Saturday, December 31, 2011


During the holiday-preparation whirlwind earlier this month, I also had the chance to help out a couple of students doing end-of-semester projects relating to special needs. My niece interviewed me by e-mail with a series of questions about Joy's diagnosis and development and how our family manages. Between my answers and this blog, she wrote up a paper that earned her a 100% grade, highly satisfactory!

The other interview was by phone with one of the LEND trainees we mentored this fall, who had an occupational-therapy survey for me about OT goals and progress. There was one flavor of question that came up again and again, that I struggled with answering. The question had to do with satisfaction, on a scale of 1 to 10... how satisfied are you with the goal? How satisfied are you with your child's progress?

It's not easy to assign a meaningful number to a question about satisfaction! Thinking about it later, I realized that for every one of the progress-questions, I could have truthfully answered almost anything between 1 and 10 each time.

Of course I'm not satisfied! How can I be satisfied, when Joy is so clearly behind her peers in comparison, and likely always will be? We can't let ourselves be satisfied. We're always going to have to keep striving, pushing for the next step, giving it our all to achieve... first the possible, and then the impossible!

Of course I'm satisfied! Look how far this girl has come, look what wonderful progress she's made this past year! She's working with good people who are responsive to her needs and to our participation, and the forward movement is obvious. We've had extra affirmation of that in the visit we've got going on from GrandpaJ and GrandmaJoy right now, and what they observe in Joy just since their last visit in September!

Of course there must be a balance.

Satisfied can't mean "OK, we're done, no need to work any more." In our goals for Joy, our goals for ourselves, our goals for our state and country, quitting is not an option. We can't be stagnant-satisfied.

On the other hand, there is in our culture an almost pathological urge against satisfaction, against having enough and counting our blessings. We are bombarded with messages urging us to consume, to buy, to live better by acquiring more. The country is only now waking up to the pathology of the insatiability at the tippy-top of the income ladder, the barons whose individual wealth is greater than the GDP of entire countries, who are in the process of buying United States' political system. How many billions are enough, and at what cost to how many of the little people down at the bottom of the heap?

How can we learn to balance a truly grateful satisfaction with an appropriate moving-forward?

I'm reminded of the Jewish Passover song Dayenu, which tells of God's great gifts to the children of Israel: bringing the people out of slavery in Egypt, the miracles of being led and fed in the desert, the gifts of the Sabbath and the Torah. As each gift is listed, the chorus affirms "Dayenu" which translates as "it would have been enough for us" -- or, as in the version I first heard, "it would have satisfied us."

And yet, the scriptures tell us one story after another of the exodus in which the people were not satisfied and complained to Moses, complained to God. It would have been better if we had stayed in Egypt as slaves rather than come out here into the desert -- at least there we had enough to eat!

Satisfaction is a choice, an attitude, a commitment, whether we remind ourselves in song or otherwise.

I blogged about it only in passing, but last year instead of traditional New Year's resolutions, I chose three words to shape the year: active, tidy, relax. They rather morphed into "active, organize, relax" as events in Wisconsin exploded in February, and I never did manage the "relax" one very well. But active and organize took on new dimensions!

This year, I'm looking at these three:

Balance in the right kind of satisfaction; balance in schedule; balance in mindset.

Forward for Wisconsin; forward in goals for myself and goals for Joy; forward rather than stagnation.

Kindness in everything -- to myself, to those who disagree with me, to everyone I encounter.

What three words would make a satisfying 2012 for you?


TherExtras said...

Oh, dear! I need to work-on a decision of 3 words!

Meantime, this is a wonderful and educational post, JM. Many thanks for your past sharing of wisdom and looking forward to reading more here at ES.


TherExtras said...

Oh! Oh! I just found them! Here:


TherExtras said...

Oh! No! These 3 words are starting to get complicated! ;)


Briane P said...

Hey, Joy Mom! Nice post, and also, you've gotten a "Smart Cookie Award."