She looked at me with confusion all over her face. "A pan," she said incredulously. I said, "Yes, you know where they are." She said, "Dave, a pan. A PAN?" I am now confused and said, "Of course." Looking at me like I might have lost connection to the earth, she took a bowl slowly out of the cupboard. I watched her as she dumped the contents of the can into the bowl and then take it to the microwave.
I can't tell you how old I felt in that moment. I know that microwaves have been around forever but I don't use them much. They aren't the first thing that pops into mind. When I got it and Sadie saw that I understood we both burst out laughing.
So, what had I done? I posed an old solution in a new environment. There's nothing really wrong with that in this situation but I think that is the explanation for a lot of the problems that we face. People providing old solutions to new problems or bringing past expertise into new situations. The world changes quickly and we can be caught lagging. I know someone who has a bad relationship with her youngest boy because she is seen by him as demanding and diminishing. She acknowledges that and yet she did it with her daughter whom she is close to. She has a new situation and is using an old solution.
I know that I bring into my relationships with other people a set of experiences and expectations that I have to shake off to be in the present with someone who doesn't know my rulebook. This is the challenge in the modern age, being willing to let go of past solutions and develop new strategies. People complain about bones aching when getting older, I'll take that over having to do mental and emotional gymnastics with a mind that wants to be set in concrete.
I think this is one of the things we see with people with disabilities. Particularly those who learned how to survive in institutions. I don't know that we think enough about the trauma that institutionalization brings with it. I don't think we think about how in harsh environments strategies for living are burned into the pathways of thinking. I don't think we give those solutions the respect they deserve.
In many cases, we want to rip those solutions away from them, or we pose nasty attributions to the character of the person, forgetting that at one time those solutions worked, forgetting that this isn't about you, forgetting that someone's triggers may result, like pain when shackles are released, from freedom itself.
As we have to keep ourselves nimble. We need to teach people with disabilities, first that they are safe from harm,(if they are) and then how to be in a new situation where old strategies aren't necessary. Maybe, just maybe, our job is to create the space where wounds heal first and then with a breath people can begin to experiment with new ways to be.
All this from a can of spaghettios.