Time for finding
“When we are trapped in seeking, nothing is enough. Everything we have mocks us; we see only what is missing, and all that is already here seems pale and unsatisfying. In Sabbath time we bless what is there for being. The time for seeking is over; the time for finding has begun.” — Wayne Muller
I’ve always thought of myself as a seeker, and I think seeking after what is good, true, and beautiful is a noble thing. So when I read this quote, I had to give it some real thought. It had never occurred to me that seeking might be a different task than finding, which I had always imagined was something that “happened” when you looked hard enough, or looked in the right place.
But the final sentence of this quote resonated with me. For the past year, I have been continually seeking information, scouring Medline and other databases for advice, research abstracts, case history precedents, or any other source that might help me help Jeff to get well. There’s nothing wrong with that, to a point, but Jeff himself has put some fairly firm boundaries on my tendency to get obsessive about it. I have come to see the wisdom in that.
Likewise, for the past 28 years, I have been seeking one way or another to help Matt survive, heal, and flourish in the midst of the constellation of disabilities that go with his extremely rare (12 cases worldwide) genetic disorder. While I often feel as if we’ve met with failure after failure, perhaps part of the problem has been my inability to understand that we must do more than seek in order to find; that we must be open to discovering what we didn’t realize we were looking for.
Several years ago, the world-renowned expert in autism, Dr. Gary Mesibov of UNC-Chapel Hill’s TEACCH program, along with his clinical team, conducted a two-day vocational assessment of Matt, evaluating his strengths and weaknesses in preparation for the transition from high school to community working and living. While they did prepare an impressively detailed and accurate written portrait of Matt’s significant skills and challenges, the meeting that followed the evaluation was an unexpected gift. After years of IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meetings at schools all over the USA, I had heard repeatedly about what Matt could NOT do, and about what we should NOT expect of his education and life opportunities. I expected a similar summary from the TEACCH staff.
Instead, Dr. Mesibov congratulated us; something I’ve rarely heard from educators. “I love kids who have autism,” he said, and you could tell he meant it. “They are my life’s work. But ‘pleasant’ is not a word I typically use to describe them. Your son is a star!”
After I recovered from the surprise, I mumbled something about wishing Dr. M could be at the next IEP meeting with us, or could convince some of the vocational training providers who seemed far more dubious about Matt’s potential. Dr. Mesibov gently suggested that we simply enjoy the person Matt had already become. While he understood and supported our goals to help Matt improve his skills and succeed in the community, he also said, “The time has come for you to enjoy the fruit of the hard work you have been doing for more than twenty years.”
That’s easier said than done, of course. Life since then has been anything but easy, filled with disappointments, tears and fears. Yet I am finally beginning to understand that Dr. Mesibov was telling us that the time had come for finding.
At this point, with Jeff and Matt each having three surgeries behind them in the past year, and more scheduled in the near future, as well as a very uncertain long term prognosis, I am learning to cherish every single day. I’ll always be a seeker; that’s just who I am. But I am learning to be a finder, as well.
Some of us who are Christians set Sunday aside for practices often referred to as “observing the Sabbath.” Many people of other faiths, as well as those who observe no particular faith, also set aside one day each week to rest from all our striving. On this day, we pause and reflect on our lives, seeking (and hopefully finding) connection with what matters most. We worship, give thanks, or simply bask in the blessings that often go unnoticed in the hectic pace of life. I wish for you a day of refreshment each week, a time for blessing what IS, rather than focusing on what is missing. May we all learn to find, as well as to seek!