photo The World
we've been bumping into the edges of things since the beginning with zoe. try as we may have, life with her hasn't fit into the box that most of us live in. everything has demanded out of the box thinking and creativity and flexibility and trial and error just to stay in the corner of the box. there wasn't a rule book. there wasn't a clear 'plan b, or c, or d'. there was mostly responding when things stopped working.
like this year. when school stopped working. we were all trying so hard- to flex and create and think and try- to make a plan g. but then we had to stop. we had to climb out of the box. and that is where we found her.
when zoe was 10 we came to uganda to see how it would be for her and for us to live here. we went on safari up north and on the game drive we came to a tower of giraffes. giraffes are magnificent. there is almost nothing like seeing the big animals of africa in the wild. it gives you a sense that you only know so much and that things have been around a lot longer than you have. we all got out of the vehicle and watched these animals walking together across the plain. all except for zoe. she was bent down, squatting on the ground, mesmerized by these little dragonflies that had just hatched.
middle of africa. middle of safari. my girl is choosing dragonflies over giraffes. there was the beauty of her life outside of the box- appreciating something differently, sharing an experience but from an independent point of view- reminding the rest of us that, as elizabeth barrett browning said, “Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God.”
her world is in many ways a complete mystery to me. i try to guide her as best as i can but i'm blind to what life is like wearing her skin, seeing through her eyes, hearing all the sounds and the words that confuse and isolate. she lives with such a different perspective, such an unshared experience, such a variable bag of what each day brings her- no wonder why she's lonely.
for someone who thinks so literally, i was surprised when she told me last week that she is becoming a ghost. so matter-of-fact-ly. but i know why she said it. she moves around but feels invisible, not unseen by eyes, but unseen by hearts, unseen for who she is. she talks and talks, but feels unheard, people know the sound of her voice, but they don't know what is in the words and it becomes so easy to stop listening. she feels unknown and not being known is the loneliest of lonelies.
i'm guilty of this. of being so overwhelmed by her out-of-the-boxness, so tired of the effort it takes to try and understand her, so frustrated by the truth that is my inability to know her world, that sometimes i stick her in a box, label it 'zoe' and go on. and by go on i mean that i can have an entire conversation with her, in the box i've stuck her in, while doing something else and realize after 10 minutes that i haven't really heard a word she has said.
this is a new beginning. or it feels that way. we've left the box. we've listened and seen and perhaps most importantly we've believed what she's said about life in her skin. it's still taking flexibility and creativity and trial and error and there is no rule book out here. but her days are becoming filled with things she is good at or interested in- helping in a babies home, baking and selling gluten-free sweets, reading and researching things she's curious about and her favorite thing, connecting with a younger fellow 'brain cousin' as he learns to read and speak. we are trying to let her lead us into her world. to respect her uniqueness and to help her find that special path those of us in the box miss out on.
it was hard to climb out, honestly. we were tempted with self-doubt, and the what-if's and the fears of the unknown. but it feels less like we've lost something and more like we've found something. a way to see her better, to hear her better. we've stepped out of the box and joined her. perhaps she was always there outside and the edge of the box was between us. now we are stepping into knowing her on her side of things.
the picture above reminds me of these things. of zoe and her perspective. her gift of seeing beauty that many overlook. in insects and animals and most impressively in the people that so many ignore or walk right past. she sees and hears others who walk ghost-like through their days. who live a different version but know the lonely of not being known as she does. these are perhaps her greatest moments- the moments the rest of us fail at because we are busy looking for the tower of giraffes on the horizon, or the people version of them. we aren't brave enough to stop and look down. to reach out. to see the value in the smaller less glamorous things.
maybe now she will guide me.