pasdelabas

writing from another someone not from where they are

😘

You aim for the highest ideal. But that becomes defacto your judge. So you decide you don’t want to be judged. That you don’t head for the highest ideal. This has repercussions through entropy and foolishness that will lead to suffering.

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consumers and producers

Talking to Melissa can be a very rich experience. Depends on what you bring to it. Depends on how well you can listen. I was talking to Melissa whilst we were watching some dross on her television in her room at the care home. Of course the dross was passionately interesting because it was very rare. Dross can become quite addictively mundane. The first time you see it it’s like anything new, full of potential and possibility. I don’t remember what it was although I do remember gaining access to a variety of unusual television programmes whilst visiting Melissa recently.

On this occasion I think partly arising from frustration at elements in my own personal experience of life, I spoke to Melissa about our upbringing with Rosemary in particular. I said to Melissa, and she agreed, that we had been brought up to be producers of culture and not to be satisfied with being consumers.

Immediately this is said it negates itself. And that’s where my philosophy ends for today. Before it has begun with nothing other than a comfortable platitude that nevertheless contains truth.

Back gardens

So the spring has arrived finally. After one of the coldest early springs I can remember it’s finally warmed up. That’s coincided with what might well be some sort of biological need for spring cleaning. In particular I’m thinking at the moment about the drive I’ve got to clear my lovely back garden. I remember when we moved into the house in 2002. The back garden here is very very steep and when we moved in the land was practically toxic. The underlying land is made up of a lot of slag from steel mills and a variety of unpleasant things have been dumped in the garden over the years. Very steep but quite large for a Sheffield terrace house. There’s a flat area at the bottom which was really unusable when we first moved in and a set of very poorly constructed concrete steps that get you halfway down.

I recall very clearly saying to myself and perhaps to Saskia as well: “You know, this is the sort of garden that when people visit it in 10 years time they think it’s always already been like that. They don’t realise that it’s taken 10 years of patience and attention to get it there.”

Well it’s 15 years later and that’s not happened. Every year, to be honest not even every year, we put some labour into it but never enough to keep going through the season – to stop the convulvulus from overrunning everything that we plant. To the point that two apple trees have just been strangled out of existence. The things that have survived have done really well because the fact that they survived means they’re really strong and in the right place, suitable to the soil and the light et cetera. But it is always sad to look on the garden, it’s not even a symbolic representation of some sort of psychological failure. It’s just simply a material example.

When spring comes, along comes the spring cleaning urge. The material need to clear it up. And yes, of course, the psychological recognition that comes with increased light. The real turning point of the year is now.

And my thought on all this was simple. There’s nothing wrong with a psychological focus on the back garden. There’s nothing wrong with back gardens. There is no embarrassingly Freudian aspect to spending time in one’s back garden, taking care of one’s back garden. The back garden is a deep resource for the rest of the house. For the rest of the garden. For those people who inhabit it. The back garden is integral to the internal life of the family and it’s time to give it love and make it beautiful.

Gadjo Dilo

A friend of mine, Miroslav, just the other day posted a link to a short scene from a film titled “Gadjo Dilo”. It was a couple of minutes of footage of some Romanian Roma musicians playing and singing in a cafe, a young woman dancing whilst a young man recorded an audio tape of the music. The title means “Crazy Gadjo” or “Nutty Outsider” or some version of saying mad non-Roma person!

The clip was obviously sufficiently appealing to me that I followed a link through to a second clip. This one showed the young man who had been conducting the recording standing next to a fresh grave where an older Roma man wept and danced next to the grave of his friend whilst a young man sang and played the accordion. The older man drank from a bottle of vodka and poured libations on the grave through his tears. The song is called tutti-frutti.

This clearly appealed to me too, the word I’d use is pathos. Or perhaps I just say “duhkal”. Duhkal man o jilo. I say that quite a lot. So I managed to follow links through and find the complete film with English subtitles and I’ve posted the links below.

I’m not at all sure how to speak about this film. I’m not Roma so I don’t know how the representation of Roma feels. I am a Gadjo and I recognise the representation of the Gadjo dream. The Mad Gadjo. The Gadjo in this film is a French person. A young man. “Look at his big teeth!” says one of the Roma children in the film. I’ve got big teeth too and I was once a young man. This particular Gadjo Dilo in the film is looking for a singer, a gypsy singer, a Romanian gypsy singer called Nora Luca.

His father was a traveller the film tells us, his father wandered far and wide spending his time with remote people, recording them playing music and singing. We hear that he died somewhere in the Middle East with the Bedouin. His favourite tape, his favourite voice, his favourite recording was Nora Luca. This voice obviously haunted our young Gadjo Dilo and after his father’s death he set off into rural Romania in search of Nora.

He finds everything except a living Nora. He finds wonderful musicians, fiddle players, a precociously talented young accordionist and singer. He is taken into a Roma village by a man whose son has just been sent to prison. The drunk and mourning father adopts him on the local town square and takes him back home. There he lives, there he learns and there he eventually records music until one day he hears, finally, through tears, Nora Luca singing for him. But the voice comes from the young heroine of the film and she is not Nora Luca.

In a brutal ending to the film the young man buries his search for Nora Luca as his adoptive father had buried and mourned over the open grave of his friend. Tears, a dance and a vodka libation. He learns something of the way of the Roma by learning of their suffering. He can bury his love of Nora Luca as he needs must his father and live with real suffering in the present. And love. Suffering. And love.

So that’s the Gadjo Dilo story of the Roma. Suffering and Love. This Gadjo Dilo and that Gadjo Dilo.

missing the bus

“It’s some thing connected to meaning. An oblique waking up. Or a guilty secret. An automatic self disgust.  There are whole sets of impulses that have pushed me. Chemically induced ones. Natural body exuberances and later self-inflicted.  I just can’t capture anything about this in words. It’s about meaning. A really joyful sitting with, walking with, living with meaning. A search. I am a (re-) searcher. I keep returning.  I’m walking through Abbeyfield Park being pulled by two small dogs and untangling their leads fairly unconsciously really. The path ahead of me is glistening with the reflected light from the street lamps on Burngreave Road. A double-decker is pulled up at the bus stop near the car rental and the lights are bright too. Trees, great beech trees, frame the whole scene which sits on the wall of the sky.  I know I can catch something of it. I take a snapshot but the bus has moved on before I can finish, and when I look back so many things are missing.”

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Loneliness

So I’m walking through that park and as I’m walking along the streets that evening I’m feeling lonely. I’ve an impulse that is towards discovering meaning but its manifestation is also a sadness, an anxiety, a tension. A need to share it. A need to communicate. A sense of isolation from some people close to me who don’t get it.

That’s the loneliness. And it’s a necessary loneliness I’m feeling at these moments. Because it can’t be completed without failure. That seems to be my default position: completion is failure. A sort of postcoital depression.

When I was younger that very thought (postcoital and depression) would have collapsed the thought process altogether. The notion that meaning, the search for meaning was eventually always collapsed back to sex and body function. But now that’s not the case. Rather that the body function is an index of a search for meaning.

Loneliness does capture that. I felt it for a long time and very intensely at moments in my life. The departure and separation between myself and Heidi, Coco’s mother. The other the death of my mother. There was such a longing and loneliness in both of those and one that I didn’t want to end. Feeling so ridiculously alive whilst feeling so pained and sad. Loving the feeling of life that comes with loss. Knowing that it can be overcome. That one can move beyond. And knowing that one loses access to something so magnificent and so terrifying.

The term loneliness has come to mind because of a mention in a Jack Kornfield talk of Hafez warning us not to let our loneliness go. Rather like the appearance of the postcoital, the presence of the Hafez poem on the web causes me disquiet. There are many references to it and all of them to a particular translation. But the idea is a solid one:

Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly.
Let it cut more deep.

Let it ferment and season you
As few human or even divine ingredients can.

That’s exactly the feeling I’ve had in these moments of loneliness including the stupid (the Zizekian stupid do not forget) walk in the Park with the dogs and the missing bus. Loneliness is such an access point. But it’s a particular loneliness I’m writing about. I’m not sure it’s the one where you don’t have any friends. That one is too hard to resolve. That one is difficult to overcome. It’s the loneliness of The Park and the search for meaning, the sense there is meaning. This loneliness is too easy to resolve.

It’s a loneliness that you have no choice but to overcome. You can’t take it home and beat your family with it. You’ve got to dissipate it into the mundane. The day-to-day practices of getting by. You can’t let it cut more deeply.

Or rather perhaps that’s a new practice. The very practice of this writing is what I’ve wondered. Postcoital. Rubbish.

pushy puritans

I was at a Church of England service today. Two services in fact, the first a “traditional” service culminating in communion, the second a “family” service. Both had a sermon at their heart.

The readings for the day upon which the sermons reflected were taken from Isaiah 40, 1-11 and from Mark 1, 1-8. The passage from Isaiah was used to focus on the idea of preparing for the coming of the Lord, preparing a straight road. The passage from Mark speaks about John the Baptist preparing the way for Christ.

What I sensed in both sermons and throughout the services was what I am calling a puritan push, an internal tendency that is deeply nonconformist. The refusal of, perhaps the inability of the celebrants to work with difficult texts dogmatically requires that they give way to the temptation to return to the gospel, look for the personal revealed truth of The Word.

I experienced both services as a tense holding between an almost dogmatic, crystalline religious carapace and a radical potential for knowledge. What I saw in the service was the maintenance of that tension being the very essence of Church of England practice, practical theology. Balancing the two poles.

The notion was that if you give into the puritan push, the tendency to vaingloriously believe you have some chance of knowledge, you give into another unavoidable compromise/balancing act. And it is only in the juggling itself that any chance of knowledge can exist.

How right was Jan!

A pint of Bitter please Buddy

I am aware that I am experiencing myself as increasingly bitter. Two evenings ago I vented my frustration and bitterness about Saskia’s parents.  This I did in front of her cousins, Hilary and Jake, the latter someone who had been given great hospitality as a child, love and warmth, by Patrick and Diane, when his parents separated.  My bitterness did not to go down well.

There was a funny side to this event – for me at least.  The following day I was silent and humiliated by my own behaviour and Saskia’s pain.  I even watched a film with the children, it was a moral tale, as ever, about not being bitter.  One of life’s little conventions, synchronicity.  The film was “Meet the Robinsons”, a story about a couple of orphans.  One, Michael, is a potentially great (autistic style perhaps being modern) focussed inventor child who can find escape from loneliness in the orphanage through his inventions. Of course he needs recognition to do so, it is not an internal journey alone.  The other child, Goob, rather slow witted, becomes embittered just as the inventor child gains freedom and (eventual) success.   

goob

Goob: Bitterness indeed

This second child, Goob, the anti-hero, set in eternal bitterness and resentment by his failure to catch a baseball (due to the sleepless night as the inventor Michael works on his great plans) wreaks havoc on the happy lives of Michael and those who benefit from the inventor/hero’s work.  I watched it like a child, seeing the basic message and almost in tears.  Looking for an answer I watched to the end… How does one overcome bitterness and anger? 

The bitter orphan Goob finds redemption (we assume) when his past is changed by Michael waking him up in order that he catch the missed ball.  So the anti hero emerges free of bitterness but it required the hero to rescue him, to change the very course of the past to rectify the present – in other words exactly what the anti-hero wanted!   The was no internal change of heart – it was always external circumstances requiring at the very least God (technology) to initiate change.

It was Goob’s bitterness that was the route to Goob’s redemption and the eventual redemption of Michael’s world. 

Bitterness has reasons.  The present is tainted and bloody.

That’s how Canada feels to me.  Tainted and bloody.  I’ll get over it soon but before I do and before I forget I’ll recall the information panel I saw on Prince Edward’s Island.  We spent a few days there on at the start of our few weeks here and on the second day walked down to the beach at Cavendish where we were staying in Anne of Green Gables Bungalows.  There’s an area of dune and a lagoon near the beach and we walked the boardwalk along side the lagoon back towards the cottage. 

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The book Anne of Green Gables was written by L. M. Montgomery and naturally enough, given the location of the dunes and lagoon near the fictional location of the book, an area known and frequented by the author, the inspirational landscape of the book, information panels told us of the history of the landscape and it’s connection to the author.  I was horrified.  The panel reads: 

“For hundreds of years, people have treasured the natural and cultural landscape of Cavendish, a landscape that is shaped by many forces.  Along this trail you will discover the rich history of the people who have lived or visited here and explore some of the area’s natural features.”

As a starting point: Where are the people who were already here in this landscape?  Montgomery’s tale sits on the lap of their destruction.  Where are they?  Why are they not the starting point?  Later a panel goes into the natural history:

“The forests here were once very different.  Thick, towering stands of yellow and white birch, red and sugar maple, beech, red oak, red spruce, eastern hemlock, eastern white pine and balsam grew right to the water’s edge.  These species make up what is called an Acadian Forest.”

Where are the people? What species were they?  What were they called?  In an unintended politeness, an unwillingness to treat the indigenous, first nation, aboriginal as a species, like an animal, they are actually allowed to disappear from the record.  A tree species list acts as a safe cipher for a people and culture.

It sickened me this panel and has coloured my image of this land as it now is.  Tainted and bloody. 

Of course it is rude to bring it up.  Pointless for some.  Offensive to others.  Uncomfortable for some. Misplaced and over for others.  Yet there is a process that is taking place, one of forgetting, of naturalizing what has happened, what happens. 

It’s not that anything is to be done, I know.  Not my place to do it either. Or to feel it. Yet I do.  It’s here that my energies lie.  My sympathies. I’m on holiday in a giant graveyard while the burials are still going on. 

broken hips

A typical news item might read as follows:

Today in a town somewhere a man deliberately drove a vehicle into a crowd of bystanders.  Two people were injured and the man was arrested. This event is not thought to be terrorism related.

There is a necessity to draw attention to the difference between an individual deliberately maiming someone because they have, for example, mental health problems, and somebody who is doing it for some formal ideological reason, namely a terrorist.

But of course what is it that is going on here? The vehicle moving forward at 60 miles an hour impacts on some individual or other and breaks the hip. The hip gets broken regardless of the fact of mental health, depression, anxiety or terror.

We don’t go around suggesting that all people with mental health problems should be put on watch lists. What is it that eventually drives someone to kill like that? What is happening at the moment and individual does that? Are you not already at the same point as the other person (the acceptably sick person) regardless of whether you carry with you some rationale?

today’s lesson

So there are two important stories that I want to put down here. Maybe one day Jack and Lottie will read them and remember quite how many times I repeated these stories to them.

So for years and years now our family has struggled to carry an emotional cauldron. The source of heat has been shared amongst us but the Jack’s fardel has been the brightest burning. It’s been a long and difficult experience for everyone involved. Tempers fray. Voices are raised. Children shout and swear at adults whilst adults shout and swear at children. Everyone curses. Precious objects get smashed. They might be five people either in tears or beyond tears. And there in the centre of it, always, Jack. Ever since she was Ella. And then since he is Jack. Or Tom. I always liked the name Tom because it sounded like Tim.

Also most especially because the name Tom was a cipher name used by Rosie, my mother, when she used to tell stories to myself and Melissa. Tom and Miranda stories they were called. Now she was a storyteller.

So there’s been an ugly story going on in our house for over a decade. A very common gruesome tale of parents not being able to manage successfully the needs and behaviour of one of their children in particular. Jack has had many years of a sort of anxious insomnia. I doubt that Jack has gone to sleep independently more than one night in 100 over the past years. Every night since he was very very small myself or Saskia have needed to lie down with him, comfort him, tried to find some way to settle him down. We’ve not always been particularly good at that. Impatience comes through. Fatigue has built up. Jack became a cipher him self for things going wrong in our house. Jack can’t sleep. Jack keeps us up every evening. We are so tired.

It must be 10 years ago that we stopped inviting people over to eat in our house. Saskia and I are thought of as a sociable couple. We have a lot of friends. But we gave up bringing people to our house to eat dinner with us because we were so aware of the tinderbox that we lived with. We couldn’t trust ourselves to manage the circumstances and we certainly knew that until we could, Jack couldn’t. Tempers might fray, absurd demands for intention might arise at any moment and we couldn’t face the public humiliation of failing so openly. So we stopped asking people over. And we stopped going out anywhere with our children. Holidays were a horrible thought for me. Going over to somebody’s house to eat with the children became something that filled me with dread at any rate. It might not have filled Saskia with dread but certainly both of us avoided events like this as much as we could. Unable to go as a family, parents with children, into a situation where we just couldn’t manage to carry our boiling pot without it slopping onto the ground. It’s been really exhausting.

It’s been incredibly divisive between us all. Pressures between Saskia and I, between all of the children and the adults. And oddly enough. Sometimes there in the eye of the storm might sit Jack. Jack who would, so it felt, push and push at boundaries until the boundaries gave way. Always creating new territory admittedly. But the new territory strangely enough was densely wooded. Often it had very steep ravines into which one could easily fall. Especially as nighttime came on.

But none of this is the main story.

We’d thought about doing this before but about a year ago, perhaps a year and a half we finally went to children and adult mental health services. CAMHS. We were lucky enough to meet and work with a young woman called Helen Wood. She’s already left her post after having been given funding to progress to doctoral level and qualify as a consultant psychologist. She clearly deserves this because she managed to help us. She’s helped Jack. Right from the beginning, from the very first sessions Jack came out of them with some sort of weight taken off his shoulders. Just in a good mood. Somehow light-hearted. A sort of confidence that he gained. He didn’t talk about what was going on. Jack’s rarely talked about what goes on in his mind. Jack has rarely talked to us about what he does school. Or how he feels about things, about anything. We got a lot of angry words directed at us.

But seeing Helen, somehow the air began to clear. Only for brief periods. But they were there. Some difference was being made. It was reassuring. We’d gone there I seem to remember really because of real concerns about aggression. Because we simply couldn’t manage Jack’s moods. He was flying off the handle about such small things which were descending into such vast arguments and we were lost.

As the weeks moved on and more sessions with Helen took place, Saskia and I attended some of them. Both alone and with Jack. Gradually Helen started to introduce the idea that perhaps some of the behaviour patterns that we were seeing with Jack were elements of ASD, autistic Spectrum disorder.

Yes perhaps, we thought. Maybe. But at the same time what does that mean. We’re just bad parents. I’m just a bad parent. But then yes. Maybe there is something there. We’d thought about it seven or eight years ago. The idea came out in a particularly negative fashion when I might say cruelly to Saskia when Jack was not in hearing (hopefully): he’s fucking autistic.

The idea came up in more positive circumstances when we both wondered if there was something autistic about his behaviour. But those ideas were quashed when we discuss them with some close friends, who really suggested that Jack was just fine really and that we needed to be patient, or perhaps we needed to find a way of managing things better. However we never did. We never did find a way of managing it. We never did find a way of understanding it.

So there with Helen for Jack some difference was taking place some effect to the positive. The effects didn’t last very long. Perhaps on the way back in the car Jack might be chatty almost conversational. And then by the time we got back to the house things may have already started. Somebody needed to use the computer. Somebody else needed to use the phone. Somebody else wanted to watch the television. And there in the centre of it, in the eye of an oncoming storm, Jack absolutely full in certitude that he was going to do what he wanted to do. And really he didn’t give a fuck about anybody else.

I was really worried that when Jack heard mention of the word autism he’d flip. But no. He was quite calm about it. No discomfort. No outrage.

And so over the succeeding months we adults wondered what was happening, what all this meant. Jack actually started to act more autistically for want of a better expression.

Jack has always found it difficult to hug people. He has always put his arms against you rather than around you. He finds it uncomfortable to shake hands, he is someone whose fingers stay limp and he doesn’t easily hold on tight to things. This was accentuated. Something in the way he walked. And then something in his eyes. But it was a relaxing. I experienced it as him relaxing in to the way he was.

At the same time it also almost felt like he was putting it on. That was the potential crash which I do believe we’ve avoided. The sense that both Saskia and I had that Jack was acting autistic. Somehow, and this is so obvious, that he could use it as an excuse for his behaviour. The carrying on. For not changing.

We carried this round like a very dark and brutal secret. Knowing that it was a horrible thought. Yet looking at our now perhaps autistic son. Wondering if it was a cruel act.

But it wasn’t. It isn’t. Certain things aside from what remains of our good sense confirmed this.

In one of the sessions with Helen, or perhaps over several sessions, Jack developed a one-hour routine to help him go to sleep independently, something he had barely ever done. He is 15 or nearly 15 at this point. The routine started at 10 in the evening and involved going up to bed at 10, perhaps some light reading, stopping screens, sitting in the quiet, I can’t remember all of it but it ended at 11 with sleep. The first day after that session with Helen Jack asked us to tell him when it was 10 o’clock. He went up to bed on his own, got on with his routine, and by 11 was fast asleep. My god it was like heaven. The house was so calm. Everybody was able to manage that evening. Children went to bed quietly. Adults relaxed. This went on for two weeks. It felt like two weeks anyway. Every night at 10 o’clock Jack independently starting his routine and going to sleep. And then one day he noticed that actually it was 10:05 that evening. Oh no, I can’t do it, he said hugely anxiously. I can’t do it. I have to start at 10 it won’t work. And from that evening onwards the routine broke down and he’s been unable to re-establish it. Now if that’s not a behaviour within the spectrum of autism I don’t know what is.

And that for me was a great moving forwards.

So on we go struggling with all these doubts. Unable to find a way of navigating these stresses between all the three children and ourselves. Lottie constantly furious with this, unable to deal with the extra attention given to Jack, furious with the way we were unable to stop Jack doing what he wanted to do. Lottie sick of having to give way. Furious with this shouting at us, swearing at us. Spending as little time in the house as she could and furious furious when she was here.

Kaius somehow there in the background younger and also displaying really aggressive behaviour at times but still in a pattern that slightly separates him from the worst elements of the arguments. But at least once, possibly twice or even three times a week Kaius would be reduced to screaming fits of tears as everybody in the house was shouting at each other. Things flying.

And then two events took place over the past two weeks which have allowed me to see a way forwards.

Conversation with Jack.

So one evening I think a couple of days before Jack’s birthday there was a major meltdown and everyone was heartbroken and distressed. Saskia carried on talking to Jack. Saskia and I always have clashed appallingly over how we manage this situation. We both try to curb the worst aspects of the others behaviour and tend often to make things worse in doing so. Although not always. Sometimes the children have needed protection from the fury of one of the parents. This particular evening Saskia was really upset. Late nights leading up to it. Great fatigue. But Saskia was persistent and asking Jack questions – always hoping, like me, that suddenly would make a breakthrough with him. And Jack wasn’t just slamming his door and hiding in his room but was coming out of his room to try and answer the question. But the answers were shouted loud and aggressively and screamed. Saskia’s questions stayed the same. And I was at the bottom of the stairs not involved at this point. And for some fateful reason able to hear what Jack was saying.

A conversation something like this:
Saskia: but it’s just that we want to know what it is that makes you so angry like this, if only we could understand?
Jack: (always screaming) yes but that’s the whole problem I don’t know what makes me so angry.
Saskia: yes but if only we could understand what it was that made you so angry then we might be able to help?
Jack: (screaming) yes but that’s the problem I don’t know what makes me so angry. You just think I’m weird.
Saskia: no darling we don’t think you’re weird.
Jack: (screaming) yes you do. You think I’m weird but you just don’t want to admit it. You’ve got to just accept it and learn to deal with it.

This general tenor of conversation went round and round and round.

I repeated this conversation at the next meeting with Helen, in the presence of Saskia and Jack. For me it was a complete and very naive revelation. Jack gave an absolutely coherent response to what was being asked of him.:
Yes I am weird (yes I have autistic spectrum traits). You don’t want to admit it (you’re not accepting this). You’ve got to come to terms with this and find a way to manage it. The precise nature of autism is that the person with autism can’t manage certain circumstances.

It was a wonderful eye-opening conversation. Saskia hadn’t been able to hear what was being said because she was there in the middle of a fire desperately trying to not get burned.

Conversation with Lottie.

So a couple of days ago, two weeks after a conversation with Jack another meltdown took place in the house. This time, not unlike other times recently, the meltdown has actually come from Lottie. Incensed at the way we manage the situation when Jack becomes unwilling to change his behaviour (in this instance I can’t even remember, perhaps turn the television off or something like that). It was a horrible horrible shouting match that took place that evening. But it ended up, once again, with the ever and capable Saskia speaking to Lottie upstairs and me sitting on the stairs listening.

The conversation went even more viciously round and round:
Saskia: yes but Lottie I don’t know if you quite realise how angry you are with us all the time?
Lottie: (always screaming) yes I know that I’m angry all the time.
Saskia: yes but Lottie I don’t know if you quite realise that actually you’re angry with us all the time, every time you come home.
Lottie: (screaming) yes I know that I’m furious with you all the time absolutely furious.
Saskia: yes but I’m not sure if you quite realise that you’re angry all the time and I don’t understand why?
Lottie: (screaming) yes I know that stop telling me that I know I’m angry all the time but I don’t understand why that’s the problem.
Saskia: yes but you tell us all the time that we dealing with the situation with Jack so badly but what do you expect us to do whatever we do you’re just angry with this.
Lottie: (screaming) I don’t know what to do. I’ve no idea what to do all I know is that whatever you’re doing is it’s fucking useless all the time.
Saskia: but what do you expect us to do then? What do you think we should do?
Lottie: (screaming) I don’t know what you should do. I’m a child all I know is that what you’re doing right now is completely fucking useless. You’re the adults you’re supposed to know what to do. But whatever it is you’re doing it is useless.

So there it was. Answered in black-and-white. Well presented. Neatly spaced lines. Punctuation accurate. Lottie had hit the nail precisely on the head. Not just in a banal fashion (you are adults and I am a child and it’s up to you to find a way of managing the circumstance and not expect me to). It was much more profound than that. Lottie too was saying that we’ve really got to deal with the circumstances as they are.

Conversations with Saskia.

So I’ve listened to my son and my daughter. And they’ve taught me a really deep lesson. And shown me a way through.

And I’m really grateful to Lottie for everything she’s done to help the circumstance. For years when Jack was younger and was being aggressive and violent and nasty because we were trying to, I don’t know, stop him watching the television. Lottie once the argument started, even if she had been furious with Jack in the first place, would take Jack’s side. And get angry with us for the way we were treating him. She protected Jack for so many years in the face of our fury and failure to manage. Our lack of understanding. She’s always stood right by Jack’s side. When we would lose our tempers, me in particular and just say that we were useless parents. Lottie would always say but look at me and Kaius? We’ve got the same parents and we don’t behave like that why are you blaming yourself. And now still Lottie plays games, sometimes when she doesn’t want to, in order to humour Jack. She has tried so hard. And now it’s time for us to help her. Thank you Lottie.

We’re going to treat Jack differently. I’ve told him that. I’ve told Lottie that. I’ve told Jack that. I’ve told Saskia that. And I don’t even need to repeat it to myself. Yes we going to treat Jack differently because Jack actually is different. And is not offended by that. He’s actually comfortable with it not because he’s trying to get away with something but because he does react differently in certain circumstances. We can’t control him. We can’t always stop him doing things he wants to do. He is obsessive about certain things and can’t let go. He’s not being bloody-minded. He just can’t let go. So when we move towards areas of conflict with Jack we’ve all got to develop techniques and a willingness to sidestep the circumstances. Not to drive Jack into a humiliating rage that leaves everyone stressed and feeling like such profoundly failing human beings. Jack is different. We’ve got to work with that difference and recognise and love those aspects of Jack’s character which are lovable. And which are at times different. And which are behaviours which require those people around Jack to manage their needs and desires in order not to bring about a pointless conflict. It even gets to the point of thinking that children who are more obviously different, for example good friends of ours have a son the same age as Kaius who was born with Downes syndrome. Nobody gets cross with him because he can’t speak. Because he can’t communicate in any easy way. Because he can barely hear anything. Because he hits himself with a plastic bottle on his head as he walks around the room and moans to himself. Everybody sees the deeply lovable traits in this little boy. And they love him for how he is. And everybody’s behaviour around him is adapted. We need to do that. We need to allow Jack to be the way he is and not interrupt him with such great emotional disturbances purely and simply because we can’t manage.

And that really is this particular story. When I tell it it is so mundane. And so obvious. But it’s taken me 15 years to get to this point and I feel like there really is some chance of gaining the trust and respect of my children and Saskia. It’s been very hard the past years. I’m really hoping that over the next months and years we can manage to live a little better and perhaps even happier together. All because we just accept that one of our children just isn’t the same as other children.

I have always had a very straightforward attitude towards my oldest child Columbine. I’ve always trusted her to find a way through. I’d lost trust in Jack. I was losing faith. Starting to really question. And now it’s not that I’m thinking there’s an easy answer. But more that everything has to start from accepting Jack as he is.

Here endeth today’s lesson. Let us sing a Him.