Editor’s note: WordPress has gone funky on me this week and the color doesn’t seem to want to stick to the hot links. So, when you see a word in bold print followed by (<– LINK!), click on it to link through. Or don’t. But now you know you have the choice ;).
“She’ll know it wasn’t easy. She’ll know her Mama made mistakes. She’ll know I couldn’t always protect her, no matter how much I may have wanted to. But I hope and I pray that when she looks back over it all she’ll know more than anything that I tried. That I did everything I could think to do to understand her, to help her, and – above all – to love her. And that she will know deep down that for those times that I stumbled – when try as I might I just didn’t get it – that I am so, so sorry.”
From You’re Sorry, (<– LINK!) November, 2010
“It’s wasted guilt . . . those of us on the spectrum do not share it at all. I have yet to see a kid with autism who blames mom. I have yet to see a kid who blames anyone at all, in fact. We just are what we are. Those of us with sense make the best of it. Some get derailed by the lure of victimhood. Don’t go there.
I agree, mom guilt is a huge issue. But there’s usually no reason for it.”
John Elder Robison (<– LINK!) in a comment on Diary September, 2008
M is one of my favorite human beings on the planet. He writes a hauntingly beautiful, riotously funny, sometimes heartbreaking, always brilliantly crafted blog (<– LINK!) about life through his particular lens – which happens to include Asperger’s.
My post, ‘Getting There is Love’ and the story told within it had been written in response to one of M’s posts. (<– LINK!) M then responded to ‘Getting There’ with yet another post, which then set off a fabulous run of blog to blog dialogue, or ‘cross blogination’ as we dubbed it at the time. *Hi, M!*
Within M’s response to my self-flagellation (see the quote at the top of the page) was the following sentence.
‘“Being there is empathy. Getting there is love.”
Two years later, that line still stops me in my tracks.
We spend so much time and energy trying to achieve empathy with our kids – trying to crawl inside their lives and experience the world as they do – to FEEL what they feel and in so doing, to truly understand them from the inside out.
It doesn’t always work. In fact, we sometimes we fail miserably.
In his post, M had said the following.
“Empathy, in my opinion, is not necessarily the answer. That may sound weird, but it’s true. Empathy is more of a goal that you work towards. It’s a good goal…one of the best you could possibly have. But to think from another persons perspective – it requires that the other person be able to articulate their inner experiences. That is absolutely necessary for empathy to be real. In situations where a person is unable to do that…it can take time to understand their reality. A lot of it.
Without that internal information, the most compassionate person in the world can fail to empathize. Because it’s hard. Because no one can magically appear at point B, as frustrating as that is.
(I say “they have to articulate their inner experiences”…that’s not necessarily true. People communicate in all sorts of ways without words, but it can still take time to understand the other person, decode their personal language.)”
Achieving empathy is a process – even a lifetime pursuit. At the very least it is an ongoing evolution. And it’s not a smooth path by any means. But as long as we continue to move forward – as long as we lovingly and thoughtfully apply each lesson learned – we are heading in the right direction.
At the end of my response to M, I’d written the following. I think it bears repeating. (And I don’t mean just for you dear reader. ‘Cause I need to hear it again. And again.)
“For me it boils down to this: We’re so much harder on ourselves than we are on others. We mete out forgiveness and support, validation and love so freely to each other, but somehow it’s so much harder to find the same compassion, the same gentleness for ourselves. And according to my dear friend and sage, as long as we’re trying, we deserve a little slack. An ‘A’ for effort, as it were. Because we’re getting there, aren’t we? And getting there is love. So says M.”
I’ve held onto that every day since. I held it every time Brooke ran through the painful script about the ballet shoes. I held it each time I tore my hair out trying to understand and feeling like I never would.
Being there is empathy. Getting there is love.
That goes for our children, and it goes for ourselves.
It’s OK. (<– LINK!)