Ganesh and I had a Rough Day Today



Ganesh and I had a rough day, today.

Ganesh has certainly had his share of rough days: his head was cut off once by his own father. And when his mom, Parvati, found out, she threatened to destroy all Creation if her husband didn’t fix the boy. That was almost a rough day for everyone. Shiva said he'd fix it (his way—you can’t tell a deity what to do), though as a concession, he said he’d do it ASAP. It must have been a difficult household to grow up in.  

To patch up the boy, Shiva ordered his soldiers to bring a new head from the first sleeping creature they found, and even in a country of a billion people, the first sleeping being they came across was… a pachyderm. In short, Ganesh ended up with an elephant head. If there were an Internet back then, the episode might have been immortalized in Ganesh's headshot with the caption: There, I fixed it. 


Today, Ganesh, Remover of Obstacles, faced another obstacle—the removal of his feet and one of his hands. My shiny, silver-colored statue of the elephant deity lay in three pieces on the counter. Despite that, he looked out on the world with patient, almond eyes, calm in his faith he would persevere. He somehow always does. He still had his hand with the ax, for cutting away the chaff and ignorance between him and his goal. And he still had the hand with a rope, to rescue whoever strays from their path. Another unscathed hand still clung tightly to a ball of sweets, a reward for his hard work. It was his blessing hand that broke offthe one that doesn’t look like it's doing anything

For the record, I didn't break Ganesh. I lent him to the elementary school as a model for a class art project, and he came back as pieces carefully wrapped in a cloth and apologized over. 

Except, maybe I did break Ganesh. With enough obstacles in life piled up between me and where I want to be, he literally didn’t stand a chance, hanging out with me. The smithereend statue, alone, was not a huge problem for me. But it joined an unrelenting series of problems compounding into one singular day that bored right through me, until I pictured my intestines spilling onto the ground in a soggy rope. It was one of those days.

I called a friend: get me out of my head. Her hopeful interpretation was that breaking the statue was a clearing away of obstacles, for good. Like a dam breaking. Ganesh is open to interpretation that way; so many stories have been invented to explain his unusual head, his myriad hands, his mouse. 

Ganesh is unperturbed as I pick off excess Gorilla Glue around his ankles and paint a new silver coating over his scarred feet. It's not the worst thing that's happened to him. I got my feet knocked out from under me today. But it's not the worst that's ever happened to me, either. We patch ourselves together with a little glue and a little vino, paint on (or cover up) some silver, and go at it again the next day. And the next. And the next. In between the roadblocks and the cluelessness about how to get through the next one, there are really only two choices. Give up or give it another go.  

As I reattach the blessing hand, it directs my thoughts to how I focused on obstacles instead of gratitude throughout the day. I have friendships, a family, and good health. The biggest obstacle appeared to be a lack of faith: faith in the greater good for those around me. Faith in someone else doing the right thing. Maybe simply faith in myself. Ganesh is open to interpretations.

Refrain

April is Autism Awareness Month. It's also National Poetry Month.

This could be random coincidence. But the coincidence is nicely poetic, because as literal as people with autism tend to bewrestling to understand symbols or inferencetheir heightened sense of awareness of the world around them reveals the stuff of poets and artists. Stuff other people might filter out as unimportant.



Take patterns, for example. I may not notice patterns, but my son does. Everywhere. Their predictability reassures him. He would like Life to follow patterns so he isn't surprised by what's coming; he'll know how to react. When he doesn't find this repetition, he creates it. He wants to wear the same kind of pants. Eat the same food. Watch the same movies.

It's like a refrain he can keep coming back to and join in on, because he knows the words. Even if we eat at a new place, he orders the same thing, because he knows how to order it.

Beyond patterns, he hears and sees singular details that I miss: in the whiney pitch of car's transmission, in a streetlamp that burns a slightly different shade of yellow. By pointing them out, he makes me stop my oblivious march through the day to see each day. And at the end of the day, he comes back with a refrain: "Remember when we saw that streetlamp that was a different color?" Of course I remember; we just saw it 10 minutes ago. "Remember that joke we made about the cash register not working? The 'crash register?'" No, I'd forgotten that one. That was a good one.

The repetition reassures him; for me, it serves to sear those details I would have forgotten into my mind. And now we have a shared narrative, like a poem created to commemorate the day. And when he gets overwhelmed by all those details or loses his place, I can recite it with him, or for him. Remember that streetlamp? 

First Set of Wheels



Recently a "friend" dredged up a memory I had long suppressed: driving my old beater down the road with the horn stuck blaring, at a volume only an old American car can produce. Because it wasn't bad enough I was not especially cool in high school, I also had to drive my elderly aunt's old-vomited-spinach-colored car. A car she could not have been saddened to part with. A car that was only 4 years younger than I. By the way, when you're in high school, a car that's 4 years younger than you is not vintage enough to be awesome, by any standard. And though I don't remember much from the era when this car was new, I'm still fairly sure Old Vomited Spinach was not a cool color then, either. Probably not even in Europe. 


As my friend chuckled during the retelling, that terrible moment unfolded in my mind’s eye: my not-yet-classic announcing to all that, indeed, The Uncool One had arrived. Mile after mile. Stoplight after stoplight. How could my house have gotten so very far away?


When your horn is stuck, everyone around you first reacts with annoyance, usually followed by aggression. If you're lucky, the other drivers look directly into your mortified face and realize you have no choice in this matter, so they don't run you off the road. Then the ridicule pours down like a cold, November rain.


"Come on, how bad can it be?" you ask.


Steve Martin fans might remember a scene from The Jerk in which another uncool protagonist drives away from a sniper attack on a gas station. He climbs behind the wheel of an old beater with no tires, making his slow-motion escape grinding down the road on the wheel rims. Whatever speed I may have actually reached, driving while my horn was stuck, it felt exactly like that painfully slow getaway. The Jerk's car, adding insult to injury, was also my first: a Dodge Dart Swinger. A car that will live in infamy.