Enough with Making Distinctions.

In the past weeks blogs everywhere have been exploding with critiques about the group I refer to as Voldemort Speaks. While it’s enjoyable to see more metaphorical allies take the field embedded in a disturbing number is the notion that one of the reasons what is being said about autism is wrong is that it is a spectrum disorder. Which it is but that doesn’t make it an ethical point.In the worst case scenarios some go on to say some people with autism lead productive lives.

I say worst case scenario because the group I don’t name is an offense to humanity. If I never wrote a single thing, or read, and if my diaper had to be changed and so on any portrayal of my life as a catastrophe, an affront, something to stop would be wrong. If I, improbably now wind up with a PhD someone pointing to me as a beacon of hope would actually be quite wrong. It isn’t usually thought of that way but it would be.

It may be an advantage of black and white thinking to see that. Every time someone refutes not only Voldemort Speaks position this way but other like minded groups, they are shoring up some disturbing notion that there is a line a human can draw at which point another human life no longer has value. I never did master the complex social skills that lead to procreation. I have though hunkered down wrapped around lives that most would view as pure misery, Wrapped around quite literally in one case as the level of uncontolled seizures that his body endured could break bones. He was at the limit of anti-convulsants that wouldn’t also kill him so there some person had to lie. He had to be held always for the same reason. He could not see, hear, speak or move in any non seizure related way. I hate to think what Voldemort speaks would say about him but thankfully he didn’t fall in their area of non-expertise.

His family, while capable of the humour that goes along with the notion that their son’s only activity was seizure activity, always treated him with such dignity and respect. They belonged to a culture where as the eldest son he had a status over his siblings and  they were affluent enough to purchase the trappings of a little prince for him. He was treated that way. His father would dress him in silk pyjamas and read to him as if he could hear (many years later when fMri’s came along it would be concluded he did indeed hear something against the expert opinion until that day) I had become as someone young, and strong, with experience with medically challenging children the last hope often of any rest from truly around the clock care. I saw lots of people in situations who if anyone could lay claim to the catastrophe vision of their kids lives those people could. Yet they didn’t. While that boy occupied and extreme so too did his family. The presumed competence well before anyone was urging people to. They did it naturally it seemed. They were worn out and tired and hoped for the sake of their other children to be able to close the door on their son’s room knowing someone quite literally had his back.

I don’t know what private demon’s they had fought to reach that state in the face of everyone telling them otherwise. His father asked me once if I had seen “My Left Foot”. I said I had. He went on to say it could be possible that trapped even more deeply inside his son there could be a genius. His father was a brilliant man. He and his wife could no doubt produce one and nurture one but the neurological reality for his child was even if that had been the case new destruction was being done constantly. The human brain is resilient but actual genius is a territory rather rigidly defined and while I had absolutely no argument with treating every human as if they may be one on principal as being preferable to defaulting in the opposite area the notion he could be and would never have the physical capacity to use even the most futuristic technology to express it was a horrifying one for me. Not clearly for his father so while I found it a scary notion I didn’t question why  he wanted to think that. It worked. It was his son and his view of his son and not mine to question even in the awkward position of someone point blank asking me if I agreed and being truthful to my bone I couldn’t really have an argument about it then beyond the nagging voice that wondered and if that wasn’t possible what then? As the movie was recent back then I suspect they would have been as steadfast but logical people tend to need a reason so my suspicion is they would have found another but I cannot know as I was not them. I would not presume to know what it was like to be them. I could only know what it was to care for their son. It was inspiring but not because he was rising above anything in inspiration terms. He is not much altered now from how I first met him beyond being older and now with hearing aids.

They were the most unquestionably, loving parents I had ever encountered. It no doubt helped them when staring down any expert that they were both well educated. I was troubled by the hint that some of what drove his father may have been the notion his boy could be a genius but it seemed unlikely that was anything other than a new motivation as he had asked if I had seen it not read it and they were clearly practiced in the art of presuming competence. They were the only family to ask I attempt to teach a second language to their child. I was used to having to defend wanting to teach the alphabet which didn’t seem like an option here as his hand could not be dragged though anything without caution.

They explained they had noticed their son was his most relaxed during his bath so during that time if I could work on 20 key words from their native language that was likely the best time. I was dumbfounded really. He had at the time no receptive facility at all let alone an expressive one. Years later with a lot of amplification some sound was getting in. I didn’t even work with him by then as he was too much of a challenge for my arthritic body early on even though I very much wanted to. My longest term client remarked to me having somehow remembered that I had worked with him as that had been at a time, when no one thought she herself was taking much in, that he could hear now. I asked her for details which she couldn’t really provide. She said well he has hearing aids now and sometimes he smiles when you talk to him. They like all the chocking risk students ate together so she knew this and was willing enough to talk to him although until that year it had seemed an exercise in futility. His bath had been the only thing to previously get a smile out of him so this was news indeed.

The catastrophe model of disability would have both the client who provided me with an update and the boy she described essentially as only burdens. That one did learn to talk, read, and write and use the computer in no way says to me that her life has more value than his. That I can talk most of the time if I talk at all does not make me better, that I can express my thoughts does not devalue the lives of those who cannot.

Both these children met ethical criteria for being euthanized at birth. They never called it that though. They always said that they would be kept warm and clean until nature took it’s course. That they would be hungry and thirsty never seemed to bother people. The client who was by far my highest achiever had a father who wanted this for her. As far as I know his position on it never changed. He had declared when her mother said no that should she survive he would never spend a dime on her care. Oddly enough this very position made him quite motivated to make respite care easier to access and funded. He was loving in many ways, devoted, but stubborn on the whole should she ever have lived concept.

I couldn’t grasp this either. Not because at the time his view point was first articulated she seemed necessarily likely to “amount to much”. I suppose to some degree my failure to grasp it may have come from having been another devalued life but not entirely. She was my first respite client and the author of my future years with children quite a bit more severely challenged than she was. She was also my last, despite a desire by the agency that employed me to cough up kids and adults more suited to my physical needs recently.

I never encountered any who were not human. That seems obvious but clearly not or why would anyone seek to lay out criteria by which they could simply be left to die of thirst or the consequences of treatable medical issues? Right now somewhere on the planet people who meet the dubious criteria of being high risk for having a child with autism are being urged to abort sons. They ignore the science that would suggest that very high risk group has as much as a one in two chance of having an autistic daughter. That anyone would think it was anything but an exercise in pseudoscience to tout this as screening for autism when it is nothing other than selecting based on gender will no doubt fall apart in the court of law in a few years when someone files a wrongful life suit. I use risk only because that is how it is described. Not that I agree with the terminology.

Wrongful life. I am told I could get some compensation from the producers of a pharmaceutical my mother took to ensure I was not miscarried. I could get more than most I am even told but to do so I would have to say I fall into a category of people who never should have been created. That the deficits linked to this medicine one of which is fairly central to who I am mean I should not have lived at all.

Since I snuck into the world seeming like a miracle as no one thought I had survived what looked like a full miscarriage made my parents so happy for not very long. I was escorted home gift wrapped in pink. My father had told the neighbours if a pink flag went up to come for a party but if a blue flag did I was a son. My brothers are typical or at least fairly typical. The lack of celebration for a son was not due to any fear about what that might mean but simply they had tried for a daughter. My mother wanted a daughter an unhealthy amount no doubt. She had visions for me like I suppose all mother’s do that I would never meet. She was worse than most about hiding that but did improve with time. A long time. A life time but effort is valuable.

My mother was more prone to believe what people thought about people like me which at the dawning of the 70s was not much better and in no way more accurate than the current catastrophic narrative. Having read I was incapable of loving her I may not have seemed worth much investment. It did to be sure make my own journey with what love means considerably longer.  While evidence of my developmental delay can indeed be found in my pediatric chart so unpalatble was everything that went with having autism that I learned after her death my mother who had never uttered the word had told some people in recent years I had Asperger’s. For her that was progress and no doubt she viewed that as less grim despite every bit of science saying in people like myself there is no identifiable difference within diagnosed populations. Even if there was so what?  They have changed what they call me 5 times now in my life if we count the flirtation with notions of residue.  How would you like to be summed up as that? It seems a word usually used in unflattering ways but to be residually autistic was supposed to be great. That there was no actual thing didn’t seem to bother people or dawn on them. It was a brief experiment. That annoying people like me back skid into the more obvious variety pretty constantly even if they could read and had periods where they seemed almost undetectble from peers must have been annoying.

Back sliding is really the terminology they used as if being normal is some fixed point. As if enjoying yourself in a meaningful way were a return to something less desirable. Yeah so what. I stare at my dolls and stack my coins. If you want to extract a lack of imagination or play skills from that question your own competence. I said this in much more academic terms in a review on the literature on wheel spinning (I would have looked at play more widely but such a staggering amount of time has been spent trying to work out how to teach kids to push a car rather than spin their wheels it would not have been possible to get an A plus if I ignored the vast quantities of research there. )

I would never have taken it up with my mother how there was no better, and that to grow up knowing you had somehow failed by simply being given a label was an actual burden not the hyperbolic variety. A child even one who people doubt their ability not only to recognize emotion but to have them, is not oblivious to the pain they seem to cause their mother. That’s the problem really as much of the pain is purely imaginary. I could in fact love her. I do love her. She has died but despite being labelled in scathing ways by many she was the only mother I can have. I have had other, healthier maternal figures who did model unconditional love for me but she bore me and lived with the pain of a constant anxiety about my well-being. That much of the initial confusion about what I could and couldn’t learn was founded on ever changing notions doesn’t undo the harm those notions taking root causes.

Like any mother she did her best. Like any mother she was subject to notions of what goes with what people think about her kid. It’s definitional for mothers. Not that they go blindly along with it but that they do care. That my brother could handle a full table service before the age of 3 was also something that mattered to her. He had to as his was a more elegant time and place.

Having autism has more often than not been too hard for me. The most successful thing I did this week was a mad dash into a store to buy the three items I could get without risking coming so undone someone thought something needed to be done about me. A real risk as I was not capable of meeting any social convention beyond sticking my debit card in the machine and hammering out my pin before fleeing. I am not so oblivious as to not notice in my peripheral vision that makes people uncomfortable. I no longer care as their social discomfort at having to see me is nothing akin to needing to go there. My doctor had urged when trying to be useful to me that if crossing the street and entering the store was too much I could go to Subway (a sandwich place) and get enough for three meals at a reasonable price and safer. He too is not oblivious to having to dispatch me almost without useful support, week after week. His concern when laying out the whole so you will cross the street, enter the store, get a, b, and c, pay, leave and go home plan was evident and he faltered and offered up the alternative. I said in the kind of comment often taken for humour that for the kind of heroic effort entering anywhere was going to be I was not coming away with three meals worth of food.

This was hard. This is the sort of difficulty though that could be remedied with resources that do not seek to change me beyond making things less stressful and healthier for me. A single hour a day of someone who was actually allowed to help me shop or go shopping for me would be life altering. The only way to get that right now is to enter a program that would entail a change of doctor. He mistakenly thinks I have an abandonment issue rather than a change one. Pretty sure I do know the difference and  I do honestly think he is right to think he is more useful in his usual area of expertise. He just has the misfortune of being the only hired help person to not have changed in the past 20 month so to me changing him out at a time I can’t even be counted on to do something so routine as crossing a street and entering a store seems like asking for new complications.

I’m an adult. Most people with autism are. When I read notions of not being able to house autistic children becoming adults from my slummy place it’s hard to understand where people are coming from. I am not cute. I am downright rude at times if a person opposes me in a fundamental way. I have needed to be. I am not all that sorry as it has been a useful skill.

Like every adult I was a child but unlike every adult sometimes people still do treat me like one. Sometimes it is needed. I was not bothered by my doctor taking more pains with my plan for the immediate future as someone could come along and question his competence if I had managed to die in pursuit of bread and milk and bananas. I was happy to see some sign he recognized this would be hard as sometimes I feel like I say things are hard and he says I know but nothing changes. This at least laid out some of the trickier bits. Acknowledged that the bigger store might be well beyond me. It was since two days later I consider myself to be recovering from that. It had to be done though.

No doubt someone is wondering how the heck can I say all I do here and not be able to do something “easy”. What’s easy is always in flux. Usually hanging out with my dog and computer are the easiest things of all. I actually had a home supporter worker (I get 100 minutes in theory a week)  asked if I had eaten today which in 18 months of having them this time, no one ever had. Her time was up but she asked and asked if she could make me something. Technically without having bathed me anything I couldn’t make for myself she is not allowed to do. Strange and arbitrary but true. I am also in theory supposed to help her but while that was always emotionally exhausting now that it is also physically so I get a pass on that one. Since my beloved dog is a safety hazard, and must remain in another room at all times merely because he is a dog (imagine if a dog could have autism. Oh the never ending supply of untruths they could rain down on his tiny head) and I am not willing to subject him to the torment of having me out of his sight bathing even when it was needed is not going to happen. I fell a scary amount of times a few months ago because my little safety hazard needs to see me but he is my primary support I almost said person…  He is my constant and devoted companion. In a world that looks at me strangely,  views hospitalizing me when I get sick enough from totally avoidable stressors as somehow more the done thing than say providing more and much cheaper support, my dog is the most useful support I have. Don’t tell my doctor but my nagging abandonment issue is based on Shadow’s furry life span issue not any human being coming or going especially those the government pays. I tell him he could have done better for his human. I secretly do doubt that though as I sometimes also joke if not for the spiritual and logistical issues with being reincarnated as my dog that’s what I would be in my next life.

The problem is like for every human I know of 100 percent for sure this is likely the only life I have. It is because of that sacred. My casemanager was a bit flumoxed when trying to bring visions of eternal damnation into play should I think of killing myself when I said oh technically Jews are a bit vague on the afterlife and there was no such thing as eternal damanation for us. She seized on G-d as if thrown a  lifeline despite her professed lack of belief.  I had to explain well yes of course belief in G-d was fundamental but not this weird one you couldn’t fight with about things. That by definition a Jew struggles with G-d so in theory I didn’t need to submit to some other person’s version as G-d as the struggle is the point. Yes we have a few rules. All of which can be broken to save a life. There is no added exemption clause for a life like mine. I am here so my life is sacred period. No buts.

Without my faith and it’s community I may have killed myself or died from contemptible neglect of society to my needs. Sadly they use the fact my faith community so strongly helped me when it was most needed to actually further excuse any assiseance that I am technically allowed in policies that are enshrined in law.

My life, however hard, is not just as a spiritual matter worth saving but as an ethical one. As is every life. On a purely spiritual level life or the worth of a life is simply not ours to decide.  On an ethical one that works for me too actually. Any slide from a position that all of humankind is equal and equally deserving of the things that sustain life if not one that people subscribe to as part of their spiritual journey, is it too much to hope some of them appreciate the danger they put themselves and others in when they depart from that point?

Returning to autism. The fact that some do become taxpayers is not the reason we say to Voldemort Speaks that no  you may not catastrophize our condition and rob us of our humanity. Please no one ever think I am more deserving of not having my humanity ripped from me than someone lying on a mat in a developing country who never says a word. If you wish to oppose this group please do so but don’t grasp at things that by your having reached for them devalues people.

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A Day of Laundry, Chaos and Rest.

It’s been a terrible week. Care that was supposed to happen and was somewhat vital for me didn’t. My father wound up in hospital briefly as well and there’s still all the grief and all the issues I had before my mother died. Felt very much like I was dangling from a precipice with something about as thin as a spider web to cling to but without the tensile strength.

I didn’t cope well. Mostly I coped by staying in bed and asleep as much as I could which isn’t ideal but was the only way I knew things wouldn’t get worse. I did decide I couldn’t bail on my band as the Country band I got roped into playing the drums for (The Haywires) had the concert on Thursday night and it’s a small group. Oddly popular it seems to me given how easy country music is to play. I take my responsibilities seriously so as much as I would have loved to just continue to stay unconscious as much as I could I wouldn’t stand up our group or the audience which admittedly not big was about three times the usual crowd so I went.

All my autism related problems get exacerbated by stress of course so my ability to shift my attention, get ready for band and get there was so much more complicated than in 2011. I actually started preparing four hours before I needed to be there and I still only made it by 4 minutes. Along the way I got one of those calls I don’t believe are so random. Without the call I probably would have hid out all of today in an unhealthy way, probably dragged myself to temple to not cause worry and then gone back into full on hibernation mode.

It wasn’t anything stupendous. It doesn’t take much to make a difference. The person had read my mother had died on Facebook and thought since she would be in my area she would offer to come by and give me a hand with my place, reasoning between my worsening physical issues and my grief I could use help. (I think she was probably among the many volunteers who packed up my last place so honestly she probably thought I could use help anyway)

I’ve grown in my relationships with people. It used to be hard for me to accept help. I felt embarrassed or ashamed. I had done a lot of that growing prior to my huge, life blowing apart reaction to my move early last year or the levels of help I had then would have been unthinkable I suppose. I didn’t have any choice in the matter really as sick as I was if people hadn’t been willing and wanting to step in and manage everything I could have done little about what needed to be done.

It’s 15 months later though and life hasn’t really improved. It many tangible ways it is worse. Every time my doctor got enough supports in place that we made forward progress someone would undo them with a stroke of a pen and so I don’t even take surviving for granted. When you can forget to eat for long enough that more and more kilograms vanish and forget just about everything else even if the long term effect of living like this wasn’t wearing me out that in itself would be dangerous.

There’s no appropriate support to be had. I fall through a gaping hole in the system that doesn’t know what to do with people who have both an autistic spectrum disorder and a mental health issue. My autism they say makes my depression untreatable but our entire system has been reworked to a medical model. The very premise of everything they do now is that some magical pill will make the patient better if only you can get them to take it. Eventually they will, as they have before say the autism is primary and I am thus not even their problem.

So we struggle and struggle, and get exhausted and mad and sometimes just want to give up entirely. As long as I can still get mad I think I will be okay actually but I know that eventually that anger turns into resignation.

So this woman who is close in my age but has young kids, wanted to come by and help but my place isn’t suitable for a toddler. There was a time I would have just said as much and not had the temerity to suggest something alternatively helpful. I don’t have access to a washer and dryer here and my landlords suggestion I suck up to the people in the two other suites where he managed to put ones in hasn’t exactly seemed reasonable. So I said how about if I went there and did my laundry instead and it was agreed.

That meant an early day for me. My schedule has become more erratic due to the international nature of the little work I do and I don’t unwind from band easily and tend to be up until 4 or 5 am on band nights so I was a bit hesitant. Yet I knew two things – that I did in fact badly need clean sheets and so on as I had last managed to have access to laundry facilities in this town at Chanukah, and that the guarantee of eating at least one meal and having some human companionship was not something I could afford to miss.

I miss being with kids. When I did respite care my charges grew up and while I continued to do the adult care for the only client I kept when my arthritis got worse kids are another thing all together. So there was a certain appeal to just spending time with a three year old. I had looked after him and his brother during the High Holy Days but had not seen the little guy since so my better instincts weighed things out in favour of going, of making the healthy choice for probably the first time this week.

It was a chaotic day. The three year old had grown up considerably since fall and was very verbal and very keen to tell me how things should be. He was also very eager to be helpful with my laundry. So that was enjoyable as they had a front end loading machine I actually would have gotten a lot sorer without my miniature helper there. A noisy day as well of course. As said three year old could and did have a few champion tantrums when tired, hungry, or surprised but that’s part of the package.

Improbably we managed to get through all the laundry as other changes kept developing to the plan so I wound up staying until it was time to go to shul. We had a brief period where we were left with just my three year old over-lord and he had a brief and complete tantrum at finding he had been left even though he had been fine with it when his mother said as much. I pulled out my tablet and he was quickly lured into playing with the piano program on there and then a board game. So I played with him and monitored my laundry and it was briefly almost quiet until the older child and a classmate arrived.

I was then in demand as an improbably old playmate but all the kids were keen to involve me in some sort of play about a monster. So the older one demanded I be various things the younger one protested no I should be a person until vampire was suggested. (I had tried zombie and werewolf to loud protests from the toddler) I immediately objected that I couldn’t be a vampire without a cape as the other vampires would make fun of me. (Vampires have standards I gather) That set all three children to assuring me no problem and going to get a cape. I remarked to the mother, that I had meant that as more of an obstacle than it was but sure enough a child sized reversible, batman/superman cape was produced and the 6 year old on seeing I got it on the wrong way around the first time gave me a lesson in how to get it right. I think I must be good for the self-esteem of children because I actually do have problems with things like that although for this particular cape I just hadn’t paid much attention to the fact that of course the batman side must be the vampire one. Silly adults.

It was fun enough to forget everything else. I don’t have a lot of energy. When you don’t remember to eat, or take your thyroid medication or much else and spend too much time sleeping at times and not enough at others well you get run down. Still I managed to hunt the kids as a vampire for a reasonable amount of time until allowing myself to be slain by the youngest so I could go back to the laundry.

The kids suspected a trick. I kept saying, “I am just a normal human doing my laundry,” as they lurked so I had to throw my arms up to a vampire pose and bare my teeth from time to time to get them scrambling. I don’t single task well right now so this child generated multitasking was enjoyable. I felt almost competent.

You shouldn’t feel refreshed after a day of endless loads of laundry and keeping up with high energy kids but I did. Even before we got to the Shabbat part of the day. Earlier in the day when the house had contained a more manageable single child who had been recently fed and was thus content we had talked a bit about the challenges of Shabbat for her. She was torn between her desire to have everything Shabbat ready and the fact that the kids pretty well undid everything as fast as things could be cleaned. She asked if things looked better than when I arrived at one point and the truth was really they looked different but that didn’t matter. I couldn’t remember when the actual candle-lighting time was even though I stick it on facebook for those who like to do things by the book. Shabbat is much like any other thing you think you feel like you don’t have the time to get ready for in that it still happens and sure enough the candles did get lit. Food was on the table and we ate.

When the eldest found out his mother was basically sneaking out to shul when she was honest that she wasn’t just dropping me off he wanted to come. He loves services but hadn’t slept well and we don’t finish until close to 9:30 so it’s not exactly kid friendly. I joked that she should keep this up and then he would rebel when he was old enough by always going to shul.

Services were much like always and not like always. I didn’t get to sit in my chair. I suspect there may have been some concern when I didn’t get there before things started as the importance of being in my chair means being early is practical. There had been some discussion between my friend and I about the temptation to just hang out with my dog and not go but I knew that actual worry would occur if I skipped entirely. We arrived half an hour after it started but we were not the last to arrive which is typical for our congregation but not so much for me. I must have been oddly healed just by the rambunctious company of the children as not being in my chair was not as distressing as it can be sometimes. There have been times when I go to great lengths to be in my chair.

There were several not so regulars at services tonight which I also sometimes consider distressing but I coped with that as well. People talk about inclusion a lot but they don’t tend to think about how the things you can’t control impact some people in your congregation. Everyone is trained not to mess with my blue cup by now but of course we can’t ensure that everyone is always there who my brain has decided is always there and that no one new come and so on. I know it’s not even healthy or rational to want to control that but my reaction to those human changes fluctuates. They are things I cope or don’t cope with and oddly enough after what should have been a day one would expect to leave me frazzled and frayed and clinging desperately to both my chair and my blue cup I was fine.

This was my second time being able to say the Mourner’s Kaddish among my friends so it should be easier and in some ways it was. When we got to the mediation we say before and I got teary. Hands reached out from both sides just as a matter of course. A year ago this sort of contact would have been difficult for me but now it was comforting.

It was hard when it was all done to accept the condolences of people who had been travelling the previous weeks. I somehow keep expecting this whole mourning thing to be tidier than it is. People keep telling me it won’t be, especially for a mother but I can’t stop wishing it was quite so tidily contained as the structure of the year of mourning suggests.

I’m very tired now of course but mentally feel better than I have all week. That’s somewhat normal for Shabbat but I suspect the invigorating effect of child’s play helped a lot as well.

Part of tonight’s service the service leader talked about what Reform Jews believe. It came up in contrast to the very precise rules and directions in the Torah portions this week. Rational is always part of the definition when reform Jews define themselves I’ve noticed, and I always considered myself rational and still do. I know a lot of atheists who by the very act of my engaging in any organized religion have now written me off as irrational but there are not many people as rational and logical as I am day to day.

You may protest well there is that notion you own chairs that are essentially public etc… but my preference for things to be the same is something I have to put up with while getting a similar scolding from my brain. Still until 15 months ago I only had believed in one miracle. One single time where something happened that I could prove fell outside the laws of physics. Perhaps the easiest kind of miracle to believe in I guess where you can do the math and say nope a falling body of your mass shouldn’t be able to wind up in a concave indentation in the mountain on top of the glacier I fell off of. I had like a moron reached for a can once we were safely at the top and unhooked from each other. I had no time to react in my fall and considerable time to lie there stunned and listen to my team speculate on which blobs and bits might be my body before I could rouse myself to yell I was in fact alive.

The miracles that are hard to even recognize though are the ones like today. How is a day filled with children and laundry and a rush to services in anyway miraculous? We could miss the miracle in there if we didn’t recognize that the deeds that sustain us against all odds may be dressed up as the totally mundane.

I have thought a lot about the fact that having spent the better part of a decade, after realizing I just could no longer try to worship Adonai in an Anglican setting, and getting up the courage to actually go to a service and join a congregation, I did so at a time when I was actually doing very well for me. Without that sudden burst of courage that got me across the threshold of the Jewish Community Centre I would have not had my rather big gang of people to see me through the worst of my health crisis. I would not have the fairly steady supply of support and encouragement both practical and emotional. I’m alive due to a burst of courage that experience has told me really couldn’t have come solely from within.

I had previously often referred to myself as a hermit but our congregation doesn’t believe in hermits I guess. While I was still in my pre-crisis mode brought on by my move I had more social invitations than in probably the entire prior 20 years and had started to do more than just survive them ,which is always the baseline expectation I had to go into them with, but to enjoy them. Call it a sudden, improbable social growth spurt if you must but it was a miracle.

Part of our belief is that we are partners with G-d in the repair of the world and as strange as it would be to describe a day spent doing many loads of laundry and being bossed around by children as miraculous I am in better state of repair now than I went into the day in. I don’t know about the world but as I am part of the world thus far my repair has to count for something I suppose.

Through this long ordeal there have always been these perfectly normal seeming things that are not so normal for me. Long ago most of the friends I had close to my age died or moved away. So even spending the day in the company of someone close to my age was not typical for me. I couldn’t imagine making friends and wasn’t even convinced new ones were not more trouble than they were worth. When you have serious social anxiety and social skills issues you can of course rationalize and probably have to to some degree, why you don’t try harder.

This was just a woman trying to be kind and useful in light of the fact my mom had died and I was struggling. But there is no just for me in that sentence. The ordinary parts of life have been the most elusive for me. I choose to see the hand of G-d in that I somehow do feel better. People inclined to be be blind to the everyday miracles might just say well this person was just filling a community norm. It’s right there in black and white to comfort the mourner.

I always prided myself in not being all what I phrased “hippy-dippy west-coast” like inclined to see the holy in everything and in the past 15 months I have realized how very wrong I was. I remember being really frustrated less than a year ago at the ingratitude of the people during the Exodus. I protested that they had lived in the time when miracles were the most obvious and they were getting direction straight from G-d and yet they complained about the food and so on. It drove me a little crazy really as I really wanted that very explicit direction and while some of that was coming more from my depression and my autism another big part was still that I was failing to see the less obvious miracles and thus be appropriately grateful for them.

Bread isn’t going to rain from heaven but the oneg might keep getting suspiciously large so that there are enough left overs to keep you going for a few days when living on just a disability pension while having to replace your clothes and so on is making life a little more stressful.

G-d isn’t going to put up a sign that says go here now and do exactly this it seems yet I can’t deny that as the only place my courage could have come from as far as even meeting the people who would become more than my congregation but also many friends. I had sat and prayed and studied and known where to go for ages and had never, not once, been able to actually get myself there. I’d even wept over my failure to do so. It had to happen that I managed when I did or I would not have survived I am certain but at the time while being shocked and amazed by finally getting there I didn’t really properly attribute it. I didn’t know what was coming but I do choose to think G-d did.

There are all sorts of theological debates that rage about whether as a group, we even believe in an interventionist G-d at this point. I do. I don’t believe in one who cares who wins the hockey game, or one who necessarily mucks around constantly in human affairs. One could get mad I suppose if one thought G-d was like that as I could choose to think well instead of providing this sudden burst of social courage, that ultimately provided me with the community I needed to get through my crisis wouldn’t it have been simpler just to skip the crisis?

I’m tired and worn out and far from well and the outcome of said crisis since new ones keep coming up is far from certain. I should probably have a strong preference for a G-d who just lightened up a bit on the amount of horrible things that happened. I haven’t decided how much G-d even does choose to  control these days or what governs the why and the when. I suppose I will never know so the best I can do is come up with a position that seems most likely one day. A position probably that will keep changing. I do know on our end we have to actually be open to letting G-d do what he can and being grateful for what he has done, which we cannot do if we fail to recognize His hand in the totally mundane yet life sustaining aspects of our life.

All my life I have tried to do what I thought G-d wanted of me but I think I often failed to let G-d help me because those angels in human form have been so hard for me to cope with. I’ve been insufficiently grateful during all those years when I saw myself as too rational and above seeing the miracles in the entirely mundane. We don’t know how things will end. I guess we never do but however things end here there will have been growth. Painful, scary, perilous growth which still has to be better than stagnation. Even for a person with a very strong preference for things staying the same.