Heh. Over the summer, I had some extreme boredom moments when my son fell ill. Since my sick boy needed me nearby, I asked, “What can I do with myself and still be 5 feet away?”
I decided to categorize all my downstairs books and plot the distribution on a bubble graph. Since this wasn’t quite fancy enough, I extracted and “steampunked” the bubbles. This turned into a week long labor of Asperger Love.
I am compelled to add, that the distribution does not include all my books. If it did, the short story and atlas book numbers would triple. I have crates of short stories in the spare room plus a stack of atlases next to my bed.
ETA: I am taking some time to read my best buddy’s novel. So I’m sharing my love of books and charts with you!
Original Bubble Graph after the jump.
The numbers are the numbers of books in each category.
I used to consider boredom the remote affliction of others. Bored people lacked imagination and an appreciation for beauty. In my childhood, I spent hours tilting and gazing at kaleidoscopes. Plaster patterns on the wall continuously evolved and reshaped into faces, beasts, and foreign geographies. How could anyone be bored when all they had to do was look?
My assumptions about boredom were misguided. I struggled mightily with boredom, especially in the forced confines of school. I fidgeted and interrupted upon occasion. Usually, though, I traveled in my brain.
I remember Rafaela and her ponytail holders. Decorated with translucent red balls, the holders fastened tight and close to her scalp. I mentally traced the smooth channels of her dark braided hair up to the holders and back down again. Sometimes the light would hit the holders just right and they would glow. Eventually the teacher picked up on my fascination and seated me elsewhere.
High school algebra classes numbed my brain. I digested material instantaneously, making lectures redundant and banal. One day I brought a Phillip’s screwdriver to school and disassembled my desk top. The mischief makers behind me regarded me with new respect. I spent the rest of class balancing the desk with my knees while I charted the progress of a rolling pencil.
Not soon afterward, I spoke to my math teacher, Mr. Tigers. “I know all of this, “ I told him, “From chapter one to seven. Test me.” He didn’t bother and let me go to the library instead, provided I take scheduled exams. I wound up using my free period to tutor the special ed class he taught.
I relished making learning fun for other people. Math class bored me because it was too easy. The kids I tutored found math boring for the opposite reason–it was too hard. This irony escaped me at the time.
In my senior year, I took calculus with Mr. Guam, the wrestling coach. The course took place in a big booming room that felt more like an oversized bathroom stall than a classroom. The ceiling was twenty feet up and small windows seemed to float in the distance.
Uneasy, for subtle, incomprehensible reasons, I drifted away during lectures. I deemed his instruction style bewildering and disorganized. Furthermore, his homework and assignments did not correspond to the book, impeding my understanding further. He held homework sessions after wrestling practice, too late for my anxious self to attend. Coincidentally, his exam questions derived from these very sessions (the wrestlers did quite well). I hated his strategy and handed in a nasty note in place of my second exam. He gave me a D-.
A year later, I re-took calculus at a university. My instructor was an unintelligible foreign professor, yet I aced all my exams. He followed the textbook. The next year I became a popular calculus math tutor.
So what happened to me? Why fail in one class and not another? I’ve asked myself these questions hundreds of times, because my academic career was so mixed.
I succeeded when I worked alone and followed the book. I failed in a distracting and social environment. It is the story of my life.
So how does one with such a brain raise a chatty, precocious boy with autism?
I doodle (above), bounce on a yoga ball, and get excited about teaching my son math.
Despite a family stomach bug requiring lots of fluids and patience, our weekend is going well.
Every fifth weekend we are blessed. Liev is healthy and we amiably enjoy each other’s company and do fun (but odd!) things together. When Egor’s folks came, we were graced with one such weekend.
The other four weekends, however, vary in their degrees of misery. I’m sick, E’s sick or we are bored into a depressive funk. Liev runs amok, despite our best intentions.
I ask myself why we have such trouble.
Egor made a substantial observation last weekend:
Liev cannot have a quiet mind. He must be occupied with an activity that has personal meaning for him. If he is not pursuing such an activity, his mind fills with anxiety or boredom.
These already powerful feelings are amplified by his autism. He is lost in a sea of unbearable emotion. He acts out as an escape.
How do I know this? I feel the same way.
True that, husband.
Coping with an empty mind is my biggest difficulty.
My younger self would have scoffed. “How could you be bored? There are so many things you can do! Quick, collect something, open a book, look outside!”
That younger self never coped with an autistic five-year-old in a kanji writing mania.
Sometimes kanji duty numbs the brain. I know every parent has such moments, but we are like our son. The mental void of boredom fills itself with ugly, unpleasant things.
So, I paint, write or doodle. My husband draws or stares sadly into space.
This weekend, despite protests that it never works, we are doing The Strict Schedule. The Strict Schedule keeps transitions between parents to a minimum, which helps greatly. It is a full day for me, minus two hours of Papa breaks.
In the past, this worked well. We were happier and more organized. We only get off track when I’m ill (me=schedule queen). The next weekend, group amnesia sets in and chaos begins anew.
I don’t want to find myself wondering what went wrong in three weeks. Thus, I made “Count It Out” to remind me.
All week, I told Liev to use numbers to count through difficult moments. There is always the first thing you need to do.
This is mine, to remember what works even if it seems hard.