I’ve worn glasses since the age of 9, and have lost them a few times, and suffered. I have strong fears of not being able to see. They keep me away from things like rock climbing (what if they fell into a crack?) and watersports (what if they fell into the water??). My commitment to seeing as clearly as possible is very strong. I’ve also had difficulty getting my eyes to work together, so I’ve experienced what it’s like when my vision suddenly shifts and things are not as they appear.
I’d begun to get that same sense of disorientation… the one I get when my prescription needs changing. It’s the sense that something wasn’t right and that vision beyond my current abilities was possible and urgently needed.
The aircraft has lost integrity. What would you think if you were on a flight and the pilot made that announcement? Perhaps TMI! But really, the statement conjures up images of lost engines and pieces of the craft separating from the main body. Lost integrity suggests fragmentation. Things start to fall apart. That was how I started to feel on the inside. That disorientation...
I started to figure out that my life had shrunken. The organic relationships diminished, since the life of an autism mom is hardly in sync with ... anything. The effort required to connect and hang out was more than I thought I had. Plus people ask, 'So how is Jaedon doing?' What do I say? He has autism... Church attendance felt more difficult than I could manage, and the fellowship and connection with other Jesus followers went ... online. Time and energy to pursue interests and professional goals shrank into negative numbers. Freelance work opportunities became harder to pursue (3 hours sleep…) and the validation that came from a breadth of positive interactions with people began to diminish. To maintain my focus on what was important, I let go of any other things. Honestly, they weren’t important to me. And the effort required far outstripped the value I thought I would get.
When you don’t see well, and you get a new pair of glasses (assuming they work), there’s an adjustment period. I always hated this adjustment period and would beg my doctors not to change my glasses unless it was absolutely necessary. New glasses are strange. Everything is glaringly bright and there are so many new things, tiny things that had previously disappeared beyond my field of vision. The world looks like it's at an angle. Things are out of balance. And I have to trust that my brain would interpret the new information I was getting and to integrate it into my understanding of the world around me. But I always adjust. Once I'm seeing clearly, I can move with confidence and figure out how to handle the obstacles that I can now see. An integrated view of the things around me is key to my ability to navigate effectively and move without constantly watching my feet.
Like with getting new glasses, I've had to help myself see my life with greater clarity. Pausing to see means getting off the ferris wheel for a while. And I definitely was on the autism mom ferris wheel. Getting off means being willing to let go and trust (or acknowledge that I don't trust) the God who gifted me with J. It means letting go of the constant monitoring, preventing, managing, protecting... just for a few minutes, so I can bring my attention to something else.
Have you ever stepped into a familiar room and noticed something new that you had never seen before? That's what it's been like to give myself permission to pay attention. I’ll see information that I hadn’t been using before. These new insights helped me see some of the losses more clearly, and the gigantic puncture wounds in my energy tank. My shrunken self has, at times, blamed autism, for what's been lost. Perhaps shrinking has just been safer, and it has just been easier to blame autism.
While doing a math lesson with the kids one day, the nerd in me became fascinated by the fact that the word integer is from the same root word as the words integrated and integrity. An integer is a single, complete number, no fractions, and to be integrated is to be all together (Faith’s definition). I was puzzled by the link to integrity though. After further probing, I realized that having integrity means being fully integrated. In other words, no matter the perspective of you that’s taken, what we see is what we get. It’s the opposite of hypocrisy or being two-faced.
Dan Seigal, of the Mindsight Institute describes ‘integration’ as the process of linking differentiated parts. So, separate, specialized parts of a system are integrated when, within their specialness, connections are facilitated and honored. Dr. Seigal believes that integration in the human body is the foundation of all emotional and physical health. Integrated systems, Dr. Seigal goes on to explain, move towards harmony, and tend to be flexible and adapt easily to change. Systems that are integrated have integrity.
- Axiom 1: When Faith (representing a pretty complex system ) honors her different parts and promotes connections between these parts, she moves towards harmony and will be flexible and adaptable.
- Axiom 2: When Faith does NOT honor her different parts and/or does not nourish a connection between these various parts, she moves towards disintegration (chaos), and is therefore rigid, resistant and intractable.
This realization has been like a breath of fresh air. Chaotic and resistant had become too familiar. My being longed to be all together, not scattered in fragmented bits. My calling is to show up with integrity, as I live for Christ, who lives in me. That means honoring all the ways He made me, and allowing all those aspects of myself to show up as needed. My integrated self is from God, and is part of the gift I offer the world. Some parts of me have been quiet, because it's been easier to ignore them, than to figure out how to integrate them, given the reality of my day to day experience. But figuring this out is part of the call to show up as the Creator made me.
The process of moving from fragmented to integrated is, thankfully, energized by the Holy Spirit's transformational work in our lives. So it starts with surrender, and agreeing with God on his beautiful, integrated plan for my life. And then it goes bumpily from there.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
(Psalm 139:14, NLT)