A System of Extremes

Why make life harder than it needs to be? Find a perception that helps you control the pain and manage the problems you can't solve. It's the easiest and simplest way forward you have.

A System of Extremes

Some of you may know that I homeschool my almost 13 year old son. He developed severe anxiety in the middle of his grade 4 year making him unable to attend school. At the time, I homeschooled him temporarily to keep him going while we figured out what the problem was.

I enrolled him back in school for his grade 5 year and he missed the entire year. I continued to try to keep him in the system for the first half of grade 6 and he still wasn't going to school. The system was unable to affect any real change for my son so I made the choice to unenroll him and homeschool him long term.

The reason I'm telling you this story is because I want you to understand that I don't blame the system or my son for the issues that we've had. It is not the system's fault that it wasn't able to accommodate my son. Did I mention this was all taking place during the pandemic? It is not my son's fault that the system does not work for him. I also do not believe that the system "should" be able to accommodate my son. It is not up to the system to do my job for me.

So, let's break this down a little bit. Blaming the system puts my power outside of me. By creating fault, it allows me to avoid taking responsibility for the needs of my son. My job as a parent is to step in when the system doesn't work, which I did. My job is not to try to fix a system I don't have control over. My job is not to make people change or do something differently. My job is to adjust to what's happening without arguing with it.

Victimizing myself and my son by deciding that the system "should" do certain things or accommodate my son causes pain. Again, it puts the whole thing outside of me and makes it somebody else's fault. It creates powerlessness and a feeling of being out of control. Those stories aren't true. I have complete control over me and how I choose to see the world around me. I also have control over how I respond to what's happening. I can choose not to be a victim. I can't choose what the system does or doesn't do.

When I decided to permanently homeschool my son, it was me taking control over the thing I had control over, which was how my son got his education. I can't change the system, I can only change my response to what's happening. Creating a story of victimization to make myself feel better solves nothing. It only succeeds in creating more pain and causes me to argue with the world around me.

I don't believe that the education system should even attempt to meet the needs of all children, including my own child. I believe that it does a dis-service to the 70% or so of kids for whom the system works reasonably well. I also believe that trying to meet the needs of everyone is an impossible task. There are simply too many differing needs to be met.

We can and should talk about what gets taught in school and about changing the methodology and the intended goal of the school system.  There are many things that we can talk about changing in the existing system to make it work better for those for whom it already works, but trying to make it work for everybody is not a reasonable option.

We victimize ourselves here because the story we like to tell is the one of exclusion. "The system doesn't include me and my needs." This is all perception and it's a perception that causes pain. The system isn't excluding anyone. It's designed to fit a certain group of people. Instead of victimizing yourself, why not just allow that to be okay? Cool. My son is unique. The system designed for the majority doesn't work for him. That's fine. That just gives me an opportunity to try something new. It's not bad. It's nobody's fault and there is nothing wrong. He gets to travel his own path and instead of making that a problem, I make it fun and exciting for him. Let's try something different. Let's see if we can find the thing that works for him.

By deciding it's exclusion, being different is suddenly bad. It's not okay to be different. It creates an argument and pain based on a story that isn't true. The truth is the system is actively trying to accommodate everybody, it just can't do it. The problem is the very limited funding and resources available. The only kids that get accommodated are the most extreme cases because of the limitations. For the rest like my son, who are mostly functional and capable, the system fails.  The limited funding means they choose to accommodate only the most needy and leave the rest.

There is an inherent problem here and it isn't just in the education system where it shows up. It actually shows up everywhere. What's the inherent problem? We only acknowledge extremes and we only intervene in extreme situations. We focus on the extremes in politics, healthcare, and so on. We have this very black and white perception of life and it causes us to focus on the 2 extremes in every system. You're either healthy or you're dying; there is no middle. You're either going to be a doctor or you're going to struggle to count to 10; still no middle. We either regulate everything or nothing; no middle ground there either.

If you're on the right end of that stick then you can figure out how to manage and probably be okay. But if you're a little closer to the other extreme but not extreme enough, then you kind of get pushed out of the way in favor of the extremes. There is a group of people that perceptually gets left out. I don't see that as intentional. I see it as a consequence of focusing only on extremes.

My daughter is deaf in one ear. The system considers her "not deaf enough". Again, it's the extremes. You can either hear or you can't. There is no middle ground. There is no place for partially being able to hear. She doesn't fit because she's not deaf in both ears. In this respect, the system isn't designed for her either.

I didn't victimize her nor did I blame the system. When I started showing her how to advocate for herself, I didn't create the expectation that people were intentionally ignorant about her hearing loss. I didn't give her the idea that they should know better and simply chose not to. What I did tell her was that people don't understand because it's not their experience. Your job is to tell them what you need because they don't know. I didn't make it a bad thing for her. By not making it a bad thing, when she needs to advocate for herself she does it respectfully and doesn't feel victimized by it. She's not holding a grudge against the world for not understanding her experience. She is willing to have the conversation when she needs to.

Was it frustrating for a while when we didn't know where to get hearing aids for her? Yes, absolutely. But eventually we figured it out and we were able to get her hearing aids when she needed them. Now that she's an adult the system again fails because only children and seniors have hearing loss. There is no funding available and resources are limited for working adults with hearing loss. Notice the extremes once again.

Do I have all kinds of reasons to victimize myself and my kids and blame the system? Yep. But I'm not making up those stories because they don't serve and they just cause pain. I choose instead to accept things as they are and find ways to make things work for myself and my kids.

If I wanted to, I could take on a cause and be an activist, but I have no desire to do that. I'm not interested in trying to fight to change a system. It just is and I'm not going to argue with it. For those that want to take on the cause, perfect! We need that in the world. But for those of us that choose not to go down that path, the important thing is that we don't victimize ourselves or blame anybody for anything because it creates unnecessary pain. It takes our power away from us and puts it out in the world around us.

It's really not that important what's happening out there. What really is important is what you do with what's happening out there within yourself. The perspective shift is how you feel better without needing to get control over the outside world to do it.

I created no sense of victimization and no sense of blame for me and my kids. We can recognize the problems and still not create pain because of the problems. I've talked about this idea in relationship to day-to-day life. I can see there is a problem. I don't have a solution to the problem, so instead of getting upset and obsessing about it, I simply leave the problem there. It just is and I learn how to manage myself in such a way that the problem doesn't take over my life and ruin my day-to-day experience. I don't have to let problems cause pain. I've learned how to co-exist with the problems I can't solve and not need to fix them to feel better.

Whether we're talking about the school system, healthcare, politics, or day-to-day life; this strategy is what allows you to feel better more of the time without actually changing anything. It's how we get okay in the chair we're in without needing to get a new chair right away.

Yes, there are changes that need to be made in every system. In the absence of being able to affect that change immediately, I learn how to get okay with where I am now. I stop arguing with it. I stop blaming it. I stop victimizing myself with it. I simply allow it to be there and find ways to work around it.

I allow myself to take my power back and move forward on my own terms. I get okay with that because if I don't I'm just miserable and stressed all the time. It makes life hard; and you know what? Why make life harder than it needs to be? Find a perception that helps you control the pain and manage the problems you can't solve. It's the easiest and simplest way forward you have.

You can feel better without changing much of anything. When you're ready. I'm here to show you how.

Love to all.