Friday, March 13, 2015
Live in Hope
While sitting at the bottom of a half pipe hand-made slide on a cool spring day, my little buddy Joseph yelled down from the top of the hill “you ready Miss Jenn?!” With a smile I hollered back without looking, “yep buddy, go ahead!” After a moment’s hesitation, he says with a mix of annoyance and hesitation in his small voice “can you stand up miss jenn?!” With a little chuckle, I moved from my rather comfortable position sitting sideways on the slide to stand at the requested spot – the bottom of the slide. It was now my job to catch the little balls of playdo that would come bouncing and sliding down the halfpipe after he released them. I smiled again as I heard him say to the balls “ready boys, ready…set…goooo!” and the balls were released from his tiny hands. “Look at em go! Oh Wow!”.
Joseph absolutely loved balls.. specifically rolling balls down slides or inclines – making these out of anything he could find, from pillows and blankets, to cardboard, to skateboards. But now, on this day, he had a huge awesome halfpipe slide – the ultimate favorite. I looked at his face smiling in delight and yet concentrating on the task before hand. In so many ways, this young man was finally owning his life and the world around him. It was amazing to watch, knowing that a few short years ago he was non-verbal, screaming, kicking, and generally frustrated young man. The present event at the church with games would have created an instant melt down even a year ago – too much stimuli, too overwhelming, too frustrating. Now, Joseph’s little legs carried him excitedly around – a “social butterfly” his mom referred to him as now. He exchanged hugs, high fives, punches, and words with young and old alike. He was one of the more polite and innocent little 6 year olds with beautiful eyes and handsome face. He seemed to contain a contagiousness and energy that people were drawn to.
In a therapeutic role Joseph, I was his advocate, teacher, self conscience, guardian, boundary holder, and friend. Forgive the terribly corny pop culture reference, but "imprinting" from Twilight Series comes to mind. The idea that you would be anything, do anything he/she needs. It is not dictated by selfishness, but the health of another.
Years have melted away since this warm autumn day... feels as though another life. Indeed, sipping a tea latte in the quaint old town of Monrovia, far removed from my home in Philadelphia, the endless adventures with Joseph wander through my mind as stories from a familiar old book might.
Lately, the idea of being centered and a solid object are highly present on my mind. Perhaps Joseph comes to mind because it was during that time in my life when I first realized the absolute importance of these two concepts. At the time, my life felt completely perplexing and dark and twisted and lost. But in working with Joseph (and other children on the autism spectrum) and the mobile crisis team, I found ability to remain stable.
The essential idea of being a solid object is anchoring or foundation for a person who is Not, for whatever reason, able to be solid. To order for them to find stability and subsequent peace/resolution/healing, in their times of feeling ungrounded or fragile or not entirely whole. It's an incredibly useful and necessary tool for clinical work with people. While it seems a relatively natural state for me to be in a work relationship... I often felt unable to translate such a centered state within to my personal life... always feeling a good deal restless (see other posts). Thankfully in the last few years, concerted effort and loving family/friends and general aging have brought some growth in that arena.
An extended trip to California brought a surprising amount of concern as to whether or not I could remain centered through the time. In ways, I've re-entered Joseph's world... although my three young cousins don't struggle with the issues related to the autism spectrum, they're experiencing a traumatic, scary, and difficult time. Days spent with these three brilliant, talented, and genuine kids draw on every ounce of my capacities to be centered, brilliant, compassionate, loving, and wise as they pepper the world with endless questions. I could write for pages about experiences with these lads, heart warming and humorous and amazing in recount... but that's perhaps for another time.
There's a particular similarity and connection with Joseph and my three young cousins...yet I can't quite put my finger on it exactly. Perhaps it's the simple innocence and beauty of children, experiencing some injustice of the world. Their inner resilience is unparalleled. In so many ways, they must scared and lost - feeling emotions not yet learned, unable to identify. And yet... they seem to live in hope. Such a combination is seen in their eyes, felt in their spirits.
It humbles... amazes... challenges...
Live in Hope.