Do you seek to see beyond first impressions?
Are labels like ‘intellectual disability’ or ‘mental retardation’ inadequate to describe someone you love?
If so, you’re in the right place. Welcome.
Here’s what many of the readers here have in common: We love someone with an intellectual disability, and that loving has changed us. We are not who we once were. We are ready for more. More attention to what’s important in our relationships. More rebellion against a society that isolates and ignores people who don’t act like everyone else. More acceptance of ourselves and others.
(You’re ready? Excellent! The “Sign Me Up!” button to your right will get you free email updates, so you won’t miss anything.)
To be clear: “disability” is hereafter defined as “deprivation or want of ability.” As such, we all have intellectual disabilities, areas in which we need support. With or without a formal diagnosis, we are all ‘disabled’ in some way. Even so, we all have something to offer one another.
We offer the gift of ourselves – the brilliant, neurotic, lovable, wild, ever-so-humble people we are.
Most disability-focused websites fall into two categories. The first category are fact-based sites, scientific in nature. This includes organizational and political advocacy sites. The second category are personal-journal sites, the, “Here’s what my family did today and how many cookies my gluten-intolerant toddler ate behind my back” sites. Both have their place.
This place, however, is different. It’s a ‘third way’ of sorts.
A Wish Come Clear will give you both soul-full meditations and practical how-tos, all to help you accomplish one thing:
helping you find meaning in your most challenging relationships.
Because let’s be honest: loving someone with a disability is not all sunshine and roses. It can be hard. At times this person you love can make you so mad that you are driven to smash an antique guitar to smithereens against your sibling’s bedpost. (Or maybe that’s just me…)
Conversely, loving someone with an intellectual disability can transform you. Love for them allows you to appreciate the smallest details of their days, their most tentative steps toward connection. When they reach out to you, you feel as though you’ve witnessed a miracle.
And yes, absolutely…your most challenging relationship may be your relationship with yourself, given your own disabilities. When a particular trait in someone I’m working with at L’Arche starts to annoy the living daylights out of me, it’s usually because I’m struggling with the same trait within my own personality. For example, there’s a man I work with who seeks a lot of verbal affirmation, who constantly asks, “Am I doing okay?” One day I realized: that’s me, in all my brokenness. Always checking in to see if I passed the test, if I’m ‘doing okay’. Always wanting someone to sign my permission slip for the field trip of life.
This isn’t about getting down on yourself for your neuroses and foibles. Instead, it’s about digging for treasure in people. It’s about getting your needs met as you seek to meet the needs of someone you love.
To support me and my work, subscribe via email or RSS (buttons on the right side of the page), check out the Store, as well as some essential posts within each category:
Getting Perspective And Attending To The Essentials
- “Do You Dare To Think…Small?”
- “Do You Need Permission To Rest? You Got It”
- “The Ultimate Guide To Streamlining Your Daily Routines: Saving Your Sanity, Part 4″
Active Rebellion And The Gift Of Doing Things Differently
- “What’s The Most Subversive Stance Of All? Love, Actually”
- “The Gift Of Doing Things Differently: Are You Ready To Receive?”
- “Breaking Free From Failure In 4 Steps”
Celebrating Relationships And Accepting People As They Are
- “Shine On ‘Til Tomorrow (4 Illuminating Questions To Ask Today)”
- “‘With No Warning/The Window’: Loving My Brother, Part 2″
- “Why Being Sick Is Awful (And Invaluable)
Who am I, and how has my life experience ‘set me up’ for writing about perspective, rebellion and celebration as part of loving people with disabilities?
I’m Caroline Garnet McGraw (born Caroline Garnet Fischer.) Yes, it took me years to be okay with Garnet as a middle name. Growing up, all I wanted was a ‘normal’ middle name like Lynn or Michelle. I wanted normal, and I never got it. Likewise, I used to pray that my brother would wake up one morning with all traces of autism gone.
I wanted normal, but I never got it. Instead, I got something better, in my name and in my life. I got (what I perceived as) ruin…and, as Rumi once wrote, “Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.”
In addition to writing here, I work as the Program Director for L’Arche Washington, DC Arlington homes. What is L’Arche? It’s a non-profit, faith-based organization that creates homes where people with and without intellectual disabilities share life together. It’s a great place to go if you’re so over ‘normal’.
How did I come to be at L’Arche? I graduated from Vassar College in 2007, and instead of jumping into the world of publishing or teaching like a good English major might, I decided to go and serve people with disabilities for a year. Then two years. Now, four. Because something unexpected happened: I didn’t want to leave L’Arche. I was learning and growing in ways I didn’t expect. The people I came to serve were serving me; they were opening my heart and teaching me how to live fully.
I’ve been living and working in the L’Arche community since 2007. If you count my time as Willie’s sister (more about him in the ‘Why the name?’ section), I’ve been living with and loving people with intellectual disabilities for nearly 25 years.
A bio in brief: My writing will be featured in Mark Pinsky’s forthcoming book on disability, and my work has been published in HomeMatters, the newsletter of L’Arche Washington DC, as well as HopeSigns, the newsletter of L’Arche USA. I was accepted as a student at Princeton Theological Seminary in 2009, but I decided to stay with L’Arche and marry a ridiculously wonderful man named Jonathan McGraw. We live in Washington, DC. Our small apartment overlooks the National Zoo, and we hear lions roar on a semi-regular basis. They sound more like heavy machinery than wild animals, but hey, it’s something.