Noah is hunched in the corner again, bent over a little blue rectangle like a penitent monk. What was a generous gift from his Grannie – a Nintendo 3DS – has become, as per usual, a source of obsession for our son. This is an area in which Aspies truly excel: when they take hold of an object (or person, or idea), getting them to let go is like trying to Jell-O wrestle a cat. The pursuit of specific and narrow areas of interest is one of the most striking features of Asperger’s Syndrome. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is analogous, and characterized by a pervasive preoccupation with perfectionism, orderliness, and control. The one is a differential diagnosis for the other. But they are distinguishable enough that when your son carries both, every day is ripe with opportunities to go to battle with a very determined spirit.
And I HATE to fight.
We are into day four of Noah’s new gift. It’s already to the point where I dread asking him to get dressed, eat a meal, do his homework, or take a shower because each directive elicits a scream. Not a begrudging moan, or a reluctant surrender, but a sobbing howl because he cannot let it go. “MOM! I’m almost at the next level!!” (flinging self on floor). “I CAN’T STOP NOW!” (kicking the wall). “Noah, you have to put it down to do (X). You can pick it up again after you’ve done (X).” “I HATE (X)!” (stomping away) “HATE IT!” (screaming). By this point, my ears are usually bleeding.
Because fear is the most prevalent emotion of autism, I have to tease out the anxiety from within the fixation. So many sources of original joy in Noah’s life have crossed the line into obsessive preoccupation but their roots are almost always found in fear. I can’t imagine where he gets this.
Oh wait. Yes I can. My husband was kind enough to point out to me that lately, I’ve taken a love of my own to a whole n’otha level – surfing the internet for information, talking about it incessantly, laying awake at night ruminating on it. This wasn’t a gentle admonition, either. He came right out and called me obsessed. So I plumbed my own psyche for the obsession’s cause, and discovered that I’m afraid I will never get it. Ever. Because I’ve wanted it five times longer than Noah’s been alive. And when you’ve waited that long, well, it’s hard not to think the universe is playing a cruel joke on you.
Just yesterday, this verse appeared on my phone through my “Daily Bible” app: “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6) When you’re both struggling with questions of mental peace AND searching for what to write about, and out of 31,100 verses in the Bible, this particular one shows up on your phone, it’s hard not to feel the hem of His cloak as the Lord passes by.
My desires – Noah’s desires – are fleshly. Which is not to say “un-Godly.” I’m certain God puts good things in our lives we continue to want, and then provides them for us. But when those good things become “every waking minute” things, the spirit has been given over to the flesh. It may not be easy telling Noah to take a break. But I suppose that puts me in the role of chief exposure officer. Kind of like the way arachnaphobes are treated by being thrown into a room full of spiders. Lord knows it’s uncomfortable. But Lord knows it’s necessary. I want peace. I know Noah does, too.