You Can’t Judge a Box By Its Cover

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.

20 Responses to “You Can’t Judge a Box By Its Cover”

  1. Bonnie Jacobs Says:

    I hope you stay just as wonderful as you are. Sending love and encouragement your way.

  2. Martha Says:

    Beautiful post, Beth. There is a reason why Benjamin is your son and not someone else’s. You’re good for each other. I like that you can retain a sense of humour even in difficult times. I think it’s the one thing that keeps us going in this often otherwise difficult, maddening, heartbreaking world. Keep smiling. And keep being ‘you’, from head to toe, inside and out. Don’t change a thing.

  3. Ginger Says:

    You do it every time. I never fail to leave your blog encouraged, inspired and challenged. Not to mention you always make me laugh a big,outloud belly laugh! The gift wrap episode cracked me up and felt way too familiar. How many times do we almost neglect to give because we can’t get the gift wrap right?

    Anyway, I was just praying today that God would help me to be myself. Especially around all the new people in my life here. Thanks for the reminder. And I hope to remember the same for my Asperger’s Thomas and the rest of the family. Please God. Help us to be ourselves.

    I think most of us have no worry about you, despite the hard stuff. That sense of humor and hope is plenty strong to buoy you. But it is hard. Hang in there! And thanks again for taking the time to encourage us out here. You are appreciated.

  4. Vicki Lane Says:

    A wonderful story, beautifully and humorously) told! All best wishes to you and Benjamin in just being yourselves.

  5. Sharon Says:

    In terms of the whole of your post, this is trivial, but I am infamous for failing at gift wrapping and no one has expected anything from me for decades in that regard. In terms of the rest of your wonderful thoughts, right on, so true, and here’s to healing of the spirit, all around.

  6. betsyfromtennessee Says:

    Hi Beth, So good to hear from you. I always enjoy your blog posts… YES—we all need to be our authentic selves, and that is not always easy. We like to fit in –and be like others… But–we need that balance to be the best of what we are –and be happy with that… We can’t please everyone, so we need to strive to please ourselves…

    Love your shoebox story… Glad you were able to do that ‘hard’ job of getting the box wrapped…. ha ha


  7. Darla Says:

    A beautiful piece, Beth. I love how you brought together the shoebox story and our unique selves… “That they can see the beauty and spirit in us, despite our ragged and lopsided edges.” You and Benjamin are blessed to be in companionship with one another, mother to son and lovely soul to lovely soul. ~ Blessings ~

  8. Kay Guest Says:

    Hello Beth,
    I just found you and your blog. Love your image of the the battered butterfly and understood it as I read your post. Very lovingly written and very moving.
    I have wanted to write a post on bullying for quite some time. When I do, I would like to mention you and your blog, would that be okay?

    • Beth Says:

      Hi, Kay…thank you so much for visiting and taking the time to read my posts. I would be honored if you mentioned my blog in your post. I enjoyed so much reading your most recent piece about seeing faces in things—I do, too! In fact, you might enjoy this post I did a couple of years ago:
      (If nothing else, it might give you a giggle)

      I look forward to reading more on your blog when I have a bit more time. Thanks again for coming to my little corner of the blogosphere.

      Love, Beth

  9. birdsandbenjamin Says:

    I am the luckiest guy in the world. Also, your box was very pretty.

    • Beth Says:

      We are blessed to have each other, Benjamin. I love you.

      (And you are very, very sweet to say my box was pretty. I WILL say that it didn’t look too bad when I took my glasses off.)

  10. Rider Says:

    How often do we encounter instances of pure love? Well, there are the times when we read First Corinthians 13. Otherwise we rarely encounter it in our everyday lives.

    That’s why I felt blessed when I read your posting, when I read Benjamin’s comment, and when I read your reply, Ms. Blue,

    So, a heartfelt thank you, Ms. Blue and Benjamin, for letting all of us see an instance of pure love.

  11. CountryDew Says:

    I am so pleased you have written such a lovely post, Beth. Your words are very important out here in the atmosphere and I am always glad to read them when you share (which is a polite way of saying I wish you’d write more often, I think). Take care of yourself and your family, as I know you are.

  12. Jeff Says:

    “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.”

    Wow! Thanks, Beth.

  13. Debi Kelly Van Cleave Says:

    Yeah, that was some good stuff Beth. Another beautiful post.

    Have you seen that movie “Temple Grandi,” by the way? She is autistic and she helped design humane slaughter houses. I taped it and just caught the first ten minutes so far (can’t wait to watch the whole thing), but I found it very interesting how it showed how her mind was working when she was opening a gate–all these mathematical numbers were zooming in her head and she was registering and calculating the angles and degrees and exactly how hard she’d have to push the gate, etc., all in a split second. Really interesting. And very inspiring how this autistic person revolutionized the slaughter industry by making the world a better place for animals while not threatening the humans who profit and eat the meat.

  14. Jayne Says:

    Beautifully written by a beautiful soul… inside and out. :c) xoxo

  15. Sweetflutterbys3 Says:

    I am so glad to know there are other gift wrap challenged people out there like me!

    It’s good to know that Benjamin is getting better. I know what you mean about how autistic people relate to the world since my son was autistic as well. He still struggles daily to understand the world and how to relate to it. I will pray for Ben that he continues to recover.

  16. wonderky Says:

    How easy you explain freedom. Free to be me. Loving who I am and accepting the that different is interesting and okay.

    Thank you, Alice

  17. eemilla Says:

    Seeing a new post from you in my reader always warms my heart. Your blog inspires even when you do share the ragged edges. Thank you for continuing to write here. Peace and blessings!

  18. Clair Z. Says:

    Hello, Beth. I hope that the coming of Spring finds you well. You are often on my mind. Funny, that–especially since we’ve never met in person. Hugs from southern New Mexico, where the robins are singing.

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