This seems to be the theme for 2018, doesn’t it? Everywhere I turn, someone is writing about how they are going to let go more, or talking about the things they want to let go of so they can be happier, and calmer, and more peaceful. That, and apparently we’re all going to drink a lot more water.
The thing is, how? How do I overlook things that have been annoying for months—maybe years—and just decide I won’t let them bother me anymore?
For example, I’ve been working on letting go of the way my son Jack fills the kitchen sink with ice all the livelong day.
Jack is thirteen, and he has autism, and every six months or so he adopts a new habit, or obsession, or what all the highfalutin books call a perseveration.
When he was five years old, he wanted to know what color everyone’s shampoo was.
When he was six, he opened and shut all the doors in the house about nine thousand times a day so he could listen to knob clicking.
Ages eight through ten brought what I like to call the soap phase, where he smeared hand soap all over the walls and the floors. You know, the kind from Bath & Body Works that smells nice but gets a little sticky if you don’t rinse it off right away?
And now, it’s ice. Also, swearing at the top of his lungs a lot, but I can only focus on one thing at a time.
Every day, I tell myself to let it go—then, before I even walk down the stairs in the morning, I hear the ice machine rumbling and I clench my teeth.
Or I see a bunch of ice cubes piled in the sink, and I flick on the faucet and I yell out his name.
And he appears around the corner, all nonchalant and cool as a cat.
What. For what.
Why? Why with this ice again?
The whole letting it go thing isn’t working for me, that’s what I’m trying to tell you. And every time I shriek at him, or slam around the kitchen, or grit my teeth, I feel sad and disappointed and even more annoyed.
What’s wrong with me? After all, it’s just ice in the sink.
I’ve been through this a million times in my own head. It’s ice. It’s frozen water and it’s not costing any money or anything and he isn’t hurting anyone, so what is the big deal?
Let it go.
And, really, it should be an easy fix. I could shut off the ice machine. I could tell him if he piles ice in the sink one more time he’s going to lose a privilege, like buying lunch off the hot truck at school on Friday or television for the evening. Or, I could ignore it altogether until he drops the habit and moves onto something else.
The thing is, it’s more than ice. This obsession of his, well, it triggers something in me—something raw and real and fragile.
It’s as though his autism is staring me right in the face and I can’t escape the glare, nor can I dim the light. As soon as I see the cubes stacked all willy-nilly in the bottom of the sink, my brain takes off like a racecar at the starting line.
He is thirteen and he still can’t control himself when there’s something he wants.
He is going to be so lonely all the time.
Let it go.
I’ve decided I need to look at this more closely. I need to really understand what’s going on here, at the bottom of my kitchen sink. In other words, it’s not about the ice.
It’s trying to manage things beyond my control.
It’s perpetually searching for a crystal ball to see the future.
It’s knowing that before I can let it go, I have to drag it all out into the daylight, and examine it underneath the sun. I need to see it for what it is–dashed dreams and a lonely path less traveled and rigidity and odd behavior no one can explain.
It’s the everlasting balance between progress and comfort; security and change.
In other words, is it worth it? Is it worth it to shut off the ice machine or threaten him with no video games or grind my teeth to dust over ice?
I don’t know.
The way I see it, if I can figure out a way to stop this current preoccupation, then maybe I can find away to break the momentum on perseverative behaviors in the future. I can dim the glare, so my son may shine brighter.
Listen, I know I’ll never cure the incurable, or erase autism from his brain altogether. All I can do is take one little step at a time—breathe before I sigh, think before I act, and love before I shriek.
Let it go.
I can substitute anything in this phrase.
It’s just laundry piling up all over the place. Let it go.
It’s just his shoes on the floor as soon as he walks in the house. Let it go.
It’s just she always misplaces her car keys. Let it go.
As I move forward into this New Year, here is what I’ve decided to do when I feel my heart start to race and my teeth clench. I am going to breathe three deep breaths. And I will think TIP.
Why is this triggering me? Why am I reacting?
Is it important? Is there a larger issue lurking underneath that I should address?
Am I keeping my mind in the present? Or am I worried about the future or something that happened in the past? Racecars have brakes for a reason.
I’ll keep you posted.
Holding on is believing that there’s only a past; letting go is knowing that there’s a future.
Daphne Rose Kingma