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My father loved lupines

My father loved lupines. They grew in Scotland where we lived for a few years, wild, when I was a teen.

Perhaps they reminded him of that time.

Here in the eastern States, they are not a common thing, and finicky to grow - expensive to buy (each time) in 5-gallon containers, with hopes that established root systems will be the necessary advantage. Or maybe seeds will work best, mimicking nature'sown planting, and maybe the early sprouting in place will give the best head start. I only want a few, and have tried in several locations – sun exposure, soil characteristics, you name it.

So I try, and try again. My mother, on the other hand, has several plants blooming in her front garden, flowering year after year. I think my father has something to do with that.

In Finland, in contrast, they are so numerous and vigorous as to be considered weeds. They grow on the edges of driveways and on unfinished construction sites. Prolifically. Beautifully. They thrive in challenging conditions while their kindred do poorly with ultimate pampering. We here value what is taken for granted, even viewed with disdain, elsewhere.

People can be like that.

Some may do poorly on traditional measures of intelligence or skill, yet have their multitude of strengths in other areas overlooked or considered irrelevant. Significant gifts can be missed by a focus exclusively on academic skills or sports skill, for instance.

What do we value? How might we cherish differences rather than measuring one and all by the same stick?

As I've worked for many years with individuals of all types and severities of "disability," I have been intrigued with what remains unseen, on the 'flip" side of that label or perception. Intrigued, that is, by the gifts and abilities which are disregarded and undiscovered, in the haste with which these individuals are labelled subpar by traditional measures. Cognitively, they may be outside of what is considered the "norm." In what is sometimes termed the shallow end of the bell curve. But there are two shallow ends - one of sub normal measure and one of above-normal measure on any given trait.

"Two ends of the stick," they say.

On one end, perhaps is cognitive deviation from the norm - "slow," "dyslexic;" the labels abound. On the other end however are the unacknowledged gifts: those of inordinate patience and tolerance; the ability to perform routine tasks repeatedly yet with persisting attention and accuracy; uncanny intuition and empathy; a cheeriness of disposition outside of any sense of "appropriateneess" to their situation; the list goes on.

I have attended funerals with lines a block long of people whose lives have been touched in significant ways by these individuals deemed by the limited scope of standard measures to be deficient in certain abilities considered essential to the independence we prize so highly. Lacking in those areas yet so very complete in others. So much so that many experience genuine and profound loss at their absence: caregivers, family, friends, teachers, acquaintances, all missing their contagious joi de vie and unconditional gratitude. Yes, the very same that so many 'typical" individuals pay so much to therapists to learn. . . .

So . . will we celebrate our differences, as an expensive plant to nurture, or will we persist in regarding them as weeds on a hillside?

Let's re-think this.

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DISCLAIMER: The contents of this blog are reflections on life and my experience as a licensed psychologist. In no way do these musings constitute professional advice; nor does any interation with me via this blog or wesite constitute a professional therapeutic relationship. If you feel the need for a professional relationship, please contact someone in your area who is able to devote the time necessary to understand the unique specifics of your pesonal situation and to offer counsel accordingly. I accept no liability for any content of this blog or website; nor any liability for any damage suffered or perceived from interaciton with the contents of this blog or website.

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