Life On The B Side

Taking all that life throws at us one moment at a time

We Are All X-Men April 17, 2018

I didn’t spend much of my childhood watching super hero cartoons, and I wasn’t a comic book reader, other than when we visited my Grandads sister, whose son had a box full of Archie comics.  Thanks to my sons however, I am now well versed in all things super hero.  I know real names, side kicks, back stories, powers, enemies … the lot.

I very quickly figured out who my favourites were.  The X-Men.   Of course, you gotta like Wolverine’s willingness to fight for justice, even with all his emotional brokenness and you gotta feel sympathy for Rogue who’s just a young girl who wants to be normal and experience normal things, and anyone with any decency can appreciate Charles Xaviers outreach efforts and desire to be peaceful but, personally I really relate to Magneto.  Techniclly, he’s the “bad guy”, but in terms of ideology, I’m with him.

 

“They wish to cure us. But I say to you we are the cure! The cure for that infirm, imperfect condition called “Homo sapiens!”

 

Magneto, or Erik if you’re cool with him, makes no apologies for his Mutation.  He revels in it;  Celebrates it; And has no tolerance for those who would look for ways to control mutants or worse, make them extinct.

 

His methods may not be on the up and up, but think about how many people who are different, live their ENTIRE lives feeling the pain brought on by other peoples fear?  Think about how many children are told that yes they are loved, but can they just tone themselves down a bit.  Be less obvious.  Blend in.

So much of autism therapy is aimed at stomping out as many of the Obviously Autistic traits that a person has.  We train our children not to stim, to make prolonged eye contact, to play only with “age appropriate” items.  We use words like, cure and fix and broken and hardship and nightmare and burden.

So many LGBT+ youth spend years trying to be something they are not.  They know what will be tolerated and what won’t.  No pink anything for boys and no buzz cuts for girls.  No talk of same sex attraction.  Definitely cannot question gender.  I mean, we barely expect boys to wash dishes or for girls to take out garbage.

 

And what do we do?  Those of us who are broken, sissies or otherwise not what we know our parents wish we were?

We pretend.  We hide.  We lash out.  We detach.  We self-harm.  We self-medicate.

None of it is good or sustainable;  And whether those unhealthy behaviours come to an end in a good way or a bad way depends on many factors.

 

Archangel, (in the comics), comes from millionaire, mutant-bigoted parents who sign guardianship of him over to Professor X.  In the movie, The Last Stand, however, Angels father has developed an inoculation to suppress the X-gene that gives mutants their abilities and offer the “cure” to any mutant who wants it.  We see Angel as a child, who knows his fathers negative views of mutants, trying to saw his feathered wings off his own back.  He has grown up thinking there is something wrong with him.  He does not want to be a mutant.  There are tears and blood everywhere.    When he is discovered in the bathroom, his fathers disappointment and horror is evident.  “No!  Not YOU !

We see Angel as a young man, very reluctantly agreeing to have his mutation stripped away by his fathers injection.  For his whole life, this thing has caused him unnecessary emotional and physical trauma.  He tries to hide, then he tries to mutilate, then he pretends – until finally, even though he knows how much it will anger his father and he understands that his action will likely mean their relationship is over, just as he is about to get the shot, he breaks free and flies out the window unable to take it all anymore.  Nothing is worth more than being his true self, in all his winged glory.

 

Replace the words mutant and powers with autistic or gay and (Arch)Angels story could be anyones story.

 

…Angels father developed an inoculation to suppress the X-gene that gives autistics their traits and offers the cure…

…He has grown up thinking there is something wrong with him.  He does not want to be autistic…

…He is ashamed of his struggle with sexuality and tries everything he can to numb his feelings and to prevent his father from finding out, including constant lying, avoiding being at home – even if that means sleeping in his car, cutting himself or drinking himself into oblivion…

…We see Angel as a young man, very reluctantly agreeing to go to conversion therapy, just to please his dad, even though he doesn’t feel like there is anything wrong with him…

…We see Angel as a young man, knowing that he would benefit from ADHD medication but choosing not to take it so as not to upset his father because taking it would mean admitting that something was “wrong” with him…

…Until finally, even though he knows how much it will anger his father and he understands that his action will likely mean their relationship is over, he just cannot take it anymore and decides to live a free and open and honest and healthy life…

 

I’ve lived some of those scenarios above (or something resembling them) and was well on my way to passing them onto my children.  It took me years to see Jays autism, as something other than a tragedy.  To be able to give him a sense of pride in his autistic brain.  I fought so hard against Ace being on any time of ongoing medication.  Not my baby.  That’s for other parents who want to change their kid and make them into a zombie.  It took me over 20 years to stop spouting out the anti-gay rhetoric that I was raised to believe in and another 15 before I willingly admitted to being in a relationship with a woman.

What a waste of time it all was.

 

Certainly, not all the mutants are good.  Just as not all autistic people are nice and not all gay people are loyal and not all women are reasonable and not all straight, white men are ethical.  That doesn’t mean that illogical and unreasonable fear of those who are different from you should be excused or justified.  That thinking is damaging to the vast majority who are just trying to live their best lives.  I whole-heartedly believe that people should be free to be themselves and that we should all be comfortable asking for help if we need it and be proud of who we are, as long as we are putting respect and compassion out into the world.

 

 

Lastly, in case you were wondering why the heck I chose to spend time writing about the X-Men today of all days?

Honestly, it’s just cause I had some free time last Sunday and it was on Hulu so I watched it.

 

Weekend – Part Deux – Church May 22, 2015

Another weekend is upon us and I haven’t even posted my part 2 about last weekend yet so here goes …

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Where my relationship with God and Church are concerned … the road has been very bumpy.  I have been burned.  I’ve gotten mad; both at God and at people who worship him.  Things are not fair.  I am a doubter.  A questioner of things that I know have no acceptable answer.  Every answer brings more questions.  More doubts.

I do think they have it right when they teach about everyone caring for their fellow (wo)man.  When they preach love and compassion and respect.  I think there’s something good about children growing up knowing about God and believing in something bigger than themselves; bigger than all of us.

Finding a Church to go to – albeit irregularly – has been a challenge for us.  So we stopped going.  But I always had a nagging desire to try again.  I want to have that strength and peace that comes from having faith.

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The other day I was browsing around on Google.  Looking for summer camps to fill gaps in my Child Care needs.  I stumbled upon a summer camp run by an Anglican (Episcopal) Church in my town.  I don’t know why I had never found this Church before.  We previously went to a different Anglican (Episcopal) Church in town and things kind of went up in a blaze of glory.

Everything about this camp that I could find online seemed like a good fit.  The hours, the price, the activities etc.

I decided not only to go speak to them about the summer camp but to also see if perhaps we could try being Church goers again.

Long story, short … We went – And it was good.

When we arrived, the rector came and introduced himself to me and my boys since he’d never seen us before and in general, there seems to be a good and happy energy among the congregation.

The boys played in the Childrens room and took part in Sunday School.  They paraded out with the other children to receive their blessing during Communion.  I was able to have some quiet, reflective time during the service.  Being there felt better than I expected.  The prayers, the hymns, the Creeds, the Confession, the Peace … it was all the same words that I grew up with and will never forget.  The familiarity felt warm and oh so comfortable.  Like being wrapped up in an old blanket.

The sermon was about people who want to be better.  It was about how Christians are no better than other people; in that they covet and they are jealous and they don’t always follow what Jesus would want.  It was about how the Church isn’t always a very welcoming place.  Not for people who need or ask for help.  Not for people who are “different” in any way.  As a result, we who are different or “other” get turned off.  There was a call for those who call themselves Christian to step up and BE better.  Be more open and welcoming and KIND.  There was a prayer for those who don’t yet believe or those who have lost their faith.  In a nutshell, the service spoke to all my feelings.  I picked the right one to attend after such a long hiatus.

We won’t be going every week and I’m not sure if the kids will be going to the summer camp.  But it is nice to know they are there as my faith and beliefs figure themselves out … And possibly build themselves back up.

 

Thanks Cuz April 9, 2013

I have a cousin who lives just over an hour away from us.  His Grandma and my Grandad are brother and sister.  He’s less than a year older than I am and for many years as kids, we lived exactly next door to each other and spent much time playing cards and wrestling and swimming and eating banana splits with vinegar and climbing trees and falling out of trees together.  His wife is lovely and his kids (7 and 5 yrs old) are lovlier.  There really is no good reason why we don’t see them on a regular basis but the reality is that we only get together about 3 times a year.  Both he and I keep promising to change that so last Saturday the kids and I set off on our one hour drive. 

CC stayed home to recuperate from his week alone with the kids and at the last minute, I invited Nanas to come along for the day and she agreed.  (Yay!)

 

I should’ve known everything wouldn’t go smoothly when Jay threw a 10 minute tantrum in the car because he had seen (what I think was) a picture of a duck but neither Nanas nor I saw it and acknowledged it. 

 

In typical Deenie fashion, I didn’t pay too much attention to that outburst in the car.  I assumed that once we got to my cousins house, and Jay started running around with the other kids, things would be fine.  (I always assume things will get better)

I was only kind of right.

 

For the first part of the trip things were going well.  The three boys and one girl were happy to play in the house.  I even got dolled up in sparkly jewelry courtesy of my little niece.  Both my cousin and his wife are veterinarians so their house is full of animals and animal stuff so Jay was happy with that.  There are also Bey Blades and Ninjago’s etc that 6 and 7 year old boys like. 

Everyone eventually made their way outside.  Most of kids began with rolling down hills and playing sword fight while Jay entertained himself with the neighbours dog. 

Then balls, pogo sticks, bicycles, wagons and scooters popped up.  As did about 6 other neighbourhood kids. 

For a while things were still going well … It was fun watching the kids play together outside. 

 

Around 1pm, we went to the back yard for a hot dogs and hamburgers lunch.  This is where things began to go down hill.  Jay just wouldn’t listen.  He kept running back to the front even though we told him he was not to go there alone.  He knew he was being disobedient, but he did it anyway.   Then he got mad when I made him stay with us.  Not fun. 

When he wasn’t trying to escape to the front yard, Jay was rolling around in dirt and dumping handfuls of dirt onto the top of his head. 

My 5 year old niece asked her mom if Jay was crazy.  Ouch! 

What do you say to that?  To a 5 year old. 

 

When everyone settled down to eat, I told my cuz that Jay wouldn’t eat any of the prepared food but he paid no attention to me.  Bless his heart – He treated Jay like he would any other child.  He talked to him the way he would any other child.  He offered him tater tots and hot dogs and rice krispy treats.  But he didn’t get mad when Jay refused them all.

 

After lunch we went back to the front yard where the kids resumed their playing and some of them began climbing a tree. 

Then somewhere between playing with the dogs and rolling down a hill, Jay decided that he should have sole custody of the wagon.  Not only that … He thought he should boss the other children around and give them orders about pulling him around.  As you can imagine, that didn’t go over well and … Cue the crying and screaming. 

 

I tried to get him to share but he was not interested in that.  I tried to redirect him to another activity.  That didn’t fly.  I had to physically remove him from the wagon as he flailed and cried.  I took him inside for a time out.  After he calmed down we went back outside but he went right back to his wagon hogging. 

 

To the other kids credit, they were very good and they seemed more confused than anything about Jay’s behavior.  They tried to reason with him but … yeah … no.

 

One boy quietly asked me why Jay was behaving like that and why he was acting like a baby.  The words got caught in my throat.  I was at a loss as to how to explain it to an 8 year old.  I just told him that sometimes Jay has a hard time and I thanked him for being so patient.

How lame.  That didn’t help anyone.  The boy stood there looking at me waiting for more but that was all that came out.  I felt awful.  Like I should have done a better job but I didn’t know what to say – For the 2nd time that day.  Also, I really wanted to just get back to Jay and remove him from the wagon so someone else could enjoy it for a change. 

 

I know I need to get myself together and figure out how I can and will explain Jay to other children.  They really want to know and understand.  And they will ask. 

 

The day wound down and we started saying our goodbyes.  My cousin asked when we’d be back and I told him soon.  I wasn’t sure that I meant it though.  After the way Jay had behaved that day, I didn’t know if I’d be ready to go there again soon.  I said something about being sorry that Jay was so grumpy and that he has good days and bad days and today was a bad day.  My cousin in all his awesomeness responded with … “He had a bad day???  He was fine except for a couple moments.  I really loved that you guys came and you should definitely come back soon.  Like, in a couple weeks or so.”

 

I could tell he meant it 100%.

I punched him in the arm because if I did or said anything else, I would’ve cried.  I really wanted to tell him that I appreciate him accepting and loving my little family just as we are.  I wanted to tell him that when I 1st started reading blogs about autism, one of the things I remember reading was that there will be people in your life who will surprise you by not being able to cope with your new life and there will be people who you feel closer to than you ever expected.  I wanted to tell him that he is one of the few people who has surprised me in the way that he makes us feel welcome and loved and accepted and comfortable.  I always knew he had a good heart, but I never saw this coming.

 

Progresso Soup Commercial and Losing Virginity – Autism Style March 9, 2012

Have you seen the Progresso soup commercial where a lady phones in to Progresso and another woman answers.  Then the woman who made the call says “I’ve been eating Progresso and now my old jeans fit“.  The Progresso employee oohs and aahs and makes a big deal about the weight loss much to the callers delight.

Then another woman calls but this time a man answers the phone.  When she tells him of her weight loss he says “ok“.  She explains to him that she can now fit into something she hasn’t been able to fit into for years.  Again he responds with “ok“.  She then asks to speak to a woman. (Knowing that a woman would “get it”)

 

I remember when I was in high school, I found out that my friend had begun to have sex and she had told another girl about it but had said nothing to me.  I asked her why she hadn’t told me but had instead told this other girl who wasn’t as close to her.  She said because she knew that other girl was also having sex and I wasn’t, so it was easier for her to confide in that other girl.  She wasn’t sure how I would treat her if I knew.

 

It’s like that with all things in life I guess.  It’s easier to talk to someone whose reaction you’re sure of.  Someone who you know for sure is in the same boat as you.  It’s hard to open up or expose ourselves.  Vulnerability is not comfortable.  We want people to feel our excitement when we are excited.  We are afraid of judgment.  We need to feel emotionally safe.

 

Around this time last year I sent an e-mail to some people telling them that I was walking to raise money for Autism Speaks.  Admittedly, I was selective with who I sent the e-mail to.  Back then, there were still some people that I didn’t want to know about what was going on in my house.  I was blown away by everyone’s response and generosity.  What I didn’t expect, was to get an e-mail from 1 of my co-workers telling me that his son has Aspergers.  (Lets call my co-worker Bob).  Bob is someone that I like very much but I don’t see often.  His son is around 10 years old and I had met him before but I had no idea that he had special needs.  Bob told me that he and his wife haven’t told anyone except immediate family about his sons diagnosis.  (I understand why.)  But after I opened up about my son he felt comfortable telling me about his son.

Bob recently sent me an e-mail asking how Jay was doing.  I replied telling him that the progress is slow but it’s there so we’re happy with that and then I gave him the big news about Jay using the toilet on a regular basis now (with prompting).  His response was great.  He got it.  He was so happy for us.  Then he told me that after 4 years of them trying to get his son to join boy scouts and him refusing … he finally decided to do it this year and so far has been loving it.  I could tell how very proud he was and of course I get it.  I was so very proud of his son too.  I let him know how amazing that is and wished him much more success in the future with everything.  I hope he felt my genuine joy for him.

 

I’m not sure why I’m writing about this stuff now.  I didn’t have an end in mind when I started typing.  I was just thinking about how much I understand peoples need to stay in their comfort zone. But I have found a lot of comfort in opening up.  It hasn’t all been positive, but I have found friends and camaraderie in places I never expected.  I have found that there are people who I never thought I had anything in common with but I do.  (Bob is as opposite to me as you can imagine.  In an effort to respect his privacy, I won’t tell you anything else about him.)  There are definitely people who will never get it.  Like my bitch of a co-worker who once told me to “do something about my son before she does” or like the man on the phone at Progresso.  But there will be people who don’t judge, they just care.  Like I would have been with my friend and like so many of my friends and family and all of you who read this blog.