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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Just Pretend I'm Dead

Just Pretend I'm dead.

It may be wrong. So many things I do as a mother are.  I'm doing the best I can with what I've got which frankly, isn't much. Sometimes, I feel like I'm pretty close to death.

Twenty-one years of parenting Mr. Oppositional Defiant Disorder (Yes. It is a thing and so far it hasn't gone away.) and I am spent.

"Help me! Help me! Help me!" 
"No! Not like that."
"You don't get it Mom!" 
"Yeah. I know but..." 

How about this instead -Help me, help you. Get out of your own way. I swear this boy would argue with a rock!

Just pretend I'm dead.

What a horrible thing for a mother to to say. It isn't the worst of what I've said or thought, by far. These boys bring out the Hollywood (my late father) in me. They make me curse.

I haven't said it ...out loud, but I think it everytime the phone rings with the next episode of "OMG my life is ending because I hurt my toe and I can't lift heavy weights now."

Just pretend I'm dead.

-Is how I want to respond every time they come to me with their latest life dilemma.

The group home drama.
The friend who is full of drama and always sucks you into it, as if you don't have enough of your own -drama.
The girlfriend (or lack thereof) drama.
The friend-zone drama. (This one is a BIG HIT this year!)
The friend who is using and taking advantage of you -drama. (Yes, parents. That kid in middle school who was pretending to be his friend, so that he could use him for something is still around. Only now, that they're adults and he wants to borrow one-hundred-fifty dollars, which your adult child can NOT afford to give. And the so-called friend has no intentions of EVER giving it back.)
"But why would he lie to me?" he says. 

I am seriously worn.out.

I try my best to deflect their situations back to them. After all, they don't really want my advice. They do however want to barrage me with each and every feeling and emotion that I can do absolutely nothing about, besides worry and absorb it into my own consciousness. Even the constant deflection and trying to use the right words, to not advise, but turn it back over to them, takes a ton of energy.

Just pretend I'm dead may be a bit much.

How about --How would you handle this situation if I were not around? Like if I ran away to France ...permanently?

I really do not have the brain cycles to deal with every single situation in life that comes your way.

My young friends, guess what? This is only the begginning of your lives! It's not the end. I hate to be the one to tell you that your life will be full of difficult situations and problems. Sooner or later, you learn to solve them yourself or ask someone to help you, other than YOUR MOTHER!

One would think, neither of them have any access to therapy. One of them is even in intensive (dialectical behavior therapy -DBT) on top of his regular therapy.

Don't take life so seriously. Put your problems on hold while you go out and have some fun! Relax! Take a deep breath. Come back to them the following day when your head is clear. Your problems ain't going nowhere! (Totally improper English, but truth.)

The most infuriating thing is, my 21 year-old NEVER listens to me before he creates the problem, because I can see them from a mile away. Yet, he wants me to bail him out of the mess he created.

Dude! It's not happening. This boy is going to have to learn everything in life the hard way. Like arguing with the doctor's medical advice.

Okay! Go head now. When you make your injury worse with your hard head, don't be pissed when he puts you in a cast instead of the removable boot, that you think is SO inconvenient! 

Okay ...Just pretend I'm dead is harsh.

How about  -The number you have reached is not in service at this time.

How long can one survive while being an extension of another human's brain, and in my case --four other people's.

The saddest thing is, they seem to have no concept of how taxing everything is for me. No one can see beyond their own needs. They can't see that I am responsible for more than just them and that maybe, just maybe I deserve to have a piece of life of my own.

Mood today...

Exhaustion
Resentment
Overwhelm
Trapped
On edge
Used
Abused
Done


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Summer Sadness

“Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any misery, any depression, since after all you don't know what work these conditions are doing inside you? Why do you want to persecute yourself with the question of where all this is coming from and where it is going? Since you know, after all, that you are in the midst of transitions and you wished for nothing so much as to change.” 
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

As summer creeps around the corner, my depression and anxiety rise alongside the temperature. The brighter the sun, it seems the darker thoughts.

I am tired.
I hate this heat. 
I have nothing left to give
and giving to these needy people is my fortune.
Where is the exit for this fucking roller coaster?
I'm done. 

Negative thoughts go on and on and on, including a few thoughts that feel true, but are probably grossly exaggerated. Depression makes everything feel bigger.

I look in my closet and suddenly I hate everything. I want to just throw it all away and start over.

Let's not even discuss bathing suits.

What's really sad is, you know that little "On This Day" history application on Facebook? I read mine every morning. I have been making the same complaints around this time year, for years! What is more pathetic than repeatedly having the same problem and not changing the situation?

Well, some things can't be changed. I can't just snap my fingers and sell these kids to the circus.

There are some things I just haven't figured out yet. How can I fix my own life, when I'm so busy holding everyone else's together with glue and paper clips?

Maybe this depression is a sign that I am so fed up, so sick and tired of my life that my body is literally screaming ...if you don't change this, you are going to die! 




So it turns out Summer Depression is really a thing.  I looked it up. If' you can Google it, it's real, right? 

According to Mayo Clinic.org Spring and summer SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) sometimes called summer depression. Symptoms may include:
  • Depression (well yeah. Check) 
  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia)  (who can sleep when your brain is busy problem-solving in the middle of the night? Check)  
  • Weight loss (I wish! This is a NO for me.) 
  • Poor appetite (Who feels like cooking in this heat? Food feels like  a necessary evil. I'd rather drink my dinner. Check) 
  • Agitation or anxiety (Ding, ding, ding! If somebody asks me one more stupid question ...I'm gonna scream or punch them in the face. Except that's illegal and I like my freedom. Check! ) 
That's a four out of five for me. Check, please.

I have been experiencing this summer sadness for years.
Summer means a disruption in our schedule.
There is a little more time to think and being inside my head too much is dangerous. 
I am spending more time with the boys than usual.
And of course, there is this ungodly Texas heat

My sadness is a real chemical change in my body. I can't just shake it off or talk myself out of it. I wish I could. I want to knock myself upside the head tell myself to snap out of it! I am blessed.
*Insert huge eye roll here.
My heart still feels heavy.

When you make yourself get up, take a shower to go out to dinner with your husband to a restaurant that is usually to die for, but you feel yourself holding back tears. Something is definitely wrong.

When the tears finally come flooding down just before the Banana's Foster, rich, buttery, most delicious cake I've ever tasted is served, a la mode, and I can't start eating until the ice cream nearly melts. I compose myself and begin to think, yeah, something is definitely wrong with you.

One would think that things would be a little different now with the boys being adults. It isn't. It's re-calibrated stress on a whole different level. It's a different set of complicated problems that have real-life, sometimes life-changing consequences.

I am driving them through their transitions. I'm still teaching them life management.

They need the help but, they are now young adults, who are really still oppositional children, so they fight me all the way and that's totally normal. The average young-adult doesn't want to be told anything by their parents.

The past two summers of transition have exacerbated their anxiety, depression, and anger. I'm talking traumatic behaviors that led to traumatic consequences.

I wrote about Red's most difficult summer two years ago (2015).

Last year, (2016) Blue had his own epic summer of madness

Henceforth, I may have a little PTSD from events in summers past.

This summer Blue's anxiety is still high --kind of close to what we experienced last year. Between leaving high school, registering for college and social situations with friends, explosions have become a norm, not an exception. Self-loathing, low-self-esteem, cognitive distortions and catastrophic thinking play a major role in his thought process.

Somehow I end up getting sucked into everything that goes wrong. Because everything that has ever gone wrong in the history of his time on this earth has somehow always been --my fault.

This leaves me with the question, how am I supposed to support him when my own depression and anxiety is not in control?

Every time he comes to me with an issue and he starts spinning up, it spins me up, but I'm the mom. Years of training and practice in dealing with autism has taught me to remain calm when he is not. But the truth is I'm not feeling calm. I'm only acting calm. I'm stuffing down my emotions, which leaves me feeling like I'm going to implode. I know that if I keep doing this, I'm going to end up with a freakin heart attack. So sooner than later, something's gotta give. I've only been saying that for years.

I crave the sun when I'm feeling down, but the sun in Texas is so intense the heat during the summer is literally unbearable

Summers leave me longing for home (Los Angeles) and the beach. I spent most of my life within a twenty-minute drive to the Pacific Ocean. I don't think I ever realized just how much it meant to me until I moved away from it. Here we are twenty-years later wondering what in the hell I was thinking moving to Central Texas.

Last summer I was lucky enough to get to step my body into the most wonderful ocean I've ever experienced --the Mediterranean on the French Riviera. France was the trip of a lifetime. However, shortly after I returned home, Blue completely unraveled.

So this year, seeing him start off the summer in the same pattern has made me too anxious about making any extensive travel plans. So far ...there are none, which is adding anxiety on top of anxiety and depression because it feels like there is no escape.

Thankfully, I do have the benefit of therapy to help get me through this. I will survive this summer as I have all of the ones before.

I'm sure that will learn plenty about myself in the process. After all, it is in the darkness that we must go looking for the light.

Experiencing these feelings is making me dig deep into my psyche to figure out where all of these emotions are coming from. What do I love about my life and what do I need to change?

Everything happens for a reason. I am a writer and this pain definitely gives me stories to tell.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sometimes You Cry

When you're caught in the crossfire of his despair...
Sometimes you cry. 
When you get beaten down verbally because he doesn't know what else to do with his pain...
Sometimes you cry. 
When you're walking uphill all day long and you're still in the same place you started...
Sometimes you cry.
When you feel lost in a familiar place...
Sometimes you cry. 
When it seems like you just can't do enough, but you're giving your all...
Sometimes you cry
When you want to see a smile and all you see is sadness...
Sometimes you cry. 
In moments when you should be happy ...
sometimes you cry.
When you want to run, but you can't hide...
Sometimes you cry.
When it seems like there are no answers, only more questions
Sometimes you cry.
When the people who are supposed to help are making matters worse...
Sometimes you cry.

And then you wake up in the morning and try again.
And then you kick some ass.
And then ...you laugh because you have no more tears.
And then you see progress...
And you cry tears of pride and joy. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Wonder Woman

We are lying in bed on Tuesday morning.
Me -"What would you like to do for your birthday?"
Hubby -"I want to see "Wonder Woman,"
Me -"You're looking at her. Lucky you, you're married to her."

A quick, witty response is my automatic mode of communication. I get it from my daddy, Ward Hollywood  Wesley. In our house, it is referred to as Wesley humor and it is not meant as a compliment. Personally, I think it's so much better than biting someone's head off, although, I am known to do that too on occasion. Luckily for my family, I chose humor more often than I choose violence and yet, they still don't appreciate it.

I referred to myself as Wonder Woman in jest. It just kind of danced out of my mouth as the perfect response.

I've had friends and people who read this blog who actually see me as this superhero kind of mom.

"You are such an awesome mom. I admire your strength," they say.
I'm all like, Who are they talking about? 

I feel like a fake and a fraud --so weak and beaten down --like I'm barely holding on. Most days I'm inches from running away and changing my name because I just can't do this anymore.  And yet somehow, I'm still here trying to survive each day.

We were supposed to see "Wonder Woman" over the weekend. We didn't make it because Saturday morning I got one of those phone calls.  You know one of those heart-stopping, double palpitation -calls, where the world is turned upside down in a moment's time.

Even when things seem to be moving along --progress being made every single day.  You can still get one of those calls. As a mother of African-American sons who have autism and mood dysregulation, which clouds their thinking and judgment at times, I am always just a little on edge, waiting for that shoe to drop.

My boys live in a mostly white, somewhat alien world filled with all kinds of landmines that can easily make their path more dangerous. I never know when everything could suddenly go wrong. Have you seen the news lately? Are you aware of how high racial tensions are in the United States of America right now? And we live in Texas...very white, primarily Republican, Texas.

Things go wrong every day. So many small things that happen become heightened by their anxiety. They worry constantly. They worry me constantly. Stress on high is the norm around here. Their anxiety is my anxiety.

After this particular call, I jump into action, sewing open wounds, putting on anesthetic and Band-Aids to stop the bleeding.  I jump to help minimize and problem solve however temporarily, until the next time they fall...backward, onto a bed of nails.

The boys are adults now.  Means nothing --besides parenting harder because they think they know everything, but they are so clueless when it comes to many things. There are still so many intricacies, nuances, and things about this adult world that they have yet to learn.

Yet, the world sees them as adults who must play by the same rules that everyone else does, even though their autism is an obstacle that makes the road more difficult to navigate.

We are parents who live by example.  We consider ourselves to be upstanding citizens of our community. We've been married twenty-three years. We are hanging in there ...together...by a string.  Dad is working incredibly hard to provide. I put every ounce of my energy into advocating for them and making sure their needs are met, giving up all kinds of pieces of myself in the process. We give them every ounce of support and opportunity that we can muster to give and still ...they fall.

And when they fall ...it still knocks the wind out of me. Yet, there is no time for attending to my own wounds or catching my breath.  I immediately move into action --problem-solving, advocating, teaching the additional lesson we've been dealt for the moment.

After the marathon of action to stop the bleeding, there was no energy for going to see a movie. Instead, I tried to catch my own breath from the gut punch that had been thrown. Dad can compartmentalize this stuff much better than I can. I sit in a stupor for a few days wondering what the hell just happened and what the hell is going to happen next? Will I ever be able to just fucking exhale and live like a normal human being?

But on this Tuesday, it is my husband's birthday. I have to pull it together. I have to put away the mom-to-the- rescue-advocate face and put on the loving wife face. The husband has been neglected over the past months of exacerbated stress with the one who just about killed me getting through his senior year.  If I don't water the garden,  our marriage, the relationship dies. It has been on life support for weeks now.

So, I go with him to see "Wonder Woman" for his birthday. I am not feeling witty or the least bit excited by the action of the film. I can't focus. Everything that happens in the movie somehow reminds me of the fight that I've been fighting for so many years. I am exhausted.

My mind drifts. In one scene, Wonder Woman takes a lick from an ice-cream cone for the first time and I think of my boy --the first time I watched the joy on his face as he licked an ice cream cone. I miss those days of innocence. I ache for them.

I wonder if I will ever be able to truly relax again in this lifetime?

How many more lessons of life do we have to support these boys through? Right now, the list feels infinite.

I made it through the movie and dinner.  Afterwards we walk the promenade of a popular dining and shopping area. The summer wind is blowing in the breeze from the south.

In this moment, I am grateful that I have this man by my side.  Thanks to him and champagne cocktails, I exhale.




Thursday, May 25, 2017

Hotel Room, Alone


Hotel Room Alone
Really I don’t need to say anymore. 
That's it.
End of blog.

Every mother I know thinks about this on a regular basis. 
We dream of the tranquility it would bring.
What would it be like to have total peace and quiet for 24 hours? 
How awesome would it be to be able to go to the bathroom with no one yelling through,  sniffing underneath or banging on the door? 
Wouldn’t it be phenomenal not to have anyone asking you to do anything for just one day? 

"Mom where is my …blah blah blah?"  
"Mom! Can you help me yadda, yadda, yadda? "
Mom who? 
My name is not mom.
I can’t remember exactly what my name is, but it’s definitely not Mom for the next 24 hours.

Wouldn’t it be incredible to sleep in complete quiet, not listening to anyone else snore, with no preordained wake-up time?
When you decide to get up, you could go down to the lobby, braless (maybe that's just me) and people watch. Maybe you could find a quiet, sunny spot on the patio, the terrace or by the pool and have coffee …alone.

Conversation? Who needs it? I’ve had plenty of coffee conversations in my life. I've had more conversations than I ever wanted to have. Talking is overrated --played out. 

Sure, you could just have a pot of coffee delivered to your room…you know, where it’s quiet. 
I know they usually have a coffeemaker in the room, but who wants to pour the water and make the coffee? I do that every day. I want to do NOTHING that requires labor. Besides, I want fresh cream. Yes. I'm spoiled. 

Just think...  
What would it be like to only think about myself and what I want? 
What would it be like to NOT be in a hurry? 
What would it be like not to worry about a got-damned thing for a day?

Hey! I’m not disappointing anyone! This is cool. It feels great! 
No one is looking for me. Weird...but good. 
It’s like I’ve disappeared off the face of the earth. How awesome is that? 
Don't you want to just disappear sometimes?  

What would it be like to have my own agenda? 
My.Agenda.Only.  
Or no agenda at all, if I that's what I choose. 

Every since I had kids and moved to hot-ass freaking Texas, I’ve had this fantasy of going back to California (No -I can’t tell you why I ever left) and renting a beach house or an apartment, okay, maybe just a hotel room with an ocean view and a patio or a porch where I could just sit just and listen to the sound of the waves...alone.
Did I say, alone? You did get that part, right? 

It doesn't have to be California. The beaches are mostly cold there. Beautiful, but cold. It could be Florida. I owe some friends in Miami a visit (Elena and Caryn).
Better yet, while I'm dreaming, it could be South France.  But then it would have to be more than a day. It would absolutely have to be for at least a month.
Alone, for a month?
Could I do it?
Hell yeah! I could totally do it.
It's amazing how motherhood changes you. 

So a few weeks ago, I went home to Los Angeles for my brother’s memorial service.  (He passed last November.  That's a whole other story, which I won't get into now.) I was tired. I had no energy for running all over town like I usually do when I'm in the city where I grew up. I wanted to spend time and support my siblings during this difficult time. I just wished I could have done it without actually having to talk to anyone for any extended period of time. Yes. I was that kind of tired. 

I wanted to see my friends, but I also desperately needed some rest --a short sabbatical from life, worries, caregiving, and taking care of everyone except for me. I needed a break from All of the Thoughts. I felt emotionally drained from literally taking on all of the feelings and emotions of those in my care. My empathy meter is way out of whack.  It has been for a long time. 

When I go home, I am usually in constant motion. I end up spending a lot of time driving from my one brother’s house in Los Alamitos to my siblings in Los Angeles. I usually go to see my friends in the San Fernando Valley, the hood where I spent my young adult days living and hanging out.  I travel up and down the 405 Freeway (which is code for you will spend at least 4 or 5 hours every time I go to L.A.)

This time, after two nights at my brother's lovely home in Los Alamitos, I talked my husband into reserving a room for me at the airport Hilton, a party of one, for not one but two nights. I wanted to be in the middle to reduce my driving. It was a self-care boundary that I set for myself. My therapist is slowly teaching me how to do this after years of NOT having boundaries. 

You see, my husband travels often for work. I consider his business travel to be a luxury.  (He would disagree, but who cares?)

He gets to leave home once or twice a month and check into a quiet hotel room, alone.  There is a door that shuts and locks with a “do not disturb” sign if he chooses to use it.  Late at night, children do not interrupt him with questions. He doesn’t have to stop listening to his music to break up a fight or to prevent a meltdown.  There are no phone calls from school telling him, “Hey! Your kid is losing it. Can you come pick him up?” There are no therapy appointments to attend.

Sure he’s "working," but he is also having fancy dinners that the company pays for. He is having said dinners with adults, who are not picking at or complaining about their food or the choice of restaurant.

On some trips, his company even rewards their sales people with private concerts with the likes of Bruno Mars, Bon Jovi, and well... (I won't go on. It's not like I'm envious or anything.)

He is "working" while I’m at home taking care of the details of our life —holding it down, keeping the peace, keeping our children and hope, alive.    

Over the course of our 23-year marriage, my husband has seen the world thanks to business travel. He has been all over Europe, including Spain, Germany, Hungary, and France. He has been to Australia, China and countless cities within the United States.  (Again, absolutely.No.Envy.Here.Nada!)  

Now, I admit that I have periodically benefited from his business travel. With the points that he earns, we have been able to take some vacations.  We've had upgraded seats. His travel points paid for our stay in Rome several years ago.

At least once every couple of months, we do a staycation right here in town to get away from the kids and take a break from taking care of my mom.  Taking time away as a couple has been the saving grace for our marriage. It helps us remember that we do actually like one another. Sometimes, there’s even a serious love affair between us. Sometimes.

Couple time is great, but sometimes a girl just needs to be alone. Quiet —still, as in not thinking about other people’s stuff.

In the quiet hotel room, I had the time to think about MY life —my wants and needs. Time alone is essential to my sanity.  It's not selfish. It's self-care. I do not apologize for needing it and neither should you.

The stay in the hotel was the highlight of my trip. It was nothing fancy, just small, quiet and just for me. For two days I had no deadlines. There was no one looking for me and questioning my whereabouts. There was no place I HAD to be, only places I wanted to be.  There was no one I had to please —no one to compromise with. It was heaven.

Leisurely dessert and coffee in Manhattan Beach
I got to see my girlfriends from the valley, but I didn’t get on that freakin’ 405! (That was a self-care boundary I set for myself.)  I had traveled from Texas. They came to meet me within a few minutes of my hotel. We dined, had cocktails and dessert together at our leisure. There was no one hunting me down or asking me what time I would be home. I loved feeling free, just kind of floating in the wind. When I did come back to my room, it was so lovely and quiet.

I could drink these all day!
Two nights in a quiet, hotel room, alone and it was incredible. 
Turns out that silence really is golden. I can’t wait to do it again. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

All of the thoughts...

So many thoughts in a given day.  So many feelings of complete overwhelm. I haven't written about my mother's troubles in great detail, but they feel huge and weighty. Perpetually occupying space in my already overcrowded head.

I can't see her without thinking all of the thoughts and feeling the sadness over this space that we're in. You know that when you're taking care of a parent, sooner or later you will be dealing with health issues, and ultimately you will have to face their mortality.  You hope that it will be short and painless, but that would be impossible. There is no such thing. You hope that you will be prepared for whatever comes. I was not prepared for this. 

She is not near death but her issues are not easily "fixed" if fixable at all. And yet, I constantly think about what I can do to help her. What will make things better? I just want to see her happy and enjoying this time in her life.

I was writing while sitting in the airport. When I got on the flight, I noticed that somehow I hit publish instead of hitting save and 71 of you have already read my incomplete thoughts so...I guess I should finish this post.

I can never make a reservation without hesitation.  Thoughts about all of the things and all of the people and details must be considered before I take off. Even this time as I head to Los Angeles for the memorial service of my brother who passed earlier this year, I have to consider my mother.

This time, it wasn't so much about my kids (who are not really kids anymore). It was more about my mom. I didn't want to leave her at home. I didn't want to take her with me. Maybe I'm lazy or maybe I'm just tired of constantly having to consider others before I go to the toilet, much less anywhere else. I didn't want to have to consider her every time I move from place to place in L.A.

Will she be okay? Will she comfortable? Will she be upset because I went here or there?

As it is at home every time I move, she is watching.  She's asking, "Where are you going? When are coming back? Why are you going upstairs?  You're going to bed now? Why can't you wait?"

I've never been a loner, but my God! My family has turned me into one.

I went ahead and purchased the ticket because of course, I should go support my other siblings as we lay my brother to rest. I'm just so peopled out right now. And as much as I want to see everyone, I also would really like some time to be completely alone and not worry about anything or anyone. 

It's weird to be going home not excited. I really don't feel like peopling.

Parenting and caregiving has turned me into someone I hardly know. I'm sure I'll get my groove when I get there.

Hopefully, I can spend some time with my feet in the ocean ...just being.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Girls, Girls, effing Girls!

Young love. Isn't it everything? I certainly thought it was when I was a teenager and a young adult. Now that I'm a mother, not so much. It's murder watching my kids go through heartbreak.  Which is why I would basically like to forbid both of them from ever looking at females until they are emotionally ready to handle all of the feelings that come along with them. 

Girls, girls, effing girls! These situations make me want to scream! 

When they ask for guidance about their relationships, I feel my veins tighten, my stress level elevating. I feel like it's all a big setup --a trap so that when it all goes wrong, it will be my all my fault! Because everything that ever goes wrong in their lives is my fault. 

I was a hopeless romantic as a teenager.
There was no instruction, other than romance movies which are so authentic, right?
I was totally Sandy from "Grease." Hopelessly Devoted. 
I had no idea what I was doing.
I only thought about how good it felt when I thought I was in love.
I didn't analyze the meaning of love or calculate the probability of heartbreak.
I only thought about how handsome, sweet and popular my fellow was.
I didn't completely fall apart every time a relationship ended to the point where I couldn't sleep or handle the rest of my life. 

Young, immature and lacking confidence in myself, having a boyfriend gave me a sense of validation. I didn't see myself as attractive. I lacked confidence from all of the teasing in middle school about my rather large nose. I didn't have long pretty hair. I had dark skin. I thought I was average at best.

Looking back now,  I was cute as a button with a slammin body! I would give back my children to have that body again.
Hawaiian Day, Circa 1983

Now, I'm a mom of three young men. Two of my sons have autism. They are twenty-one and eighteen.

Some people think that autism means they may not want a relationship. Maybe they're  loaners --socially reclusive. Maybe they don't want to be intimately social.  Nothing could be further from the truth. My boys crave social relationships.  The lack the ability to read people just makes them more difficult.

They want affection like every other hormonally charged teenage boy. Ultimately, they want what they've been fighting for their entire lives --to be accepted for who they are. They are just not clear about all of the interpersonal dynamics of relationships, especially with females. 

I get these dating questions...

"Exactly how many dates should I go on before I ask a girl to be my girlfriend?"

"Well, first of all, you don't ask every girl you think is pretty to be your girlfriend. It's not like middle school. You take the time to get to know her, become friends and then decide how you feel and if you have things in common.  Now that you're older, relationships become more intimate, so you really have to get to know one another first."

"So exactly how many dates is that? Two? Five? Ten?"  *Insert eye roll here. 

I have discussed this subject with other moms in one of my online support groups. We have to remind our young men on the spectrum that a girlfriend is not a prize. A girlfriend is not a status to achieve. Each individual comes with their own thoughts and feelings, and they may not be the same as yours. You have to listen to them and not just talk. You have to get to know their wants and needs and consider their feelings, not just your own.  These things just don't come to our boys naturally. 

Sometimes, I am asked blunt questions about sex...things that I would NEVER have considered asking my parents.

"The more attractive the girl,  the sex feels better, right?"
"I have to keep in shape and have a perfect body so I can have better sex."
OMG seriously dude?  

Me -"Umm...not really. There are a lot of factors that play into what makes sex feel good. How you look has very little to do with the actual feeling. Connection with the person you're with is a huge part of it."

He just looks at me like I have three eyeballs. I think he imagines that sex is just like it looks in Hollywood movies.  The girl is always totally hot! And the guy has six pack abs. 

No. My dear.  Even old, fat people like me and your dad still enjoy sex! 

My eighteen-year-old is an old soul. In the past year, one might say that he is intensely interested in love. He has studied it ...like it's a science.  He reads articles about it. He researches the history of it. His thinking about it also seems to be very intellectual, black and white, and quite frankly, pretty idealistic.

So in real life, when gray happens, it totally knocks him out of the water.

There was a girl.  They had so many things in common. She seemed like she genuinely cared about him as a person. They were developing a lovely friendship. When he decided to express his true feelings, she practically disappeared off the face of the earth. The semester ended. Summer came, and he did not hear one single word from her.

He was left laying in the middle of the road after being hit by that truck. It seemed like it came out of nowhere.

That was last summer. And OMG! It was the most miserable summer of our lives! And we've had some pretty miserable summers. His misery was the shock and intense emotion of loneliness and heartbreak. Mine was taking the shrapnel from the bomb(s) that went off every time he melted down over anything and everything. 

I saw the signs before it happened. Of course, it wasn't my place to say anything. He would have chopped my head off if I did.

The signs were subtle. He was always the person reaching out, going out of his way to do things to make her happy. I never saw her reaching back. She was always "so busy."  Someone new to the game of teenage dating and having autism, he missed the signs.

Many with autism have difficulty reading the emotions and social cues from others. So the learning curve in their relationships will ultimately be higher.  Autism can be like wearing a mask which makes the signs that someone doesn't feel the same way you do, easy to miss.

What you see is what you get from most people with autism. My boys expect people to say what they actually mean because they mean what they say.  If a person with autism says he's your friend, he really is your friend. At least that's what I find to be true with both of my sons. They will be there for you for life if you'll let them. They are loyal and authentic. They don't play games. They don't really know how. So when other people are not honest, or they suddenly change their minds, it's extremely confusing.

Most people with autism feel emotions intensely. It's the way their brain works. In my boys, their emotions seem to make feelings appear bigger. Every hurt and disappointment can feel like the end of the world.  This is especially so with a feeling they've never felt before or when something happens that they were not expecting.

What are you supposed to do with all of those feelings when you thought you finally found the person you always wanted, and it turns out they just don't feel the way you expected they would? It can feel pretty overwhelming for the average person. Autism magnifies everything. 

Love is a rainbow. Love is fluid.  It's ever changing. It can be evasive.  It can be pervasive. It is so many got damned things, it will make your head spin. It makes it pretty difficult to handle for someone who thinks in formulas. If you add two and two you are supposed to get four, not negative four. 

For those of us who have experienced love in various degrees, we know that it can be the best thing ever. Then when it's over it can knock you out. I'm talking... laying on your back, up under the covers for days wondering if you will ever feel anything good again. Seriously like... will you be able to stand and take another step, or will you just lay there and die? 

Experience tells us that eventually, you do get back up. You do rise again. You walk and then you run. Ultimately, love finds you again. Sometimes it's even better than before.  Sometimes it's just an experience that makes up a part of who you are.

There is no "sure thing." So if you're a person who likes to know what to expect, when it comes to human relationships, there is no standard expectation. Let's face it, most teenagers are flakey. They don't know what they want. So when they find themselves in a situation with a person who has such intense emotion, it probably freaks them out a little.

Blue has told me, how hard the open-ended part of relationships is for him. His anxiety really would like some guarantees, some assurances that it will all work out. Love is a world in which there are no guarantees. 

The longer we live this life, we start to see that for every closed door, there is a new one that opens that could have a new wonderful prize behind it. I tell my boys, every relationship teaches us something about ourselves that we didn't know before, and that's okay.  In fact, it really is a good thing.

The person who acted like they cared and then stopped reaching out. The next time that happens....ding, ding, ding, ding!  Hopefully, an alert will go off. Something ain't right here.

So many nuances of life unfortunately only come with experience and usually with some degree of pain.  When you're young, and you have autism, these subtleties can slip right by you. You may not see them until it's too late. 

At twenty-one, Kendal still thinks, you see a girl, you think she's cute, you ask her to be your girlfriend. Then, you expect her to behave in the exact same way that your last girlfriend did.

What? You mean they're two different people? Aren't all girls basically the same? How exactly am I supposed to figure that out?

We find out these things from experience. When you have autism and you have a vision of the way things are going to go and then they don't... it can cause real fireworks. It can set off a shockwave of emotion and sometimes anger. Add together immaturity and autism, you simply do not have the tools to handle all of the intense feelings.

Okay, so I'm the mom. I am their person.
Got damn! How I wish sometimes, I wasn't their person.

Because they are transitioning into adulthood, I try to step back from being their person.
I try to run away from being their person, but sooner or later, they always find me. And when they do, they shoot me with bullets of emotion, and feelings, and questions about how all of this is relationship stuff is supposed to work.

I can run, but I can't hide.

What they really want is a sounding board. They want someone to process their feelings with. Yes. They both have therapists, but I'm the in-home, on-call, 24/7, therapist.  They both need something more like a therapy school, like 5 days a week,  several hours a day, at least. Come to think of it, I do too.

Sometimes they will talk to their dad. Kendal actually listens to his father better than he listens to me, but he will NEVER go to dad first. Dad's reality check is the last resort. Blue and his father are so much alike, they can barely have a conversation most of the time. They are both so rigid in their thinking. They end up setting each other off.  Apple meet tree. 

Occasionally they will use other resources, their relatives, mentors, and friends. Eventually, through enough experiences, they will learn. Lucky me. I get a front row seat to it all. It's an entertaining show, in a horror movie kind of way.

Hopefully, I won't die of stress before they meet the right girl. I pray that someday they will find someone to take them off of my hands. Oops. I mean, I'm praying that they will both find the right person who loves and accepts them for exactly who they are, unconditionally.

Seriously God. I've done my time.

Give a sistah a break will ya?

The good old days, before girl questions.