A friend of mine is trying to practice mindfulness--that is, the practice of stopping and reflecting on the moment, what you are feeling now as separate from what came before, and what might come after. You focus on physical and emotional sensations, and on your body's needs and reactions, in order to try and achieve a greater understanding of how to reach a calmer, more peaceful state. This is a Buddhist practice, but more therapists and psychologists are incorporating mindfulness training into their work with their patients. It occurred to me, while I was listening to my friend, that mindfulness could help my son, L., who has Asperger's Syndrome, a great deal--if only we could get him to try a more mindful approach when life spins out of control. But getting him to apply these types of strategies when he's anxious, or during those awful, bottom-dropping-out spiraling meltdown moments, just hasn't worked. I think mindfulness requires a great amount of mental discipline, and we adults have a hard enough time practicing disciplined mindfulness as it is.
When L. was little I could hold him sometimes, at the bottom end of a meltdown, as the anger was winding down like some tired, run-out machine. I'd breathe with him, in and out, in and out, until he reached that spent point, and then I was there, his safe place. I can't do this anymore. I long to, often, but he's older now, and bigger. Now I try and practice mindfulness for myself, because I can't afford to get caught up in the runaway train that is L. in meltdown mode. Last night he slammed his own finger in a door in a fit of homework-related anger. I raised my voice once too often. We were at each other all afternoon, L. and I, from 3:00 until bedtime, long after my daughter T. was tucked into her own bed, and fast asleep. Spent, I folded clothes in my room: brought socks together, matched up shirts with leggings, and made a pile for L.'s school clothes. I felt sorry for myself, flying solo that night, just me and the dysfunctional mess that was that evening. I was sure I hadn't handled things right. What wasn't I seeing, or getting right? The house seemed eerily quiet. Was L. in bed? Reading? Was it over? I had just gotten to the bottom of my laundry pile when I heard steps behind me and there he was. He leaned into me, then back again.
"I just wrote program code for the game I made," he said. "So I can run it on my Mac, and not just on the PC!"
I stared at him for a few seconds. I felt bruised still from the series of explosions all afternoon. "Oh," was all I could say. Program code? And wasn't it Power Down time? Why was he on the computer? I opened my mouth to say something about this violation of The Rules and then, finally, mindfulness was there in all its glory.
"That's exciting," I said. "Really great!" And then, just like that, it was exciting--and brilliant, and hope-filled, too.