When I say that no one is broken, I mean that no one needs to be fixed. This does not mean, however, that I believe everyone should remain exactly as they are. Quite the contrary. If working with my son Sawyer has taught me nothing else it is that the question is not if things will change in my life but how they will change. Or, more specifically, how can I be a conscious participant in those inevitable changes, rather than a victim to a tide of changes that seem beyond my control?
For me, the answer was to abandon the idea that anything needs fixing. This was not so easy because I am constantly aware of conditions in my life with which I am dissatisfied or with which I disagree. If I don’t like something, I want it to change, I want it to improve, and something that has been improved has been made better has been fixed. That’s the way of the physical world.
Except it isn’t. For instance, once upon a time I very much wanted Sawyer to stop running and flapping and humming and start communicating with us when we spoke to him. His constant pretending, as we called it, was a problem that needed fixing. It made school nearly impossible and it made parenting nearly impossible. Problem. And that problem was in him; ergo, he needed to be fixed.
Our efforts to fix him, to improve him, to correct him inspired no change other than to drive him deeper into his pretend world. It was when we found joining, which was the practice of doing whatever he did with him, that we began to see the sort of changes we so desired. Yet joining was not fixing. Joining was a way to offer Sawyer another option in a language he could understand. The option we were offering was the experience of being with other people, and the language he could understand was the thing that he was already doing. Things changed, but nothing was actually fixed.
Just as there is nothing wrong with Sawyer, so too is there nothing wrong with me. But just like Sawyer, I am always seeking new experiences that better match the life I would like to live. Those new experiences become my expanded perception of what is possible, and from that expanded perception I will seek still more experiences and perceptions.
But not if I try to fix myself. Why would I want an expanded version of a broken thing? No matter how wretched I sometimes feel, no matter how compelled I feel to right this wrong that has led me to this wretched place, it is only in my appreciation of what is that I can find what I love and seek more of it. It is easy to seek more of what I love; it is impossible to eliminate what I do not. I did not fix Sawyer; I simply sought more ways to be with him rather than try to eradicate the ways I could not be with him.
I am constantly relearning this lesson. How contrary it seems that I must love the thing I wish to change. Dissatisfaction and criticism and judgment and even violence seem like perfectly reasonable responses to a wretched world. And so I try them, and so they don’t work, and so I feel so wretched that I have no choice but to seek one thing in this wretched world that pleases me, and there it is, and now I am on my way again.
I am the author of Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence, and Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. Learn more here.