Archive for January, 2012

You Can’t Judge a Box By Its Cover

January 26, 2012

Beautiful Imperfection–A battered butterfly (missing its lower parts but still flying) that we encountered on a hike

So, I tried hard to write a funny post.  The last thing I wanted to do was write again about our troubles.  Alas, I couldn’t seem to muster the light-heartedness I needed to write it well.  Not that I’ve lost my sense of humor.  No indeed.  It’s fully intact, as any of my friends or family can tell you.  Along with my sense of wonder, thank God.

The incident in question WAS funny, though.  Even if it didn’t seem so at the time.   When I saw the article in the paper before Christmas about the Senior Santa shoebox project at Meals on Wheels, I really wanted to do it.  Only problem was, I had to wrap a shoebox.  More precisely, I had to actually cover the surface of a shoebox with pretty paper in a presentable manner that did not resemble the work of a demented chimpanzee.  

Sounds easy enough, but the truth is, I am gift-wrapping impaired.  Incredibly, even gift bags are a challenge to me because I can never seem to get the tissue looking right.  So covering a shoebox seemed about as daunting as sewing that dress I was required to make in eighth grade home ec . (Poor Miss Nettie Herring—I was surely the most challenging sewing student she ever had!) 

But Dorothy,of the Wrexham Knitting Group in Wrexham,NorthWales made it look so easy!  She nimbly wrapped the shoebox with the cool, calm efficiency of a brain surgeon.  In fact, I’m quite certain Dorothy, if she put her mind to it, could easily learn and perform brain surgery.  She certainly made me believe, after I’d watched her about ten times, that I, too, could wrap a shoebox.  Until, that is, I actually tried to do it.

No need to recount every detail of the sad struggle.  Let’s just say it took me two hours, a whole roll of gift wrap, and lots and lots of tape.  Along with much wailing and gnashing of teeth.  It was a grim business, I tell you.  Until the end, when I suddenly became aware that I was breathing hard as though I’d run a marathon and that I was literally dripping sweat in a sixty-five degree house.  Which was, of course, ridiculous, and I started laughing.  Sort of like a demented chimpanzee, haha. 

Amazingly, in the end, it didn’t look too bad.  And filling the shoebox was a lot more fun than wrapping it.  I do hope that the recipient of my humble offering was able to see the love in it rather than the ragged edges.  Which, now that I think of it, is the very thing we hope for in our relationships with people.  That they can see the beauty and spirit in us, despite our ragged and lopsided edges.   That they can see that we’re doing our best, even when that best is far short of perfect.  That they can look past our differences and instead see what we have in common.  And that we may do the same for them.

In Benjamin’s journey back to wholeness, he and I have had a lot of conversations about the importance of being your authentic self, even when people reject that self.  Indeed, my children will both tell you that the #1 Mommy maxim they heard from me throughout their lives is the importance of being true to yourself.  Hard for all of us, but especially hard for an autistic person like Benjamin.  As an autistic person navigates the world, they are constantly challenged to conform themselves to the world in ways that are often difficult and in ways that may not come naturally.  So their struggle to conform, yet maintain that inner core of authentic self, can be exhausting.  And often discouraging. 

Benjamin’s working hard to learn that balance.  And in helping him, I’ve often been reminded of my own need to remember the truths I know about myself, but sometimes lose sight of when I let the world pull and push me off balance.   That equilibrium is so easy to talk about, but so hard to achieve.  And that struggle for balance, as I tell Benjamin, is something we all have in common.  It’s something we all share–whether we’re autistic or not.  The important thing is to not lose sight of who you are or the sense of your own beauty. And to remember always who you are capable of becoming.