If, on a morning like this one, I have to leave the house with J and my husband, J sits in the back channeling Bob Hoskins in that last scene from The Long Good Friday. In the mirror I can see a full gamut of emotion being displayed in quick succession…only, of course, there’s no Pierce Brosnan in the front seat and the resolution of our car trip is much happier than the one we (and Harold) know is awaiting him at the end of the movie.
I had a doctor’s appointment. The usual rigmarole where I get told “well, Ms. So-and-so, at your age…” Now I have to go in to have myself poked and prodded, stuck with needles and, in general, told that the chemistry of my body is OK considering that I’m slowly inching towards my fifties and what do I expect. Par for the course…
J, however, thinks that when I get dressed and hop in the car with them, it’s about him. This morning, just to prove that he can be the monkey wrench thrown in the midst of the gears of any well-oiled machine, J decided that he was going to get dressed as slowly as humanly possible. Had he been able to put his toes into his socks one by one, he would have. Had it been possible for him to brush each hair on his head individually, he would have. And the process of choosing between TWO pairs of shoes made me wonder what Imelda Marcos went through every morning considering the amount of footwear she owned.
I tried to be reassuring by saying “come on, J! I have to go somewhere this morning.” He wasn’t buying it; he came into the bathroom as I was trying to put my face together, and he turned off the light. “Do you REALLY think I don’t know how to do this in the dark???,” I asked him. He switched the light back on and sighed. He then proceeded to put away every single piece of clothing I’d laid on the rocking chair in my bedroom. I whipped off my robe and showed him I was fully dressed under it. “Should’ve checked for a bra strap, sir!” He half-heartedly stomped away to the kitchen.
I am so settled into a particular groove that any alteration to my routine is nerve-wracking. It’s the Autism, I tell you. I have become accustomed to the usual rhythm of life and, if I have to get dressed and leave the house, I want to do it so efficiently that J has very little room for anxiety. This makes ME more anxious. I walk into the doctor’s office telling the nurse “I was yelling at people and running around this morning so my blood pressure is high!” It’s usually true; it’s never alarming, just high enough to prove that I’ve been rushing around at home. The doctor, bless her heart, tells me that’s not bad for all the anxiety we face.
Do we face anxiety? Are we stressed out? Lately I’ve been wondering about this, and I’m not really sure if I’m just being ridiculously optimistic about things or if, in fact, things are as I imagine them to be. J, thank goodness, seems to be doing well in general. He is happy enough; he is annoying enough; he is antsy enough; he is discontented enough. On my desk I have the list the psychiatrist wanted me to make with the instances of anxiety or impatience that J experiences until our next visit. It’s not as long as I feared it would be; it’s a list, but it’s not a long one, and I am left wondering if I should even worry about when J gets upset.
Let me rephrase that…I DO care if J gets upset, but I care in the same way about when TGG or my husband get upset. If something is bothering any of them, of course I want to soothe, comfort, please, encourage, console, etc. The psychiatrist’s request, though, made me feel I should be fearful of when J is unhappy, as if unhappiness is something so horrible that it needs to be addressed immediately and stomped on like a cockroach. And then I ask myself, is unhappiness a bad thing?
I know that J needs to see the psychiatrist. I know J’s medication has worked as we wanted it to, and now we’re probably ready to start transitioning to less of it until it fades into family memory, a period of our lives that we’re done with and which we can hark back to in years to come. Has the medication helped us be happier? No, I don’t think it has contributed to our happiness per se, but it has allowed us some latitude by removing the anxiety that made J want to bash his head in with his fists. Is that happiness? No, I think it edges closer to balance, to peace of mind…if happiness springs from those things, that’s just icing on the cake.
I want my children to be happy. I want my husband to be happy. I want to be happy. Not especially in that order, not alphabetically, not hinging on chance or outside factors. We can’t provide happiness, we can only hope that we will find it and enjoy it, but this cannot happen unless we know the polar opposite, right? Isn’t trying to make J happy all the time counter-productive, then?
As J hopped out of the car at school, he didn’t even glance at me. I called out to him and he rolled his eyes, turning to face me. “I told you I was going on an errand. Don’t be sore because you were wrong, J! You can be sore all you want, but don’t hang on to it and don’t waste it on silly things. OK?” (Yeah, I used J’s trigger word…it flew out just like that…) He looked at me, still somewhat miffed, but more relaxed. I love you, I said, and he repeated -grudgingly- AH WOV EWE, and turned away towards the building.
You buy a ticket for the roller-coaster, you can’t expect a ride on the merry-go-round, can you?