I thought that a break from managing autism would mean less stress but what it has created is a vacuum in my attention span and total emotional disequilibrium. The opportunity to not build my day around the boy has made the opportunities that emerge less easy to embrace – maybe it’s latent exhaustion, or latent guilt, or just a loss of identity. I did not expect to be happy for him to be away, but the sudden moments of devastation take me utterly by surprise. There have been plenty of moments of grief in my life, but this physical emotional ambush is entirely new to me; I need to be able to identify the signs so I can see it coming or my family will stop going places with me. Add to this the realization that, while I was building my attention around him, everyone else built their attention around other things and people. With him away, I feel excluded. I haven’t yet figured out how to reinsert myself back into my own life. I’m lost, boring, and stupid.
And yet these are good problems to have because it means that he is doing well at camp and I don’t have to focus on making that situation better at this point. I recognize the luxury of breaking down and cannot decide if it is a process I have to go through or one I have to beat back. Depression and self reflection and recovery all sometimes seem like the same thing to me. Healthy time and space or withdrawal from life? It all depends on the moment, doesn’t it? On the quality of the thought? Sleeping too much or too little? I seriously do not know.
All I really do know is that an hour of absolute quiet here and there is what I always crave and is what is allowing me to process these thoughts now. No music, no TV, nothing but the humble spin of the clothes dryer and an open window that lets in the summer breeze. I think that if I can have these moments for part of every day I can get my groove back. And as I sit before my keyboard and type this I find – yet again – the startling image of me as my mother. Drinking coffee and typing, thinking, ruminating, and inexplicably driven to write down what is on my mind. How is it that I work so hard to cut new paths only to find myself on these well worn tracks? Am I carrying on a valued tradition or am I just a cheap knockoff of an extraordinary person? I can’t say that I am living in her shadow; our lives are so different. It’s more of a behavioral blueprint that my brain references without my permission. It is the best and worse part of me that makes me overly analytical and controlling and keeps me from being in the moment and thus I never appreciate anything fully unless it’s in hindsight. But I am really good at hindsight, I must say, which can make me good at planning, too. But this constantly looking backward and forward is making me dizzy and literally unable for focus on what is in front of me.
My sister has advice that I remember at times like this. She talks about making sure that you structure your life so that you are in “moving water.” I find this concept incredibly helpful because it can mean so many different things. When you are a stay at home Mom the difference between moving water and a riptide isn’t much. I remember vacations on the Carolina coast when I felt like I was standing still, bouncing gently in the water, enjoying the salt water’s ability to make the baby in my belly float independently. And then I realized I was a half mile down the shore from the beach house that was in front of me a few minutes before, carried south by swirling waters made stealthily swift by an approaching hurricane. I recall the sensation of emerging from the water, feeling the satisfactory weight of the baby settling back into place, order restored. I made my way back up the beach to the place where my life waited for me.
See how that happened? I started out in one place at the top of the post and now here I am making a metaphor out of a distant vacation. Equilibrium restored, for now.