Thursday, November 18, 2010

Depression, Discovery, Delight

Last weekend, while sitting in an autism conference listening to the latest research connecting motor deficits to ASD, I felt fear, sadness, depression.  This is why I don't go to these things, I thought.  What is the point?  Can any of this help my son?

We have been friends since high school.  I was in her wedding, she was in mine, we went to the same college and grad. school.  Yet, there are stark differences in our lives and how we interact with the world on a day to day basis.  One significant difference is my being home and my children being home with me, so that when anyone calls me on the phone and I'm home, the conversation is speckled with "Yes? No today isn't a t.v. day" and "Could I have a minute? What do I have in my hand?"  My being less than present is very trying for my girlfriend.  I have made up that this is why she doesn't call very much.  I understand how she feels.  I decide to be irritated whenever Isaiah is less than fully present with me too.

I hear that humans tend to avoid pain and move towards pleasure. Some say we all just avoid pain.  I remember reading once that physical pain appears to be three times as painful as it is in reality.  One third of the pain comes from our past  memory of feeling something similar.  Another third comes from our anticipation of how painful the pain will be.  With pain three times magnified, avoidance seems like a good strategy.

Yet, like any compensatory strategy, there is a trade-off.  What do we lose by avoiding the discomfort we feel?  It's like the epidural during labor.  There is delicious release from the pain, but then someone has to tell you when to push to deliver your baby.  You feel nothing.  We anesthetize ourselves, so we can neither do desirable or undesirable feelings.  Well, this isn't really true.  We end up feeling mostly undesirable feelings, but we keep the avoidance dance in place so we avoid really magnifying those feelings and looking at them.  Sooner or later, they leak out or just erupt out.

So I hated autism conferences, couldn't read autism periodicals, watch documentaries about autism.  My friend feels thoroughly discombobulated when having a conversation with me while my kids are around, so doesn't call.  I feel unloved when Isaiah is being less than present while I'm talking so I don't talk.

As I sat in the conference, some newer thought patterns came to my rescue.  Why do I feel sad?  I won't go into the whole exploration (it's 12:33 am and I have a new early bedtime of 1:00 am) but I realized that I felt the information at the conference was inaccessible to me.  I couldn't make much of it useful for my son.  Not only couldn't I make it useful, but I couldn't right now afford to be a client of one of these amazing researchers and doctors.  That was my new discovery, and it came with relief.  Just beginning to wrap my hands around the issue was much more grounding that the tenuous tiptoeing I had been doing forever.   I noticed the disconnect between my beliefs about Jaedon being able to get what I would want for him, and my beliefs about Simonne and Zachary getting what I would want for them.  I took the opportunity to explore that for myself and adopt some of those beliefs for Jay.  I'll write about that in more detail another time.

The thing is, it had been at least 6 years since I was at an autism conference, mostly because it was uncomfortable.  I'm not thinking that I should have gone before this.  I just don't think I would have asked the questions to myself about my discomfort had I not gone.

Avoiding discomfort is avoiding the questions that the discomfort can help us ask, which can help us unearth the reason for the discomfort and not be uncomfortable anymore. In fact, having diffused the discomfort, we can move on to just plain happy!  So instead of avoiding pain, what about diving into pain, with the belief that there is happiness on the other side?  In fact, since there is happiness on the other side, the very decision to dive into the discomfort brings happiness.  Discomfort is my friend because of how I engage it to create answers for myself!

I hope you take a moment today to be curious about everything you feel, everything you respond to, everything you are thinking about avoiding.  That little twinge of discomfort, explored, could open doors to an amazing sense of contentment and delight.

P.S. Please frame these thoughts around things/issues you think may be getting in the way of your having an ecstatic life experience. I feel some discomfort about bungie jumping, but at this time, that isn't something that is getting in the way of where I want to go so I'm not exploring that right now.

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