Years ago, my wife and I took our son to a neurologist to find out if he was autistic. Within five minutes of meeting our son, this very calm and experienced doctor looked up and said, “Well, I don’t know why you’re here. He’s clearly not autistic.” Which you would think would be reassuring. Which, it was—but then again it wasn’t, though it took me some time to understand why. Despite not fitting this doctor’s definition of autistic, our son clearly had some challenges for which there was no predictable response. As we were leaving, we talked about the various strategies open to us – the books we could read and the therapists we could visit. When we reached the door to his office, the doctor paused, shook his head, and said of our son, “I have to confess. He’s kind of a mystery to me.”
That I found reassuring. I found my son’s mysteriousness more reassuring than all the diagnoses and therapies and books and medications combined. How often have I been tempted to tack life to the wall and label it and know it as some museum exhibit or some ex-ray? How often have I wanted to put myself into a genre, or wear the hat of writer as if that’s all I need to be? And how often has life itself resisted all labels but living?
Lisa Gardner said a writer’s job is to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. I have never succeeded in understanding life through labels. All my efforts to do so have left me more insecure, more uncomfortable than when I started. That my son was mysterious meant I would have to understand him the way I have only ever been able to understand my own life: by trusting the direction of the mystery.
What other choice did I have? I have never known how a story will end, or who will buy it, or who will read it. I have only known that I wished to tell it. And even the story I am telling is mysterious, whose unveiling, like a life, deserves the full respect of remaining unknown to me until it is through.
If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.
You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com