Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Circles and Arcs
It’s been wild and wonderful in my life of late. We were able to take our family on our first vacation in over seven years. We traveled with wonderful, open-hearted friends who love our family because of our uniqueness and not in spite of it. Immediately thereafter, I was “whisked off to Wales” to play with a band for 10 days. Wild and wonderful.
Sorting out the memories, encounters, and observations from my travels has left me pondering relationships. The difference between how “special families” and “typical families” handle relationships has become strikingly clear. I view it in light of “circles and arcs”.
My observation of “typical families” has shown that they generally have a “circle of friends”. The concept is deeply ingrained in our culture. We see it in music, media, and literature. It’s the established norm. Circles tell us a lot about how most handle relationships. Circles are closed. They are nearly impossible to enter. Leaving requires a break in continuity. Circles are safe and static.
I confess. I’ve always wanted a circle. We “non-typicals” generally wish we were “typical”, though we may loudly protest to the contrary. We long for a “circle of friends”. We long for the safe and static. Unfortunately, life for us is neither safe, nor static. The circle paradigm doesn’t work.
My ponderings have led me to the conclusion that our collection of friends can be best described as an arc. For those who have gleefully forgotten most of the math they studied, think of the curved shape of a banana. It has shape, structure, and reliable boundaries. It’s also open. It’s easy to enter and can be left without breaking. This is our world. A solid core of reliable, committed friends forms the structure. Others are allowed to flow through without catastrophic consequences. The importance of this last part cannot be understated.
Special families have no choice but to learn to allow some to flow through. Knowing us can be costly. It requires a level of commitment that most simply cannot stomach. Many believe that they are up for the task initially. Most aren’t. They have to be allowed to flow through. The arc paradigm also allows other special families and hurting people to flow in and out. In the dynamic world of “special needs”, this is critical. Virtually nothing is static. The hurting my need to lean our the strength of our arc for a while, and flow out when they are healthy enough to do so.
Let me be clear. We all want a circle. My message is that I’ve learned to appreciate the arc. A part of me will always resent what I can’t have, but I’m learning and growing in that area too. I find peace in the firm belief that the world needs arcs. I’ve found great comfort in mine. My the same be true for you.