And just like that after an unseasonably warm start to November it feels like winter.
Time to finally start wearing the heavy outerwear I brought down from the attic. And to work with V’s home therapists and school staff to get him to wear his jacket over his hoodie. He is very resistant – saying NO! And hanging it back on the hook in the morning. I send it in on the bus and write an email to his teacher. “Once again as the weather changes we have this challenge…” This is nothing new. V has the same issues year after year, he doesn’t outgrow them because they are sensory-based and hard wired into his system.
There are certain things we take for granted, like breathing. Much of basic meditation practice is focused on the breath, and cultivating awareness of how the air flows in and out as we breathe. That is the most obvious example; there are so many other things we take for granted. When it is cold out we put on a coat. If it is really cold we add hats and boots and warmer socks. Sure, there are the John Fettermans of the world, mostly guys, who can live in shorts and hoodies year round. But most of us want added protection from the elements.
With V, so many of the basics of daily life cannot be taken for granted. There is a gift in that for sure, and yet it’s also the source of a lot of tsuris [a great Yiddish word that means trouble or aggravation]. Because despite global warming it does in fact get cold enough that we have to deal with jackets. Refusing to put it on when he goes out or when he does wear it, not taking it off when he comes inside. It’s the winter chapter of life that will last through March. Oy. Yet I try not to get ahead of myself. It’s still just November.
This week is Fabulous Friday again, the breakfast for school staff that I’m in charge of. Today’s menu: pumpkin bread with chocolate chip streusel, cornbread, and blueberry muffins that V bakes with J, his home therapist. Then I pick up croissants and oranges and a few other things at the store and drop them off at school, with B’s help. The other co-coordinator brings in her share of food early Friday morning. It’s a lot of work but as with last month I aim to do it all with love and appreciation. That’s the point of the event.
Love and appreciation. I remind myself of that as I get out my ingredients and turn the radio on although I dread the top story. He who will remain unnamed is running for President again.
And then there is a segment on global warming. And the Republicans capturing control of the House. It’s all bad news but delivered in an even-handed comprehensive way that I appreciate. Public radio always reminds me of my mother, who used to listen to All Things Considered when she came home from work and got dinner ready. The radio and the oven stay on all morning as I bake and listen as best I can, as I’m concentrating on tripling my recipes. I forget how cold it is outside as the kitchen warms up.
Later in the afternoon when V is home we get him to help out using a muffin mix. J has the magic touch with him, getting him to do things I never could on my own. As the muffins are baking J has me practice getting V to wear a hat. Over and over we go through the same routine. He is resistant yet finally puts it on. And yet not surprisingly when it is time to get on the bus in the morning – when it’s bitter cold out – he refuses to wear it and shuns his jacket too. One step forward three steps back.
At the store we also get our free turkey which they give out every year if you spend a certain amount of money during the preceding months. This year we are donating it to a food drive at the school. It feels good to give to others, to be community-minded and charitable. (Although if I was truly enlightened I wouldn’t even mention it : ) Still, it helps me to put my own problems in perspective. A roof over our head and enough to eat and drinkable water and heat. Next week is Thanksgiving and I’ll be making pies and seeing family. There is so much to be thankful for.
I have my own challenges in winter but I have a way to deal with them. I start my bright light therapy, which involves sitting in front of a light therapy box for a half hour every morning after I wake up. This is used to help with seasonal affective disorder which lots of people, especially women, get this time of year. A good therapy lamp should mimic natural morning sunlight. I’m not sure if mine does but I like the feeling of the bright light when I first get up. That and a strong cup of coffee help get me going. Then I try to get out for a walk around noon when the sun is strongest and the temperature has climbed a bit from early morning. Unlike V I have no problem putting on lots of layers to stay warm, and taking them off as soon as I get inside. Something so simple that I always took for granted.
The past few weeks we’ve switched from Mexican sit down to Chinese take out on Thursdays. With J’s help V gets to practice setting the table, using a fork and knife (he rarely uses knives on his own), and cleaning up after himself. It’s stuff we should be doing every day but I get lazy and I do it, if at all, halfheartedly. It’s really hard work to teach someone all those things most of us take for granted. Still, when I watch V get his utensils and plate and sit attentively cutting his chicken, something so simple is inspiring. The food is just a notch above decent but my fortune is spot on.
We will continue working with V to put on his jacket and hat and then to take them off when he comes inside. It is a process. I have learned to cultivate patience and humor, and to admit when I feel at a loss. If it was up to me we’d skip right from November to April, when spring temperatures usually make their first appearance. But since I don’t have a choice, we’ll all have to do our best to deal with the seasonal change, doing what we can to keep warm.