Saturday, January 15, 2011

I get up again...

This week, I cleaned out our home office.

I say 'home office' in the hope you have an uber-efficient IKEA catalogue-looking image in your head as you read this. Neat, cuboid filing pods, full of colour-coded pages and wireless ultra-modern electronica. That you think of me, in my skinny jeans and crisp white shirt, hair scraped back into a sleek bun, invent-a-personality glasses perched jauntily on my efficient looking face.

Yeah. Not.

Let me paint a before picture. We're talking piles of paper haphazardly composting under the weight of their peers. Books stacked (thematically, at least) making the Leaning Tower of Piza look decidedly vertical. Cables throttling shoes and lassoing the office chair. Balls of dog hair so dense they were actually holding piles of letters up off the floor. I believe the dog hair balls may actually have been attempting to perambulate some of the crap towards the door.

It took an entire day, a rolling series of drinks (coffee, then water, then juice for energy, then more water followed by a nice red to celebrate), and the willpower of a catholic saint, but I did it.

By the end of the day, the filing cabinet was stuffed, the bills were all together (there's the small issue of paying them still to go), the work notes were clipped together and the books were shelved. The dog hair...? Well, most of it escaped under it's own steam into the far corners of the room. The remaining long threads wedged themselves onto my eyeballs, just to help me remember my awesome day.

I learned a lot from my cleaning adventures.

1. I really should clean more frequently.

2. I have a LOT of books about autism.
I really like reading autism books. There's always something to learn. Even if I don't agree with them, I keep on reading. They clarify my instincts, they challenge my perceptions, they jog my memory, they soothe my soul. Even though people have been telling me to stop reading since this trip to the autism theme park began, I cannot see the logic. I admit there's a measure of searching for a needle in a haystack, or maybe it's a 'if I stop reading today, tomorrow's book will be the one that provides the key'... no matter, I truly believe knowledge is power. And the autism books books keep me away from the gossip mags and the chick lit.

3. I have a lot of chick lit.

4. I download and print a LOT of articles, thinking, 'I must read that and then give it to... the paediatrician, the teacher, the crazy dude in the dog park (reflecting how much good it would actually do if I actually did give the article to anyone who actually should read it).

5. We have a beautiful child and we are lucky to have him. As evidenced by the notes he leaves, the pictures he draws, the photos he features in, the Thomas and wild African animal detritus he collects. There's nothing bad about Billy, in the classical sense of the word. He's a passionate, positive lover of life. The life he loves so deeply may not be the one the rest of us might choose, but it's his, he loves it and it is in physical evidence all over the home office. Actually, all over the home, but that's a whole other cleaning related story.

6. We may not be the tidiest parents in the world, but we're doing OK. We have a lot of evidence of this - both the untidiness and the OK-ness. There's a lot of thinking material (stuff about autism, stuff about holidays, stuff about family, stuff about dogs, stuff about doctors and hospitals and therapy, stuff about diets... ugh, I'll stop there...) There's a lot of doing material (art supplies, train drawings, stories written or dictated by Billy, videos of crashes and plastic animal attacks, the next level of motor challenge... damn you roller shoes... we'll get to you soon) and lot of animal material (see perambulating Scruffy hair bunnies above).

7. We should probably groom the dog more.

At the end of the day, as I groomed the dog, I thought... 'We'll be OK' and I exhaled.

For the first time in a month or so, I was able to find some level ground, and how did I find it? By surrounding myself, literally, with the physical evidence of our efforts as a family.

We live, we learn, we earn, we groom. We try, we get it wrong, we get it right, we fall down, we get up again. And some days, we tidy ourselves up a bit, and start over.

Maybe one day, I'll get tidy enough to own skinny jeans and a crisp white shirt.

Yeah. Probably not.

PS. I did this job as I watched helplessly, from 1000 kilometres away, as my hometown and most of my home state disappeared under epic floods. While my family and friends remained safe, many many families did not. Towns are destroyed, homes are gone, lives are lost. 

I couldn't help thinking about the kids with autism in all this chaos. How does a child who struggles to understand normal life, make any sense out of a flood? How do you explain precious objects being swept away, family members missing, electricity cut off? 

I may be feeling better about my own decisions, but I take my hat off to the parents who are shepherding their kids through the Queensland floods right now. 


DQ said...

It is a very magical thing when you clear a space that is intended for reflection, thinking, creating.
I have been wondering about the families in QLD with autism (children and grown ups) as well. We have donated money, and donated goods to the local charities, as that is all we can do from so far away.
I have family in Brisbane, all of whom stayed dry and safe. My cousin, who is in his 30s, has Aspergers, and coped well, especially as they didn't lose power where he is, thank goodness.

Lisa said...

Ah, cleaning. A very topical topic!

My younger two have learnt much this week from floods. They've swung from being bored brainless (no power, isolated), and whining about having their holiday computer-gaming interrupted, to visiting their gran's house, where they took in the devastation and then worked like trojans, moving rubbish and ripping up carpet,for the rest of the day.

Meanwhile, our Aspie son is far away in another town visiting a friend, and has missed everything. I received an almost panic-stricken phone call after he'd seen the news, but once I'd reassured him that we were all fine... that was that. All over for him. No need for any further thought, apparently!

I don't know if I'm glad that he was away, or regretful that he missed the whole learning experience.

Heather said...

I'm pretty certain the the mounds of dog fur floating around my house will one day gather together and start yipping like a puppy!
Congrats on your cleaning - it's such a great accomplishment!
My heart goes out to all of those affected by the flood. We've been watching it on the news here and it is devastating.

K- floortime lite mama said...

I love your writing Val
I feel like i was there with you with the shoes and the cables !!
OUr home is much like you
I also think of how much our lives and thoughts center around R and Autism
someone asked me if we would have a second child
At first I used to think no way - what if that child also has autism - how will we give the attention that that child will need
Then I started to find R such a tremendously satisfying child and parenting him so intense that there was no need
But now I think there is really no room for anything else
Anyway ddid not mean to make this post all about me - just wanted to say that you made me feel like I was there

Ro said...

Yay on the clean up, seems to be the time of the year for it ;)

There were autism hotlines being manned in QLD for those having trouble dealing with the floods, myself and a large number of others were Tweeting the hotline number all over.