Sunday, October 23, 2016

Next Year Is Here

“As sure as God made green apples, someday, the Chicago Cubs are gonna be in a World Series.”~longtime Cubs announcer, the late Harry Carray, 1991

Last night, we, like thousands of other Chicago Cubs baseball fans, watched in delight as our favorite team won the National League Pennant for the first time since 1945. This victory was especially sweet for Cubs fans after many years of drought when our team simply could not get their act together. Having only won World Series titles more than a century ago in 1907 and 1908, under manager Frank Chance, who also played first base as part of the famed Tinkers to Evers to Chance double play trio, the Cubs have earned their nickname, “the lovable losers.”

Despite the Cubs having little success in the past post-season games, Chicago Cubs fans are known as the most loyal in baseball. Taking losses in stride, they are often quoted as saying at the end of every disappointing season, “Wait ‘til next year.” However, this year’s Cubs team with its depth of talent has allowed Cubs fans to proclaim, “Next year is here!”

As a baseball fan growing up in New York City, Ed became accustomed to cheering for teams who enjoyed consistent success, unlike the Cubs. In the past fifty years, the New York Mets have earned five National League Pennants and won two World Series. Even better known is the New York Yankees dynasty that has won forty American League Pennants and twenty-seven World Series. After moving here to the Midwest more than thirty years ago, Ed couldn’t understand the complacency of Cubs fans, who simply shrugged off losses and waited for next year. He has frequently remarked that New York fans would never let their baseball teams off the hook so easily and wondered why Chicago Cubs fans take losing in stride.

Growing up as a Cubs fan in the era of Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, and Ron Santo, I adopted that same “Wait ‘til next year” mantra, figuring that someday the Cubs would eventually put together everything they needed to be a winning team. Alex, whose interest in the Cubs has been especially strong the past two years, also took on the typical Cubs attitude of not being upset about losses and just enjoying wins as they came along. Fortunately, the Cubs of his generation––Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Jake Arietta––aren’t carrying the team alone and are backed by teammates of equal and perhaps even potentially greater talent. However, throughout the season, he took losses in stride, noting,  “Sometimes they lose, and sometimes they win, just like the stock market goes up and down.”

Perhaps the attitude of the Cubs fans that Ed sees as complacent is actually an eternal optimism that things will get better. Moreover, the tenacity Cubs fans show in continuing to support a losing team is something to be admired as loyalty rather than scorned as foolishness. As someone who believes that all experiences in life have some valuable lesson, I believe that being a Cubs fan has been good preparation for being an autism mom. Through the years, I learned to deal with disappointment that things didn’t turn out as planned, and I learned the value of having to wait patiently for good things to happen. Moreover, the slogan, “Wait ‘til next year” developed an optimistic attitude in me that things will get better in time along with an eternal hope for the future.

Just as the Cubs have enjoyed one of their best seasons ever, Alex has been coming into his best season ever, too. In recent months, we have watched him make progress in small ways that signal he is putting behind losses to work toward victory. From the improved fine motor skills that allow him to hang up his jacket without any help to his being able to string together compound-complex sentences with perfect syntax and meaning to walking confidently with his head up straight and his arms at his sides, Alex shows signs of healing.

In addition, he has learned to deal with the intense anxiety that plagues him so that he can not become overwhelmed by changes in plans that used to upset him and so that he can be truly content instead of fretting over little things that used to bother him. For example, earlier in the week, I could see that he was becoming anxious one afternoon, even though he didn’t express his upset in ranting or aggressive behaviors as he once did. He seemed pensive and suddenly asked to take a bath, which is what soothes him when he’s overwhelmed. I asked him what was upsetting him, and he began to shake, but calmly told me he had a difficult decision: whether to watch the Cubs game or the Presidential debate. While this kind of dilemma could have sent him into a meltdown in the past, he used the calming skills his behavioral therapist has taught him.

After discussing his various options of taping one program or the other or switching back and forth between the two shows, he decided upon taping the debate while watching the game. However, he was able to add another option as he watched the debate on the computer while watching the game on television. What impressed us most, however, was not his ability to multitask, but his ability to resolve an internal conflict by reasonably discussing his options and never escalating his anxiety. After a few minutes of talking, he stopped shaking, was content with his choice, and didn’t even need the soothing bath, after all. He proved that he, too, has become a winner, overcoming obstacles autism has presented him. Believing in Alex, just like believing in the Cubs, has paid off, and I am enjoying the fruits of my tenacity and optimism as well as God's goodness, celebrating victory that is even sweeter than I anticipated. Go Cubs! Go Alex!

“For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay.” Habakkuk 2:3

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