the mind.


Ah, yes. It is. Knowing that to be true, that all the work is done in the mind, is liberating but doesn’t solve it. We still must do the work. And our minds are not so easily understood. Though embarking on this odyssey with mom does help, and we begin to see how she went on to become the world-renowned brain change and behavior expert she is today.


But before mom was helping families around the globe (autism is her specialty but the families she works with always also have other disfunctions, disabilities, and disorders) she was homeschooling her sons and putting food on the table, keeping a roof over our heads (me and my sons were living with her at the time), by helping men in the Houston area.


From the book:


I called it “Romance Therapy” charged by the hour and actually helped people with sexual self-acceptance issues. Which is interesting since they say you teach what you need most to learn. I re-packaged the oldest profession in a way that would make it legal and allow me to claim it on my income tax. I had found my niche, my solution, my way to still teach, everyone.


A little later in the book:


Dark and handsome Edward who cared more about talking, seeking acceptance for the lack of lust towards his wife, getting solace from suffering for days before and after each visit, flogging himself with guilt.


Tall and gorgeous Steve who needed to idolize and adore for an hour every two week. So that when he ordered and bossed and controlled the staff beneath him, he could remember he was kind.


Tom who looked for forgiveness ever since Vietnam and John who was every woman’s dream date but didn’t stay in one town long enough to build towards intimacy, with no strings attached.


And sweet precious Jerry who turned out the lights and pretended I was his “ill-with-lupus wife.” He couldn’t make love to her as she would bruise from the slightest touch. So he caressed her sick body through my healthy one, whispering in the darkness, silently, her name.


Curtis, Mario, and Brian who were physically disabled and required a great deal of care, from catheters to carrying while radiantly gifting me with their smiles of divine physical beauty. If fact most of my clients were beautiful.
Inside,
And out.


This sexually realized odyssey is not a book about sex, but it is a book that brings us into the vulnerabilities and intimate realizations we can have while being sexual.


My mom is a unique woman, but her revelations are relatable and universal. My mom, a woman who was a child that suffered abuse, and then a woman who chose abuse, and then a healer who hurt while insisting on healing, brings us insights meant to do no less than change our world.


From the book:


Ted [a man she is seeing] began to apologize and explain that he hadn’t understood.


I cut him off gently.


“I never expected you would, that’s why I’m explaining now. But I need you to know me. To know I can be trusted to be kind. That there is never a moment when I’m not doing the best I can for my kids. So next time if you’re not sure, don’t tell me what I am doing. Ask me.”

Reading Jeff: A Sexually Realized Spiritual Odyssey of Stepping into Love is truly like departing on a spiritual odyssey and stepping into love. It is a whirlwind of beautiful phrasing, cultural observations, funny moments, adorable children, discovery, discovery, discovery. Learning and un-learning and learning again. Finding ourselves hidden, and stepping into love.


It is the love letter that helped my mom step out of abuse, into a world of teaching acceptance, and

moving beyond itself.

It is a love letter for Jeff. For my mom. For us kids. And for you.


Step into it.


 

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Autism Answer: Inclusive Sexual Encounters - A Poem about Connecting Sexually

 

A bed



A sexual connection can be like poetry: greater than the sum of its parts. 
 
Significantly more than the appearance of the thing itself.  
 
There's so much going on at once and the best way to experience it is with a gentle guiding and acknowledgement of the feelings, thoughts, words, and touch rather than a straight up narrative.

I don't generally write poetry. To be honest, I don't generally enjoy reading it much either. However, the other day I was moved to write a piece of prose.

I was thinking about the various things I'm newly learning and experiencing sexually. I was thinking about how valuable those things are and how I hope everyone gets the opportunity to have similar experiences.

I heard my thoughts and wondered, could I write about the things I'm feeling in an inclusive way? Could I be personal and specific, without leaving many others out? Could I share in a way almost anyone could imagine it for themselves?

I wanted to share the vulnerabilities, the pleasures, the communication and connection, the desires, the physical feelings.

So, though the following poem was written with a sexual connection in mind, it was also written with sexual diversity in mind (in fact, I wrote it specifically for SexualDiversity.org) and was strongly influenced by the thinking I do here, for my Autism Answers blog.

Things we think and do during sexual encounters are informed by what we've seen, heard, wanted, thought, feared, and hoped outside of sex. And people who have been abused, people who have disabilities or disorders, people who experience more than a small amount of discrimination, well - we bring that with us into the bedroom. But this does not mean we aren't able to experience pleasure and connection, it just means we may need more in the way of careful communication, we may need to practice telling and asking, listening well and being authentic.

I am sharing this piece of prose here. It is truly personal, but I also wrote it with you in mind. 
 
Visit the poem via Sexual Diversity here: With You 
 
 

With You

Mmmm…. I’m coming close

Closer to you

Is this okay? Do you like this?

Do you feel that? I want you to feel it

 

My hand is slipping between your legs

Oh, you are excited, it seems

I want you to feel good

My hand slides where you clearly enjoy it

I enjoy it

 

Tell me, what do you see when you feel me?

Can you feel me? Do you want me?

Show me

 

I want you to like this with me

More pressure? Harder here?

My body, which is ours in this moment, is in motion

Sensitive, so sensitive,

pulsing

 

Aware and alive

skin and loins, bits and buttons

My eyes are closed but I see you with my touch

I feel you

 

Where do you want me to feel you? Show me, move my body if you can

Pressure here,

soft teasing here,

no? No soft teasing then

 

I’m trying to listen to your body’s response but my own is so loud and insistent

I’m here with you but I’m here in me more; I want you to come in, feel what I’m feeling

I want to come in, feel what you’re feeling

to know how to titillate and stimulate

 

I want my sensual touch to serve you, pleasure you, and bring you to me

Bring me to you

It’s so loud! This feeling

So loud!

 

We are not woman or man, not able or un, not old or young, not colored or un

We are this feeling

So loud!

 

Oh, yes, please tell me, move me, allow me, ask me

Mmmm… I’m coming close

With you 

~
 
 Hugs, smiles, and love!
 
 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Book Review: My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

 

This review was originally published on Disabled World. First it was mostly written on Goodreads where I then proceeded to change my mind about sharing it because it was becoming largely about my stepdaughter who had recommended the book to me and wanted to read my review, so I kept my review private and she read it and said she'd like it published so I gave it another look and realized it was about the book but also about depression and eating disorders and mental health so I submitted it to Disabled World where it was accepted and published. There, now you know the history of this review. Oh, what's that? You weren't at all wondering? I see, I see, ummmm... 

This review was originally published on Disabled World. 


 

Seventeen and pretty, struggling with an eating disorder, family disruption (I am largely to blame in a scandalous way), and on the younger side of becoming herself with purpose, my stepdaughter declared, "I love this book. I really love the main character. She's who I want to be."

 Lending me her copy of "My Year of Rest and Relaxation," one she purchased on a whim after declaring her adoration for the book and it's main character, she reiterated, "While you're reading remember, I want to be this girl."

So, my experience of reading "My Year of Rest and Relaxation" by Ottessa Moshfegh was split. I read it as a fan of novels highlighting self-realization and exploration, and I also read it as a lady who loves a young girl identifying strongly with a character. What made this particularly fun was how often one version of me would make a point to the other version of me while my thoughts about the story formed.

 The story is of a young woman who sort of decides to fix her life by sleeping for a year. I say "sort of" because there isn't much of a plan besides sleep and sleep and sleep until she wakes up different. This, many of us must admit, has an appeal. Particularly if, as my stepdaughter points out, we could do it while being the narrator. Her parents, who she was not close to and who offered no affection and little guidance, have died. And though they didn’t give her much in the way of attention or love, they did give her things money could buy, and they left her enough to live more than a little bit comfortably. She's a pretty girl in pretty apartment with a pretty education and a pretty job. But life hurts and she's tired. So, she sleeps. A plan forms to keep sleeping, and the Universe gives her precisely what she asks of it: a therapist that will prescribe her all the drugs necessary to sleep. Throughout the novel the plan shows itself to be as terrible and dangerous as it sounds, and not really a plan at all. But near the end our narrator finally puts on her big girl panties (perhaps purchased during a drug induced blackout) and makes a true plan with a real goal. It is still sleep, but now it is with clarity and purpose and planning. Also, there is a time frame. This makes all the difference.

Both versions of me were engaged and moved by the book.

The me that is a reader: The sentences are deliciously devilish. I found it fun and fast to read, cutting and direct, darkly funny. Yet not without heart, not at all. There is a girl beating at the center of the story who has what seems like "it all" but life is sad and she's hurting. However, because she is smart, pretty, and wealthy, was not much loved as a child but not exactly abused either, it's almost as if even she can't take her own pain seriously. Her own pain, which is real and valid, stems partly from having grown up in an affection-less home and partly from living in a world that doesn't want to nourish someone as lucky as she. Her lack of love in childhood has, as it often will, given her a broken picker when it comes to romance and relationships. She finds a man that is just awful to her, and she uses him to be awful to her. He’s a place, at least, where her pain and suffering make sense.

She's mean. I suspect she wants to sleep partly to get away from her consistent smart-alec attitude and cruel comments. Cruel comments and inner dialogue that burst forth clearly as a way to prove to herself that she's fine and in control, that everyone else is not fine, and she just needs to sleep.

Seriously, she's quite mean. The vulnerable part of her she’s protecting is a little too well hidden.

One of the things I love most about reading is trying on the beliefs and perspectives of someone vastly different from myself, but I was exhausted by so much meanness. Yet, I get that our narrator was using that attitude as a tool to create her edges, and she may have risked disappearing altogether without it.  

The me that is a stepmom: I was honored, impressed, and conflicted. I cared very much that my stepdaughter wanted to share this version of herself - who she feels she is and who she wants to be, even if only temporarily - with me. I absolutely saw a lot of what she saw. Growing up with what seems like “it all” yet struggling to feel cared for and cared about. Struggling to feel worthy of such caring. Lashing out now and then only to see if someone cares enough to find out why, or at least to lash back. I could also see clearly the allure of being pretty, smart, rich, and sleeping an entire year away while re-watching favorite movies over and over and over. For someone like my stepdaughter who is pretty and smart, who has always had a nice home and things, it would be easy to identify with the narrator. And though my stepdaughter is not mean, it is only because she chooses not to be. From what she’s told me, I believe the temptation exists in her.

Unlike the narrator, my stepdaughter spent a fair amount of her youth overweight and only recently, the past few years, has been skinny. Her experiences regarding her weight evolved into a need for skinny. She seeks it out in others, she craves it for herself, she feels things when looking at aesthetics that tell her a story of skinny. Skinny and depressed look pretty to her, and she likes pretty.

At the moment my stepdaughter is specifically struggling with an eating disorder. With anorexia and binge eating. Her struggle is not easily understood by those of us in the home, though we care. For my part, I keep making the mistake of trying to relate by thinking of my own desire to be thin or pretty, my own wish that delicious foods were never fattening, or that there was a trick for making them not fattening to me. But my attempts are largely in vain because she struggles differently. Her goals and reasons are different from mine and the insights I have are rarely useful and more often distract me from quite getting it. Eating disorders are frighteningly dangerous and extremely challenging. After all, we can't just say, "Never mind, we'll quit food all together." We can't just walk away as one might from an abusive relationship. We must find a way to make this work.

To make it worse, the world does value skinny and pretty, although it actually has no real value. It is so darn frustrating! I mean, I just sound like a na├»ve dummy who doesn’t live in the real world where everyone wears the right clothes, gets the right procedures, looks the right way, when I preach, “Be a healthy you in the body you have.” Duh, don’t I know that everyone else is doing the work of changing the bodies they have and not doing so will leave her in the dust? Arg.

Anyway, I think the narrator struggles similarly in the book. Being skinny and pretty all her life meant people congratulated her and made room for her based on that “value” but she’s smart, she knows it is not real enough. She’s lost and depressed. She’s struggling in similar ways as my stepdaughter. She doesn't have an eating disorder, though her friend does, but she is disordered. And the struggle is not one she can just walk away from. She must find a way to make her mind, her feelings, her choices, work with her rather than against her. And, at first, she doesn't really want to. Sure, she plays at wanting to, she even tinkers with believing she wants to, but in reality she's like a person wishing they could play the piano. Like a person seeing someone else play and thinking it would be cool if they could do that too. Not a want, but a wish. If they could have a montage, maybe they’d do it. However, this is how most of our true-life changes begin. So, it is good. With my stepdaughter, I think she's just a little beyond the beginning but not yet near the end.

The end, in the book, is where - just as things get nearly so bad we are hardly able to stay with her as an audience - she feels a change come over her, a real plan, a real desire to become different. The plan itself is unconventional, crazy even, and I love that. This book offers a fantastic example of how we won't make healthy changes if we don't really want to, how we often think we want the change but really don’t, yet pushing ourselves to want it is how we can get there, and how we can (and often should) enlist the help of others but - ultimately - we alone are the necessary ones. We do our best work when we're creative problem solvers, when we really mean it and have a clear goal or plan, and when we are okay with our lives actually becoming different even though we can't truly picture what that might look like for ourselves.

This is something I hope my stepdaughter liked too. I hope she finds her way to do what the narrator does, creatively problem solve with a true will for change, and I hope she finds it sooner rather than later. I know her and am entirely confident she has it in her. Her gift with sophisticated thinking can be both a weapon against herself and a tool of salvation. She knows this.

The narrator knew this.

Maybe because my stepdaughter has a strong desire to be like the narrator, she'll use that sophisticated thinking to create an effective plan of action for herself.

Maybe, also, because my stepdaughter has a desire to be even better than the people she emulates, she'll do it sooner and better.

In the meantime, I'll keep being the friend that tries her best to create a healthy environment, I'll drive my stepdaughter to appointments and rock out with her in the car, and I'll put the books she recommends at the top of my "to read" list.

If subsequent recommendations are as thought provoking (and sometimes simply provoking!) as "My Year of Rest and Relaxation," it will continue to be a course of action that matches the course I like my life to take: One that brings me new perspectives, particularly when those perspectives bring me closer to people I love. 

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Autism Answer: Chatting about Love with my Granddaughter in a Dream

 

A pic my granddaughter took while we were video chatting


In my dream I was chatting with my oldest granddaughter, Nevaeh, who is four, almost five. 
 
She was looking up at me from the water of our swimming pool, standing on the stairs holding onto the rail. I was sitting on the edge leaning back on my hands, my legs straight out along the side and not in the water because, even in my dreams, I don't want to remove my roller skates. 
 
We were chatting about love.
 
"But, grandma," she was asking, "is it okay that I still love grampa?" 
 
"Of course! It's wonderful that you love grampa. And your grampa will always love you." 
 
She smiled at me with that special smirk of hers. "I know he'll always love me. But if you aren't still married to grampa do I still call him grampa? And what do I call the new grampa? Is he new grampa?" 
 
The dream was so vivid I swear I could feel the weight of roller skates on my feet. A weight that gives me the gift of moving in a way that feels weightless. 
 
"Grampa is your grampa and you can always call him grampa. Ian is grandma's love and you can figure out with him what to call him. You know what, Nevaeh? That's a cool part about love. There are so many kinds! And the more you love the more kinds of love you'll find." 
 
And suddenly, as happens in dreams, so many of our different loves began to come and go in ghost like form, appearing on the edge of the pool in a variety of snapshots that nearly came into focus and then disappeared, all around the pool they came and went and we pointed and talked about different kinds of love and what it can look like. Also, what maybe it shouldn't look like. 
 
"Look!" Nevaeh cried out at one point, turning her head and pointing her still slightly chubby fingers toward the deep end, "Look! There's my Tia! I love her but different than I love Serenity." 
 
"Right!" I said, laughing and feeling such joy to be spending this time with my granddaughter, who I love. "And even though you love Serenity, you fight with her sometimes. So love can have fighting in it." I said that because, to be honest, it was kind of a new learning for me. I'd been thinking about the times I fought with my mom as a child and how my willingness to fight with mom stemmed from my absolute certainty that she loved me and that I loved her. How it had often grown out of my certainty that we could push and pull at each other without ever breaking. 
 
But my granddaughter looked at me with confusion. "Like how mommy and daddy fight?" Oops.
 
"No, that's different," I had to admit. "When they fight it isn't coming from a place of love. I think they are fighting because they want to hurt each other and, even if it is some kind of love, it isn't a safe or healthy love." 
 
The dream wanted to turn dark, and for a moment snapshots of my son's wife screaming at him threatened to materialize, but I spoke with the intention of diverting the dream back to a lighter feel. 
 
"Love can have fighting in it, but love isn't full of fighting. Think about how it feels when you love. How it feels when you snuggle Dramma or when your daddy plays with you. Are you feeling it?"
 
Her blue eyes were closed and she was hugging herself, her bathing suit danced with colors and her small body swayed happily. "It feels good!" 
 
"Does it feel safe?" I asked. 
 
"Yes! I feel safe with Dramma snuggling me!"
 
"And do you feel like you and the person you love both matter?"
 
"Daddy matters! He's playing with me because I matter and because it's fun!" 
 
"Who else do you love? Different from Dramma or Daddy?"
 
Nevaeh did a jump for joy, "Uncle Dar! I love uncle Dar!" 
 
"That's a really good one! You love uncle Dar even though he doesn't play or talk in a usual way."
 
"Because Uncle Dar matters and I matter! And he likes to be on the swings! Wait, grandma! I know something!" She looked at me with such force I almost reached out to hold her but stopped myself. In my dreams, sometimes the attempt at touch wakes me up and I was not ready to wake from this. Neveah continued, "Sometimes when Uncle Dar is cranky Dramma talks to him in a fighting way. But it's because she loves him and wants to help him calm down. It's like they're working together. That's the kind of fighting love can have!" 
 
We talked a little more about different kind of love. About the crushes she had, the kinds of love we can feel for things like swimming and roller skating, the love we can have for the world. (Gotta love the attention span of my dream granddaughter! Giggle!) 
 
Just as I felt myself begin to wake - I admit I fought it because it is only in my dreams I can spend this kind of time with my grandchildren who live in California while I live in Quebec - we returned to the love she has for her grampa. 
 
"So you won't be mad if I keep loving my grampa?"
 
"Sweet, sweet, sweet Nevaeh," I was able to tell her in the dream, "I want you to keep loving grampa. I love your grampa, just not as my husband. Ian is my love that way. But it isn't because your grampa is not someone to love, it is because Ian is my someone to be in love with. So, yes! Love all the grandpas you want!" 
 
I could feel my eyelids begin to open, I stayed as long as I could in that world between two worlds, my granddaughter in the pool and Ian in the bed beside me, I wanted him to see Nevaeh and let her know it was okay to love him and my ex-husband. I wanted Nevaeh to see him and know how much he feels like home to me. How comfortable I am being all of me here. I wanted her here. 
 
When I could no longer keep myself in that space, where I was everywhere at once, I whispered to her, gathering as much love as I had time to gather before the dream was completely unreachable and packing it into that whisper, "I love you, Nevaeh." 
 
For the next two days I went in and out of that dream. Talking about love with my oldest grandchild. Remembering that as we adults teach our children we are never done learning and shifting and changing ourselves, so we will always have new and different kinds of love to talk about. And to example. 
 
My son and his wife are struggling to change their situation in order to become better examples for their children; in order to be better (and happier) people themselves. 
 
At the same time love is evolving, growing stronger or simply different, with everyone else in our family. 
 
And I had the pleasure of discussing the ever evolving love in our lives with my four year old granddaughter. Yes, it was in a dream. But it is also in my memory. A memory of discussing love with my granddaughter in a dream. 
 
Which is also a memory of the very real love I have for my granddaughter. 
 
There are so many kinds of love.
That is something I love. 
 
Hugs, smiles, and love!!!!
 
INVITATION TO PARTY WITH MY FAMILY: Today is my mom's birthday!!! I invite you to join our family party by watching this fun video of mom, my brother Dar, and the great-grandkids playing together. And to make it extraordinarily pertinent to mom on her birthday, which is also World Autism Awareness Day, you get a tip for engaging in play with your autistic loved ones while encouraging social skills. It's a perfect party celebration and I love that you're here with us!