Paralyzing Fear meets Medical Need

416111_3028021694076_399525806_oI have a very autistic, very avoidable problem right now. Well the beginning part was not avoidable but how bad it got could have been I guess.

Last Tuesday I scalded my leg. I am hypo-sensitive and have had operations so what I feel isn’t always there. I had had a number of near misses with boiling water and managed to break my teapot as well so although I diligently checked the first 4 or so times this time I didn’t. I changed my pajamas without much thought and moved on.

The next night as I came in from my dogs last use of the outdoor facilities I found my pajamas were again wet and my leg hurt. That time I checked and what I saw was a fairly large burn had burst. Worse it was on an area where I had had surgery which explained a bit combined with the whole hypo sensitive thing how what looked like a very bad burn could be missed.

Any of that could happen and not point to an issue with how autistic adults are supported here. It’s that 10 days after the burn that it hasn’t been attended to that bothers me.

My case-manager alarmed not to hear from me for a few days before this came to check that I was alive the day after this happened. I mentioned it hoping she or my doctor would think to set things up in a less alarming way because he whole let’s go to the clinic now or hospital doesn’t now and has never worked for me.

When I saw my doctor on Tuesday a lot of it was taken up with my case manager quitting. Or my being pressed into opting out of it. I cannot talk to strangers on the phone. It’s one of those strange places where my ability to lead an adult life breaks down.

I had been aggravating in a number of ways I guess including wanting t see that doctor over another but which choice I should make was never spelled out. I prefer to see the one who kind of helps with the others as I know they don’t all have a solid handle sometimes on even things like how much I understand as the jerkiest of them probably never hear me speak. I am not getting started on how I feel on that topic.

So now with no help at all I have to go out into the world. Even the nicest doctor is going to be a bit upset by this whole taking ten days to do anything. My life is stressful and avoiding things that will blow my brain apart takes time.

It’s bad. I know it was actually quite bad from the start but ten days of neglect didn’t help it. That transitions are hard is a known thing so I can’t wrap my head totally around the fact that the obvious solution of simply arranging a support person to come the next day didn’t happen. I have frequently asked about these support workers. I have had two times in 3 months times when they showed up in my life, Once was for 3 seconds and the other time as transportation. What I need is actual support.

So I sit here scared. I sit here wishing I was not an adult as this is not something I can do alone.

I sit here wondering why when I have so many medical issues and life issues it is actually ethical to decrease support. It doesn’t feel ethical.

I get I am “impossible”. Well I am not actually. That was where I felt frustrated enough to opt out of something I need a bit too fast. I had explained the ground rules for communicating with me too many times it felt like. It should be simple. I mean what I say. If I say I can only manage one doctor a day and no more than three a week (did I mention it’s been a horrible year?) I suppose much like the joke about the man who says I love you and years later tells his wife he would have let her know if it changed, I feel like that’s the rule my appointments should go by.

If I say way too many times that I can’t cope with the bright lights, the noise and the often dehumanizing treatment of me that takes place in our E.R.’s there are solutions. If I could make phone calls I could likely arrange them but nope. I have a specialist for most things including fixing gruesome things so if I were my own case manager I would have contacted him and arranged him to take a look at it in the clinic for that. I am not a good healer so every wound I get is a complicated one and well my life plots against me I think.

None of that happened. Now I have no hope of less stress care. No real hope to be honest of being treated with respect as although this was an accident people will doubt it. People when I do not look at them will joke among themselves as if I am deaf.

Yet I have a life I am attached to. Responsibilities and desires. I am also as my rabbi helpfully reminded me a Jew. Not sure why he reminds me of this so often. The whole life is sacred but my life being a bit of a pain in the posterior to manage is one of the most complicated parts of being one. Hebrew is hard if you have no visual processing skills and dyslexia but clinging to notions that your life is sacred when all around you people are making jokes about your distress is hard.

So obviously I have to act. Fall into a void I know will be filled with horrors. So of I go with my heart hammering. There is no comfort object large enough for this task. Skipping it and just waiting to go to temple is tempting but not correct. I waited until the world was darker but there are more ways to deal with light and noise than the cruelty of people.

I am not afraid of any procedures this will involve. I know they are not pleasant but it is the people at the other end of the rubber glove that terrify me. The random mean things they say. I doubt I will fall apart so badly someone will compare the care of me to the care of an animal as has happened but there is a lot of room from there to compassionate acceptance.

I don’t know for sure I will be able to explain what happened as I know multiple people will want to know that. It seems really dumb even for me except this is my life.

A really concrete example of life as an autistic adult. I sometimes feel like the most inept autistic adult out there when I see what people are dong and saying but I know of course others struggle. Others have little issues that become big because where they intersect with the world is too unbearable.

So I will dress and launch myself out the door into Shabbat. Not one of peace I suspect but Shabbat can surprise me. Please let it surprise me. Please let the people surprise me.

Shabbat Shalom.

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You Need a Mommy

I have been quiet. Things have gotten more difficult and my capacity to cope with anything had taken a plunge downhill. I did not think it was even possible anymore but one should never wonder how much worse things can get it seems as the answer always seems to be that they can indeed get worse.

 The wisest words about my situation were spoken by a three year old Friday morning, I had agreed to look after him so his mother could attend some kind of course near where I live. Since the plan was for his mother to drop us off at McDonald’s so I would at least eat and he would have access to the play structure or the equally as interesting swivel chairs she popped into the bank on the way before leaving us for a class.

“Do you have a mommy?” he asked. Since he was not distressed I took this for a question and not a pronoun issue. “No,” I said then as that seemed inadequate I amended it to, “ I had a mommy”. He did not veer into issues of why I didn’t have one. I seemed to be confirming something he suspected so he seemed quite satisfied with the answer. “You need a mommy,” he declared with conviction.

That is no doubt the most succinct summary of my situation that there can be. If we define “Mommy” as someone who attends to your basic needs without question, who while she may be exasperated at times by those needs still seeks to fill them without faltering in her devotion that’s also the best treatment plan yet to be devised. The fact is I don’t have that kind of “Mommy”. I never did. It is certainly only that level of someone else looking after the details that would remove enough stress to just get better at this point.. There’s no such figure in sight though.

I do need a Mommy. A three year old being able to see that clearly is about the closest thing in my life to a mommy like level of insight. While his own mother worries about my eating and lack of laundry access enough to do something about it more helpful than telling me to remember to eat, part of the job description of Mommy no doubt includes this sort of cutting to the heart of the matter. He would already be an excellent Mommy if the task were not beyond his fine motor skills, his height, and certain legal issues. Also let’s face it a Mommy who has to be sold on washing their hands and holding your hand when crossing traffic is a bit of an iffy proposition. Still he correctly identified a need and a solution with 4 words. That it’s an unworkable solution doesn’t make it less correct. I have been offered reams of unworkable solutions by much taller and learned people than he is. We all grow out of the clarity of being 3 I suspect. There’s a wisdom afforded to those new to the world where a lack of experience with how the world actually works gives them the least cluttered view I think. I only suspect rather than know that people grow out of that clarity because it seems to take some residual 3ness to accept what is said as wise not baffling. To not dismiss it because it comes from someone who rarely said anything 6 months earlier and still is more prone to ear piercing tantrums than one might hope.

I do, indeed need a Mommy. Perhaps they should spend some of the money they currently spend documenting how my not recovering from my depression is somehow my fault so they can excuse the numerous failures to use the resources that do exist to hire a Mommy for me. I will wash my hands, without prompting in all likelihood but the rest would at least in the immediate future be up to them.

For the past 16 months in the wake of my world essentially falling apart due to a change far larger than my capacity to handle it and subsequent medical and bureaucrat errors compounded with the kind of life that seems stuck on the setting of pour on the bad things I have been treated to far too many people weighing in on what I need. Most have so little clue about autism that they can’t even see how ludicrous their simple solutions are and for some reason I am expected to listen to the same non-solutions get voiced by whoever it is that is dealing with people at the end of their capacity to cope.

One such person just left. I know how they see it. They see me as unwilling to do simple things like remembering to eat. Clearly to her and 100 like here because I have been capable of caring for others this is a choice on my part. I have ensured others are fed, bathed, even continue to breath at the extreme so not being able to meet my own needs has to be choice. I just need to choose to be better and apply sufficient effort. We will have to overlook where I would be if effort were sufficient or any of this was an actual choice. We will have to overlook the judgement that comes as part of these non solutions. Implicit and sometimes quite explicit in these solutions is an accusation of not trying hard enough, not wanting to be well, of exaggerating how bad it is and so on.

It’s hard to hear that you are not trying hard enough when you have tried and tried and any time you were making progress supports were withdrawn abruptly and care plans overturned. Apparently if I only wanted to I could replace all that with reminders from my tablet or a schedule. As if I have not spent my entire life experimenting with variations on that theme and don’t know that I have to already be doing much, much better than I am for that to be even a stop gap solution. Stop gap because even at my best my I don’t get close to desired capabilities in many areas.

I live with contradictions. Wanting to be an effective self-advocate while going to great lengths to try to blend in even when I know full well I cannot even at the best of times. Accepting my autism on an academic level, believing that acceptance and actual inclusion trump faux awareness but being a big barrier to my own inclusion.

 The past two weeks were even worse than normal. Last Friday night had me approach “my” seat at the Jewish Community Centre where we hold services to find someone in it. Some weeks it has come up I am coping well enough to handle this. I do after all know it is irrational but for every place I ever sat more than once I have a seat.

I arrived with our congregation president. She’s quite assertive and willing to make a scene which I desperately did not want. I froze on seeing my seat occupied. I was not able to ask if the person could shift one down. I’ve asked before but it wasn’t possible even before I retreated to the wall to contemplate my several all seemingly impossible choices. My friend first tried to convince me to sit where she was going to. I could only shake my head. I knew what would follow would be a fairly loud eviction from my chair by her of the interloper and feared I would have a meltdown that was a bit more obvious than the sort of implosion I was having then that had me rooted in place and incapable of action or speech but at least not in tears. Fear of a scene got me to the kitchen where as luck would have it the president’s partner was doing some task or other. She called out where I was and instantly had the insight I might be hiding but it was too late. My seat was indeed free Further escape to the bus was not even an option. I had been spared only listening to how she put the eviction.

 That however much I dreaded this action that this was actually the best solution should be stated not just because I know the person reads my blog because any contemplated other action or reaction would have made things worse. Had I fled or wound up in tears I don’t doubt both that I would have worried my friends more than they already are and in all likelihood had a rabbi on my doorstep instead of an email from him during the week I don’t doubt. This way much of the rest of the evening played out in the usual way.

 I returned to the room. I sat down next to the interloper who is actually a perfectly nice man when he is sitting somewhere else… He, I think trying to be helpful and inclusive, said the sort of thing people say when they think the difficult part of change is not understanding that it happens but coping with that it has happened. “Usually we start on page 120 but some weeks it might change.”. He may have even been worried that this week would indeed be one of those weeks rather than seeking to inform me of the obvious. I am not as invested in starting on page 120 as I am as my chair and the blue cup though. It’s almost inevitable that we will in any case.

In the aftermath of my implosion and escape I was still in very concrete mode so all I could do for 30 seconds was wonder why he was explaining the order of service to me 20 months after I started attending, Then I realized he was trying to be helpful but I had already managed to sound a little annoyed I suspect when I had managed to get an, “I know”, out of me,

I didn’t know what to say really, It was thankfully a day where the theme was sombre enough that eviction from the chair he chose first wouldn’t I hoped stay in him mind long. I wouldn’t have been able to articulate why I could know that someone might be in my seat and simultaneously be bothered by it or why on some days I have the capacity to sit elsewhere and cope with the dissonance that arises and sometimes even surplus so I can still get something beyond coping from the evening. Our rabbi who’s rabbinic sense either tingled about me or who more likely was told I was not doing well emailed something about how when the wine glass is already full one drop is enough which again is something I know but did make me feel a bit less guilty.

I so wish that this fact that things can and do change that had eluded me. That it was new and transformative knowledge that having been given it I could work with it If only it were knowing and not the varying capacity to cope that is in the wind. I would have transitioned seamlessly to a new home and not gone through any of the past 16 months. This not so missing piece of information presented in what was probably a sincere attempt to help left me mystified. This was something I know. Oh how I wish it was new and exciting and transformative information that I had just been missing. I love information. Sadly the most interesting part of this piece of information was it being offered up.

A similar approach could be taken with the wine analogy. I know exactly that something very small can be the one more drop that makes my issues less invisible and more visible. I struggle with the competing desires of really accepting my own autism enough not to hesitate in areas where getting my needs met means making a scene and being quite private and wishing I didn’t have needs that were not met without some level of hassle and intrusiveness. The difference being that however tritely, it sums up my reality of a life spent too close to the edge of capacity, it did ease some of the worry about my needs being a hassle, or worse beyond comprehension, I suppose something cannot be in danger of seeming trite without also being very true. Even when it is truth you know too well it can help to hear others frame it. I usually think my self-esteem is actually quite good but truthfully that tends to be in areas not impacted by my autism.

It makes no rational sense at all to be more apologetic about a melt-down over a chair than the bus kneeling when it picks me up but that’s part of the ongoing contradiction I live with. As is trying to encourage actual acceptance and inclusion while having as the biggest barrier to inclusion my own desire not to be difficult. I don’t have the kind of in your face kind of bravado some seem to have where their diversity dang well better be accommodated or there will be heck to pay, I can have it for official, tax payer funded entities for some reason. I expect official support to accommodate me. It doesn’t but that doesn’t lessen my expectation for some reason, It again makes no sense as of everyone in my life the group most likely to put themselves “out” on my behalf are this very group. They have shown it over and over but one can loathe Voldemort speaks for presenting autistic people as a burden and simultaneously seek not to inconvenience anyone. If I was someone else I would probably blog about how annoying I am for that contradiction. Wait I guess that is what I am doing.

 As my young sage worked out if I had a Mommy she would do all that heavy lifting for me. I have seen mothers ferociously advocate for their young over much more trivial things, I have similarly advocated for other young charges without a drop of regret for being a bother. Did some one really ask me loudly, “What’s wrong with that child?” when boarding the bus carrying one of my charges. Strap yourself in ladies and gentlemen because the bus ride is about to get a bit bumpy. Did a similarly enlightened citizen really express when passing a friend and myself and the same young charge on the beach how much better it was in the old days when people enjoying their day didn’t have it ruined by looking at children like her? It’s about to get educational. Did her companion while eying my friend who was native really nod at her and mutter something …? You get the picture. It didn’t wind up educational My friend was used enough to racism to find it amusing on some level and pity them for the fools they were and so was expending some effort to keep me on the blanket eatin g my fries and not running down the beach providing commentary about who the real blight on the day was. The offending child had not been seated a bit further up from us and was entirely too absorbed in digging in the sand to need to do any of the explaining of the too frequent kind. So we moved on.

 My entire life I can be a lion for other people. I can be that lion even in areas where it matters far less than for racism and able-ism. Heck mess with “my” gamers and anyone who has worked with my knows that my rants will be somewhat endless.

 I think as much of my silence post the explosion of followers after my post about awareness came from this contradiction. I was overwhelmed by the sudden unquiet nature of this corner of the internet, my life did take several turns that meant adding the expectation I write on top of everything else I couldn’t deal with was too much but I also felt like a fraud of sorts.

 I’ve said my acceptance is always an ongoing thing like pretty much every other thing about my autism it defies quantifying. Compared to when I was 20 and Data was my role model and my goal the same as his – to outgrow my programming I am a model of acceptance. Having realized at some point that Seven of Nine was the healthier role model that was huge growth. For those of you somehow unfamiliar with Star Trek two helpful bits of information. First if you actually know me in real life or at somewhat close to me in the ways people wind up close to each other on the internet it is probably best if you not admit this. You won’t exactly be dead to me but you will enter a category of people I have some doubts about. Second in the interest of understanding what I am saying Data was an android who was perpetually seeking to be human. A high tech Pinocchio who for a time seemed to embody my reality in a way that stirred me.

 Seven of Nine was a human who had been assimilated by the Borg. Then rescued by the crew of a later series than Data was on. I won’t trouble those of you without a background in the mythology of Star Trek with why a Borg is a better role model but it boils down to her being quite different from the crew she found herseflf living among despite a certain similarity. She had been human but some elements of being Borg could not change without killing her. Having been Borg since childhood was it seems as pervasive as autism is.

 The Borg value knowledge and seek perfection. While their method of getting both is a bit horrifying one can hardly argue with the goal. Seven herself is a logical, very rational, intelligent woman. She sees the humans around her and seeks to be more like them in the ways that she values but retains her sense of some of the things she values highly no doubt as a result of a life as Borg as being desirable and worth holding onto all the same. She grows emotionally but while she has doubts about various aspects of humanness those doubts are expressed in far healthier and realistic ways than saying grabbing an improved emotion circuit. She is able to function as different in a noticeable and to some degree even feared way (her perfection as a role model having grown I suppose as fear of autism has grown) and still be valued by others and herself. She does not approach a situation with the mindset of one who’s difference automatically, even to themselves makes them less.

 Some may be angry at being conditioned to approach very key parts of identity this way but conditioned we are and it makes some sense. It is adaptive to some degree to know the ways in which you differ and take them into account the problem really is the internalization of the message the undesirable difference is always on the side of the labeled.

 The Doctor was more prone to morbid reflection on his different status than Seven but while she had more life threatening malfunctions of her all important cortical node than he had variations on crashes she is more at peace with her reality. She grows towards that which she values of what she sees and is clear on what she does not view as worth pursuing. She bends over time on a few of those things but overall her sense of self worth is not negatively impacted by being who she is. Unlike myself, who finds myself apologizing for a far more reasonable accommodation for my autism than what her crew goes through to get her spare parts she doesn’t tend to apologize for that much greater hassle. She occasionally expressed some wonder that they would but her basic right to exist and by existing have her needs met without too much quibbling about how inconvenient those needs are is an underlying assumption.

 I am not really sure if I will get to that point in my lifetime to be honest. It’s a bit reflexive even in the most accepting crowd to feel embarrassed by the joke I don’t get or the entirely irrational yet absolute need for the comfort of sameness. On the same Friday that my pint sized friend correctly identified my need for a mommy the opinion of the congregation about which tune to use for a prayer was expressed in terms of same of something new. My immediate and strong assertion of same drew some looks but that included one from the person leading who seemed to realize I was so vocal that it should be the same it probably should be. At times when people have really pushed the matter, I have articulated that given the fact that change is a bit inevitable my preference is for them to pick a few things and for Pete’s sake not change pretty much every element of the service, They are a bit self-regulating because the prayers inevitably sound better with the usual form and tune so without my having to push the matter at all a too heavy dose of change tends to be followed by months of barely deviating at all from the usual until people have forgotten the horrors of when they tried this tune or chose this prayer over another. I suppose there is some automatic comfort in knowing you are with a group of people who when faced with the question of why we do some fairly strange things are about as likely to answer with a shrug and “tradition” as a lengthy discussion what various scholars say on he matter. Being a fan of both it’s hard to go entirely wrong.

 That at my worst I feel I have to apologize for being me in the setting most likely to accommodate for me is sad for me. I suppose if like the various bearers of support the government dispatches they were actually unwilling to accept me it wouldn’t bother me at all to have had the please don’t make a visible scene kind of reaction to what was a very simple conflict between a need at an extreme because of how badly everything else was falling apart and someone else simply being there first.

 In a setting where I am included enough to be obviously to others part of the “in” crowd despite being a noticeable outlier makes this failure very clearly mine. Another contradiction. Absent the rage I can have for the irrationality of entire systems that cannot take into account the existence of a person like myself. Being angry at entities as faceless as governments and health authorities or Voldemort speaks is easy. Seeing the ways in which I am an obstacle to myself considerably harder. Fixing that issue having identified it, as I say a work in progress often undone or mostly undone it seems by whatever else life is serving up.

 It’s much harder to say I create additional issues for myself by not accepting my autism on the level that some people in my life are prepared to. I know some of that is a product of how badly I am coping overall. Some however I think is always with me as an echo of years striving to be what I could not. I have for the most part ceased seeking the impossible and even identified the way in which being “normal” might be worse but it I a bit of an infinite acceptance loop. Having overcome trying to overcome my autism I am left trying to overcome apologizing for that which cannot be changed. In better times that would be such a faint echo as to not register much on me mentally but at a time when a child can identify that I need a Mommy that urge to not be a bother, to not have people need to alter anything for me is manifestation of non-acceptance. While countless articles will blame this reflexive devaluing of myself on the society that creates and nourishes it there is only some truth to that. It is true messages about your non-normative reality get internalized. How could they not when the entire format of you life has you as a case in need of management rather than a person? When at an extreme by being able to articulate some of your struggle you are seen as a danger to those who are “really” autistic simply by doing so. People might believe your life isn’t 100 percent tragic if you describe it. People might see that even at the grimmest of times your life is a life and has value and meaning not just to yourself (which should after all be enough) but to others. Still a life lived having to state those very things is taxing. Your default position shouldn’t be having to justify you life as possessing value despite the dificulties. It’s tiring.

 If I could lay all my own lack of acceptance solidly at anyone’s feet I would be off the emotional hook but it would not be honest. I don’t know if I will live long enough to be in a state where I don’t feel apologetic for my less cleat cut needs. Lacking a Mommy it is my responsibility to articulate what they are. One would hope that when presented with a situation where I can’t do that and someone else is both willing and able to champion my needs I could just accept that without embarrassment and without apology. I can’t though. Not right now at this time in my life when so little is certain about the shape of each day or my ability to endure it.

 It is always the small things that we fail to account for that wind up becoming big at a time like this. The bursting into tears on the bus when one cannot conceive of either going on or ceasing to go on. Well okay that seems like kind of a big thing but the crying on the bus itself is small in the grand scheme of things. The trivial change not coped with being harder to predict than the huge one that most would by now say I would do well to avoid. I need a Mommy and while some might say I have a small army of such things standing by of both genders standing by to secure things like my chair, demanding that I eat, and so on that is somehow not quite as comforting as the child’s version of a Mommy entity that can deal with everything for you and about you withought their devotion to your needs faltering. The presence of so many people in my life tackling those practicalities from time to time should make me more certain it is okay to be as I am.

The kind of conviction I have when I place it in a spiritual perspective that it has to be that I am as I intended and by extension then my life has value equal to other creatures is sometimes starkly lacking in my day to day life lately. I suppose the real advantage of the love of a Mommy like entity over that of G-d is like the kneeling bus it’s concreteness. When you are young enough to be constantly with your Mommy or people Mommy enough like to be an acceptable short term stand in for her you always have that care and concern, and love and acceptance of the miracle you are being reflected back. When I am feeling only slightly better than I am now I can quite easily access the less tangible form of love and acceptance and renew myself on that but right now even that is a task beyond me. So I do in fact need a Mommy.

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A Day of Rest, Food and Rainbows

On Thursday nights I have band. I always get wound up on band nights so it takes longer than usual to fall asleep or even get sleepy. This is not helped by the fact that Europe has not changed to daylight savings time yet so my slight overlap with my work colleagues is an hour later. Or by the fact that I enjoy talking to them so long after the things actually pertinent to my job have been said I tend to talk a bit more. By talking I mean typing as that’s how we communicate 99 percent of the time with them.

I didn’t fall asleep until 5 am. Technically I also have band rehearsal for a different band on Fridays but between my extra light on sleep night and knowing today would be different than usual I suspected it would be a mistake to push myself to get to that and still  be able to get my work stuff in the minimum shape to head into Shabbat ready for my Hebrew I graduation dinner. It was a day where I actually was aware enough to realize I needed to pace myself to stack the odds better in terms of a good outcome. Sometimes I just carry on with what I planned even though I suspect it will be too much so just knowing not to was positive for me.

The way my life worked out I started this class the same day I officially started my new job. I had practices for more than a year with an app to be able to make it not a total waste of money, as I have dyslexia. It’s impact is largely hidden in a very over learned character set but painfully apparent when I try a different one.

Back when my rabbi’s wife was explaining to me why I should take it and my enthusing about my meeting new people, getting more familiar with Hebrew, and getting out of the house I was in a state of mild to moderate panic and that kept increasing as the date drew closer. It didn’t help that the date of my new job also loomed closer at the same time.

Even getting out of the house is a tough one for me right now as with every other aspect of my autism as stress goes up so to do my symptoms so my tolerance for the sensory experience that is everyday life is at close to an all time low. I don’t remember it being so bad since kindergarten actually. One day I will write about the sensory nightmare of kindergarten.

I did convince myself though that of all the situations the world offers this would be the closest to an academic one on offer short of actually returning to school. I have a high degree of academic comfort. Test off the charts for it on some odd test they give you in university at some point. So I convinced myself I could indeed go and would likely survive this encounter with an unknown place and and unknown quantity of unknown people.

I did more than survive of course. There were more women than men in the class and women have always scared me more than men. I guess I had not interacted in depth with many since growing up and I had missed that most women do grow out of the kinds of behaviours I came to associate with being with women when I was still growing up. It was good for me to learn that there can be less terrifying women.

My class was as filled with kind and compassionate people as my congregation is and eventually I even had a regular study meeting with someone who lives nearby. I don’t take those things that seem like no big deal for granted. To me having someone to meet at a coffee-shop and study Hebrew with is huge.

As difficult as I knew the Hebrew would be it was the people part that truly terrified me as it always is.

So today because of the deviation from the norm that the dinner would bring about I thought it best to lay low, rest a lot and go into the evening feeling calm and rested. It was potluck and I wasn’t going to risk the horrors of time spent cooking going wrong so I opted having heard what people would bring to get fruit. A slacker in the potluck department I guess but I wasn’t gambling anything today. A person in my class picked me up and we headed out.

We had our dinner on the top floor of what is one of the taller buildings in our downtown. Because we are on a tectonic plate what’s allowed in our downtown is smaller than most but still the view was fabulous and so we got on with the agenda of the night which was mainly to have a Shabbat dinner.

Some of the people in the class are in the class as part of either a return to Judaism or in preparation for a conversion so there is an underlying element of teaching people to be Jewish. A nudge towards being more observant maybe for some. The norm for the local Conservative community is towards fairly orthodox practices in many ways so the dinner had to be downtown in so those that refrain from travel on Shabbat could walk home. The bulk of the community lives near downtown.

It was probably the first and maybe the only Shabbat dinner to be held on the top floor of that magnificent building. It was in a very famous company’s very nice local office and some of us joked that it might stir a massive move from our own occupations as what passed for a boardroom there was very sumptuous indeed.

So we did the usual dinner things which were new to some of our class, and we ate and talked. I realized for the second time in under a year that I was at the very kind of social gathering that had terrified me all my life and I wasn’t anxious, I wasn’t hiding out in the bathroom, and I hadn’t even brought my camera so I wasn’t even hiding behind it. I was talking. I was actually feeling not too anxious at all. In fact since for some of the formal parts were well known to me I felt down right at ease at times. When I was young I did best with highly structured social activities and I suppose the fact that there are some highly structured and even better, pretty much unchanging aspects to this kind of dinner did play a role in my ease.

We had to speak a bit about the class at the end and were given our certificates. I didn’t say because I hadn’t processed it that the achievement for me that mattered more was the very night. Not the newborn, grasp of Hebrew phoenics but having stuck it out to the point where I knew that many more people and could eat with them without being in a blind state of panic.

A rainbow showed up at some point. A rainbow has special religious meaning as a sign that G-d will never again get so mad at what must be his most trying creation and wipe the bulk of us out. I didn’t attach any special significance to it other than it being the time when people were looking at the rainbow that it was quiet enough for me to appreciate not the miracle that we were in no imminent danger of being washed off the planet, but that I was there at all.

In what is still the hardest time of my life ever, when I am still coping with more than I think a so called “normal” person could handle in a short span of time I was not only still alive but some forward progress was happening. I was able to sit and eat and talk in a group of people I didn’t know 5 months ago. That for me may be a miracle worthy of a rainbow in and of itself. Also the time to appreciate that very thing. That while many aspects of my life face new and difficult, and sometimes seemingly impossible challenges some progress is happening where I might least expect it to.

I am grateful.

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.