Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Our solitude

I came across this quote via Brain Pickings the other day:

We enter solitude, in which also we lose loneliness… True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation. One’s inner voices become audible. One feels the attraction of one’s most intimate sources. In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives. The more coherent one becomes within oneself as a creature, the more fully one enters into the communion of all creatures.

-Wendell Berry, from What Are People For?
Soren recently learned to pump on a swing. Whereas he used to drag me out in the rain to push him on our background swing (groan), now he signs the word for "go" so that I leave him on the swing alone. Yesterday he was out there for an hour or more, alone, just swinging, as high as he could. When I lured him back inside with a snack, he was so calm and so happy.

I'll admit I felt a little guilty. That's a lot of time left alone for a little guy who needs me to engage him, isn't it? I should be interacting with him, or he should be interacting with me, right? We should be doing something substantive, like playing with Play-Doh (fine motor skills!) while I'm modeling commenting via the iPad (communication skills!).

But all that time alone was actually kind of nice for me, too. I had a leisurely glass of wine. I listened to the radio. I puttered in the kitchen. And when Soren finally came inside and I saw his calm smile, I realized he had needed that time alone, doing one of his favorite things. Now he was ready to be with me.

He and I, we share this inner pull, this need to be alone to recharge. Our need for excitement and activity is pretty low. So his being out there, alone (don't worry--yard is safely fenced and secured now)--it's a good thing, for both of us. Maybe swinging is going to be his after-school thing, or what he goes to when he's inconsolable. I'm beginning to see how this time away from each other is what allows the two of us to later enter into peaceful interaction. After the solitude break, we are ready to really connect, whether that's playing together or just happily being in the same room.

There's a stereotype that autistic people are locked in the own world--that they like it that way and must be lured out of their isolation for their own good. But more and more, I see purpose in Soren's alone time. His private swinging is not avoiding people or wasted time; he's recalibrating himself so that he can engage with the world. Soren and his swinging are a great reminder for me that we all need time to be alone doing what we love so that we can be our best selves with one another. 

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