So, thanks to certain organizations who shall not be named, I have a visceral reaction to puzzle pieces. I hate everything that they’re supposed to represent, and even more, I hate that they’re everywhere. On t-shirts and buttons and bumper stickers, placed there by people who think that by having an “I love my _______ with autism!” magnet that they’re somehow helping. Some of them are. Most of them aren’t.
Here are a few explanations of what people think the puzzle piece represents:
- “The mystery and complexity of autism“
- “(To) show that autism caused suffering and that children with the disorder would not “fit in” to society.”
- “The puzzle piece meant they did not fit in.”
- “(It) symbolizes hope for defeating the disorder.”
None of those things sound good to me. Acting as though autistic people are a “mystery” seems to me like a cop-out. It sounds to me like there’s no point in trying to understand us because we’re too complex. And while I think most of us have suffered at one time or another, suffering is definitely not something that defines me. I’d say that when I don’t “fit in”, it is often because people aren’t willing to get to know me. And I don’t want to defeat autism. It’s a large part of who I am, and I’d rather understand it and accept it into my life than get rid of it.
I think it’s a shame that the puzzle has come to this. I love puzzles and think that the idea of people being made up of pieces is really accurate. Which leads us to…
I’m a Unitarian Universalist, and one thing about us is that we draw from a lot of different sources, especially during services. This morning, a piece was read called “A Person is a Puzzle”, and I immediately knew that it was something that I wanted to talk about. This is the sort of puzzle piece imagery that I want.
We are all puzzles. We are all whole. We are all enough.
A Person is a Puzzle
By Mark Mosher DeWolfe
A person is a puzzle. Sometimes from the inside, it feels like some pieces are missing.
Perhaps one we love is no longer with us. Perhaps one talent we desire eludes us. Perhaps a moment that required grace found us clumsy. Sometimes, from the inside, it feels like some pieces are missing.
A person is a puzzle. We are puzzles not only to ourselves but to each other.
A puzzle is a mystery we seek to solve—and the mystery is that we are whole even with our missing pieces. Our missing pieces are empty spaces we might long to fill, empty spaces that make us who we are. The mystery is that we are only what we are—and that what we are is enough.