Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Cover image: Zen Shorts, by Jon J. MuthJoy & Rose's great-uncle & great-aunt gave them a lovely picture-book a while ago, a Caldecott-honor book by Jon J. Muth called Zen Shorts. The book tells several stories-within-a-story, short Zen meditations told in a manner appropriate for children.

Here's one of them:

There was once an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years.
One day, his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit.
"Such bad luck," they said sympathetically.
"Maybe," the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it two other wild horses.
"Such good luck!" the neighbors exclaimed.
"Maybe," replied the farmer.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown off, and broke his leg. Again, the neighbors came to offer sympathy.
"Such bad luck," they said.
"Maybe," answered the farmer.

The day after that, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army to fight in a war. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by.
"Such good luck!" cried the neighbors.
"Maybe," said the farmer.

This story is good food for thought for me. I'm not a lot like this old farmer (garden produce notwithstanding). I tend to get dragged down by the "such bad luck" times and get mighty euphoric with the "such good luck" ones.

Here's one recent sequence of events and how it might look in some alternate-universe version of a JoyMama who's got the Zen thing going on:

Toward the end of last school year, JoyMama learned that Joy's speech therapist was going to take a different position in the school district, and wouldn't be available for Joy's team the next year, though ideally we'd have loved to see all three team members continue.
"Such bad luck," her loyal blog-land friends commiserated.
"Maybe," replied JoyMama.

Then we learned that the replacement would be a newer speech therapist with a lot of energy and good ideas. The new speech therapist coordinated efforts with the occupational therapist to bring projects to Joy's daycare in which all the daycare kids could participate. Not only is Joy taking well to the new strategy, but now is producing take-homes suitable for scrapbooking!
"Such good luck!" came the cheers in the comments.
"Maybe," replied JoyMama.

Then came word several weeks into the school year that the occupational therapist, who's been doing wonderful work with Joy and MADE several weighted vests for her, got reassigned to classroom-based work and would be leaving the team pronto. Now a totally unfamiliar OT would have to learn all about our complicated little sensory-seeker, all from scratch.
"Such bad luck," sympathized the readers.
"Maybe," replied JoyMama.

Then we learned that the new OT we've been assigned comes to the school district from Birth-to-Three (so she's experienced in working with early-childhood issues) and not only that -- she used to be the OT for one of the other kids at Joy's daycare, so she's already acquainted with Joy and Lynda and how the daycare is set up! I met with her this morning, got her signed up onto our team Yahoo group, she asked good questions and sounds enthusiastic.
"Such good luck!" exclaimed the bloggers.
"Maybe," replied JoyMama.

I guess we'll have to see what's next to come our way!


Quirky Mom said...

I love your new Zen take on the situation, and I really love the perspective it gives me. Thanks for writing such an awesome and inspirational post!

Anonymous said...

My understanding of Zen is incomplete, but I have heard/read a story similar to that before. It provided very good perspective, I think.

I last saw this story in a book titled: Jesus: CEO.

Related is the song from the animated movie The Prince of Egypt. The song sung by Moses father-in-law ~ we cannot see the world through God's eyes...something like that.


Anonymous said...

Lots to learn from this. There is a peace when you have given your life and plans to God - no matter what happens next, you know you're in His hands.

Niksmom said...

Excellent post! :-)

JoyMama said...

Quirkymom, Niksmom - thanks!

Barbara - Zen is obviously not a deep study of mine, but from the little I know, I think there are lessons to be learned. I'm now wondering what the Biblical connection in Jesus: CEO might be!

Rhemashope - more to ponder - how would or wouldn't it change the story if the farmer's (& the alternate JoyMama's) response was "Maybe - it's in God's hands." When I was writing this post I briefly considered adding a Biblical layer and then decided that I'd already spent enough time on it... but your comment is well-taken.

AuntieS said...

Imagine if this Zen approach was in place at the beginning of Joy's journey through the autism diagnosis?!
After much search and research and doctor visits of many kinds, JoyMama and JoyDad met a doctor who told them that Joy has autistic tendencies.
"Such bad luck!" many family and friends cried.
"Maybe," answered JoyMama and JoyDad......
It just seems that, by saying "maybe", we are reserving judgement as to whether this is a "bad" or "good" thing, as if there are always more sides to any situation than might first appear. It connects, in my mind, with the idea that there is always a silver lining to be found in any situation. And I think that is the case for Joy and her family and friends. Maybe it isn't all bad luck if those around Joy have learned about autism, acceptance, tolerance, creative, and unconditional love. Maybe it isn't all bad if Rose grows up knowing that she can love and care for a sister who has special needs, and that others will follow her lead on how to treat her sister and others with such needs, that she can be a loving and caring and empathetic person to Joy and others. Maybe it isn't so unlucky if friends and family can gain insights from Joy such as the appreciation of running for the sheer joy, or the appreciation of a smile that lights up a room without words. So, I think I will definitely try to put more "maybe" into my own life, to wait and see if things really are as bad as they initially seem, to look for that silver lining, to recognize that good things can come from something that seems "unlucky" at first. Thanks for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

we have this book too and i just love it. it was a gift from my mother-in-law, who is japanese.

the whole concept .. peace in where we are . trust in where we are going .. no need to control it all .. my husband lives it, i aspire to it

Anonymous said...

Whew! I could only imagine the face of either candidate on your pumpkin and then not being sure if you were for or against the face depicted.

But speaking of the election, will you respond "Maybe" - no matter the outcome? I'm going to take a cue from jesswilson..."trust in where we are going .. no need to control it all".

JoyMama said...

Barbara - for a bi-partisan take on jack-o-lanterns, here's a place to grab a stencil for any one of the four candidates' faces! But no, my carving skills aren't up to that level of detail.

Most excellent comment on "maybe" and the election. I have not exemplified that in past, particularly in outcomes that were disappointing to me. Perhaps if I begin now to cultivate a "maybe" attitude, I can make some progress in that direction over the next three weeks!

StatMama said...

JoyMama, I'm sorry it took me so long to wander over here to your blog to see your Zen post. That book looks lovely and now I want to buy a copy :) I like the post, and I'll definitely be visiting your blog again as well. I am glad you enjoyed my post about the kids.

Stat Mama