Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Epiphanies, the ones that come and the ones that don't

In the years after my son was diagnosed with Asperger's, I had an epiphany.  I realized that my dad and both of my brothers seem to exist on the spectrum somewhere, albeit in very different ways, which makes perfect sense, as autism has a strong genetic component and manifests predominantly in boys.  I also learned about the shadow tendencies of autism.  These are typical autistic traits in a non-autistic person, and it can be common for non-autistic parents and siblings of autistic children to realize that some of their own idiosyncrasies are these very shadow tendencies.  For instance, I cannot stand to feel labels in my clothing, and cut them all out (classic Aspergian sensory issue).  Unlike my son, I enjoy eating foods combined with each other, but must have them in the right ratio.  I tend to wear the same clothes repeatedly because I do not like the way many items of clothing feel on me.  I appreciate and need structure and routine.  

I have wondered lately whether my inability to have some sort of giant spiritual epiphany over my cancer is the result of one of these shadow tendencies.  Aspergians tend to be extremely literal and also logical.  I sense that regarding the cancer, I am being both of these things to a degree that limits my ability to look at any of it in a spiritual way.  Granted, I am processing this time in my life without a therapist, or workshops in emotional processing, or a road map of any kind aside from conversations with other cancer survivors, which I value more than I can say.  I am not advocating this type of approach at all, and I suppose it is much more a passive, lazy non-approach than a conscious decision.  

I have been asked whether I have a new lease on life, or a newly vigorous approach to living.  I honestly can't say that I do.  I am extremely happy to be alive, but isn't everyone?  I want to live a long life, meet my grandchildren, and die of natural causes in old age.  Doesn't everyone?  Though I am having this experience and must face questions of mortality in a very visceral way, I have not felt that my desire for life is more informed or eager than anyone else's, or than my own before the cancer.  I guess the difference is I was not forced to think about it so much.  Here is where I think I may be limited by logic.  I remember when my father was making decisions about treating his prostate cancer, and how I was frustrated by his seeming lack of emotion and Spock-like approach to the whole thing.  I realize now during my own cancer treatment that I'm approaching it in a similar way.  

I don't know whether I should be frustrated by this or accepting of who I am and how I'm dealing.  My default mode is to be frustrated with  my own approach, so maybe in the spirit of being happy to be here, I'll practice acceptance instead.  Watching a video like the one I posted yesterday, or reading other people's blogs or the cancer magazines in the radiation waiting room, I sometimes wonder if I am missing some synapses, the ones that might connect this truly terrifying experience with a search for meaning or emotional response.  On the other hand, I am doing well, I am functioning every day, my health seems good, my body is processing all the poisons without too much trouble, my brain function is returning.  And, finding myself constantly forced to explore whether metaphorical glasses are half empty or full, I have been erring on the side of half full.  So, atheist that I am, I lean towards concluding that that is enough.  


  1. I did not learn that the glass was half full until I was about your age and after several traumatic events.

    I think that you are amazing in your ability to analyze yourself.

  2. 11 years later, those particular synapses still haven't fired for me. I searched for the bonk-you-over-the-head-ah!-so-this-is-the-big-life-realization silver lining for a while. Maybe it will someday reveal itself to us, or not. I don't understand when survivors say, "Cancer was the best thing that happened to me." I'm happy for them but don't share that feeling. You are wise, funny, honest, loving and lovely. And you always have been. I love reading your posts. I think you should write a book!