Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sanctuaries

"Go to your happy place." Close your eyes, take a deep breath, relax your muscles. Forget about work, let your mind stop running. Feel the tension release from your fingertips. Your toes. Be still, breathe, and think of this glorious place you'd like to be. The beach. The mountains. A river. Feel that place. Smell that place.
We all have a place. A happy place that we'd love to escape to more often than we do. Our son Rye, with his Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis, has his happy place too. It's called Star Wars. Parts I thru IV, or the LEGO Wii game, or the action figures, or the coloring books, or the encyclopedia of characters, or mostly, his storm trooper suit that he loves to wear and hide behind. It's a place that he "gets", where his imagination is free and his ideas are not wrong. When he's working on his math homework, there's right, and there's wrong. More often than not, his answers are wrong. Why wouldn't he then love to escape to a place where he can't be wrong? Nobody likes to be wrong. And when we go to our happy place, we're rarely wrong there. How can you be "wrong" at the beach? How can you be wrong when you're standing on a mountain top at 14,000 feet?
But then there's reality and we know we can't go to the beach, the mountains, that bench in the sun, or that cabin as frequently as we'd like. As Rye develops, we present him with reality at many turns in his day. Getting up, eating breakfast, walking to the bus, going to school, doing math, reading, going to this therapy and that, doing homework… and at the end of the day, if he's done (most of…) what we've asked, and he's tried really hard and he's earned it, he gets to go to his happy place for a little bit before he has to…. pick up his room, hang up his coat, put his shoes away, brush his teeth, take a bath, put his pajamas on…
Everyone needs a sanctuary. And it's important that we all get to go there, if not for a small percentage of our day. Just as important as all of our obligations, is our opportunity to recover from them. For Tara and me, we feel like a balance is necessary and we've been down the road of overload, and it doesn't work. In fact, it does more harm than good. If we're taking two steps forward and one step back, then we're better off than the reverse of that. Ultimately, our goal is for Rye's sanctuary to be less of his focal point, and more of a treat when he can get it. But we're a long way from that and we'll never get there without giving him incentives to tolerate reality. Sound familiar?

1 comment:

  1. I love "incentives to tolerate reality". Such a great phrase that can apply to so many things in life.

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