Monthly Archives: July 2019

Just Peachy

Yesterday I had the kind of day with my children which swung like a pendulum from a) me feeling like I can knock down anything autism or sensory processing disorder happens to throw my way to b) me actually saying to Jeff, “I am completely effing up parenting. I don’t know how to raise these kids. The end.”

I don’t actually feel like reliving it, but the short version is this:

In the morning, Truman and I went to occupational therapy, where we saw my cousin Laurel and her little boy Shane, because apparently all the cool kids go to OT with Brynnen. There, we went over exactly why I am convinced that returning to school is going to throw Truman into both panic and despair, and neither of us is prepared for a repeat of first grade, with the daily sob-fests. Nope.

Normally, OT stresses me out. The homework is basically MY homework. Gather supplies. Create charts. Craft kits and graphs and visual organizers. BE extremely organized at all times! In fact, be clever and cute and fun about all the things that already exhaust you, hooray!

This time, most of the prep work for Operation Second Grade Go! still falls to me, but for some crazy reason, I’m not stressed. I’m mostly glad to have an actual game plan to avoid the weepy, clingy, emotionally soul-sucking mornings.

We left and I called the elementary school for a 504, got on Amazon and bought everything Truman needs for his portable classroom sensory integration “Break Bucket,” and announced to Jeff that through a combination of planning, preparation, and refusal to be sucked into a fear vortex, this back-to-school will be better. Dangit.

That was the Rocky/stairs/punch/victory/thing moment.

Come evening, however, a certain other child turned into a real life psycho over our family’s no-sleepover policy. The vibe of the household was basically YIKES. Nothing I said to this child stuck for him.

He eventually did let me give him a hug and then Jeff asked him if he wanted to paint our bathroom for a little bit. We (meaning Jeff) are painting over the (hideous) purple walls which have graced our master bathroom lo these 14 years. We (meaning both Jeff and me) hate it, yet we haven’t changed it until now, hahahahaha. Guys, this is the actual truth about what special-needs parenting does to you.

Brief aside: we’ve had the purple walls the whole time we’ve lived here, which is so long that now I literally don’t even see the purple. It’s not even there for me. It has disappeared, fading into the background because I apparently refuse to acknowledge it. I guess??? Someone explain this phenomenon to me please.

Jeff is the superior parent in knowing what this certain child needs. Or maybe it’s just that he stays much calmer than me in the face of meltdowns. Anyway, painting the bathroom was just the ticket for deescalating said child. After working for awhile, the kid cleaned out the paintbrush and said, solemnly, to me, “I think I forgot to eat dinner.”

This explained the entire disaster evening.

It also reminded me that autism plus summer breaks minus the rigor of an elite prep boarding school which we don’t have here at Chez Goates equals everybody is falling apart once we hit late July.

We have been too free-form, and it’s time to reimpose a more rigorous routine.

In other news, today was better. I ate two really beautiful peaches. I worked out, which always makes me grumpy while side planking at the beginning but also makes me euphoric while stretching at the end. I’m taking back our routine from the ennui of summer.

Please tell me about your summer day? I hope it includes good parts amid the bad parts. And peaches.

Fruition

I pruned and weeded the front-yard landscaping today. Let’s pretend I’m British for a sec, and call it a garden. So much nicer. Today I pruned and weeded the garden. That’s better, innit?

It was a mammoth task since I’ve been traipsing about all summer NOT pruning or weeding.

Gardening is not my forte. My dad excelled at making anything grow. He knew the street (?) names and the Latin names of most plants we encountered, wild or domestic. He pushed us into family gardening projects during my childhood and teen years, and yet still, it just didn’t take for me.

It’s too hot and dirty, sticky and prickly for my liking. I’m a gardening avoider. I like being clean and cool, preferably while reading a book.

But, I want my front yard (garden!) to look acceptable, and I had been sadly remiss this summer. Even worse, when we were gone on a family vacation for ELEVEN WHOLE DAYS, our sprinkler system somehow remained off (we aren’t casting blame, but it may have involved a mistake on the part of a certain kid, or a certain parent, or a combination of the two). This was in July, when Utah is “hotter’n blazes” as my dad used to gleefully say.

The landscaping took a beating.

So as I was out there this afternoon, in the overcast heat with thunder rolling in the distance, sweaty and hacking off branches and dead heads, I started thinking allegorically, as one does, about gardens and dead things and life.

I envisioned my garden every year previous to this one. Despite my laissez-faire approach to growing things, this is how it generally goes:

  1. We plant some flowers and things after Mother’s Day.
  2. We water said things pretty regularly.
  3. I sort of ignore all things yard related; the boys keep the lawn mowed.
  4. Mid summer, I attack the weeds and admire the growth of the shrubs and plants.
  5. By early fall, the front yard flourishes in a glorious final curtain call before the first freeze, at which point I prune it all back in preparation for winter.

It was predictable, my garden. I may have been a mostly absentee gardener, but despite this, the zinnias bloomed richly and the dogwoods gregariously tried to take over everything (my dad said that dogwoods are always trying to take over the world, which is true).

I saw the garden as something which took some work and some water. With these gifts, it unfolded in a predictive path to full, leafy fruition.

Reader, this year I messed it all up.

The absenteeism and the lack of water and the neglect interrupted the natural order of my simple, yet pretty little garden. It looked bad. Parts were dying, parts were out of control.

With sadness, I could see that my yard wasn’t going to be the same this year. I did damage control. I pruned and pulled and chopped and tossed until my arms were shaking.

Why am I so bad at this,” I chastised myself.

And all I could think about was how this was very much like my life. Cue the analogy.

I grew up and had a family with the expectation that it would grow and look like everyone else’s. And then my life became a PSA for autism awareness. And nonverbal kiddos, intellectual disabilities, residential care, special-needs parenting, and Jesus. My family grew all right, but in unexpected ways.

My life did the same thing that my garden did this summer, meaning it didn’t go according to plan. Contingencies happened. Things were and are usually a pretty big mess.

As I was mulling over all of this, Charlie came outside and asked me if I could use some help. He’s an observant and a joyful helper, that one. We proceeded to prune and gather up the weeds and the clippings, at which point Truman joined us and offered to sweep off the porch and the walk.

With my two little boys working beside me, my load was lighter. I pushed my damp bangs off my face and surveyed the yard. It didn’t look great, but it looked better.

I’m realizing that I don’t know how to complete this allegory. “Life is garden requiring care and love and nourishment blah blah blah, and sometimes things happen to interrupt the garden’s original landscape design yada yada yada…”

I don’t know where to draw the moral from the experience, other than to say, I don’t know how my garden will look, come fall.

Families and front yards aren’t predictive text. And predictive text only gets so much right, anyhow. It frankly can’t be relied upon.

If there is a lesson in the drastic swath I cut today, it’s that life will intervene and reorganize the trajectory of our efforts.

With my gloves, my pruners, my arms, and my sons, I engaged in the garden disaster, and it improved.

Fruition doesn’t happen in a single season.

And green things continue to unfurl.

I’m Ready to Talk

Hi all. I have emerged from my silent hermitage.

I have been doing a fair bit of mulling these last weeks. I’ve been in a listening place–a place where even when I wanted to write, I couldn’t do it. My attempts were fruitless. Perhaps this is because I needed to be quiet and hear what I needed to hear.

I’ve been learning.

This post is my attempt at recording some of what I have learned.

I can’t share all of it. It’s just really intensely personal, and some of it is really sacred. Which makes for a prickly process, since my writing is basically this electronic version of me yelling all my innermost thoughts and my most difficult experiences over a figurative PA system that basically everyone I know (and some people I don’t know) can hear. Oy vey.

All of this is to say, I have been at odds with social media. I’m no longer addicted to it. Now I just don’t care about it. It doesn’t interest me much. I admit that I am drawn to hilarious tweets, but in order to find them, I have to sift through so much blather and Twitter toxicity.

So why is this problematic? I don’t know that it actually is, but here is what I have been grappling with: I’m not prepared to entirely forego social media because a) how the heck else am I supposed to share all the writing I am theoretically producing? and b) I guess I just don’t want a complete cultural disconnect.

At the heart of my angst has been the still-in-place understanding I have that God very clearly told me to write about the stuff in my life and this expectation has not been lifted from me, despite my pushing against it with every bit of my rebellious heart.

In sum, I want to scream into the void, do a Celtic battle dance, and then delete my Facebook and Instagram accounts. . .

. . . And drastically cull my Twitter feed, but I am holding on (under duress) because I am compelled (not by my own desires) to write about all my most painful and personal things and share said things with people.

Yay.

Also, why am I like this?

To better illustrate this point, I’m going to share something that happened to me of late. It also happens that the reason I am even able to hack out this post is because of this very experience.

I had been in an unsettled state while preparing for a long family vacation with all the transitional anxiety that besets me at times like this.

I felt guilt at the fact that we were going to a subtropical paradise just for funzies, while there are literally 70 million refugees currently displaced throughout the world.

I felt taut and upset following a difficult interpersonal interaction I’d had before we left. I’m being intentionally vague, yep. Just know that it sucked and that’s all I can say about it.

I was worried about traveling with a seven-year-old who has sensory processing disorder and who eats three foods, total.

I stress-cleaned my entire house before we left, because of the slim possibility our flight could crash and my entire family (sans Jack) could die, and then someone would have to come clean out our house and dispose of our belongings and oversee Jack’s care (everyone thinks this, right? No? Just me?)

I wasn’t in a calm place, you guys.

Jeff and I had a conversation on the patio of our vacation condo where I told him I didn’t want to write anymore. I wanted to retreat introvertedly to the woods hereafter, living an ascetic life (except with cold Diet Cokes and a nice soft bed).

And then I told him about a dream I’d had some months before.

In the dream, I was with a group of women who were collectively trying to solve a problem which involved lots of hands-on field work. I kept leaving the group and going ahead of them to gather information from various distant locations. I was doing research and reconnaissance, basically.

I had a tablet with me on which I recorded everything I discovered. The things I wrote on the tablet automatically uploaded to the cloud, and the rest of the group was reading it and following along, even though we were in separate places.

At the end of the dream, one of the women, who I know IRL and who I find challenging to interact with due to her untreated emotional issues, walked up to me and said with sincerity, “Thank you for doing this. You are a rictus and it means so much to me.”

I woke up and immediately wrote this down, mostly because I didn’t know the meaning of the word rictus. I knew this didn’t come from my subconscious.

Then I promptly looked up rictus in ye olde Merriam-Webster dictionary app, where I learned that it means an open mouth. An alternate definition is a wide grimace. Ha.

This felt pretty symbolically obvious to me in lots of ways. You are free to make what you will of it, but as I recounted this dream to Jeff, it’s meaning was once again clear to me.

“I don’t want to keep opening my mouth,” I said to him. “But the fact that the person in the dream thanking me for opening my mouth was a person who bristles and visibly dislikes me, sorta tells me that the point isn’t me being happily shut up in a silent cabin in the woods. It’s not about me, and it’s not about being comfortably quiet.”

Then I said, “I don’t know how to do this,” to which Jeff replied, “You will figure it out.”

FYI, this is the sort of answer I hate.

The next morning as I brushed my teeth, I listened to the 8th chapter of Alma in the Book of Mormon, which is about Alma preaching in Ammonihah to an unsympathetic audience who straight up didn’t want to hear the gospel precepts he taught, and who essentially kicked him out of the city. This summary is euphemistic.

While he is walking away “being weighed down with sorrow, wading through much tribulation and anguish of soul because of the wickedness of the people,” an angel appears to Alma and essentially is like, “you are so good and so faithful, so props to you, but by the way, you need to stop crying ‘cuz you gotta go back and do it again. To the same people who rode you out of town on a rail. Sorry. Off you go.” This paraphrase is my dramatic interpretation and is not euphemistic.

The angel also gives him a few insightful tips and then, bless Alma’s courageous heart, he goes back in (surreptitiously) to Ammonihah. This is when he meets Amulek, a man who’d had a vision telling him he would receive a prophet into his house, and feed him and be blessed by this association.

They go to Amulek’s house, Alma eats and is sustained, and blesses the entire household, giving thanks to God.

This is the point at which God spoke very clearly to me on an island in the Pacific about something that had been weighing on me for many weeks.

I listened as verse 27 of Alma 8 said, “And Alma tarried many days with Amulek before he began to preach unto the people.”

I’ve read this chapter like 87 times before and I never picked up on the fact that Alma didn’t instantly run back into the fray.

He did return to Ammonihah when the angel told him to. He did find the gift of sustenance that God gave him in the form of Amulek and his goodness. But HE TOOK SOME TIME, yo–to rest, to heal, to prepare, to think.

In 2019 we call this self-care. Joke’s on us though, guys. This is a not a woke modern concept. Turns out self-care was around anciently, and Alma the prophet practiced it.

Incidentally, Jesus also practiced it. (See: The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).

He tarried many days.

You guys, I am no Alma. But.

I read this and I felt a divine awareness of my predicament, my anxiety, my unsettledness, my worry.

I felt the spirit telling me that it’s okay to let the blog lie fallow for a season.

That it’s okay to be grateful and enjoy the blessing of a special vacation with family.

It’s okay to sit still and be quiet.

It’s okay to recuperate.

It’s okay to not always be productive.

That it’s really seriously fine to hate doing something and then work at finding the will and the desire to keep doing it because it’s God’s idea.

I felt relief.

Was it the dream? Was it Alma 8? Was it the nice long vacation in paradise? Was it having space to sort through my concerns and think through my purpose? Was it the gift of clarity following a storm of turbidity?

It was all of this.