Monday, October 12, 2009

Speaking Without Language

I spent the last week in Tokyo on business. It was a wonderful week, especially once I decided not to have jet lag or worry about not speaking Japanese. Thanks to my son David, I have learned that most communication has nothing to do with language. Ironically, I was planning on writing this blog Monday morning but am up writing it on Sunday evening because I can't sleep. My not sleeping has nothing to do with jet lag and has everything to do with David chattering non stop as he giggles around the house. Who would have thought I would ever be asking my son (who for years I prayed would speak) to please be quiet so mommy could sleep. When I realized how silly this was, I simply got up, giggled myself downstairs and began my blog. In meanwhile David decided to giggle himself upstairs and go to bed. Now, I am laughing out loud at how quiet it is!

At this very moment, I am thankful for David and autism and how I have changed over the last four years. I remember a time when my trip to Tokyo would have been a huge stimulus for fear. I would have worried about the 14 hour flight, fretted about jet lag and been outright scared to enjoy the city since I didn't know the language. Many of my colleagues talked to me about sleeping pills to which I responded, "no thanks, I am sure I will sleep if I want to". After many curious looks, and head shaking, people left me alone about the drugs. Many also talked to me about the long flight and how horrible it would be. I thought "Business class... how cool, fourteen uninterrupted hours of movies, food, and drinks and I get to pick the movies." Once we arrived, I couldn't wait to go to a local coffee shop alone and experiment with my new knowledge of yen and the few Japanese words I picked up on the plane. It was a blast. I had dinner each night at well known local restaurants with new friends and didn't have a care in the world about language. I chose to be fully present whether they were speaking english or japanese and really loved how expressive people were outside of the words they chose to speak. I realized that I seemed to enjoy people more when I was just loving being with them and not worried about having clever conversation.

During dinner one evening earlier this year, I remembered how Mark and Iris love to play "tell us XX's story". My typical response when this game is started is "oh... I hate this game" and then I struggle through it to be a good sport. I realized that I was actually playing this game in Japan and loving it! When a Japanese conversation was happening, I was making up what I thought people were talking about and having fun laughing, smiling, and experiencing the "culture". It was the togetherness that was important, not the words or my ability to accurately understand what everyone was saying. I began to reflect about why I was having such an amazing time in Japan but do not always have an amazing time in similiar situations in the US. The answer was so clear that it appeared to be written in bright Hollywood lights. JUDGEMENT. When I was being "culturally prepped" by a colleague who had just returned from living in Japan he said very emphatically " be prepared, you will be judged". I remember thinking "how silly, of course I will be judged, we are all judged every day by most people we interact with, why would I care about this when I am in Japan" Aha.... so why do I not care about it in Japan but obviously do care about it when I am in the US?"Once again, Hollywood lights. The reason I care in the US is because I am judging first. I judge who's judgements matter to me and then I fear their judgements. Isn't this an interesting little circle.

With four years of going to classes and running a full time autism treatment program, I still judge the heck out of people and what do I fear most......JUDGEMENT. Here is a little exercise I plan to do this week. I will need a LOT of paper. Each day, I plan to write down every judgement I have about people and why I am judging that about the person. I will then do some self reflection about how I feel about myself relative to that judgement and if I am willing to let go of that judement (without judging my answer yes/no). I then plan to look at the things I am willing to let go of and those I am not to see if there is additional insight there. Try it with me! I'll let you know how it goes.

Love to all,


  1. I believe that people who say that they are judging are usually less attached to their judgements than people who say that they are not.What you are doing is amazing.

    Good luck in Japan
    - and rememeber that "yes" does not mean "Yes, I agree" it means "yes, I hear your words".


  2. Yes ;) it 'not necessarily' means one agrees. I suggest it unnecessary to judge it either way....(as in pretending to know)

    "I judge who's judgements matter to me and then I fear their judgements" Me questions whether perhaps it is the other way around? The fear, concern is first, which finds its support in the quality of the judgement.


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