Today as I drove home from dropping sabrina off at school I looked on at the short two exit stretch of highway I daily and couldnt help but feel trapped. An elementry school on one side and a truck stop on the other filled with tired truckers and moms meeting for brunch trying to find a connection. I couldnt help but for a moment drift off and wonder what it would be like if I could just keep driving. This one small stretch of highway I travel if only i could just break past the barriers of responsibility and pain to once again travel and see what lies out there.
I feel stuck in a prison and the walls just keep closing in. As I yearn to break out the autism pushes me back in. As I close my eyes to escape for even just a moment when I think the silence is safe the knife of his screams break through like first thunder in a light rain in spring. One moment calm, crisp and nourishing before the thunder begins to strike and the storm sets in and the wind begins to blow in four different directions.
I wonder what it would be like to sit atop those Montana mountains once again. Would it feel the same? As the sun sets would I still look on in wonder? Would I still see the beauty or would I see something else? Would I feel the same peace knowing the world as I do now?
His smile is a loaded smile. It took us four months to teach him to smile. Now as I hold up the camera and say “smile” he complies but is it real? Forced as it is I wonder if that smile is the same mask that I wear every moment of every day. Maybe he and I are more alike than different. Maybe his behaviors exemplify every emotion that I carry within me. Maybe he is really my soul set out in the world for everyone to see. Every meltdown and every tear. He is the emotion and the passion without the restraint of social restriction.
His very being is what has taught me everything that I know about love, loss, persistance, unlimited forgiveness, unadulaterated reality and truth. It is through him that I have found many of our societal truths. It is through him and his disability that I have had to conquer the soft parts of myself and press on despite the discomfort of stepping over my line of safety. It is through the ebb and flow of daily life with his unpredictability that I have learned to adapt to just about anything without blinking. He has been the center of everything despite the exhaustion I feel.
There are days I wish I could run. There are nights I lay in bed and wonder about the world out there. What would have been had the reality of his illness had not hit him. Would I be in California writing books? would my car be the mustang saline I had dreampt of since long before his existance in my world? Would I be a big shot psychologist as I had dreamed? But then somewhere In the streams of what ifs I find myself at a wall and the questions change shape. What would I write about had he not entered my world? What is a mustang if he is not in it? What is being a psychologist compared to what I have now? I have the opportunity to connect beyond the confines of ethical relational guidelines. Having him has freed me from the professional boundaries and allowed me to experience autism on a whole new level beyond the clinical constraints. It is because of this that I can look on at mental illness and see the person beyond it, I can see the families and the hours and the love surrounding every turn of uncertainty. I can see the patients sitting there with no visitors and see both ends of exhaustion. I can see the struggle of the patient who doesn’t understand what they did so wrong to end up alone and I can see the caregiver in my mind sitting in their chair or at home or maybe in their car in the parking lot staring up at the windows of the large cold building with tears in their eyes wondering the same “what did I miss what did I do so wrong”.
The two meet and friction ensues. Fists on tables, chairs thrown and doors slammed. Shots, Seclusion, sleep. but no resolution to an argument with the same feelings of loss on both sides never visited, never explored a relationship remaining broken when what broke it was really one or the other being unwilling to take a step back and see that what is tearing them apart are sometimes not their differences but their similarities.
I wish this world was different. I wish when we met someone we would immediately look in their eyes shake their hand and say, “how the heck are ya” and truly want to know the answer. I wish we could look past the idiocyncries of one another and realize that we all are just a bit quirky. This world would be a much better place if we could stop placing ourselves in a bubble and reach out to one another even when its tough or when it seems hopeless. Because what Aiden has taught me is that anger isn’t always anger. Anger is often the result of hurt. Its the result of trying to hide from something that scares us and once we face that fear we begin to see the anger fade. There is nothing left to fight and the adrenaline subsides.
I watch aiden struggle everyday and I struggle with him. I watch him work. I watch him hide in his iPad videos for any semblance of what he considers safe. and I get it. Its like when i walk in the door after work and i have been surrounded by dysfunction and unpredictability all day and everything is calm. I lock the door behind me and stand in the dimly lit kitchen and get my wits about me before heading up stairs to kiss my children. This is my favorite time of day. As i watch him dream and sleep so peacefully and the disorder isn’t evident. For just that short six hours at night when he sleeps the world is okay again. I don’t have to worry about the thoughts that may attack him, the uncertainty in his eyes or the obsessions that he just cant conquer. For that six hours a night i watch him sleep sound with peace on his face and dreams in his heart. and the world is okay again.
It is aiden that has kept me here. It is aiden that has taught me how to live among people, not over them. It is Aiden that has taught me that who we are is not what our job is or what we drive. Aiden has taught me that your emotions are not what should drive you however strong they may be. Aiden has taught me not about the quantity of your social circle but the content of the relationships. He has taught me that one hug is worth more than all the words in the in the world and that A journey around the world can be far less meaningful than the journey you take whilst never leaving your living room