Yesterday was a great example of one of the most exhausting and mysterious things about how autism shows itself in Janey. It was a day that was a mix of her worst and best, see-sawing back and forth all day until we were left exhausted, unsure whether to laugh or cry, despair or rejoice.
Let's do a run-down. Janey woke up in a bad mood. She woke up screaming and screaming, for no reason we could figure. It took about an hour to calm her down, during which she kept attempting to bite her arm. Once she finally relaxed, we had a good hour of hanging out, eating breakfast and watching some shows. Then we all headed out to my favorite thrift store and various other errands. Janey got into a mood in the car for a while, crying and crying. We were pretty much figuring the day was going to be a disaster. She wasn't happy at the thrift store, so Tony and Freddy took her for a walk while I shopped. She got cheerful enough during this walk that we decided to go to a hot dog place near the store. It's slow fast food---you order, and it takes a while to get brought to you. As it was early in their day, this time it took quite a while, maybe 20 minutes, and Janey was a joy. She sat there patiently and happily, listening to the radio, looking out the window, as good as you could hope anyone would be. She didn't eat much, but we all had a very nice meal. Then we went to Trader Joe's and a computer store near there. Janey did not care for the computer store Tony took her in while I grocery shopped. She didn't care for it so much she freaked out and tried to bite Tony on the face. Freddy took her out and brought her to the crowded Trader Joe's with me. The crowds bothered her not a bit, and she walked around with him fairly happily, looking for her "ham", the fancy salami she likes there. We ate it on the way home, a good drive. Once home, she again had a lot of fits, crying, tossing things around, furious at us. I finally toward evening in desperation gave her my iPod to hold and put it on Bluetooth with some speakers I have. She caught on right away that she could wander the house, changing music as she pleased, and for probably 2 hours, she was happier than happy. She played some of her favorite songs over and over, including maybe 10 go-throughs of a current favorite, Funkytown. She and Freddy danced, Janey doing the instinctive right moves as she so often does. She looked like she was in a disco. Later I played her the chorus from The Messiah. That was the highlight of the day or most any day. She stopped moving and stood listening with a look on her face that was beyond words, a quiet joy and amazement. She's heard the piece before, but not for a while, and it was simply one of the best moments I've ever had to watch her experience it. I don't think anyone could love music more than Janey, whether they are the most experienced and knowledgable musician on earth. After the music time, Janey fussed her way to sleep, demanding this and then that and finally falling asleep very, very late for her, about 11 pm.
So we go in one day from scenes like a lunging biting attempt in a store, a prolonged screaming and crying fit in the car, several tantrums, but also a near perfect meal out and a glorious time with music. How is it all explained? What drives Janey? What happens? I could think we shouldn't have taken her to as many places as we did, but it wasn't that straightforward---she was better for the ride home than the ride out. I could say we should have insisted on an earlier bedtime, but it's the weekend, she almost never stays up late, and the hours with the music were among the best we've ever had with her. We could say we should have given the day more of a routine, but some of the toughest parts were the parts where everything was calm. When I think I've got some aspect of Janey's moods figured out, she proves me wrong. I don't understand her. I don't know if I ever will. She is intense, driven, angry, angelic, mysterious, sad, joyful---she is not an easy girl to understand. Tony and I have joked about our three very different but all unusual kids, wishing that we had had just one boring child. That's not the path we've been given We are doing the best we can, Janey. I hope someday, if you can read this, you'll forgive us for the times we were overwhelmed by you. You are an amazing girl. I hope we can help you find your way.