Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Journal of Best Practices

I have a special place in my heart for people who make earnest attempts toward self-improvement.  Many of us resolve to lose weight or drink less or stop getting pissed off at other drivers (that's me), but few of us ever stick to these resolutions; ideas that are, let's face it, usually acts of contrition.

David Finch is diagnosed with Asperger syndrome as his marriage is falling apart.  Deciding Asperger syndrome must be the cause of the failing marriage, David chooses to keep a journal containing a list of reminders of things he should do better.

His wife is open but hesitant.  She reminds him that the failings in their five-year marriage are deep and personal; they can't just blame Asperger syndrome and move on.

The chapter titles themselves caused me to laugh out loud.  They are based off of Best Practices that David learns and include such reminders as "Laundry: Better to Fold and Put Away than to Take Only What You Need From the Dryer", "Give Kristen Time to Shower Without Crowding Her", and "Parties are Supposed to be Fun".  I remind myself of that last one constantly.  He is wryly funny and newly self-aware of his self-involved ways.

What made me fall in love with this book was the evolving dynamic between David and his wife, Kristen.  David helps us to see the resentment that can build up after years of one person exhibiting self-obsessed behavior.  However, he is empathetic with Kristen, despite his concerns as to whether people with Asperger syndrome are capable of empathy.  He uses his diagnosis to work within his neurological differences to become the best husband possible.  I think that all of us, whether or not we have a diagnosis, would be wise to engage in such a practice. 

Kristen practices profound patience.  However, she is no saint.  She gets frustrated and sad and they occasionally shout at each other.  Still, she often makes it clear that she loves him very much.  She also lets him know when his Best Practices are encroaching on her sacred and scarce alone time, such as when he presents her with a "Husband Performance Review" form while she is taking a hot bath.  The form, a Best Practice that David devised after receiving a performance review at work, is something with which David often chases Kristen around the house, asking her to fill out until she finally comes up with the last Best Practice: "Don't Make Everything A Best Practice"

Asperger syndrome is a hot topic today.  I have read books, watched movies and T.V. shows, and learned about Asperger syndrome in special education classes.  However, David showed a family effected by Asperger syndrome in such a complex way as to evoke empathy, laughter, sadness, frustration, and joy.  I struggle with people who put people with developmental disabilities in the "Them" category, as though there is something distinct that separates any of us from anyone else.  This book reminds us that, in certain profound ways, we are all fundamentally the same.

Currently reading:
"In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin" by Erik Larson
"Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption" by Laura Hillenbrand

Books read: 44


jwhitus said...

New follower from Book Blogs. Hope you'll stop by my blog and have a look around. Thanks

Ethan said...

This definitely seems to be more apparent than in years past. I think it is great that the general public is becoming more aware of these types of things.

You may be interested in entering my giveaway for The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O'Melveny. It is a historical novel about a young woman's struggle to be a doctor in the 1500's. With an added mystery element, I think this novel may be right up your alley. Thanks for the great reviews!


Betty Alark said...

Hi, Erin!

It's nice to meet you and to become aquainted with your blog! I am now your follower!

I am a author and a poet!

My blogs and face book page are posted below!

Facebook author page: What Type of Character Are You Hanging Out With?

My book blog

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Great blog! I look forward to returning!

Ryan said...

Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't Asberger's Syndrome a mild for of autism or is it something entirely different?

Erin Seals said...

Thanks guys!

Ryan- You're right- Asperger syndrome is often considered a mild form of autism.

Jeannette & Betty- thanks for following- I will return the favor!

Ethan- you have great giveaways- I will check that out!

Jonathan Wilhoit said...

What an uplifting read. Asperger's is one of those hot-button "syndromes" these days (as us autism in general), and it seems to be getting a lot of press. And most of it seems to be negative--how they're different, how they need to be accommodated by "normal" folks. But people with Asperger's have been around for longer than there was a scientific name for it. Back then they just called those people "odd."

The reason why I went through all that is because I wanted to ask you something--do you think it's beneficial or detrimental, this current drive to put a "syndrome" or an "-ism" on everything? Me personally, I can see the benefits in certain cases, but with Asperger's it's a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you are able to learn more about the way they think and how they can be more easily integrated into mainline society, but on the other hand, it's just another tool to label them as the "other," or different.


Erin Seals said...

That's a really good question. First of all, I really don't like the fact that, in most school districts, a child must be diagnosed with something before having access to an IEP and the necessary resources to get help. I think that children should be given resources when they exhibit signs of needing help and should not have to have a label attached to their needs.

That being said, I think that the merits of labeling something very much depend on the person. Some people feel saddled with labels. However, some people profess feeling a profound relief when they are diagnosed. I think that what is needed are empathetic and sensitive diagnosticians who can help the family or the individual make the decision that is best in that particular case.

Erin Seals said...
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