We all have, by now, heard the saying about how Ginger Rogers did the same things Fred Astaire did but backwards and wearing heels. Ms. Rogers made it look so easy that people failed to realize the precarious nature of her exertions. A lot of time she dancing “blind,” being guided by Mr. Astaire’s moves. Their seamless synchronization and harmonious performances made it look like they had just really run into each other on the dance floor and could, in fact, read each other’s thoughts. They made it look easy…dammit! And that is what we all aspire to, isn’t it? We want to make it look like we can handle our lives easily.
To be truthful, J is the least of our challenges. That is: J’s Autism and the corollary issues that stem from it are a drop in the bucket. The hardest part of the general situation is that, for the most part, people have NO IDEA what goes on in our lives.
Progress is a lovely thing. Sometimes. OK, progress has certain positive aspects to it that make life easier. Progress also has the nasty habit of giving us a false sense of reality. People assume that, just because they have a cell phone, they need to use it; furthermore, people assume that just because everything is on-the-go 24/7, WE are on the go 24/7. We aren’t. We don’t want to be. When we are done for the day, well, we are DONE.
I’ve mentioned before that a great deal of care and consideration goes into everything I implement with J. I suppose that this is similar to what physicists are doing as they perch themselves in a corner and look at a problem on a board. (OK, I don’t know how physicists work aside from what I’ve seen in The Big Bang Theory, but that does look like what I do only not as earth-shatteringly important.) I admit to doing that. I research, ponder, come up with a mock-up, do a dry-run, analyze the possible results and then -more often than not- go back to the drawing board several times before hammering down THE thing to do. Throw in a carefully planned dinner, a few loads of laundry, a brief foray into yoga, some random chores of apparently lesser importance, and that’s my day in a nutshell. You could argue it isn’t much, but there are those moments when -in the middle of one thing- I think of SOMETHING that makes me jump to go on a research tangent and write notes.
Yes, I’m a housewife.
No, it’s not rocket science.
Yes, I’ve considered professional help.
No, I don’t have time for it.
Only the other ducks in the pond know what goes on beneath the surface. The rest of the world just sees the duck. The paddling (at times rather vigorous) pays off…it looks like gliding, but it’s really a lot of work. From time to time we get to behold something truly useful and ground-breaking that I’ve managed to perfect so that J has an easier time figuring out what it is we need to address, and we succeed at teaching him something that will work outside of the bubble we live in. Other times even the most fantastically orchestrated stuff falls flat and I go back to my perch, my ego slightly bruised and with a tremendous desire to eat ice cream…
The thing that gets me is that people just don’t realize this…at all. I know this for a fact because last night I was awakened at nearly midnight by the ringing of our phone. I don’t know you, but to me this is usually a sign of something horrible having happened. No one, to the best of my knowledge, calls at midnight to say “I’m going to Disneyland!” or “I won the lottery!” or “I found the perfect shade of blue for the living room walls.” Midnight callers usually are breathing heavily and asking what one is wearing or they are saying someone is dead or nearly so…nothing is more jarring than the ringing of a phone in the middle of the night.
So the phone rang at exactly 11:48 P.M. and, having just found the comfort of slowly ebbing into sleep, I jumped up and sat in bed, frantically reaching for the handset. I didn’t answer. (I know…you’re thinking WHAT???????) I didn’t answer because I knew who it was and I knew, furthermore, that it wasn’t urgent. I can prove this to you: there was no voice message left, there was no repeat call and, furthermore, there has been no e-mail or call since. I didn’t feel guilty about not answering, but I was made anxious enough by the call to require a walk around the house and some deep breathing. I finally managed to fall asleep some time around 2 a.m., and then I slept very poorly, waiting for the phone to ring again.
The gist of this is: just because you have a cellphone doesn’t mean you have to use it ’round-the-clock. Just because the news channels broadcast 24 hours a day, 7 days a week doesn’t mean that there’s that much going on out there. Just because YOU can’t sleep doesn’t mean that I am awake and waiting -with bated breath- to answer your call. And, furthermore, just because you’re talking into a phone doesn’t mean you’re having a conversation. Perhaps, and this is a question worth pondering, you’re monologuing into someone’s ear.
I suppose that people don’t truly understand the complexities of our day to day existence. We try to factor in time-difference, day of the week, season of the year and the person’s status as employed, retired, student…we call, leave a clear message and don’t expect an immediate return call. We assume that everyone else out there has stuff to do. And we never call anyone past ten o’clock at night or before 9 o’clock in the morning IN THEIR TIME ZONE unless it’s absolutely necessary. We know the duck’s paddling under the water, even if he’s looking cool as a cucumber above the surface…
Our apparent laid-back existence is anything but; sadly, we cannot explain what goes on unless we go into details that are uninteresting to others. In fact, even if we go into details, it won’t seem like much to anybody else because you kinda have to KNOW what J’s circumstances mean in order to fully appreciate the complexity of dealing with them. There is very little interest out there, of course, regarding what goes on HERE because it’s easier to watch it on Parenthood or rent Rain Man or read an article on Newsweek, Time or some other magazine.
I would love to populate all the park ponds near the homes of those who don’t quite “get it” and still call “for no reason, just to chat” at midnight with mallards that have a little sign attached to them: it’s all going on but you can’t see it, dummy! All they see, of course, is the duck…