I decided last night to sit by our Christmas tree and do a little reading by the soft glow of the lights and a table lamp nearby. The tree will be down soon, although I’m resisting that notion. The rush before Christmas and the craziness during Christmas doesn’t afford many opportunities to just sit quietly by the tree, relishing its beauty and enjoying its warmth. Now the seasonal rush is over and I’m not wanting to part with my tree. But I must. It’s a new year…..a new season…..and normal life returns.
The book I was reading is authored by Richard Swenson, MD. The title is Contentment: The Secret to a Lasting Calm. This title makes me smile as I think of our life with Aaron, which is rarely calm. God has much to teach me and I wonder if I will ever learn. I recently read Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, which stresses the importance of gratefulness. Swenson’s book is similar, but develops the issue of being content despite our surroundings. Here is a quote I read last night:
“The best kind of contentment, the truest kind, is a state of feeling unencumbered. It is a state of absence of fear or anxiety about what we own or don’t own. It is about freedom from comparison, regardless of what our neighbor has. It is about lack of pretense, so devastating to authenticity and so tedious to maintain. And the best kind of contentment, the very best, is divorced from circumstances.”
My circumstances so often dictate my mood, and there in the bullseye of my life…..my circumstances…..stands Aaron. We love Aaron. We have chosen to keep Aaron at home at this season of his life. Yet living with Aaron is like riding a roller coaster as we experience the highs and lows of his health and behavior issues. This holiday of Christmas highlights all of Aaron’s needs and emotions like no other. He’s excited, happy, overwhelmed, stressed, and frustrated….just like the rest of us. But he certainly doesn’t contain or handle those emotions, most of the time, in ways that are acceptable.
Aaron is like our gifts under the tree, all different shapes and sizes and wrapped in various colors and designs of paper. We have the giving side of Aaron that makes us proud, but can also cause some trouble. The Friday before Christmas, Aaron and I went back to see his six friends at their residential home. We took pizza again, and also took them some Christmas gifts. Aaron was so happy to do this, as he loves to give. He helped me put the gifts in bags the night before, turning up his nose in disgust at the yucky lip gloss and body wash. We laughed and had a great time, as we also did when we visited the girls and gave them their gifts.
Aaron also gives money away at his day group, which is not allowed. It’s a nice gesture from Aaron, but it isn’t what he is supposed to do. It gets out of hand. I sometimes let him take some gum that he can give away, or cookies, but giving others his money is something that Aaron has always wanted to do, even as a little boy. We dealt with that issue cropping up again over Christmas as well.
We have Aaron’s health issues to always monitor as we listen for seizures during the night or when he naps. Thankfully, he didn’t have any seizures that we know of during Christmas. But he broke out in some ugly bumps, so on the Monday before Christmas I took him to the doctor. Gary was off that day, and we were going to take Andrea and her boyfriend Kyle to lunch and a movie. We were looking forward to that so much, but instead I found myself seeing to Aaron’s needs once again. And once again I had a choice to make concerning that persistent issue of contentment, despite my circumstances. Sure enough, Aaron had a staph infection and so I was glad I had taken him in, but still disappointed about our change of plans.
Aaron’s behaviors come in assorted shapes and sizes, and can change quickly. Life is pretty stable with Aaron at home on a normal day, but when he goes to his day group he becomes loud and full of behaviors. The same is true at home over Christmas, with all the change in his routine and the house full of people. Aaron has to share his time with others and his structured world is turned upside down. All the talking and laughing and extra noise is often overwhelming to him.
Andrea’s boyfriend, Kyle, was here for the whole week. We were concerned about how Aaron would react to him. But Kyle was a natural with Aaron, treating him as an equal and being totally comfortable around him. What a relief! Kyle certainly passed the Aaron test! Even when Aaron became unkind, Kyle didn’t show any reaction and he understood. Aaron insisted on playing Christmas Bingo with us, which he usually detests, and also even played the Hershey’s Kiss game…..trying to open the kisses while wearing bulky silicone gloves.
Aaron can’t stand the silliness of games and parties, so playing these games was a stretch for him. Aaron targeted Kyle during the first Bingo game he played with us, being rude to Kyle as he blamed him for his own discomfort and frustration. The next time Aaron played with us, the following night, he did much better. And during Skip-Bo, while there was the noise of Star Wars being watched by Andrea and Kyle in the background, Aaron became very bothered by the lack of his usual quietness as we played.
“I wish Kyle would leave this house!” Aaron said, over and over.
“But Aaron,” I replied. “You like Kyle and you’ve had fun with him. Let’s talk about what’s really wrong. You just don’t like all the extra noise and things being so different right now. Right?”
“I wish Kyle would leave this house!” came Aaron’s response.
Aaron also had similar comments toward friends of ours that spent the night with us this week. He went from making them laugh the night before to being disrespectful the next morning. I understand the reasons because I understand how Aaron thinks, but it’s still very embarrassing. Thankfully, Dawn has a special needs daughter who also gets overwhelmed, but still…..
There go my circumstances again! And the choices I must make, and often fail at doing so correctly.
Up and down!
And there were many good moments…..special times with Aaron as he enjoyed the week of Christmas. He LOVES Andrea’s dogs, and they generally tolerate him pretty well. Christmas morning was especially sweet with Aaron and Darcy.
And Aaron makes us laugh with many of his comments, of course, and his actions.
So here we are, with memories of Christmas still fresh and with a new year just beginning. I need to find Aaron a new autism doctor…..need to think about all those day group behaviors and why he acts that way there……monitor his sodium levels…..deal with the seizures and the meds that help, but also cause some of his behaviors…..and much, much more.
And to work on my own contentment, like the Apostle Paul said, in whatever state I am….to be content. In a state of sadness, or a state of frustration, or fear, or embarrassment, or turmoil, laughter and joy…..
Swenson says, “Contentment is our glad submission wrapped in God’s providence. The doctrine of providence explains that God has a plan, and that it is a perfect plan. Since He is all-powerful, it is impossible for us to thwart the plan. We either accept it or we kick against it, but regardless, the plan goes forward.”
Yep. Just like Aaron goes forward, and we experience the highs and lows, the ups and downs….often hanging on for dear life.
Instead of Happy New Year, I wish for myself a Contented New Year, despite whether I am feeling happy or not.
And so I wish that for each of you as well.
Contented New Year, everyone!