Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Winds of Change

In sixth grade I remember that two boys in my class got into a fist fight. Being a private school where morals and values were a priority and taught at every opportunity (quite often to our repressed grumbles), our teacher, after breaking up the fight brought us ALL (again, more repressed grumbling) into the classroom to discuss what had happened. “He pushed me first” said one boy, “He made me angry” was the boys explanation at which point our teacher made the boys stop talking about it as he methodically finished his tea, place several pieces of folded paper into the cup and asked us what we saw…”er, a cup?” “Okay”, he said, “so what you see, what you will see most of the time is a cup…Now what happens if something like wind blows it over or someone knocks it down?” (He knocks it over and the paper comes out). “Stuff comes out?” (or something like that…it’s been a while, forgive me). “Okay, so if it’s knocked over something will come out and what comes out is going to be what’s inside” (well, duh, is what I am sure I was thinking at this point). He then held up the paper and said, “so if this is 'anger' and 'bitterness', and it comes out, the 'anger' and 'bitterness' were already there. The wind didn’t cause the anger…it just brought it out for us all to see. But if what is in the cup is only ‘love’, ‘kindness’, ‘compassion’ and ‘patience’ those are the things that will come out when the wind comes.”

And I admit it. I got what he was saying all the while thinking it was complete waste of my time. After all, I had net been in the fistfight. I could almost guarantee you that I would never ever get into an actual fistfight. Yes, I saw it, but am certain I could not have stopped it if I tried, so why was he wasting my time? Why was he wasting the entire classes snack time no less…why did we have to be punished when we did nothing wrong?

I understood what he was saying, but it wasn’t until many years later that I got it. I got it when I realized that I had some of that icky stuff in my cup. That just because I wouldn’t get into a fistfight, didn’t mean that there wasn’t anger or inflexibility or pride in my cup…it just meant that these may just look a little different when the wind knocked me over.

Autism, and everything about it has been my biggest wind. The children and parents and professionals I have spent time with have challenged and continue to challenge me in everyway. And when I used to think these “challenges” were something “they” were doing, my job seemed hard, but it was when I realized the “challenges” that were imposed we’re simply a challenge to improve my character…to see what was in my cup, I realized that no one is causing me to be frustrated or anxious or inflexible or stubborn, but that these things had already existed that my job became the most meaningful, edifying and rewarding job in the world…and when in fact I actually recognized the things in myself and was able to work on change. I realized how I was evolving by letting my students teach me how to be a better me, rather than thinking that it is they who need to be fixed. It is when I feel a stir of frustration, when I want to point the finger at the “ignorance” or “stubbornness” or “judgement” of someone who is pointing the finger at an “ideology”, “semantics”, or "someone else" that I remember that it is I who need to point my own finger inward and recognize what it is within myself that is creating the dissonance. We are all on our own journey and everyone is exactly where they should be. Learning the things they are supposed to learn, otherwise being presented with that same lesson with a different mask over and over again. I realize that I am not here to change others opinions of me or what I do, and if that becomes my focus, I lose focus on my own journey. On the fact that autism has been a blessing in my life for all that is has taught me. It is now when I meet a child for the first time who I am told has “severe behaviors” and I either don’t notice them as being “severe”, or they are not “severe” when I am around, I realize how far I have come on this journey, yet recognize that like the horizon that continues to seem further away as you move towards it, I will never reach a "there" as there is no "there". It is when I recognize that my reaction to others is simply a reminder to see what it is within myslef that I need to change, that I see what I have learned from autism…the great magnifier as I have come to call it.

If it is anger or hatred or bitterness or dissonance within our society because of the wind of autism, it is because those things were already in there, masked by the niceties that society tries to put forth, but autism could care less about. Autism looks beyond titles and credentials and appearance and looks at what is deep within us all and brings it to the surface, until we begin to recognize that it wasn’t the wind that “caused” these things, that “brought” these things to our society. All it did was reveal what was already there.

For that I am grateful.


Blogger Kristina Chew said...

And I guess the winds blow as strongly within the autism community as without, and sometimes they arise in forms unexpected and not obvious.

(As in, the most compassionate and loving teachers Charlie has had have been those who do the most intense ABA.)

10:51 PM  
Blogger SquareGirl said...

Kristina, thank you for means a lot. I often feel like a leper by people who don't know me, while feeling soooo loved by my friends and their families.

I think the forms are probably nearly always unexpected and not obvious.

11:16 PM  
Blogger Mamaroo said...

Thanks, I think I needed to read this right about now. I do know that autism in our lives has been a blessing that has taught me so much about myself. Unfortunately, the wind has blown some of that yucky stuff out of me recently causing me to take a closer look at myself. I need to stop pointing fingers. I hear you.

7:06 AM  
Blogger Xia Diaz said...

I have to say that you're so inspirational. You hit it right on in this post. I seek to have the insight that seems so natural in you. I guess I have to look closer within myself. Thank you.

7:39 AM  
Blogger Wade Rankin said...

What a wonderful post. You bring so much to the table in this sometimes heated world of autism blogging. And ...
For that I am grateful.

5:54 PM  
Blogger SquareGirl said...

Mamaroo, Even though it doesn't feel like it, it's good when it comes out in order to remind us that it's there and so that we can change that about ourselves...I still have icky stuff that comes out and I haven't addressed or still has yet to come out...autism helps speed along the process for me at least.

XD, the insight is not so natural...I work on it and sometimes something in the Universe will hit me over the head to make sure that I see it.

Wade, Thank you. That is so kind of you to say. Unfortuanately it's not just the blogging that can be heated at times.

2:41 PM  

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