Thursday, December 11, 2008

Merry something or other

Something about edging towards the shortest daylight of the year seems to bring out that old, pre-rational, animist self in me.  That furtive, creaturely, slightly feral consciousness that tries to paste on tinsel and bright artificial lights and pretend it's real.  But deeper down knows that our real selves are scared, small, and just one cold winter's night away from the edge of the cliff.  Not to be morbid or anything, but the thought of spending a night in a freaking BARN having a BABY, for goodness sake, spilling blood and amniotic fluid into dirty half-frozen straw, while piling next to stinky sweaty animals for dear warmth, kinda puts me more in touch with how Bitter the cold is, than with Macy's tinseltown parade.  Childbirth is not something I've forgotten yet.  It was scary enough without throwing in the homelessness and the blasted bitter cold. 

I have to admit I'm one of those annoyingly p.c. people who somewhere along the way started saying "happy holidays" instead of "merry christmas."  Actually I never thought of it as annoying or particularly p.c. until one of those new reverse p.c. virtual people ( you know, the ones that tell you how everyone else in your demographic thinks but you never actually meet a real person who thinks like that?), told me it was so.  Funny, though, in an effort to be inclusive and thoughtful, I seem to be guilty of somehow watering down what I believe.  Or so I'm told.  Oh well, I guess I better quit this line of thought before sarcasm sucks me in even deeper.

All that sparkles is not snark.  I know, I should be arrested for flagrant punning in a non-malaprop zone.  My punishment is to go read something uplifting and happy re-gifting.  

And if it still feels like none of what's going on in the world right now makes any sense at all - you're right!  But it's impossible to feel grateful and guilty at the same time (that's my blurb for the day, except it's true), or rather, humbled and bitter don't co-exist well.  So I'm trying to focus on the certainty that " . . . in Him there is no darkness at all" and that "He is faithful and just to forgive us  . . ." and of course that "whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine you did for me . . ." while reconciling it all with this faltering, fainting flesh of mine that is so painfully afraid of the cold.

If I despise anything at all it's the bone-shivering, utter black, miserable COLD of winter.  But lately the "hate" part of me seems to be a waste of energy when I have so little to spare.  Fitting it is, that becoming a less hating person is no act of virtue at all but a matter of just eventually running out of steam.

". . . became flesh and walked among us."  Would I follow Him into a homeless shelter tonight, or can I at least sit here and be genuinely grand-spankin' grateful for all that I have?  Okay, cheerio.  Good night.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Just made a strange connection about worldview and parenting.  I had a lovely conversation with my friend Becky (aka my "Autism/RDI guru") this weekend.  Becky goes to our church and homeschools 6 kids including 1 with autism.  She's really dedicated to Relationship Development Intervention and has often been my pep-squad and motivator when I'm on the (frequent) verge of giving up.  Becky reiterated the RDI mantra: remediating autism in our kids is "a marathon, not a sprint."  I kind of thought I understood that, but lately I'm learning about it at a new level . . .

When I see that Vasant still doesn't have the motor control at nearly 9 years old to brush his teeth, or that his 4 year old sister can easily ride her bike faster than him, I don't really wince anymore.  He'll get there, eventually.  What's sometimes harder is when I see him completely overwhelmed and unable to handle situations that even a toddler or 2 year old can easily negotiate, like how to join in a game of chase or peek-a-boo, that it tears my heart again.  Times like that, I'm still tempted to doubt that we've really made any progress at all in these last 4 years.  It doesn't always help that I (and to a certain degree, Chris) have been a non-conformist/very early adopter in our therapeutic choices.  The fact that we've often gone against the grain of current therapeutic advice in favor of what we believe are/were more promising and ethical alternatives has meant that we often haven't had anyone much (locally, at least) in front of us, as guides.

But that just makes it a greater opportunity to rely on God, to put trust in Him ahead of trust in man.  Too often my native cynicism about trusting humans bleeds into not trusting anyone, but that keeps changing too.  I think God's teaching me/us (slowwwllyyyy . . .) that He is trustworthy EVEN with Vasant's RDI program.  The challenge of trust always seems to be in the specifics for me.  It's easy to say yeah, I know God loves Vasant and will take care of him; it's harder in the crush of a typical day to know what I can do to make a positive difference without either burning out or overdoing it.

So anyway, I was thinking about this long process, and I got to comparing it to just normal parenting stuff, Suniti's adjustment to high school, Sanjay going through some pre-teen stuff, and it struck me again that all parents have to face the limits of their power every day.  And that the stuff you want for your kids often isn't going to materialize for 20, 30, even 50 years. 

And then it hit me - duh! - Christians get Eternity to work on/hope for this stuff . . . wow!  What a concept: it doesn't mean I failed if my kids (now whose are they really?) don't learn something I hope they'll learn while I'm alive to see it, or even while they're alive on this Earth.  Maybe God's eternal plan for them involves things that totally mitigate the hardships they'll face all their Earthly lives. . . Not that I shouldn't do whatever I can to help Vasant here and now, but maybe it will be okay even if I can't.

And then the last thing struck me. Maybe it's the lack of a hoped for Eternity that makes so many (non-believing) parents make what seems like such bizarre choices to me.  Of course, maybe I'm the weirdo and they're just doing what seems right, but maybe it's that fear of having to do everything now, in the next 5, 10 or whatever years, in this season of fleeting youth, that makes other parents so frantic about their kids.  Not that I'm not just a big scaredy cat too sometimes, but I know there's a wider horizon if I'd just admit it sometimes.  How scary, and what unbelievable pressure it must be, to try to raise kids in today's world without knowing there's a bigger back-up plan.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

some pomes (yes, that's how they're spelled) in progress


Did it hurt Adam to wake
     from that sleep?

From his body she was born;
   screaming into agony of birth -
flesh from her flesh torn.

Desire will heal the contagion

and she will die from this who was
too much loved.



         "Never will I forsake you; Never will I leave you."

he promised.
So why did the happy ending hurt so much?
Goodnight sweet prince
savior, Lord.

alone at the foot of the cross
blind hands and empty -
he's gone.

why then does she stay to live
when the sword has pierced her too?

she would have kissed those feet again
and again with her tears,
or wine to ease the pain
but he refused.

she would have followed him
though the others
turned away

so she stays
in the rough sand
scraping out the shape

of His name.

~ apologies to J. K. Rowling

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Apostasy, Autism, and why we bother to go on in the face of it all.

I'm tired of beating my head against this wall. I want something to change for Vasant and for all of us. It doesn't seem we've learned near enough. In my perfect world we'd be Way Better Parents than we are now, and Vasant would get unlimited time and attention, enthusiasm, patience, encouragement. Unconditional love.

He would thrive.

Instead,he has to endure unfair accusations, cynicism, grumpiness, whining, distractibility and defeatism from the very people who want nothing more than to be able to love him right, just the way he is. But there aren't any other parents here than us, so we have to keep acting like we believe things will get better again, and eventually they will.

Or not.

I think I have faced ugly reality enough - the bloody, self-loathing insomniac face of it - to
know that perhaps there's no Cure here. Autism is the permanent, uninvited guest in this house.
For a while I struggled with the question of neurodiversity - how much I was/am selfishly trying to "convert" someone who didn't want to be. Really though, the question was never so high-minded and ethical; it was just a carefully sheathed quest for the Power to Heal someone else. In my theology there's supposed to be someone else who does that job, but never mind. I wanted to make Vasant all better. I'm the mom, dammit, what else would I want? But now I've faced the limits of my own power (zero).

So what's left now?

What does it look like to accept neurodiversity; just what are we trying to accept here?
There's horrible, wretched, made-for-TV autism, and then there's the day-to-day, not so bad, almost cute autism, and I've seen them both in Vasant. I've seen the "tampered with" (judiciously therapied and remediating) Vasant. He is still CLEARLY on the spectrum; no one's gonna say we were guilty of selfishly taking away his autism. But that Vasant is also happy, funny, strange, angelic, amazing, connected, and alive. The Vasant we're seeing right now is mostly angry, scared, wildly dysregulated, violent, chronically struggling and overwhelmed.

He's suffering.

It sucks and I don't want it to be this way. I don't want us to be like this. Here's the take home lesson:

Autism + hopeful LOVING remediation = weird, delightful, heart-wrenching, occasionally pass for "normal" but never taken for granted (I wouldn't have it any other way - talk about Unconventional . . .)

Autism + anger/fearful control = exhaustion, misery, despair, lost and abandoned kids, weary confused parents pasting on the "life-*#%&-sucks-but-we're-too-proud-to-say-it" face.

Maybe I just needed to get back to appreciating what we have.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Dave's comments on Pastor Wright

In general I don't like talking about other people's opinions on in the news kind of stuff because the swarm of commentary still leaves me with that kinda queasy love-hate recovering politico yuckiness. But I think Pastor Dave's comments on Pastor Wright were dead on, especially his insistence that at core this is NOT about politics but about the Body of Christ.

Read them at Dave's blog "what I meant to say" here on Blogspot.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

slogans for the sick

Everything hurts.
Sounds, lights, people talking, thinking, moving, standing, turning, listening, it's all just pain.
A hot, soaky tub-bath is all that makes life bearable. Now one should ever have to leave tub-world.
TV hurts. Bad TV is pure torture.
"Lost" is okay though - Hurley is all the therapy you really need in life.
The Wildcats really need a winning streak into the tourney so I can have one stinkin' reason to get out of bed for the next miserable month.
Boo-hoo. Leave me alone, I'm sick.
Go away.

I've been sick the last several weeks and just now hopefully starting to let up. It began with a nasty sore throat and unrelenting hacking cough and mild fever back around Valentine's day. The fever and sore throat passed but the cough lingered for weeks, along with the fun, fun accompanying toss-and-turning sleepless nights on the futon in the office, trying not to keep the spouse awake. "The Cough" became one of our family's love languages, lots of rounds of serial coughing in stereo, everywhere you turn.

Then there were just a few days in early March when it seemed like the coug had decided to leave us and move on elsewhere. Oh, cruel illusion of health, that was merely an excuse to ignore the underlying tiredness, inertia, lethargy, and creeping Blah-ness all around. Or, I can be resisting, fighting and denying my own symptoms for only so long before they become "real" by manifesting in someone else. So, soon enough, the low ebb (the "chicken of despair?") was overfilled with other family members' more obvious yuckiness. Vasant came home vomiting last Saturday and spent the next several days completely wordless and motionless on the couch, under blankets with Sprite and NogginTV for company. Kavita joined him with fever and general misery (thankfully minus the tummy-sick) for the rest of the week. Then Sanjay got it for a couple of days and retreated to his bedroom lair, but was able to fight it off to go to a friend's party yesterday.

So I've had to succumb to it this week. Fever, aches and pains, nausea, incessant cough and sinus headache. Garden variety yuck. I went to the doctor, which I hate, and got an Rx for antibiotics. Then the snowstorm hit before we could get it filled (11" of snow - a record for us in March - really beautiful to look at but it was a level 3 emergency and even the malls and churches closed down Saturday) so I'm still making do on the otc stuff. The doctor said she's seen people down with this bug for as long as 2 months. Yay.

It was kind of peaceful on Saturday just to sit and watch the snow accumulate, and know we didn't have to rush out to "be somewhere" because everywhere was closed down too. Snow is really yummy, only closely followed by icicles. Have you ever eaten them directly off a beautiful, brittle-glazed tree? I had never done that - it's surprisingly more cool and refreshing than just drinking water or even crunching ice cubes from a regular freezer. That undefinable, stars-twinkling, winter night magic, I guess. Something you just can't capture with home electronics.

It's been a most unexpected coda to the winter we thought was edging out. So maybe I'll be not-sick next time I post. But one thing's changed for sure - I have had it with being super-efficient and functional. Efficiency is an annoying illusion - just what am I trying to be so darn effective at? The kids are as adequate as they need to be, my life may be lame and boring but no more so than anyone else's. So what's the point of working so hard fighting to change stuff that never changes, just to end up hiding on the couch whining? Insert saying of Solomon here:

"Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun."
(Ecclesiastes 2:11)

I love Ecclesiastes. Best thing in the world for one's moments, days, seasons of cynicism and despair. Or as one of friends says: I may not be very happy today but by gosh I'm going to enjoy the hell out of this depression. Despair is not = depression. Crucial point. I have suffered both in my years of crawling along planet earth, and depression is a positive walk in the park compared to despair. Despair as a momentary passing emotion, sure we can all live with, but as an end-state it's somewhere I don't ever want to go again. Depression, on the other hand, in its mild-to-middling range anyway, can be that comfortable old grey sweater you keep sliding into that everyone else thinks is dog-ugly and why do you keep it around, but you just feel so Yourself and comfortable almost in it. It's that slight wintry moroseness, the welcome sigh. . . of being able to accept finally your own anti-socialness. Just go away and let me suffer, people, I'd much rather be alone with my kleenex and herb tea than pretending to like listening to you all.

I can handle depression. It's old hat. Occaisonal life-hating bleariness, who doesn't enjoy that? Curmudgeonliness is one of the consolations of middle-age, is it not? Just a nice middle-class luxury we should all be lucky enough to indulge in from time to time, to sit around, sneer at the TV and kvetch, before we pull on our boots and go shovel the drive. It's only when the depression veers into true despair, when all hope is gone, when you know that your only chance for joy is over and done and the suicidal thoughts become a waking, constant obsession - your own little secret - that you've entered the isolation zone from which is no escape minus a miracle.

I'm not there.

So everyone just go away, I'm sick. Nyah, nyah.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

not ready for this

I think, finally at age 40, I'm getting some peace with the idea that life will never be easy, that I'll never feel like a grown up (straight from pediatric to geriatric with no pause for proper adulthood in between), and that uniqueness is neither blessing nor curse but just the condition of life.

It'll never be easy. Just how will it be not easy then? Not easy as in, full of challenges and opportunities and too much stress, too many responsibilities, not enough downtime and fun, not enough friendship love and dreams we dare? Well, not really that. Nothing as nameable, quantifiable, identifiable as that.

More, why why why? Not even why me (other than the usual stark staring amazement bordering on ridiculousness that I'm so blessed and lucky when so many others have such horrendous burdens to bear). If the unfairness of life (i.e. why do I get so many toys when others don't even get to eat today?) has always been a backwards glance into the abyss, then at least as a supposed follower of Jesus I might trust someone else to have the answer. Not that I have the answer, of course, or would ever even be capable of understanding it, but simply that I have no other choice than either insanity or trusting that the master has his reasons and that "there is no darkness in him."

But I won't let this devolve into a theological reminder because it's too easy to let that become an anesthetic. I'm not supposed to be completely comfortable with the level of suffering in the world, but I'm useless if I think of nothing else but that suffering. When I was younger I believed there was no other option but either continual torment or anesthesia. Anesthesia won, for a minute, then it too dissipated. When the 7 demons rushed in to take its place, they were of my own creation and no one else's fault, with not even the consolation of being able to kid myself I was someone who "cared too much." Right.

Sometimes it almost offends me how easy it is to step out of that vicious circle: awareness of suffering/injustice> pain > anesthesia/cynicism > anesthesia fails > awareness . . . It seems insultingly simple that the solution/escape is just to take action, do something to help alleviate suffering in some way, relieve another's pain and in that small moment be fully turned towards the light rather than the ever present darkness. "Small things done with great love will change the world" is true but I only half understood it. I always had to keep the illusion going that my little part was going to make "a big difference" because I couldn't bear to face how insubstantial it seemed in light of the world's huge problems. I couldn't face how tiny my part was because as long as I was trying to come up with the "great love" in and of myself I was doomed to disillusionment. I'm supposed to do the small things, which I sometimes get a little joy from, but the "great love" comes from the fisherman and it's pure volcanic grace for anyone in its path.

Finally, at this ridiculously late age, I'm beginning to see another side to the story. Before, I always mistrusted the ease of the action solution (not "easy" as long as I'm a foolish selfish mortal, but "simple") because at the back of my mind was always the "knowledge" that the darkness still remained essentially unchanged. My drop in the bucket, in the end, only momentarily relieved my own conscience but did little tangibly towards the lump sum of suffering in the world. Bucket-head that I am, it took this long to really get that my perception is faulty, that I've never understood the whole picture, and who the heck am I to think I have an "objective" assessment of the good/bad breakdown of the world? Who gave me the scales of justice, where light and darkness hang in the balance, that I could accurately assess whether or not there is any hope?

Someone had to remind me that truth/reality did not reside inside anjoo's head, at a moment (just a micro-nano-giga-second, really) that I was beaten down enough to lay down my existential arrogance. Many someone's had to remind me it was part of a larger plan, and that no, I really didn't need to see it and wouldn't even possibly understand it even if I could. But then they patted me reassuringly on the head and for once I was sheepish enough to be relieved at having the burden of figuring it all out lifted from me. And you know me folks - that's not a burden I give up lightly! And for that split-instant there was safety and certainty and light, and it was good. And whether or not I wanted to there was no going back because the adventure was on, but it's still never been easy. It's still a daily choice, and sometimes a terrifying one.

But maybe I just like it that way. Some of us maybe, you know, kinda feel more at home in the grey than in full light. And please don't go quoting John at me - yes I *know* that "if we walk in the light as He is in the light" etc. etc. But now I'm telling you that this is a place head-knowledge theology doesn't quite reach. Grace, and action, are all that work to wrench out the comfortable half-darkness and replace it with a purer light. The action of helping another and stepping out of myself; the miracle of grace that somehow things only ever makes sense when I stop looking at them head on. And maybe it's not so terrifying at all, but I don't think I could trust a god that is entirely mundane, "nice," and ultimately forgettable.

I need/want/hunger to be reminded that the master is Universe-shaking-Big, and yet full of grace; more splendid and unimaginable than anything I've ever met, yet a presence that is familiar with everything I've ever experienced; fully knowing, as yet unknown; that complete satisfaction of all my mystical "seeking," yet a profundity and depth of love as makes the very seeking seem childish and superficial. And the grace that loves me even though I am childish and superficial, because it's not even about ME and MY shortcomings at all really, is it?

Now, where was I going with all that . . ? Oh yeah, just coming back to some of the reasons I've finally, reluctantly, decided to give up my (false) modesty and take up the blog after all, after years of self-doubt. Always at the back of mind I've been chastised by the awareness of how annoying are the jabbering me me me voices of our self-obsessed culture (there, don't you love me when I'm pure misanthropy?), and embarrassed most of all to reveal that I'm one of them too. Yeah, I'm terrified of Myspace and all that because I might like it too much! There, I said it - I'm just as exhibitionist (or not) as every other blogger out there. I am one of you. I come in peace. . Like every other lonely small-w writer soul out there, afraid of revealing my own inner triviality carefully disguised as "depth."

And, perhaps to better purpose, always challenged by C.S. Lewis' reminder that the great work of the Christian artist is not to use individual identity as a way to draw attention to our limited little ego-selves, but to use our uniqueness to reveal yet one more facet of our creator's limitless beauty. Not to draw ostentatious attention to OUR SPECIAL CHAIR in the theater, but quietly to invite others to come sit in that chair so that they too could see the wonders we see from this angle/slant of the light, that they might enjoy his beauty even more.

I had it backwards. I thought I had to become unselfish or "good" enough to want to do something that I didn't really want to do, like a bitter medicine I was supposed to pretend to enjoy. I thought I had to give up my right to draw attention to me me me (which I really like to do, in case you hadn't noticed!), in order to write something theologically safe, sanitized, "glorifying," and ultimately completely false. I was afraid I would be unsatisfied, unconvinced and unconvincing. Now what kind of "testimony" would that be? I thought I would have to give up the good stuff, without anything really better in return. Sure, I understood intellectually that heaven/the kingdom of God/the new abundant life/Spirit-filledness/Jesus would be "even better by far" than the little goodies that really weren't that great any more anyway, but only intellectually. And too ashamed to admit I was struggling, I hid the struggle, walked away from my passions, denied myself the dream.

I never believed myself up to the task of creating art that was real and raw and personal and relevant and really could touch someone else, and still be whole-heartedly following Jesus. I always thought, I'm too selfish, too trivial, too jaded, too proud, I have nothing new to say. Poetry doesn't count, it doesn't feed any mouths, if I were a real writer I'd write fiction not poetry, not this hyper-personal rambling inner monologue (but really it was always a dialogue wasn't it? Because I was looking for YOU, wherever you are . . .), all the standard accusations and maybe even a few original ones too. Because of that doubt and fear, self-condemnation and generic misanthropy (fun when you're 20, soul-sucking decades later), I gave up writing, painting, listening to the ache of musical transcendence. I threw away my one-of-a-kind LP's or masochistically let the kids destroy them, gave away my punk rock uniform (the sleeves with Joe Strummer's autograph, man!).

I swore I would never write another poem, never get published again, never create another beauty-craving, insomniac, multi-media piece, if that was what was separating me from God. I was willing in that moment to let it go forever, cause I needed him so bad. If I thought at all, it was that it would be a forever trade-off. And now maybe the ground has shifted. Maybe God wants to give some of this dream back to me now, but it so scary when possibilities long dormant open up again. At this absurdly late age - I'm way too old to be a cool person anymore. Now it's only gonna be about the art and not a thing else, not just looking like a poet or living like one (self-destructing like one . . . tried that, highly over-rated).

Anyway, it's not really up to me, is it? If the character defects remain, even at this late date, 20 years after my alleged expiration, then it's not really my place to mess around obsessing about them. Just get on and do life, as messy as it is. The wonderful secret (really, it's such a delicious relief I could laugh) is that by age 40 you don't have to try to become less selfish and self-centered and become the kind of "good" person who really loves god more than themselves. If you live this long with even one brain cell left you've doubtless realized the limits of your own tired old story - we're just not ALL THAT entertaining, in the end. It's no major stretch now, having assessed the parameters of my own "fascinating" ego, to say that the master is way more beautiful, brilliant, limitless, fiery, passionate, pure, intoxicating, breath-taking and infinite than anything I could ever come up with. Why wouldn't I want to throw my lot in with him? It's not about being good, or giving up rock and roll and all that.

It's simply that he is so much better than all that. I don't have to "become a better person." I just have to keep looking at the most beautiful creature in the universe, and maybe sometimes some art will even happen, so someone else can sit in my little chair for a minute if they want to.

So here I go again.

I'll never be ready for this, but that's no reason not to try.