Sensitive To Everything
Friday night Charlie yawned and yawned, and took himself up to bed around 8pm. After an hour, he got up and got dressed and wanted to don his socks and shoes, and so out he and I went for a walk. I'd been hearing about the snow already piling up in D.C.. but, here in north central New Jersey, it felt a bit warmer. The glow of the lights from New York added to a sense of something being a bit uncanny, a bit off. Charlie did not—for the first time in months—fall asleep until almost 11pm.
He woke at his usual time on Saturday and we went for our usual morning ride by his school and when we didn't follow his "that way, that way"and turned not left but right—mind you, we'd been preparing him for that right turn in advance—there was drama of the sort we hadn't seen all week. Later on, when we again didn't go "that way"—the way Charlie was pointing (it happened to be McDonalds and we'd already made a trip there for lunch)—the same, painful, car-rattling response occurred, though for far shorter a time period than in the morning.
In between, Charlie got in four winter walks in the few inches of snow that had come down, three with Jim and two with my parents and me. He was radiant on each of them. We passed a father walking a dog and his 7 or 8 year old son who said words to the effect of "do we have to go as far as the park? let's turn around now! I'm sooooooo cold. I can't, I can't, c'mon, Dad, please, please……," etc.. I reflected on Charlie's being quite impervious to the cold, or at least willing to endure it stoically.
Indeed, Charlie sometimes, and he did do this Saturday, goes to sit in the car and ends up waiting as we're not always (nor do I think we always should) ready to jump in and go off. While Charlie's been putting on his blue parka for the walks without our telling him to, the parka seems strictly to be "for walks," as he otherwise insists only on wearing his blue fleece jacket.
It's such insistence that things must be so, that things be every time so, that seems, more and more, to be the precursor to the above-mentioned drama. It's the trickiest of balances to negotiate, keeping a certain order of things (like driving only on the same routes) to give Charlie a sense of security, and veering from that order not only because (a truism that is true) nothing stays the same. And because, even when we stay within those requests for order as prescribed by Charlie, some sort of cognitive dissonance still gets set off in him. I would say that Jim and me letting Charlie maintain those same requests for order for too long (such as playing the same CD over and over) have been a, if not, the main source of his self-injurious behavior, at least recently. Perhaps Charlie bursts into drama because he realizes, the old order is not working for him and he's just had enough, but doesn't know what to do?
Jim and I started talking about a plan to start driving in as many varied ways as we can. I'm going on taking photos of places where we're at a crossroad and might go "south" rather than "north." Right now, telling about these divergences verbally helps little, if at all, as if the spoken word is too insubstantial a thing for him to peg his anxiety on, at a change to the expected order. Do the words spin and spin round in Charlie's and then he can't take it anymore, and he has to do something—cause such a commotion—-to make it all stop? It also occurs to me that I should have ready written pages (saying, simply, "south" and "north") to show him and for him to touch and hold.
Saturday night Charlie went to be by 8.30pm and stayed there, falling asleep a bit after 9pm. I'm hopeful that this was a sort of 24 hour disturbance, related even to the winter storm and the change in barometric pressure that Charlie seems as sensitized too as he is the direction the car is moving in and, too, to the lightest of sounds. I went into check on him and though his eyes were shut and he was lying very still, he said "good night."
Charlie is, as Jim said to my parents, just sensitive to everything. I am even thinking that, while he hasn't seemed to have terribly strong feelings one way or the other about snow, Charlie might be more bothered than he can express by it, all that cold wettish white stuff impinging on his walks and making the world look very different, covering over the familiar sights he relies on to navigate his way.