One night in Christofferus we were talking about lying. My housemother Rebecca brought up the fact that lying isn’t as common at Triform because most of the young adults here conduct themselves in their most raw form. “It’s refreshing,” she commented. I typically organize and force information into categories but in that spirit, I decided to share a few stories that aren’t necessarily connected but all of which are powerful in their own way. I hope you enjoy them!
Reading articles about autism that Judith shared with me, I came across a comparison I found to be compelling. People with autism like predictability and the article compared sudden changes to feeling as though one minute you are in a warm room with the lights dimly lit to the next minute being in the middle of Times Square during Christmas. I ruminated about it one night and the notion of being violently forced into a radically different environment and not being able to escape terrified me. “I can’t even imagine what it must be like,” I thought to myself at the time. Then we went on a Sunday outing to North-South Lake.
“I’m nervous. Sabrine, I’m nervous.”
Arjun was breathing heavily, scratching himself and tugging at his shirt. Although I wasn’t even aware of the wind, it was too loud for him.
“The wind. Make it stop. Can you make it stop?” he pleaded to me.
As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t protect him. I tried all my usual tactics. I tried talking to him softly but there were no signs he was registering what I was saying. I tried showing him how to breathe deeply in and out – the way my father used to have me do when he wanted to help me calm down – but Arjun didn’t mimic me. I tried holding his hand, making him laugh, distracting him but none of it worked. I wanted to help but unfortunately, I couldn’t control the wind. That’s when I realized that living with someone who is autistic gives me insight as to how an autistic person interacts with the world; although in different ways, Arjun and I both sometimes feel helpless.
The table was dressed with a nice tablecloth. In its center, a candle was burning. Special rolls made in the bakery as well as a pitcher of grape juice were being passed around the table. It was a Saturday, and the first time I had experienced bible supper.
When our plates were empty, Rebecca read the bible passage we had read every morning that week once more. After, the table was open for discussion. I am not religious and so I was nervous I would feel out of place. Surprisingly, the opposite occurred.
Part of the passage was about how the bread and wine given by Jesus quenched not only hunger and thirst physically but also spiritually. I’d made chicken noodle soup earlier that day because many people in our house were sick and Rebecca connected that meal to the bible passage. “It’s not necessarily the chicken or the broth or the carrots that help you heal, but the love that is put into the soup,” she remarked. In a similar fashion, other people shared their own thoughts or listened.
What struck me most about the conversation was how genuine it felt. More often than not, people feel pressure to say something, anything, even if just to speak words aloud. I don’t know what I was expecting exactly, perhaps an intense discussion about religious concepts I’m not familiar with. Instead I experienced a conversation where no one was trying to impress or perform, simply share reflections. It was really enjoyable and I look forward to next Saturday.
As busy as I always am at Triform, I don’t typically feel stressed. Expect when I’m in the kitchen. One morning it was just a young adult named Allegra and me, cooking ratatouille for a house called Farmview. It started slow; I chopped onions while she chopped eggplant. But quickly things started to get chaotic.
First things first: I’m not an experienced cook. Second, I’m not familiar with the Farmview kitchen. As I was searching for various herbs, I found bags of dried herbs with no labels. I smelled them and made my best guesses. Then I couldn’t find certain ingredients and the right amount that the recipe called for. The clock was ticking. I was getting worried I wouldn’t have anything pleasing to the taste buds other than a side salad to put on the table before noon rolled around.
Meanwhile Allegra was asking me a series of endless questions. “I’m doing a good job, aren’t I? Aren’t I doing a good job Sabrine?” she inquired regularly. As I started getting worried, I expressed my unease out loud. Allegra later repeated my own words back to me. “You’re such a bad cook right? Meg is going to be so mad,” she said to me. Hearing the lack of anxiety when she said those statements made me laugh. In response she giggled and soon enough we were laughing so hard together.
I was lucky. Allegra’s good humor put me at ease and soon after, Iona, Meg’s daughter, arrived and improvised with the ingredients that had already been prepared to make pasta with a delicious ratatouille sauce.
More posts about Triform to come later!