One-legged Avocet

Last week I went birding on Antelope Island. Besides the dark clouds that made lighting terrible, it was a good day with a variety of birds spotted, and even a coyote I got some good pictures of. As I was driving on the causeway off of the island, I spotted hundreds of American avocets. I stopped to take pictures when I noticed an avocet that only had one leg. I observed for awhile as this single bird with one leg hopped about, using its wings as help, to get from one place to another. It seemed to stand/balance on it’s one leg just fine and was integrated with the other avocets. Integrated, a part of, yet still different and dealing with a disability.

I thought about how lately I’ve felt like a one-legged avocet, still living life among everyone else, doing my best to get along—and surviving, yes—yet also struggling as I do things differently. On the outside it might seem like I’m like everyone else, but I often feel so alone, dealing with things that no one around me has gone through. I have no one to turn to for help or guidance, no one who understands. I’m among the other avocets, but with one leg, hopping from place to place, standing, balancing, and most of the time I really am okay, but sometimes the boulder on top of me weighs me down, threatening to crush me. I don’t let it. God doesn’t let it. He helps me. He’s there. So is the boulder.

The thing is, I bet a lot of people around me who look like normal, two-legged avocets—or normal two-legged people—feel like the one-legged avocet, too. They are among everyone else, seemingly getting along fine, when really they are going through something too. They may have a boulder on top of them. They may be living in the rubble of bombs that keep going off. They may feel alone. They may not have anyone else around who understands. Yet, somehow, remembering this, helps me to feel less alone. It reminds me that there can be connection even when we aren’t going through the same things. Empathy isn’t about understanding or knowing what it’s like. It’s simply about loving and being there for someone no matter what. Maybe—just maybe—we are all like the one-legged avocet. And more alike than we think.


Running to Stand Still

I used to live in the red rock country of southern Utah. I used to live in the golden Book Cliffs of eastern Utah. I used to live in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. The desert flows through my veins. I drove through desert a couple of weeks ago, and it reminded me just how much I miss it. So I wrote this poem.

Running to Stand Still
by Tacy Gibbons

I’ve spent my whole life running to stand still.
Muscles aching, out of breath,
I search, hunger, yearn.
Seek where to sink my roots.

I plant myself in the desert,
dry, parched, red earth,
and raise my arms like Joshua trees in supplication.

I find peace
even in the driest of lands.

God whispers on the winds
of weathering and erosion,
brings me to my feet and tells me
I can stand still even while running.

Celebrating Differences

Having a son with autism has taught me so much. One of the things I appreciate the most has been learning just how important it is not just to learn about and understand differences, but to actually accept, respect and celebrate them. This belief was reinforced just recently.

A couple of weeks ago I took my kids to a dinner show, where a woman with her own kids (much younger than mine) got angry at my eleven-year-old autistic son for having bad manners. I told her he was autistic to which she promptly replied that she had several family members who were autistic and that she was a teacher who had worked with many autistic children and ALL of them had manners. It was a very frustrating interaction with someone who believes in blanket statements and sameness. Despite her claims she didn’t seem to understand that it’s called a “spectrum” for a reason—because it’s so different for everyone who has it.

One of the reasons I was so saddened by what happened was not just because she showed ignorance about autism and was judging my son—and me—but because it showed her belief in sameness. It’s the belief that everyone should fit into a box and be exactly the way we think they should be. Anyone who doesn’t meet those expectations we have for them is bad or wrong or horrible and should be judged, condemned and corrected.

I have seen this with mental illness/health. One person is helped by medication, so they think everyone should take medication. Anyone who doesn’t is stupid. Others strongly believe in only natural remedies and condemn all who want to give medication a try. It’s the belief that because yoga and diet cured my depression it will absolutely, without a doubt, cure yours. This woman supposedly knew many autistic people who had good manners which meant that ALL people with autism can and should have them as well. Any who don’t need to be judged, condemned and corrected.

I believe this is one of the worst falsehoods we can perpetuate. This belief that everyone and everything should be exactly the same (whatever that “same” is in our mind) leads to things like racism, bigotry, hate, exclusion. It doesn’t leave any room for diversity, love, kindness, acceptance, inclusion, learning or growth.

I know I have, at times, been guilty of this, too. I’m grateful for my son for helping to change my perspective. I know he will likely have to deal with people like this woman his whole life. I spoke with both my kids about it—about the importance of not expecting everyone to be exactly the same. We are all different. That’s one of the great things about life! We all have different struggles, strengths, weaknesses, etc. Because of that we are all equipped to help others in different ways, just like we are able to learn from others in different ways.

As I continue to learn and grow, I hope I will remember this lesson and the importance of not only being okay with, but celebrating differences.

Real Life Experiences

I love when real life experiences can teach us valuable lessons. It’s one of the best ways I learn. I had such an example earlier this week.

My kids and I were on a long drive to a destination for spring break. The drive was going great and we were making good time. Despite a slight detour that only added maybe 10-15 minutes to our drive it looked like we were going to arrive even earlier than I’d expected. Then things went sideways real fast—or maybe I should say real slow.

Traffic on the freeway came to a sudden stop. For the next 2 ½ hours we barely crawled along the freeway (only went about 6 miles in this time) because of a crash that had shut down a part of the road. Eventually, we got to a point where the freeway was still closed and we were detoured back the way we had come! We had to get off and head in the opposite direction on a tiny two-lane highway in the middle of nowhere. Because so many other people were doing the same thing the highway was clogged and also went very slowly. It took us another two hours to finally get back onto the freeway, only about 5 miles south of where we had gotten off.

Much of this journey was very stressful and frustrating. We needed to go to the bathroom. We were hungry. We were tired and needed to sleep. We should have gotten to our destination around 6:00 PM, but ended up not getting there until around 11:00 PM. It wasn’t all bad, though. Some of the journey was fun, too. We rocked out to music. We told jokes. We laughed. We had interesting conversations. At one point I did almost break down and cry from the stress and anxiety of it all, but decided I wanted to be a good example to my kids that even when things go wrong you keep going. And we did keep going. We did make it to our destination.

I thought about how this parallels my own life recently. I was on this path in life that was going great. I knew where I was headed and knew how to get there. Then things went sideways real fast. I had to take a detour that has taken me on a new path that looks very, very different than the one I was on. Sometimes it has been stressful and frustrating. It has definitely been a difficult journey. But there have also been good things. I have learned and grown so much because of this new path I’m on. I’ve still had joy and happiness. I’ve laughed. I’ve loved. And I know I will make it to my destination. It may be in a different way. It may take longer than I thought it would. But I know I will make it, just like we made it to our destination for spring break. Since then, we’ve done so many fun things and have made some great memories! I have hope and faith that my new destination in life will also, eventually, be full of fun and produce amazing memories.

What have your real-life experiences teach you? I’m so incredibly grateful for mine.