Tag Archives: Manhattan

Anger, Confusion, Doing the Right Thing

My father was born and raised in Paris.  He was actually Swiss, hence my last name, but he grew up in France and only came to the States in his twenties.  As a child I remember feeling ever so slightly embarrassed by my obvious “American-ness” something my father was often critical of in not so subtle ways.  One of his complaints was regarding what he felt was an American preoccupation with “happiness”.  One of his favorite phrases, repeated to my annoyance when I was a teenager, was “no one ever promised you a rose garden.”  (It was an interesting statement coming from someone who lovingly tended to his rose bushes that accented an enormous cactus/rock garden in front of our ranch-style house.)  I hated when he said that.  I can remember driving in the car staring out the window, talking about the injustices of the world and our society and feeling it was all too much to bear and he would come out with the thing about the rose garden or another of his favorites, “it’s a wicked world”  and I would silently scream in my head, while saying nothing.

It’s snowing right now.  My studio windows look north onto a bridge where hundreds of commuters barrel along to and from Manhattan.  On sunny days to my left the Manhattan skyline beckons in all its grandeur, to my right massive factory buildings rise up, grey concrete and windows where I can see heavy machinery, artist’s studios and manufacturing.  Often, on the street my studio building occupies, film crews shoot TV shows I’ve never watched, parking is suspended, barricades are set up and large tables laden with food, none of the actors will eat, take up space on the sidewalk.  But this morning it’s snowing.  Manhattan is completely obscured by heavy, grey clouds.  Different sized flakes whirl about as though unaware that gravity will eventually win out.

I spent most of my teens in a state of confused, directionless, rage.   Eventually all that anger found its target…  me.  For the next few decades I took my upset and sense of injustice and dumped it on my self over and over until I had all but forgotten there was anything else to be outraged about.  Slowly over time that changed.  I learned to have some acceptance, I learned that my anger was not the single worst thing about me, to be buried and beaten down and hidden.  I learned that other people’s anger, while uncomfortable, would not kill me.  I learned about myself and I began to see that my resentments led me to behave in ways that would eventually crush me.  My addictions (click for more on that) were all about rage, debilitating resentments turned inward.   I learned the only way I could crawl out from under my addictions was through honesty, acceptance, compassion and love.  I learned I could feel rage, but that I had to learn how to respect and care for it.  I am still learning.  I haven’t gotten it all figured out yet.  I still falter and make missteps, but I know the key points so that I don’t completely fall off into self-destruction.

Anger.  What is it telling me?  I have to keep my actions honest.  I have to keep conflicts centered on separating feelings from facts.  I have to try to recognize when I am responding with judgment, prejudice, privilege, superiority or defensiveness (this is no small feat!)  I have to step away and ask myself – am I being honest?  Am I being willfully hurtful?  Am I intentionally or unintentionally being manipulative?  Am I afraid?  If so, what of?  Am I speaking from truth or because I want others to think well of me?  Am I placing principles above personalities?  Am I practicing these principles in all my affairs?  Am I gossiping?  Am I feeling superior or conversely inferior?  Am I demonstrating any of these things in my behavior?  What can I do to support those I care about and love?  What can I do to be of service?  What is the next “right” action in the face of conflict?  Sometimes the answer to this last question is to be present and enjoy the snow falling outside my window and to see the beauty in its gathering on the rooftops and farther below on the ground.  Sometimes, not always, but sometimes, taking care of myself so that I can take action at a later point means doing absolutely nothing in this moment.

January 2013 – The Chrysler Building at night

Chryslar Building

A Celebration With Some Unexpected Surprises

This past weekend we spent celebrating Emma’s birthday.  For the past few months we have been planning Emma’s birthday with her.  Emma was very specific.  She asked that we spend the night in a hotel that had a swimming pool followed by a party at the same place she takes gymnastics with her brother every weekend.  We visited the hotel with Emma before booking it.  The pool was on the roof and when we visited, the saline water was at a lovely 94 degrees.  We booked the place where she wanted her party and sent out invitations.  We called the hotel ahead of time to confirm they had wi-fi and a DVD player as Em wanted to bring her favorite Charlie Brown video.  Saturday afternoon we piled into a taxi, arrived at the hotel, settled into our room, donned our bathing suits and made our way to the roof where it was windy and quite cold, but looked forward to the lovely warm water awaiting us.

Emma jumped into the water without hesitation, with Richard following.  I turned as Richard gasped in surprise.  It was the sound someone makes when the wind’s been knocked out of them.  I stared at him.  “It’s really, really cold!” Richard said in answer to my confused look.

“Seriously?”

“Uh.  Yeah.  Feel it.”

Tentatively I dipped a hand into the water.  It was not a lovely 94 degrees, it wasn’t even a tolerable 84, in fact, it seemed unlikely that it was anywhere close to being “warm”.  The outside temperature had barely climbed above 35 degrees and the wind was brisk.  Nic took one look at my face and voiced what I was thinking, “There’s no way I’m getting into that water.”  Richard, being the champ that he is, hung in there for another ten minutes before getting out, his lips having turned blue and his teeth chattering, while Emma, being impervious to cold of any kind lasted another half an hour.

It's Cold!

The beauty of Manhattan awash in the afternoon light. Taken from the hotel roof’s pool.

Manhattan

Framed Sky – Taken from the hotel’s roof while Em and Richard swam

Framed Sky

The hotel assured us the pool would be warmer by the following day, so we promised to come back the next morning for a longer swim.  Our evening was lovely, the children had a blast, and the next morning, after a wonderful breakfast we headed back up to the pool.  This time Emma did not immediately jump in, but felt the water with her toe.  It was a little warmer, though not much, but despite its cold temperature we resolved to bite the bullet and swim anyway if Emma chose to jump in.  Eventually she did and was delighted when the rest of us followed her.  It was cold, very, very cold, but it was also beautiful up on that roof, with the sun shining and the gorgeous view of Manhattan spread out before us.  We swam laps and splashed and played and Emma had a wonderful time.  When we finally got out of the water, dried off and put on our fluffy robes, we snuggled together on an enormous wicker chair, Richard called “the egg”.

Nic and I in the “egg”

In the egg

Later that afternoon we went to the gym where we celebrated Emma’s birthday with half a dozen other children whom she’d specifically asked to have invited.

Over the years we have learned to involve Emma in every aspect of planning her birthday, doing what she requests as much as possible.  Despite some unexpected surprises we have gotten better and better at giving her what she wants rather than what we think she might want.  And over the years we get it right more and more.

Em with her string and her new book – Landon Bryce’s “I Love Being My Own Autistic Self!”

Presents

 

Fog

When I climbed the stairs out of the subway this morning and began heading west to my studio, fog completely obscured the Manhattan skyline.  I’m no stranger to fog, whether metaphorical or actual.  In northern California where I grew up, fog was a constant.  Each morning the fog would cover the mountains near our house, but by 11:00AM it would have lifted.  I feel a certain nostalgia for fog.  As I walked the four blocks to my studio this morning I thought about how, when we can’t see something we often assume it isn’t there or what we assume is there, actually isn’t.   Had I not known fog was covering an entire thriving metropolis called Manhattan, I would not have been able to imagine it.  That’s the beauty of fog, it usually lifts and when it does, it often reveals surprising things.

This has been my experience with my daughter and autism.  Autism was, for a great many years, like the fog, obscuring the child within.  I kept trying to lift the fog, thinking that if I could do so, I would “find” my daughter.  Then I began to realize the “fog” was my thinking.  The way I thought about autism was obscuring my daughter.   My daughter has always been there, just like Manhattan is and when the fog lifts I can see her in all her magnificent glory.

Emma – 2004