Susan's Blog

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Making Peace With Me

I’m a bitch, I’m a lover
I’m a child, I’m a mother
I’m a sinner, I’m a saint
I do not feel ashamed
I’m your hell I’m your dream;
I’m nothing in between.
You know you wouldn’t want it any other way.
–Meredith Brooks, “Bitch”

Why do I talk about so many superficial-appearing things? Why do I talk so much about gardening, clothes, parties, flirting, make-up, hair, workout? Does my all-over-the-place blog cause you dismay? Did I lead you astray when you read Making Peace With Autism? Did I lead you to believe I was a martyr, or some kind of noble woman who only thinks selflessly about her kids and autism, only to discover that I’m shallow sometimes, selfish, moody, cranky, bitchy?

I did not mislead you. I am all of those things; I am what you thought, and I am not. I write the way that I do, and the things that I do, because I’m trying to be me. Really me. I’m trying to show, through my blog, that people are not one- or two-dimensional: be they autistics, moms, middle-aged, or young. One thing I hate is to be misunderstood. I hate to be summed up, dismissed. I hate it when people think they know me, because I don’t see how that’s entirely possible when I don’t even completely know me. I keep changing. So do we all. That is how I experience people: constantly shifting, never really the same one day to the next. That’s why I take such profound and primeval comfort in my relationship with Ned: he is more the same, day by day, than anyone else I’ve ever met.

I have written about my OCD and my struggle to gain control or let go, accordingly. The OCD comes in part from the way I perceive reality, as being soft underfoot. In my days of terrible struggle, I searched for certainty; medical certainty. How could I know, for example, that the lumpy crap in my breast was not a cancer lump? What was that pain in my right side? How could one possibly learn to take responsibility for one’s life and say, “I’m okay.” Even medical tests are only a certain percentage accurate. I was plagued, in my twenties, with the question, “How do I know?” and “What is real?”

In my thirties, the questions shifted as I wove my own carpet of certainty to stand on. I gradually learned, from my experience with Nat, that I knew what was what. I was the first one who felt that something was different about him. I was right, when everyone else, even my rock-solid Neddy Sweets, was wrong. This did enormous things for my self-confidence — but over time. So during my primary mothering years, in my thirties, the question in my mind became more, “How do I accomplish what I need to?” And not, “Am I okay?”

So here I am, in my forties. Suddenly I have two high-school-age sons who are doing pretty well, and a self-assured third grader (knock wood). I fufilled a few of my dreams (the book, earning some money, a few fabulous parties because of the book, Nat’s progress, Ben’s progress, and Max’s progress, a second book project). I have a lot more time to myself, and much more is resolved that I worried about in my thirties, and certainly the shit from my twenties is long over, with only a small regression every now and then. I have found that the questions I ask about life are something like, “What else should I do with myself, with my life?” I’m sure there’s some pompous psychological description for what I’m talking about, some Jungean thing to illustrate where I’ve been and where I am. What is important here, however, is that I have gotten to a point, or rather, my entire family has gotten to a point, where we can take a breath, look around, and make a choice about what’s next, instead of having it forced upon us.

I now have the opportunity to do things for myself that I did not have in my thirties, and that I could not do in my twenties. So I’m looking beyond the routines of my life, as well as looking closely at it, to decide what about it I like and what I want to change, and what else I want to do.

And I decided, a couple of years ago, that I needed to have more fun. I needed to figure out what makes me happy, and do it. So I write and write because that’s the number one thing that makes me happy. And I enjoy creating beautiful and fun surroundings, so I garden, buy and make pretty outfits, and try to stay connected with people who excite me: some are women, some are men. Sometimes I just have to throw off the mantle of motherhood, as much as I love my boys so much, and just be a bad girl. So when I go back to all the soothing, cuddling, cooking, cleaning, and cooing, I am my very best.

I did not mean this to sound like an apology. I was trying to figure out how to embrace all the parts that are this blog. Meredith Brooks’ tough girl song came to mind right away. I am a full plate, a jumble of contradictions, and I think that makes some people uncomfortable, because they want mothers to act like Mothers, and girls to be girls. But sometimes, as the Kinks say, “Girls will be boys and boys will be girls.” And autism moms can be sex kittens and garden club ladies.

It all depends on what costume I pull out that morning…


Man, I am really looking forward to that phase, Susan. And I am always in deep thought about what it will be like…counting the minutes first then the hours and someday days to myself at a time. What freedom. (I have been sewing and feeling good about the cleanest house I have had in three years, if you noticed I have been away.) I say: you’re the bomb.

— added by mrs. gilb on Thursday, September 28, 2006 at 11:45 pm


— added by Do'C on Friday, September 29, 2006 at 1:32 am

Thanks for sharing. You are real and don’t hide anything, and that’s what makes you authentic. Thanks for always saying the truth.

— added by Laura Cottington on Friday, September 29, 2006 at 3:16 am

Suan, I’m almost finished your book: Making Peace with Autism, and I can totally relate. I have an 8 year old son with autism and a typically developing 6 year old son. I wish so many times that I’d been brave enough to have another child, my 6 year old begs me all the time, but I’m 41 and it is not to be – so, that is our life, his life. Our 8 year old gives us so many gifts, and challenges, daily. right now he is walking around, naked, wearing my high heel sandals,and chewing on one of my hair clips – always something of mine – he loves me, and I love him, adore him. I couldn’t imagine life without him. We are beginning our phase of being brave and trying new things. the social stories really help. Anyway, thanks for the book, I don’t feel so alone.

— added by Anonymous on Friday, September 29, 2006 at 8:37 am

I’m in my 40s, too, and I agree we need to have fun. No point in waiting! Enjoying your blog.

— added by Rhea on Friday, September 29, 2006 at 8:54 am

Hi Susan, I came across your bog in a very random fashion (I think I was looking for CSS or Java Script help!) but I keep coming back to read more.

I’m not in the U.S, i’m not in my 40’s and i’m not parenting an autistic child (that i know of) – but I second what “sam i am” said about your authenticity: you do seem very real, and that’s a wonderful quality.

Best …

— added by Melissa on Friday, September 29, 2006 at 1:20 pm

I know exactly what you mean, and am almost embarrassed to admit that the thought has crossed my mind–is this the same person who wrote MPWA? There are some things that throw me for a loop–dinner with the Bushes (maybe ESPECIALLY that, I am Canadian), the flirting thing, the sometimes focus on your appearance. But you know what? I like you anyway. Don’t want to irritate you by saying I feel I know you, but allow me to say I am GETTING to know you, OK?

— added by Anonymous on Friday, September 29, 2006 at 7:06 pm

I love your honesty.
I never once thought “is this the same person who wrote MPWA?” Your writing is observant, searingly and wonderfully reflective, completely engrossing to read even when it’s about the minutest things.
No one can be perfect and no one should even try to be, there is no such thing as perfect, there is only you, and you know better than most the impoirtance of being you.

I like you just fine the way you are. I am glad you have your little joys to balance out the struggles we all have. Everyone should be so lucky to have something they enjoy – don’t feel ashamed about it.


— added by Anonymous on Monday, October 2, 2006 at 1:27 am