Posted in musings, quotes

letting go

My therapist used to tell me, “it isn’t your business what other people think of you.” I’m still not sure I completely agree with her, since what other people think can occasionally have fairly large consequences on a practical level (promotions at work, for example) – but in general it’s correct. I’m entitled to my beliefs and opinions, and other people are entitled to theirs. Someone else might think I’m antisocial or making poor parenting choices because I want to homeschool; I might think someone is arrogant and disconnected from local community because they are a snowbird. But if I choose to live my life based on the thoughts of others about me and my decisions, I’ll be miserable (just like all those snowbirds would be, sweltering here all summer without the communities they grew up in, or being shut in all winter there because they can’t shovel themselves out anymore).

I have to let it go. Continue reading “letting go”

Posted in musings, quotes

it seems that our school system is failing everyone these days…

As the teacher walkout continues here in Arizona I feel like I’m just beginning to process the events and come to an opinion about it all. It’s an interesting topic for me, since I’ve always been an outsider to the school system and maintain that self-directed learning is better ideologically than the authoritarian traditional educational model we have in the US – and yet, at the same time, I recognize that the majority of children are in public schools and as a Christian who desires the good of my neighbors and community I want those public schools to be the best that they can be for the sake of the children in them. In a perfect world the school system would be fundamentally different, and I believe it is important to work towards those deep system-level changes – but in the meantime, there are children in the schools now who deserve the best our society can give them instead of being neglected in the pursuit of future goals, and pragmatic changes for their short-term benefit are a good thing.

One of my friends shared the following image on Facebook: Continue reading “it seems that our school system is failing everyone these days…”

Posted in musings, quotes

brokenness

“We are all broken by something. We have all hurt someone and have been hurt. We all share the condition of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent. […] Being broken is what makes us human. We all have our reasons. Sometimes we’re fractured by the choices we make; sometimes we’re shattered by things we would never have chosen. But our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity, the basis for our shared search for comfort, meaning, and healing. Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion.

“We have a choice. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken natures and the compassion that remains our best hope for healing. Or we can deny our brokenness, forswear compassion, and, as a result, deny our own humanity. […]

“So many of us have become afraid and angry. We’ve become so fearful and vengeful that we’ve thrown away children, discarded the disabled, and sanctioned the imprisonment of the sick and the weak – not because they are a threat to public safety or beyond rehabilitation, but because we think it makes us seem tough, less broken. […] But simply punishing the broken – walking away from them or hiding them from sight – only ensures that they remain broken and we do, too. There is no wholeness outside of our reciprocal humanity.

– Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy, emphasis added

The last line from the quote above lingers in my mind, settling down slowly through my thoughts like gentle rain seeping deeper into the clay soil of our desert yard (and my thoughts are holding onto it like that clay retains the water that falls upon it).

I am reminded of C. S. Lewis’s attempt (in Mere Christianity) at explaining how one man’s sin could affect the whole human race, and how one man’s righteousness could restore it, in which he compared humanity to a tree, each individual inextricably bound to the others through time and space, biologically and spiritually, so that sickness could spread from one to all the rest, and likewise healing.

I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, where he writes that if he suffers, it is for the purpose of bringing them comfort and salvation, and that if he is comforted, that is also for their comfort and salvation. He was willing to be broken himself to help restore them to wholeness, and to share his healing with them. To be honest, I don’t think it would have been a satisfactory and complete healing for him if he knew that the church he loved was still broken and suffering, either through sin or persecution.

But I also know, from observation and experience, that vulnerability is hard, that grace is hard, that walking with another person on the path from brokenness to healing is incredibly hard. People don’t usually respond the way you might want or expect, and their journey toward wholeness tends to be circuitous and rocky. Rehabilitation isn’t a process of making over broken people into our image (or some ideal image), but rather a process of helping those people find freedom from the bonds of trauma, regret, addiction, illness, and so on. I don’t think it is possible without some amount of pain.

And as for how this might look, practically, in my life? I have no idea. There are many possibilities, obviously, since all of us are so broken, but I don’t know where to go after the basic beginnings of extending love and grace to my family and immediate community. I do know, at least, that I intend to keep my eyes and ears open to the stories and hurts of other people, so that when the opportunity to show love and mercy does arise I am prepared.

“…many parents, educators, and therapists prioritize academic achievement over instilling happiness, even if it greatly increases stress. In fact I have heard proponents of some approaches take issue with the idea of emphasizing happiness, arguing that for children with autism, it is far more important to develop skills than to be happy. In other words, instead of measuring happiness, we should be measuring skills.

“Not only is this way of thinking misguided, but it misses the point. Children – and all human beings – learn more readily when they are happy. They retain information more effectively when they feel positive emotion. When we try to learn under persistently stressful situations, we retain less, and it’s more difficult for us to access what we learned. But when we’re feeling a positive emotion, we’re more primed for a learning experience, and our learning is deeper and far more effective.”

– Barry M. Prizant, Uniquely Human

because academics isn’t the ultimate end

“Asking if I want to be healed is like asking if I want to like anchovies. I cannot imagine what liking anchovies would feel like, what taste they would have in my mouth. People who like anchovies tell me they taste good; people who are normal tell me being normal feels good. They cannot describe the taste or the feeling in a way that makes sense to me.”

– Elizabeth Moon, The Speed of Dark

liking anchovies

Posted in quotes

what is autism?

The complex set of interrelated characteristics that distinguish autistic neurology from non-autistic neurology is not yet fully understood, but current evidence indicates that the central distinction is that autistic brains are characterized by particularly high levels of synaptic connectivity and responsiveness. This tends to make the autistic individual’s subjective experience more intense and chaotic than that of non-autistic individuals: on both the sensorimotor and cognitive levels, the autistic mind tends to register more information, and the impact of each bit of information tends to be both stronger and less predictable […]

The realm of social interaction is one context in which autistic individuals tend to consistently be disabled. An autistic child’s sensory experience of the world is more intense and chaotic than that of a non-autistic child, and the ongoing task of navigating and integrating that experience thus occupies more of the autistic child’s attention and energy. This means the autistic child has less attention and energy available to focus on the subtleties of social interaction. Difficulty meeting the social expectations of non-autistics often results in social rejection, which further compounds social difficulties and impedes social development. For this reason, autism has been frequently misconstrued as being essentially a set of “social and communication deficits,” by those who are unaware that the social challenges faced by autistic individuals are just by-products of the intense and chaotic nature of autistic sensory and cognitive experience.

(Please read the complete article here – it is the best brief introduction to autism that I have ever come across.)

I want to be careful about oversharing sensitive aspects of Rondel’s life, so I’m not going to list specific examples here, but I will say that this description makes so much sense in understanding him – his reactions to stimuli, his emotional swings, his physical being and course of development. What is more, it gives me that understanding without making him seem broken or deficient: he is simply different. His differences may mean that he requires extra support and accommodations in a world designed for people whose minds don’t work quite like his, but they don’t mean that he needs to be fixed or changed. He is who he is. He is beautiful the way he is. And I love him for who he is, without changing anything.

(In case anyone was wondering, we don’t have a diagnosis for Rondel right now, but in seeking to understand and support him we have found that a lot of resources aimed at autistic individuals are quite helpful for him, and descriptions like this one in particular lead me to believe that he could most likely qualify for an official diagnosis under the (very pathologizing and depressing) terms of the DSM. So while the very long diagnostic process is underway, we’re going with “suspected autism” over here, per his pediatrician.)

“In all great works of fiction, regardless of the grim reality they present, there is an affirmation of life against the transience of that life, an essential defiance. This affirmation lies in the way the author takes control of reality by retelling it in his own way, thus creating a new world. Every great work of art, I would declare pompously, is a celebration, an act of insubordination against the betrayals, horrors and infidelities of life.”

– Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran

insubordination