The Month of Gratitude

November is #noticeandsharethegood Month!
I have two sons.
The older – is 22. The younger is 20.
The older is severely autistic. He has no conversational language.
At times he goes above his brother’s head with his own bent head, in a loving gesture of awe, in his own fashion to express tenderness.
That the younger young man never pushes him back nor expresses annoyance is beautiful. Simply beautiful.
I cannot explain how grateful I am for the tender relationship between those two…

Give thanks

There is a tradition in Judaism that we give thanks as soon as we open our eyes when we wake up in the morning.

We are given many opportunities to give thanks from that moment on during the day, and if we can we are urged to do it at least a hundred times each day.

Looking around and finding those opportunities is an exercise in mental health, with more benefits than anti-depressants.

When darkness is growing

With November, in the Northern hemisphere, trees are becoming bare.

Daylight is decreasing.

Soon we feel like we don’t see the sun at all.

It is time to vote in the United States.

A year ago, it did not end well for all those who had not seen it come. Authoritarianism is casting such an ominous shadow that it feels difficult to give thanks for what is happening in the world.

To look for the beauty and the goodness.

To find the helpers.

To keep hope and keep the battle and keep smiling.

Keep voicing your opinions

We can disagree on so many things and still have a civil discussion.

There are so many ways to look at everything.

Just be patient and see the tenderness in a gesture that may be annoying.

Like my son does over and over out of his own love for his brother.

Always see the good in everything may bring surprises. The light will come back.

In the meantime, let us all prepare for the beautiful holiday of Thanksgiving. What will you bring to the table? Let me know!

 

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#BlogElul 5776 #ElulGram – Elul 14: Learn

learn_spikishMy older son was born on the severe end of the autistic spectrum. I am usually saying that he is “differently abled” than most of us because I have learned to notice his extraordinary abilities and that they have proven to be consistent through his twenty and something years of life so far.

Autism is often characterized as a puzzle, in the sense of a mystery, but it is not to those who are affected by it. Not only to the individuals who may or may not be “diagnosed” with autism but also to their closest allies, siblings, teachers and caregivers  (I put the word “diagnosed” in brackets because autism is certainly not a disease and the word “diagnosed” tend to imply it would be, so it is really misleading but for a better way to explain what I want to explain I will continue to use some of that annoying vocabulary and I apologize for doing so).

The real mystery is why we would be unable to understand or communicate with some people, just because we think we have a “superior” way of functioning when the reality is that we also have lots of deficiencies in the way we use our brains. We are just the dominant part of the population and we are used to communicating the way we do, we highly value speech and communication through words and elaborate expressions of our thoughts and emotions. So when someone is properly handicapped in those domains we tend to see them as disabled, the same way we value being able to hear or see or run and someone whose hearing, sight or motion is impaired is considered by the majority as disabled when in reality everyone has different abilities and ways to adapt to how we function.

I certainly want everyone to understand the subtleties that make my son as able as anyone despite his disabilities: he is not less, and he certainly is more in many domains. Those domains might not be considered as functional in today’s world but I am ready to bet that in a couple of centuries or maybe less time, given how fast things are going if only we are willing to learn and adapt, they will be essential to life and his extraordinary skills will be needed and highly sought for the majority in society!

In our morning liturgy, there are a series of blessings that we repeat every day. Let me quote some of them in one of the many possible translations:

Thankfully, we offer praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe,

For bestowing the power to distinguish between day and night;

For creating us in Your image;

For giving us freedom;

/…/

For giving us the capacity to see;

/…/

I remember the first times I heard some of the readings from the High Holy Days liturgy in a prelude to the Sh’ma and couldn’t refrain myself from choking a little while reading them. I offer them here in English as they appear in The New Mahzor printed by Media Judaica, which we are not using anymore during our services and I have yet to see if this text that moves me so much is included:

 

Let us imagine a world without color, without regal red or leafy green, a world that bores the eye with gray.

Praise to You, Adonai, for all the colors in the rainbow, for eyes that are made for seeing, and for the beauty that “is its own excuse for being.”

Let us imagine a world without sound, a world where deathly silence covers the earth like a shroud.

Praise to You, Adonai, for words that speak to our minds, for songs that lift our spirits, and for all those souls who know how to listen.

Let us imagine a world without order, where no one can predict the length of the day or the flow of the tide. Imagine a universe where planets leave their orbits and soar like meteors through the heavens and where the law of gravity is repealed at random.

Praise to You, Adonai, for the marvelous order of nature, from stars in the sky to particles in the atom.

Let us imagine a world without love, a world in which the human spirit, incapable of caring, is locked in the prison of the self.

Praise to You, Adonai, for the capacity to feel happiness in another’s happiness and pain in another’s pain.

As the universe whispers of a oneness behind all that is, so the love in the human heart calls on people everywhere to unite in pursuit of those ideals that make us human.

As we sing of One God, we rejoice in the wonder of the universe and we pray for that day when all humanity will be one.

I will let you imagine what it has been like for someone born without some of those abilities we take for granted, ~ and could often forget to be thankful for, had our rituals not reminded us ~ to learn how to compensate to be seen as fully human and find their place among us, fully included as they should be.

 

This year, I have committed to a daily blog in English to participate in @imabima’s project of Elul. I will dedicate my endeavor for the רפואה שלמה complete healing of   מרדכי אלעזר בן חנה מרים (Mordechai ben Chanah).

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#BlogElul 5776 #ElulGram – Elul 2: Act

zerizut taking action with joy
Zerizut is the word describing the eagerness to do something. It HAS to be joyful because it makes it so much easier than when you feel obligated to do stuff and grudgingly obey dragging your feet. I am blessed with a master of z’rizus (the Ashkenazic pronunciation of zerizut) at home!

My son, who has severe autism, is extremely intense and all his actions carry an extreme joy and enthusiasm: you cannot avoid being amazed at the amount of energy he will display when he is doing something.

This is the kind of joy I want to be able to put in everything I have to do!

 

This year, I have committed to a daily blog in English to participate in @imabima’s project of Elul. I will dedicate my endeavor for the רפואה שלמה complete healing of   מרדכי אלעזר בן חנה מרים (Mordechai ben Chanah).

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#BlogElul – Day 4 – Understand

Those days, when all of a sudden, things that used to work don’t. It is annoying. It can trigger a crisis when you have a child with autism. You just can’t get to the core of it. You have to go with the flow. Accept that you don’t understand. That it is useless to feel afraid, or frustrated, or scared, or angry. It just does not work. There is not much to understand. It goes back to accepting again. Accepting that understanding is not in reach for the moment. It is difficult but necessary.

Living within the realm of autism is living within the realm of very little to understand. I can see it in the questions that I always get around my son. People wonder how we communicate. They ask me to translate what he is saying. I don’t know how to answer to those questions. I communicate through channels that are different, that’s all.

We all like to understand. It lifts so much anxiety. It gives power. A sense of control. But understanding can be an illusion. We understand what we already know. What we have learned or studied. Understanding comes with practice and patience.lamp

Influencing Culture

This post is part of ROOTS – a series that originates on BlogHer’s NaBloPoMo – see what others are posting on the topic.

Roots: they are the stories that ground you, the food that returns you, the music that comforts you, and the people who know you. Everyone has roots that influence them, even if they don’t consciously know them or can’t access them.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013:

How much does your culture come into play in your day-to-day life?

How much? An awful lot, I would say!

Eiffel Tower
Image courtesy of chrisroll at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My culture is extremely grounded in the fact that I lived in France for forty years, and that when I moved here, being French was so much part of my identity that I felt very foreign.

Living in a very rural part of the county when I had been a city girl for so many years may have added to my sense of isolation, and then came the diagnosis of autism for our elder, followed very shortly after with the collapse of the relationship with my husband. I needed to cling to something solid. My culture was my backbone, and I had no one left to share it with.

So the other part of my identity, being Jewish became even more important. Thankfully, there was a strong Jewish community in my town, and I affirmed and grounded myself in that part of my culture, that was not as foreign anymore, even though I had to adapt to some very significant different customs than from what I had known back in my hometown.

See my other posts of the series:

Family Traditions

A sweet name

Genealogy and Family Trees

Beauty Queen With Autism Vies For Miss America Title – Disability Scoop

See on Scoop.itDifferent is cool

Six months of perfecting her interviewing skills will be put to the test this week when Alexis Wineman steps before the judges in her quest to become the first Miss America with autism.

Otir‘s insight:

I had mentioned this article when it was published a couple days ago, and the story is getting more and more attention after Alexis was interviewed on Fox. Her chances are good, and I wish her well. Having a lovely spokeperson for autism can never hurt.

See on www.disabilityscoop.com