AUTISM IN THE TRENCHES
BY KIRI L. K. SALAZAR
There is a foe, I cannot see
Wired with hair-trigger senses.
Conflict borne in infancy
Camouflaged in normalcy
My heart is sore, my soul fatigued
Fighting Autism in the trenches.
My Janus child walks a line between his world and mine
I cannot cross his no-man’s land, the battle never ceases.
Nor can he find his way to me
Along a treacherous path
Where every wrong step may carve him to pieces.
Some days, the screaming never seems to end.
Severed nerves send SOSes.
Signals get crossed, get lost in transmission
It might be joy, but why take chances?
The silence is worse.
Laying traps of false expectation.
A minefield of hope and regret
With a route that daily changes.
I have waged war against tics and compulsions
Aiming for inclusion.
Making I.E.Ps into I.E.D.s
Is not an error in transcription
But a battle plan with no excuses.
I am tired of this war.
I am raw. I am defeated.
I have forgotten,
Who am I really fighting for?
If the one I love is the one who is bleeding?
I cannot fight it any more.
In the Land of Normal, Autism is the enemy.
There are no victors and no survivors.
Unless I surrender completely to the pain of what is
and make peace with what will never be.
Instead of making war on his differences,
I will raise the white flag
And embrace those moments of calm.
For, if all I know is war, how can I ever come home?
The artwork entitled Autism in the Trenches which is based on the above poem was installed for public consumption at ArtPrize 2021. It has now come home and awaits installation on the only wall big enough to support it.
I can neither describe it nor defend it, but I’m definitely doing it because I plunked down a $25 no-refund application fee and I will spend an insane amount of money before I admit I am ill-qualified to do the THING.
Everybody has it. It’s the energy that fuels life. If you don’t have enough stress, you probably would have been eaten by something furry back in prehistoric times to keep you from reproducing your laid-back DNA. Stress kept you on your toes back then.
Nowadays, however, it tends to be a corrosive that eats away at your central nervous system unless you learn to deal with it in someway. Today was a test of my emergency stress management responses. You may have handled things differently–probably averting the same crises with ease. But, I defy you to read the following and not at least have a little sympathy for a mom who just wanted to read a book.
Forgive me, this is a hard post to write and I’d like to do justice to both the joys and the sorrows in their turn. It is a post about discoveries and magical thinking–the good and the bad involved in both. This is about a book–and a boy who will probably never read it. I would separate them, but the two things are inextricably linked for me. It would be like dividing the sun from the moon.
Be warned, as it is written on ancient maps past the edge of the known world: Here be dragons!
I was complimented recently on my writing, it came via someone with a tenuous Facebook connection. It’s the first time anyone who wasn’t a friend or blood relative (and therefore obligated to like my writing or at least lie to me and say they do) told me they found my writing funny. (But funny in a good way.)
It made me feel, just for a nano-second, what it must be like when famous people get recognized. It was awesome and I thanked him…and then felt like a total fraud because I haven’t given two thoughts to my blog in months!
I sometimes wonder why I do the things I do. I definitely look at the world that way. This week has been a mixture of both wonder and awe, terror and despair. The bigotry and hatred revealed with each new episode of violence has scarred our nation and clouded my spirits. As a humor blogger, I struggle to find the balance between tasteful observation and knee slapstickery. I hope this manages to reach that slippery peak.
I am reminded of a morality fable I heard once (which apparently it turns out is a fabrication, but you can find out about that at the link for Two Wolves.)
It goes something like this:
The Two Wolves
A grandfather was talking to his grandson:
Grandfather: “There are two wolves inside you. One is evil–always fighting, angry, and hurting others. The other wolf is good–caring, honest, and kind. They are fighting a battle inside you every day.”
Grandson: “Who will win, Grandfather?”
Grandfather: “The one you feed.”
I’ve heard this before, but not as the link above tells it. And never knowing that the wolves were described in terms of Black and White.
(Official Sidebar: You can just guess which is the ‘bad’ wolf. The internet is helpful in peeling layers of meaning behind the over-simplified and trite.)
When I watch the world burn and can do nothing about it, I am anxious. I feel the compulsion to do something and, conversely, nothing at all. I am torn between two wolves: outrage and apathy. Why does this keep happening? Why can’t things change for the better instead of the worse. Maybe it just depends on where you want to focus. Which wolf you choose to feed.
Before the world went to hell in a hand basket, I signed up for another round of GISH. So, as the horrible week’s events unfolded, I wondered whether participating in a fun-fun charitable activity was, perhaps, a selfish and clueless overindulgence and a slap in the face to everyone who struggles and suffers in the world. In particular, was it kind of like dancing at a funeral–morally repugnant and questionable behavior that should get me unfriended/shunned? (That said, I invite dancing at my funeral. Joke telling. Maybe a clown? I think you will need to find excuses for joy when a light such as myself leaves the world.)
So, given a choice between morbidly watching the world burn or dancing…I think you can guess what I chose.
BUT FIRST…I did something moral and uplifting.
I watched a terribly earnest live stream discussion about race relations; a topic that has not impacted my very-white life much before but maybe it should:
As a result of listening to a panel of experienced activist, I tried my best to…
DO THE HUNT
(while being conscious of injustice in the world burning around me)
The first item was my most successful–probably because I had energy and my son to help add flair–and height–to the performance.
Item 20. The Summer Olympics got canceled, but that doesn’t keep a focused athlete like you down. Show us your entry in the Socially-Distanced Games.
I was trying to synchronize our toilet paper rolls mid-air. (The last image was the winning shot, but I loved all the pictures taken with the help of my son’s ABA aide. He is unnamed for his privacy, but shout out to a very patience guy.)
Item #___ (Oops, didn’t copy this one) Take a time lapse recording of yourself sculpting a monument out of a playdough and smashing it, or something edible and eating it.
As usual, I missed the part where you had to sculpt AND eat at the same time. And I froze my sculpted spuds so I could recreate a Winged Victory feast.
In a fourteen second recap, you can watch me munch on my icy statue:
You’ll note my rather spacy behavior increases the later the event runs. (As does my very blue eye shadow.) I only managed 4 hours of sleep and I would pay for it later! Oh, would I pay!
But before that bill comes due…there are more GISH-y items to fulfill.
Item 37. Create a Fundraising page for your team, and get family, friends, and others to donate. (Highly abbreviated description)
This was one of the serious but important items, as GISH is intended as a fund-raiser as well as a fun-raising time. We joined the GISH sponsored Racial Justice and Equality Fundraiser to support the NAACP. Which I have never done before this weekend. We didn’t make the 10 donor minimum required, but we did raise $230. And that isn’t bad for a 24-hour time period! I would thank everyone personally, but most people gave anonymously. So, to all you all, you know who you are, thank-you! You give me hope.
Which leads to my biggest and most embarrassing endeavor.
Item 32. In the style of Eurovision: write and perform an original, uplifting song of hope using instruments of your own creation.
I had no idea what Eurovision was before I picked this challenge. I watched about an hour of eye-popping performances and did my best to replicate their…um…energy. I opted not to dress as a minion of hell only due to time constraints and a lack of lycra.
(Warning, this ‘song’ is both painfully earnest and shatteringly bad. I recorded it at four in the morning because I couldn’t sleep thinking about it. Might I recommend a tall glass of alcohol–or maybe shot glasses. You can take a swig whenever I say “Hope,” Peace,” or “Justice.” I had NO alcohol beforehand, more’s the pity.)
Like red wine, you may never get the stain of those lyrics out!
In case you couldn’t understand my exhausted 4:00 a.m. warbling, here are the lyrics–which I slaved over, so stop laughing, damn you!
We need Hope, Peace, and Justice And it starts with me and you. We need Hope, Peace, and Justice And here’s what you can do.
Listen for an answer In their cries of pain If you can’t feel, then you can’t heal I’ll tell you once again.
We need Hope, Peace, and Justice And it starts with me and you. We need Hope, Peace and Justice Here’s what you can do.
Pain pushes back Against unreal attacks You can’t see the future If you’re always looking back.
We need Hope, Peace, and Justice And it starts with me and you. We need Hope, Peace, and Justice Here’s what you can do.
Consider possibilities In what the other person sees. Don’t debate or interrogate Dialogue is a two-way gate
We need Hope, Peace, and Justice And it starts with me and you. We need Hope, Peace, and Justice Here’s what you can do.
Change happens in uncomfortable spaces Who’s gonna win these human races? The only hope we have for peace Is just…us.
We need Hope, Peace and Justice And it starts with me and you. We need Hope, Peace and Justice You know what you can do.
Wow. I’m sure that’s going to win lots of awards, but before you are quick to condemn my words, know this, I borrowed them from the speakers of the aforementioned “Racial Inequality and Injustice” live stream. A lot more qualified people than me recommend that, instead of hiding behind our white privilege, we use it to make things a little more fair out there.
I am not good with conflict; I actively avoid it whenever possible. But, (*heaves a huge, uncomfortable sigh*), apparently that is part of the problem. A lot of good, earnest people have stood back and let the angry, hyperbolic, asshats speak for us all. Perhaps the bigots and racists just need to be told that they are bigots and racists. Is it possible they don’t know?
Oh, I’m sorry. *Gets down off soap box*
Now, back to GISH!
I loved the idea of this next item, but my execution was more along the lines of after Marie Antoinette meets the guillotine–a bit choppy.
31. GISH keeps you so busy, you need to clone yourself to get the List done! Create a single image compositing at least 3 iterations of yourself working to completing a GISH mini hunt Item
After finishing almost all of my assigned tasks…and abandoning one…I decided to use all my many years watching forensic programming to try my hand at carving up a human being…
Now that I have your attention. I give you…a tasty lesson in anatomy:
Item #: ???? Sorry, I threw this thing together as a last-minute project and did not copy the verbiage. But, I think you can guess what they asked for.
Here’s a few staged photos with the body.
The hardest part was figuring out how to dispose of the body! (If I ever become a spree killer, we will know the moment I started down that path.)
I always enter GISH with high enthusiasm and end up crawling across the finish line, one arm outstretched, to get the last thing in before collapsing.
The One Last Thing:
Item 13: Celebrate the gift of virtual travel by creating a internationally recognized building or monument out of Amazon boxes.
My biggest challenge was I HAD NO AMAZON BOXES. None. I put them in out for recycling last week. LIKE AN IDIOT!
So that was GISH, slam bam, thank you ma’am until 3:00 O’clock p.m. (our time)….and then they added an extra hour! Unheard of! But my kid knew he was getting a trip to KFC after GISH was done and he was having none of this, “But, son, can mommy play one more hour?” nonsense!
Honestly, my kid was so fantastic, it was unbelievable. I had help with him for only two hours and then rest of the time, he was good…until…
IT’S PAYBACK TIME
I was absolutely fried waiting for bedtime to roll around. That’s my excuse for not noticing how odd the kid was being about staying in the basement.
I try to drag him up at 9:00 pm but give in and let him get a little more time downstairs…
10:00pm rolls around and he’s apparently drawn a line in the sand over what he wants–and he wants to sleep in the basement. Which is a no-no because it has no egress.
He refuses to come upstairs. I refuse to let him stay there.
Cue Krakatoa explosion.
My kid melts down like he’s a glacier under global warming. He vents. He fumes. He hits and bites himself. He tosses a giant bin of books like he’s a member of an ultra conservative cult that loathes reading. He breaks my heart. Every time.
I spend the next TWO HOURS calming him down and figuring out he’s got gas! We finally crawl into bed after midnight. I sleep like the proverbial dead. The next day, the kid wakes up happy like yesterday never happened and asking for bacon! Kids.
So, if any of you were feeling a bit judgy about my decision to employ humor, art and theatrical creativity to survive this week, now you know, I experienced the riots in my own special way. And for me, they never end. They can come at any time. And I just have to stand by and wait for the fires to burn down before putting my kid back together again. It’s a co-dependent, Humpty Dumpty kind of relationship, but it works. Mostly.
Stay strong my beloveds. It’s a cruel world and you don’t want the wrong wolf to win!
_______________ You Made It Through Bonus_________________
Last night I tried to write a blog post. I was struggling to put into words how I feel about the situation in Minneapolis. The anger that permeates all the news regarding race in our country. The helplessness to change anything.
And then I went upstairs to check on my son and was reminded of WHY you never leave him alone for any reason…
This happened because I told him I was going to cut his hair the next day.
I often wonder whether my son is actually listening to me.
Now I know.
He is listening with a vengeance.
And a plan.
Below is a link on Facebook to my reaction to his styling techniques.
If you are struggling to get through depression or the continuing of Covid-19 isolation, or you could just use a laugh, it is my gift to you.
Also, you won’t be feeling so bad about your own hairstyles now, will you?
I used to scream bloody murder when I was a child. I would shriek so loud, so long, that eventually I would go hoarse. I even developed nodes–tightened knots on my vocal chords. When I finally figured out screaming wasn’t helping me I stopped. This allowed my vocal chords to relax and I discovered I had a deeper register. (As a result, I sing somewhere between contralto and tenor with a hiccup in my falsetto.)
What I couldn’t have told you, even if you had asked, was why. Why did I devolve into a nightmare child shuddering in hysterics? I couldn’t tell you then, but I might be able to tell you now.