happiness

All posts tagged happiness

Comfort – Dark Matter and the Light of Stars

Published October 5, 2017 by Jen Rosado from MyAlternateUniv

Albert Einstein theorized that the dark, empty space of the universe is not “nothing”, that empty space may, in fact, possess its own energy. Scientists have called the “something” of empty space “dark matter” and called its energy “dark energy”. And although they still question and explore the nature of space as it relates to the expansion of the universe since the Big Bang, they’ve used observations and calculations to arrive at an approximate and theoretical model of composition of the universe:  68% dark energy, 27% dark matter, and 5% normal visible matter (stars, planets, us, and everything we can see).

This fits with what I see in my skies at night. The skies I see are mostly dark space flecked with occasional stars and planets. The stars are brilliant and beautiful, yes, but separated by oh, so much darkness, with only a small amount of what one might consider the light of “normal matter”.

When my son was born, I dreamed what our life would be like, what his future would hold.

I never thought my husband and I would be taking a PMT class to learn the proper ways to restrain my son so he won’t hurt himself or others during a meltdown.

I never thought we’d be shopping on-line for a helmet to protect his head from self-injurious behaviors.

I never thought I’d wear long sleeves no matter the weather to cover scratches, bruises, and bite marks.

I never thought we’d talk in hushed voices over dinner about the possibility of a residential home if he got too big for us to handle.

Our life has drifted so far from what would be considered “normal matter” that for months I’ve been too distracted by dark matter, too overwhelmed with dark energy, too consumed by the blackness of an endless void of fear and anger and guilt, of helplessness and hopelessness, to bother to look for the light of stars.

“I can’t believe this is my life,” I find myself saying. “I can’t believe this is our life.”

I can’t believe this is his life.

Yet my son, the one who is suffering the most – from sensory integration problems we don’t understand, from painful, crippling anxiety, from overwhelming frustration at his inability to communicate – he is still searching for and finding stars every day.

Over the past few months, my husband and I have introduced our son to YouTube videos of different kinds of music and dance – from classical to contemporary. Many videos he is not interested in. Others he watches over and over and over again – silently, intently, occasionally bouncing or rocking during a favorite part.

It never ceases to amaze me, his choices of videos. He is unaware and uninfluenced by what typical 8-year-olds are supposed to like, and although many of his choices are simple children’s songs, sometimes his choices are timeless and profound, showing a wisdom and sophistication beyond his years.

He finds what speaks to him, what comforts him. He finds his own stars.

And like stars, sometimes they stand alone, but other times they appear to form a pattern, a constellation through which stories or messages can be conveyed.

For several weeks recently, my son watched these four videos again and again, and they do, indeed, seem to create a constellation. (I encourage you to watch each one all the way through. I’ve seen them what seems like a hundred times by now, yet I’m still inspired and moved, getting all teary-eyed like the sensitive sap I am.)

“Ode to Joy/Ode an die Freude”, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring/Joy to the World”, “Happy”…

Yes, it’s a constellation of happiness, but it’s really more than that. These songs are jubilant, triumphant, victorious celebrations…defiant declarations of joy.

Keeping in mind the fact that my son is nonverbal and has limited understanding of the English language (no less a foreign language), clearly it’s not the words but something about the music and the instruments, the singing and the dancing, something that breaks through the confused messages of his disorganized neurons to bring him calming comfort.

To bring him happiness.

For him, music is like those powerful, burning spheres of hydrogen and helium, the light from which travels light years through darkness to shine as stars in our night sky.

I’ll admit I haven’t looked for stars lately because, quite frankly, I don’t want to.

I’m angry.

I don’t want to be comforted. I want things to be different.  For now I’m content to stand in the maelstrom of our personal Pandora’s box, screaming expletives into the wind.

My boy is the keeper of the little light in the bottom of that box.

His behavior during intense meltdowns is not who he is.

He is an intelligent, complex, and deeply sensitive child.

He is a hero who defies the darkness.

He is a seeker of stars.

He finds comfort in their light and shares it with me.

“Dark Energy, Dark Matter”, NASA, https://science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/focus-areas/what-is-dark-energy, Sept. 15, 2017.

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Happiness – A Trip to the Dollar Store

Published July 17, 2014 by Jen Rosado from MyAlternateUniv

So far, I’ve been writing my blog in chronological order. I like it when things are in order. It makes me happy. However, sometimes a totally blog-worthy story presents itself and rules have to be broken. If and when I publish my book, this will be a later chapter, in its correct chronological spot. This will make me happy. Until then, please enjoy this story in all its blog-worthiness:

Not long ago, I decided it was time to desensitize my four-year-old son to shopping. His autism and sensory processing disorder have always made shopping with him very challenging. I can’t be sure exactly what it is about stores that cause my boy so much anxiety. At school he had to be desensitized to the gymnasium, which absolutely terrified him. So maybe part of it was the largeness of the store and its tall ceilings. Then again, his senses have always been very sensitive, and all the hustle and bustle of a store, the colorful products and packages on tall shelves, the beeping of registers and loud announcements and such – it’s a lot to take in and process all at once!

And then of course, there are PEOPLE. My son will go to great lengths to avoid people. He will take himself as far from people as possible, keeping a constant eye out for an escape route. It doesn’t matter if it’s a store, a playground, a gathering of family members, a play date with friends – there is something about people that inspires a fight or flight response.

Obviously this is something we need to work on.

I began my quest for desensitization by taking him into the local country market in town. The first few times he clung to me as we did one quick walk around the perimeter aisles of the store. Next we graduated to walking up and down the aisles, picking out a banana or yogurt, then standing in line and making a purchase. His need to drag his hand along the products on the shelves and his fascination with the floor tiles prompted me to carry handi-wipes, but otherwise he did really well!

Next we tried Kmart – bigger store, but not huge crowds of people. He hesitated as we walked through the doors and tried to pull me back out. Once he resigned himself to the fact that we were, indeed, going into Kmart, he held tightly to my arm and walked quickly and purposefully around the outside aisles. We were not going to stop to look at anything, not even toys – his body language made that very clear. He wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. He looked down each aisle in hopes of catching a glimpse of the exit, and he damn-near sprinted when we got within sight of the glass doors. I gave him hugs and lots of praise when we finally walked out into the sunshine.

We made other excursions into stores like Stop and Shop and Kohl’s. Toys-R-Us was interesting: Despite being a happy destination for most children, my son didn’t make it past the first display before he was pulling my husband and I toward the exit in a panic.

A few days after the Toys-R-Us attempt, I decided to try taking my son to the dollar store with me. I needed to buy some plates and party favors for his birthday, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to practice shopping and waiting in line.

Entering the dollar store was similar to other store experiences. He hesitated at the door, turning to me with his arms up indicating that he wanted to be carried. I hoisted up my 40-pound boy and hoped that I wouldn’t have to carry him around the whole store.

It turns out that, no, I would not have to carry him.

As we walked in, a look of absolute joy came over my son’s face. He gazed around the dazzling, magical wonderland that is the dollar store, slid down from my hip, and laughed, saying, “Iiii-yeee!” (My son is non-verbal, but he makes vocalizations that often indicate how he is feeling. This particular vocalization is one of his “happy sounds”.) I took his hand, and we walked down the first aisle where the paper plates were found. He touched the shrink-wrap on the colorful plates and cups and tried to reach the balloons that were bobbing from a display. “Iiii-yeee!” he laughed.

“I know, Buddy! This place IS great!” I was thoroughly enjoying his reaction. He was smiling and laughing and jumping up and down, having fun exploring the store, completely ignoring the people around him. A lady nearby smiled and commented how adorable he was.

At some point his happiness became so overwhelming it could no longer be contained – he just HAD to let it out. My arm pulled downward with the weight of his body as he sat down on the floor and kicked his feet in an excited frenzy.

This, of course, reminded me of the first time I had shopped in a dollar store: “You mean THIS is only a dollar?! No Way! What about this? This is only a dollar, TOO?! This place is AWESOME!” So that’s pretty much what I imagined my boy was saying as he made happy sounds and kicked his feet on the floor: “Mom! All this stuff is a dollar! Can you BELIEVE it? This place is AWESOME!”

I picked him up off the floor and crouched at eye level to him. “No, Honey. We don’t sit on the floor. We walk in the store.” He might not have understood the words I was saying, but I was pretty sure he got the message that he was not supposed to sit on the floor and kick.

Or, maybe not.

We continued through the store – me, choosing plates, decorations, and some glow sticks for party favors; my son, sitting down every few feet to kick and laugh.

In the toy aisle, my son’s excitement exploded into a supernova of wild exuberance. He found a display of plastic toy megaphones and started pulling them out of the box and throwing them on the floor, creating an obstacle between us. Then he took off in a sprint, not entirely unlike a criminal in a police drama, dumping a trashcan over to slow the pursuit of the cop chasing him down an alley. I’ll admit, it kind of worked. I hesitated, trying to decide if I should chase him or clean up the mess he had made first. It didn’t matter, because ultimately his get-away was foiled by his inability to resist the urge to sit down and kick his feet. I captured him before he made it around the corner and, holding him tightly with one hand, cleaned up the megaphones.

At this point I realized that my boy was a bit TOO comfortable in this store. It was time to leave.

We waited in line, the weight of my boy pulling me sideways as he hung limply from my arm, laughing. I reconsidered the glow sticks as the thought of my son biting into one of them and the subsequent calls to poison control entered my head. I put them on a nearby display, paid for the rest of my things, and carried my boy from the store (because now apparently he didn’t want to leave).

During the car ride home, I found myself imagining my son five or six years in the future. A four-year-old, sitting on the floor in a store, kicking and laughing with joy, is kind of cute. But what about when he is ten years old? His behavior will not be so cute then. He will be bigger, heavier, and quicker, and his escape attempts might be more successful. It’s scary to think about. Perhaps by then, after years of practice, he will learn the appropriate behavior for when we’re out in public and not be so enamored by magical places like the dollar store.

I looked at my son’s smiling face in the review mirror. I really didn’t want to lose that innocent joy. Maybe we could find a way to keep the joy, just teach him to contain it and express it in a way that won’t make him a danger to himself or others. And, hey – if he wants to laugh and let out a few “Iiii-yee’s”, so be it.

Heck, I might just join him in his celebration, because he’s right…the dollar store IS a pretty awesome place.

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