What Corn Starch and Water Can Teach You (the Dalai Lama Would Agree)

It’s an amazingly sunny day with a perfect breeze. We have nothing to do and nowhere to go. “I’m starting a fire in the fire pit,” I say. “Do whatever you want.” Translation: I’m busy and will be here building my fire. If you don’t want to hang out here, please do whatever you want.

Michael proclaims that he wants to look up backyard experiments. He finds and announces the experiment he wants to do today . . . it’s with corn starch and water. It’s not what I expected. He’s done that one before, but today finds itself as one without expectation. It’s my favorite kind of day. I let him know, “Hunh, that’s not what I expected, but have fun.” And he disappears inside the house, while I sit on the driveway tending my fire.

On days like this we simply co-exist. Mason is content with playing the piano, eating a carrot, and just sitting with his feet facing the ceiling and his head pointing to the floor. Michael moves around with his typical energy—but he is calm within the constant movement. I don’t take his calm for granted. That calm is why it will be a perfect day for us and that calm is a necessary ingredient for this kind of day.

I’m so happy there are no plans. I just want to start a fire in the fire pit next to my garden. And if it takes three hours, then that is what I will do.

My fire is not lighting. Sigh. The wood I’m trying to burn is still “green.” Mason picked it up from the side of the road, and I didn’t really know if it would burn or not. I’m disappointed, for sure, but not sad or mad. I’m simply resigned to my fire not lighting and that’s OK. Pretty much I’m just sitting and staring at the garden after a good thirty minutes of trying to get this green wood to light.

The lesson for all of us

I decide to go in and check out what Michael and Mason have decided to do. Mason is reading upside-down. Michael is at the kitchen table covered in his blue gloopy-gloppy substance. Michael exclaims, “Hey, I know how this could be used for a meditative practice.”

Intrigued, I pull up a chair at the table and say, “I’m listening.”

“Well, when you move your hands slowly, the mixture is a liquid and flows freely.” He demonstrates with his hands in the blue goo. “But if you go quickly and try to force it, it breaks. Just like life.” He thrusts his hand into the bowl, and the mixture looks momentarily like dry cracked earth.

My first thought is how freaking happy I am to have him for a son. I think about how happy I am that he even knows about how life can *flow*. Do all kids know about being flexible as life comes at you? Do all kids who struggle with OCD understand, when things happen that aren’t predictable, that it is we who must adjust? I don’t think so. I don’t think that all kids are aware of the constant adjustments necessary to be in a flowing “dance,” if you will, within our daily lives.

I love when life flows. I absolutely love today, even though my fire didn’t happen. My son, per usual, is teaching me something of the great masters. He is my constant teacher and I his student. Today, I am sitting with him at our table, learning and remembering to move slowly with life. I am showing up for my lesson to stop trying to “force” my parts of my life.

Here’s my son with all of these “labels” (OCD, ASD, PDD, etc. ). And he is hugely aware of meditation and centering himself and calming his mind. He knows the benefits and power of peace within. He has learned about it and on some level, dare I say that I believe, he strives for it daily. It’s not easy for him by any means, but he understands what is needed to enjoy a calm life. That is the most important thing in my opinion.

I highly recommend that you take this gift from my son and go put your hands in some gloopy, gloppy goo (recipe below). I recommend that you really think about what you’re forcing in your life. I invite you to think about where you could be slower and more methodical. Because as you just learned, life, if you force it, could very well break. But if you move slowly with life, it will flow easily with you.

And I certainly invite you to show up for lessons when they are being taught, especially if your teacher is a child.

Sent with love and kindness.

The recipe

Mix together in a bowl:

1 cup of water

1.5 cups of corn starch

 

 

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Sick? Or Not Sick? That Is the Question.

It’s here again. Not that it’s ever gone, really, but it’s here again and I am baffled. I am sad. I am deflated. I am at peace. I am resigned. I am a mother of a son who is labeled Asperger’s, high-functioning Autistic, Obsessive Compulsive, Pervasive Developmentally Disordered, etc. It’s an elusive thing for sure. My son LOOKS typical, but tonight he is anything but.

Maybe it’s the anxiety I’m holding around some very challenging legal issues.

Maybe it’s because we’ve weaned him off his meds (definitely this one).

Maybe it’s because his other close relatives do not honor or help with his condition (definitely this one too).

I tend to blame myself first for making him this way . . . oh, wait, I do that because that’s what many of my relatives, his teachers, and society have told me. I know that it’s not my fault. How do I know? I know because my younger son is similar to that of the Buddha, and I’m simply not powerful enough to create one of each. So no, it’s not my fault. But whatever the reason through the tantrum, tonight I am feeling as if I can pathologize my son, that is to say that he is “sick.”

Here’s what “sick” looks like tonight and why I am thinking about this so extensively. I was picking the kids up from their father’s house. Someone handed me some playing cards. Michael thought it was not done the “correct” way. Because of his shattered expectation, he screamed, howled, and cried for about twenty minutes. Michael gasped and yelled threats at me. Some sounded like, “I can’t ever use those cards again.” Others were like, “I will burn all the money in your wallet, even if it is one thousand dollars.”

Crying, screaming, and threats because cards were not handed over properly.

How does this come to be?

Then we came home to my house and all was calm after a short while.

Later, after the silence and calm, we talked about what was really bothering him. The truth came out. He was super nervous about going somewhere new next week. He struggled with some things while away from me. It wasn’t the cards at all. It’s never really the cards, is it? It wasn’t the money in my wallet . . . I think we all know there has probably never been one thousand dollars in there. Sigh.

It seemed to be the anxiety he was holding, with no words or tools to get it out, without screaming about an unrelated event.

So I search deep in my brain and heart. I ask my friends. I journal.

I come to this conclusion in this moment . . . post-thoughts after a major tantrum.

I conclude that my son is not sick. I will simply, and complicatedly, say that I believe my son doesn’t have the tools to understand and work with his enormously overwhelming anxiety. I don’t believe he has the brain ability to handle certain situations that other children his age are able to.

I believe that my son is fine and that he needs patience, respect, and love. I believe that he will better be able to handle these “hiccups” as time goes on. I believe that he needs care and nurturing in those moments where he loses access to his higher level of thinking.

I believe I love my son to the depths of my soul . . . and his.

And in this moment, I send this with truth and with love, from me to you.

Yo. Snap. Whassa matta hamma?!

 

Stephan Pastis—the man is a writing genius and we are in the Pearls Before Swine fan club! One of my top five favorite strips is “Yo. Snap. Whassa matta hamma?!”

Here’s what Urban Dictionary has to say about it:

According to the Pearls Before Swine strip from April 27, 2011, “It means, ‘I just burned you. What are you gonna do about it?’” It’s going to sweep the nation.

Rat: Dude, check it . . . I’ve invented a new expression . . . it’s Yo. Snap. Whassa matta hamma?

Pastis: What the heck’s that s’posed to mean?

Rat: It means, I just burned you. What are you going to do about it? I’m hoping it sweeps the nation.

Pastis: I wouldn’t let it sweep my bathroom floor. Yo! Snap! Whassa matta hamma?!

Rat: It’s a sad day when a nerd cartoonist gets the better of you.

 

Here’s how Mason swept my nation one fine eve.

Prologue: Michael goes to a social skills class to learn two-way conversation and phone etiquette. I tell Mason, his younger brother, that I would like him to practice just like Michael has to. He can call anyone he would like to, but he needs to ask a question, listen to the answer, and then comment based on the response.

A few days later, Mason calls me from his cell phone and claims, “Hey Mom, I’m ready to practice my two-way communication.”

“Oh my God, that’s awesome! What do you want to ask me?”

Click.

Yo! Snap! Whassa matta hamma?!

Murder—and I Condone It

Desperate. I know it.

Defeated. Without a doubt.

Wanting it to end. Yes.

These are the deep, dark emotions of having a child who isn’t “typical.”

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50154011n

The above link will take you to a four minute and thirty second story about a woman who murdered her autistic son. According to the report, she then tried to end her own life. In this moment, I’m not sure how I feel about her living (she lived). Truth be told, I wish her pain could have ended. I wish she wouldn’t have been found. I wish she had been allowed to finish what she started. Her life may now be filled with peace because her son is no longer in pain, but I imagine the pain of what she did and what she will go through now will also be unbearable.

I hold a glimmer of hope that she may become a beacon and a spokesperson for the pain we are all feeling in the situation of raising children who have needs that are just barely met, only sometimes, mostly not though.

I do not know her pain, but the story I saw brought me to my knees with compassion, fury, and helplessness. Her autistic son was in writhing pain and had no way to express it except in a way that required five to six officers to restrain him. This woman’s autistic son seemed like an infant in a grown body—in a system that has no healthy way, YET, to effectively help him. Or her.

See, I don’t have a son who thrashes out and strikes me and is unable to communicate. But I know there are hundreds of thousands that do. I have a son who can verbalize and cry and pace and release his emotions with sounds and words. His words sure do hurt sometimes, but even that can be managed with therapy, medications, and compassion. I have a son who feels safe sharing his pain and this is because I am able to create a safe container for his huge emotions. I have the patience to help him through these times, even when he is giving his rage and anger to me and at me. I know I am not going to get a black eye because my son is in pain.

This woman did not have that safety. She was desperately doing all that she could, from what I saw in this video, to give her son the very best life. For him.

How long does he have to writhe in pain? How long does she have to watch helplessly as the powers-that-be tell her what she has to do? How long does she have to guess and fight for her son’s rights as a human being? And where can she go and what can she do while she fills out paperwork for help that will take hundreds of dollars and twenty-two days to gather. After that, it’s five months to wait for a response that has a 70 percent chance of being declined (not that I know anything about applying for benefits). And the cost—good golly, did she even have money to cover the state law enforcement costs, not to mention the medical bills? Staggering thought.

But in this big wide “People World” (as opposed to the safety for these children in “Video World”) as I refer to it, there is a slathering of judgment, misunderstanding, and violence. Violence from outsiders looking in with words, with mean looks, with unabashed judgment of what’s right and what’s wrong with each other. From where I stand, there really isn’t a whole lot of compassion for us parents of different brainers. I feel judged much of the time even though I know for a fact I did not teach my son to scream and cry when he doesn’t get his shoes on first. I’m not kidding.

This woman watched her son be wrestled down by more than five officers. This woman watched her son be restrained for days on end and had to spoon feed him. This woman slept on the floor, most likely to help soothe his pain if he woke up scared or hurting. And we can only imagine what else she had to deal with while all that was going on. What were her and her son experiencing between the start of the attack and the time it took to call for help and then for “help” to get there? Just think about the daily life this woman led. My head shakes and my heart goes out to support her and all of us in this.

I write my opinion, but what do I want? Dear reader, what do I want after seeing that heart wrenching story?

I want us all to turn our judgment into compassion. I want us to not condemn this woman for trying to end the insurmountable pain she and her son suffered. She’s right, her son deserves better than to be treated like an animal. And if that’s the best we can do as far as outside assistance for her and her son, then a big fat shame on us. And so, in this moment, I condone her choice. My heart breaks that she even had to go that far. This woman, who really seemed to care (because there are others who harm their children intentionally), had to make a choice because the pain was just. too. much. for. her.

There is another side to this, but for the sake of this post and this thought, I want to hold powerfully that I stand with her, holding her hand and giving her strength and even carrying her when she needs it. Yes, that feels really good to help carry her through this time.

So when you read this and are appalled by my support of her choice, try to walk one mile in her moccasins. And then and only then can you offer an opinion. No judgment, just an opinion of your feelings and your experience of witnessing. Just compassion. You don’t know what it’s like. If you do, I’m sure you share my opinion of support on some level.

I know not what I would have done. But I do know that in this moment, I have not one ounce of condemnation for that beautiful, caring mother who could bear the pain not one more moment.

I do want to bitchslap our society to wake up to the humanity and the struggle of our time. I want us all to wake up to each other and see each other for the pain we’re feeling, the hunger, the struggle, the challenge, the beauty of what it is to be human now. We can do better. We can stand as a people against what is hurting us. Yes, we can.

I send this with incredible sorrow, huge compassion, and my understanding for why this happened.

Mica

You Are Not Alone

Hello to all of you “different brainers” out there!

Just sending a note to say that if you are raising a child who moves differently through this world or if YOU move differently than most others through this world, you are not alone. I am right here and you are right here and we are together on this journey.

Sending huge love and support to each of you!

Tangled Again

He’s tangled again. Tangled is when his OCD is off the charts and moving a shirt twelve inches can cause a thirty-minute screamfest. I’ve talked to him this morning about the ways he hurt other people yesterday.

“Do you understand that your words hurt them?” I ask.

Tears. “But I need—”

“I will listen to what you need later. That’s not the question I’m asking you. Do you understand that they were hurt by what you said?”

“I need—”

“I know you are hurting as well. That’s so clear, sweetie. What I need you to know is that the words you used when you had your breakdown yesterday caused hurt feelings. I believe you can learn to use kind words, even when you’re hurting. What do you think?”

“I think I’m going to remove my existence from other people so that my OCD can be happy. I don’t think I’ll be happy, but my OCD will be able to control what I need to be controlled.”

And that’s a snapshot of what it looks like with my son’s self-awareness and my continued need to provide safety for everyone in my life. This journey with these different brains is baffling, difficult, ongoing and . . .

Love to all of us, including the different brainers, on this path.

Sad Happies

My son was an epic fatalist. Nothing was right it seemed, and at that time in my life (about eight years ago) I was a disillusioned and eternal optimist. That position has shifted drastically since. Now I consider myself a paradoxical realist, trying to hold the joy and the grief of the world together (Lesson #2,512—see below).

At that time, though, Michael was really jacking up my way of being with all of his “waah-waah” business. Nothing was right and everything was wrong and he was only two years old. I was NOT going to allow this small being to bring down my sunshiny world. So I came up with an absolutely BRILLIANT plan. My plan was that each night before we went to sleep, we would say our “happies.” Happies were explained as anything that went well during the day or something (ANYTHING!) that you felt happy about. ANYTHING, I say! The inaugural night came and it was Michael’s turn to share his happies.

That kid screamed and cried at the very moment it was his turn to do his happies. He proceeded to shout through his gasps for breath, “I only have sad happies!”

What the fuh? Are you freakin’ kidding me? My brain flared up and I thought, but hopefully did not say, “OH NO YOU DON’T, LITTLE BOY . . . OH NO YOU DO NOT! You will find something happy to share and you will find it now! I am your Mother! There, THAT’s happy!” My memory is that it possibly, may not have been one of my finer moments. Sigh.

Happies got renamed on the very first night to happy happies and sad happies, with every emotion allowed that anyone felt. The rule then became that there had to be at least one happy happy, which during those early years was sometimes hugely difficult to find . . . for all of us.

My former spouse and I were in marital counseling at the time, and we shared the story of happy happies and sad happies with our therapist. Our counselor was thrilled with the fact that our son was “holding the paradox” of life and smiled a huge smile at the brilliance of our child. Life lesson with Michael #2,512 became something about paradox and releasing expectation of your therapist always agreeing with your way of seeing things.