Hard lesson at the hardware store

I was standing in a long line at our small neighborhood hardware store, having come in for a few things I needed to get to work on a project I had been waiting for good weather to start, wishing I had realized earlier that I needed these things, so that I could have been out in the beautiful weather working on my project instead of standing in line in the store with all the other people who had been brought inside by the beautiful weather. There were two cashiers, and as we stood in the one line that is customary in this store, a man walked up from the direction of the head of the line and started another line behind one of the customers at the counter.

My intrapersonal battle of wits began. Who does that? That’s just wrong! Calm down. Let the staff handle it. Even if they don’t, letting one person go ahead is not going to add much time. Oh my God, another person got in the spurious line. This is ridiculous. Oh, great, now it’s three people. As I waged my inner battle to maintain equanimity, feeling outraged and at the same time judging myself for my rigid thinking and tendency to self-righteousness, I became very uncomfortable to the point of being on the verge of tears or some other inappropriate outburst.

I briefly considered complaining out loud, articulating the problem as a lack of clarity about where the line starts. That would be stupid, I thought, as everyone here knows what is happening, not only that there are now two lines, but that the cashier over there is being sooooo slooooow. And that was funny, because the spurious line went to the slower cashier, thwarting the people trying to get out faster than us conformists. As I calmed down, it came into focus how much time the slow cashier was spending talking to the person she was serving, the same person she had been serving while three customers paid and left the store from the line I was in. As she was processing his rewards card, she asked about his name and was he related to someone else in town of the same name who had been her teacher in kindergarten, and he began talking about his genealogical research. As the young man went on and on about his research, I wondered if I would actually get out of the store before the line-jumpers, and then declined to berate myself for being so opinionated, so inflexible.

Suddenly the penny dropped, and I realized that from his name, I knew who the young man was, that I knew his mother from the special education community. I realized that he had disabilities not unlike my own son’s, and I wondered if my son would someday be in a line in a store on a busy Saturday, with people behind him on the verge of complaining, and if they did, would he understand that it would not be about him, that it would be mostly about them and their own limitations.

As I left the store, I felt worn out emotionally, so glad I had not said anything to embarrass myself and hurt other people, so glad no one else had, feeling like a terrible friend and mother for having had all those feelings and thoughts, feeling awful about my own resistance to a life sentence caring about others. I had so wanted to be a mother and I remember enjoying it for years, even after we realized my son had issues though we did not fully understand what those issues are. When did I get so worn down that I struggle for control when faced with the least of adversities? I guess I will check out that “caring for the caregiver” series. Clearly, I have been standing too long in a never-ending line, but I am the cashier serving everyone else, letting everyone else come to the head of the line before I take care of myself, an all-weather project that cannot wait any longer.

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October 1, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Close Encounters of the Aspergers Kind

Sometimes at our house, it can be challenging to connect emotionally with one another.  There’s the constant challenge of Aspergers, but there are also challenges of each of us being in different states including emotionally exhausted, frazzled, stressed out, sleep deprived, annoyed, frustrated, angry, with each expecting from the others compassion and respect, regardless of their individual state of being at the moment.  Two of us (I will admit to being one) are, shall we say, high-strung, and the other two are mellow with a tendency to withdraw.  I’m sure we are no different from many households in this regard.  We also have a very small house so it is hard to get or give space.

Despite these challenges, there is a lot of humor in circulation around here.  Something that will elicit a smile, or even better, a laugh, makes even the worst of times more bearable, and seals the best of times on our hearts like a metaphysical smiley face sticker.

Having had my birthday and Mother’s Day within the same week, I felt that special longing for connection for a number of days.  We had decided some time ago to keep to a routine and not have the big observances for holidays or disruption to our physical space that came from decorating for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, the 4th of July, or for birthdays.  This is easier on me as it’s less work, on my husband and son as they both thrive on sameness.  I think it is pretty hard on our NT daughter, but she had her turn growing up, and accepts the change with grace.

So our holidays look pretty blah, but I still feel these days are special, and mark them in a small way.  I made an Easter basket for my grown daughter because that is still something special between us.  She brought her boyfriend over for a night of TV on my birthday, which I felt was a great gift, and she presented me with a gift bag on Mother’s Day with earrings in a design that she knew would be special to me.  My husband did nothing to mark either my birthday or Mother’s Day, but I have noticed that every morning, the first thing he says to me is, “Hello, sweetie.”  Did he always do this and I just noticed?  I don’t know, but I think now that it more than compensates for the lack of an annual card or gift.  I can’t stop smiling just thinking about it.

And he laughs at my jokes, a rare trait which I appreciate immensely.  He regularly cracks me up as well, with a very dry, understated humor.  Like the time we were newly married, visiting family, at my sister’s house with nothing to do at that moment except watch bad TV.  I was still adjusting to spending so much time with someone who is so much quieter than I am, and who watches so much more TV than me when we could be talking instead.  I was enduring watching the actor going on desperately about how he needed money, the music was ratcheting up the emotion of the scene, and the actor finally yelled, “I’ve got to have the money!” to which my new husband appended lightning quick and in the perfect tone, “To pay for my acting lessons!”  Perhaps you had to be there, but decades later, I remember that as a watershed moment, when I was reminded that the man is exceedingly thoughtful and witty, and that I love being with him, but really understood for the first time that his wonderfulness only emerges when he has space to be himself.  I hope our son grows up to be the same kind of sweet and thoughtful husband, and ends up with someone who loves the whole of him and does not compare him to an ideal created on Madison Avenue or in the pages of a novel.

My most personal interaction with my son on Mother’s Day occurred when I called him in to see a cute video.  Watching over my shoulder as I sat at my computer, he smiled as I played an awww-inspiring video of a dog jumping in circles on a bed.  When it finished, my son pointed to the URL (wimp.com) and deadpanned, “Weakly interacting massive particles.”  Then he left the room.

I know he loves animals and I could see that he enjoyed seeing the video.  One might think that this is typical Asperger behavior, but that is what is so funny.  He is not usually like that.  It’s like he was spoofing himself.  My take was that by not commenting on the content of the video, instead purposely seizing the opportunity to make an off-topic remark related to his beloved physics (which I flunked and avoid talking about whenever possible), he was exacting revenge on me for interrupting his round-trip between bedroom/mancave and kitchen, and letting me know that attempting to interact with him in this manner would bring me no joy.  Except it did.

It can be challenging to feel connected, but when I can slow down and accept the interactions instead of comparing them to what they are not, I find these loving relationships to be a source of great joy.

May 14, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

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