I checked my alarm (my phone) and read a text from J. He was still at work, thanked me for my text. I had written about a podcast I thought he would like to hear when he arrived home. He had sent his message after midnight.
The thought that woke me and got me up: He’s killing himself to keep this thing afloat. He’s killing himself to maintain this impossible marriage, family, situation, while I moan.
It’s not right. My feelings are not lying to me, but my head is telling me all the wrong ways to look at my life. Last time I checked, I am the only one in charge of my thinking.
Last night, a received some unsolicited advice from a person I’ve never met — never seen his face, or a photograph — but is a writing “friend” of mine. I belong to an online writers group, and that’s where we “met.”
The advice came after I had responded to a question posed from this same member — what is your writing habit? Where, how many hours a week, etc. do any of us devote toward writing?
My answer prompted a response from him that he sent privately. He said he was concerned.
Let me stop there, because I am trying to illustrate how his response made me think differently this morning, rather than describing a bad internet moment. His advice, ( I should go back and find a quote from the letter) simply suggested I force myself to go on a walk everyday, allowing my mind (forcing my mind) to notice everything outside myself.
It took him three emails back to me to make me understand. That’s how deep is my well-dug trench.
He also gave me sound advice for writing. Promise myself 5 minutes if that’s all I’ve got. Promise myself what I can and will do, instead of huge unrealistic goals. As I consider this, this is exactly how I’ve finished most of my stuff. But I called it tricking myself into writing. In the past I would tell myself that I would write one sentence, or one paragraph and call it good. Invariably, I would always write more.
But his advice was for me to look outside myself. (Der…kind of embarrassing that I was not aware of what I’ve been doing, but now I do. : ) Train my brain to do it — yes. I must and will make an effort at this.
Something else I realized, the way I’ve thought about things for too long, my focus on loneliness and other self-destructive thoughts, has been with me since childhood. I recall specific moments that caused me to move further back, to withdraw and hide from people because it became safer to do so. It is self-fulfilling prophecy stuff. My thoughts are making it worse and I am helping no one.
I think too, about my son with autism. It has always been my feeling that his autism is a self-defense mechanism of a sort. His way of looking at the world is a much more acceptable place for him than the one he’s been born into. His reality, though, is real to him. Self-stimming, other spectrum caused “tics” are comforting to him, even if the rest of us cannot understand. Each day is an effort to help him expand, see and understand more. Often, he doesn’t want to try –even if it would help him. Skilled at hiding his thoughts, if things bother him it is not as noticeable (to outsiders) because he is not particularly verbal. But he dwells on things that bother him, sometimes for days, years even. I know because he’ll blurt out things from the past that were “bad” days to him. Days, for example, when I yelled at him, or his grandfather became angry, when he got in trouble for throwing a rock, or for yelling in class — and he equates it to a current “bad” moment that to the rest of us, has no correlation. We all do that, I suppose. But it looks more impossible when my son does it, because he cannot explain the thoughts he had in between.
When I consider what my friend ( the stranger) wrote, it reminded me of words that I would give to any of my children, but especially my autistic son to help them see the world beyond them, and yet let them know they are part of it: “Stay in the moment.” “Be with us.” “Let it go.” “Notice the world around you.” “Tell me what you did today.” “See the moon? The stars? Aren’t they beautiful?” “You are awesome.” “I love you. I would not change one thing about you.”
My friend said if you consider your whole life, 1% of it is bad, while 99% is good. Yet we dwell on the 1%. Too many days, I deliberately dwell on the minutia of a bad moment.
I see his point. Now to make life a practice. One step. Then one more and repeat.
For now (’cause I am not walking in the dark without a can of bear spray), I’ll notice what is around me.
In front of me, laying on my desk, is my cat Frodo, purring like a small engine, and ever so often he touches his paw to my fingers as I type. My two kids who are home with me sleep a few fit away, snuggled in sleeping bags. I can hear them breathe and sigh — the most beautiful sound in the world: One’s child sleeping and peaceful.
I can hear my dog behind me, patiently waiting for me to feed him. Frodo curls up now near my keyboard –working his cute factor to the -inth.
It is dark. I like the dark and the quiet. I hear the refrigerator, my dog’s collar as he shakes his head. I notice my toes are cold.
J sleeps far from here. He should be here. I miss him and I don’t. I think I will move along from that thought.
I trust that my oldest daughter, my youngest son, my oldest son and my husband, all, are safe where they are. I am grateful for that. Grateful. God bless our children, our family, us.
But I have work to do. 75 pages of a script to figure out and make notes on, then power through a rewrite based on the notes and have it done before the end of this weekend. ( So much for 5 minutes at a time. I gotta get through this.. Procrastination is such a deadly fail.)
That’s the plan. And if I fail? I promise to get back up and go at it again.
I promise, too, to squeeze in a walk today.
Many thanks to my faceless friend. Makes me ponder beautiful souls beyond…