Susan's Blog

Sunday, October 11, 2009

What Would Natty Do?

It seems a bit ironic, but with all of the expressive forums we have at our disposal, it is perhaps less common to take the time to write something truly expressive. First I blogged, and found that my writing became less formal, more direct, even junky at times. Then I joined Facebook, and with the small word-limited status screen, I found I had to compress my thoughts and be even more direct, and yet also somehow compelling, worthy of showing up in the column of Friends’ reports. And there was txting, of course, and then came Twitter, my latest attempt to keep up with the Jonesing media-heads. With Twitter, there is actually a character limit (which does not prevent many characters from reporting their latest “thought”). I find myself compressing even further what I have been thinking about, or else stop thinking at all, and merely reporting.

Then I got rid of my cell phone. Okay, here’s the truth: I broke it in half one evening, and threw it away. I did not want to get another txt, I did not want to hear that nauseating little chirp. This is what my hands just did, before my head even registered.

I went for ten days without the damned thing, but then it became clear that I needed to be connected at least to my basic four or five people. But it was blissful. It was quiet. I was cut off from words and I was loving it.

What does all that Twitter- compressing and txt-abbreviating of our thoughts mean? It means that even our own words and thoughts are not important enough to spell out. Or does it mean that we are all shifting to making words less important?

I’ve been taking yoga for a couple of weeks, taught by a friend. I don’t really know what kind of yoga it is, and she does not make a point of going into that stuff. She doesn’t correct poses, she doesn’t teach or lead. She suggests. She reminds you of how you can stop for a moment, and redirect your energy from your thoughts down into your belly. She makes me realize that the brain, the origin of our words, is just that: one part of our bodies, not the leader. The part that distances us from our bodies and gets us to analyze and find meaning in everything. Which is necessary and miraculous, but it is okay to leave that for a while sometimes.

I used to scoff at yoga. I thought it was phony. I shrugged off anything “New Age,” as if it were beneath contempt, because it was not traditional, and also because it is older than traditions I knew of. I guess I was threatened by it, or perhaps I just did not feel the need to get out of my head.

But I realize now that I needed to get out of my brain so much. How many times would I massage the same problem until it hurt as much as the first time it bloomed? This was called OCD by a doctor, but what good did it do to know what it was called? I still did it. I was still carrying around a little knot of pain inside, that nothing, no medication could dissolve.

I have often felt that labeling, or naming, gives something its power. A doctor tells you your child has Autism, and suddenly a whole nightmare opens up before you. Your brain rushes in with stories of why that is bad, and what it means. Your eyes start to reconstruct your own child, that baby that you held from the very beginning of his life, until your vision blurs and you don’t even recognize him.

We are told that the label helps. We can now deal with this. We can dissect it, divide it into channels: therapies that will work or ameliorate; school programs that will help; friends that will understand; books that will inform. More structures, more words.

Words are Nat’s enemy. Nat is forced to divide his existence into words, which I imagine feel to him like gouges on a colorful painting. Nat approaches the world from his center, from his own being. He experiences it all through all of his senses. I have no idea how his senses feel to him. I can pretend I know how my other sons’ senses feel to them, but the truth is, I don’t. The Other is unknowable. There is only the self, and the rest of the world around us. Nat has always known that. Aut-ism: being unto ones self. Nat is just himself, until he is forced to be other.

I have been believing in the primacy of the word, of the brain, over all else, for so long. I guess I’m finding now pockets of silence, and ways of resting within them. Maybe I can take a page out of Natty’s book, so to speak, and connect without words, without analysis, or distance. Just be.


Nice post. I find it relaxing to consider that there may not even be any such thing as self, just a flow of experience.

— added by VAB on Sunday, October 11, 2009 at 11:42 am

"Aut ism" being unto oneself . . . I never thought about the meaning of the label, thanks for that, makes it a far nicer word, in my mind tonight.

— added by Mary Ellen on Sunday, October 11, 2009 at 7:17 pm

We try so hard here to let Jarrett be himself and not force him into the box and make him something he's not, even to point of not making him go on a 5 day overnight field trip for school that's all outdoor classes and activities. I'm sure it's a great experience but he so does not want to go and even though the brochures say they can accomodate special needs, I don't think either of us will have a good time. Sometimes it's what's best for him is what's best in general.

— added by cameramom on Monday, October 12, 2009 at 6:02 am

Right, Cameramom! It's okay not to go. And don't feel bad about it, either! And anyway, Jarrett might want a trip like that when he's older, the way Nat suddenly liked sleepaway camp — at 17. And some kids, autistic or not, never end up liking it! (like Max and Ben) đŸ™‚

— added by Susan Senator on Monday, October 12, 2009 at 6:08 am

No bad feelings. Jarrett enjoys his summer camp but he also can do pretty much what he wants: crafts, swimming, etc. Constant outdoor activity & staying up later & no video breaks = not for me in his mind. Plus I know he's not the only one not going (the pleasures of small town life, I know alot of his classmates parents. I either went to school with them or they are regular customers at the store where I work.) so he'll have someone to talk to at school since if you don't go on the trip, you just go to school as usual.

My Max would live outdoors if only we would let him!

— added by cameramom on Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 5:11 am

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