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by Dr. Marisol De Jesús-Pérez
| Children, Child and Play Therapy, Adults, Adolescents, Teens, Autism, School, Counseling, Parenting

What’s your corner piece?

"Life is like a puzzle... when I don't know where to start, I just grab the corner piece."

I have a client who is 9-years-old. He's been diagnosed with autism, anxiety and depression.

Last week when he came, I could tell from the moment I saw him he was not doing well. We had been meeting with his mother working on issues related to their communication, but he asked if he could come without her so he could talk about difficult things.

When he came into the session, he started sharing about a difficult interaction with a teacher. She had told him to stop crying every time he was having a hard time or when he was frustrated. He went on to say this teacher didn't understand that he had a hard life – a brain condition that doesn't let him be normal or interact with peers normally, accept change or be flexible. She doesn't understand that his father, who has been out of prison for six months, is not pursuing a relationship with him, and how it's so difficult his mom is also struggling with anxiety and depression.

He shared everything in his life that didn’t seem right. After he ended his long list, he said that he was so angry. We talked about letting the anger out and how to express that. He took the punching gloves, put them on and he started slamming the punching bag in the play therapy room. After 20 minutes, he stopped, grabbed a puzzle from the cubby and sat next to me. He dumped all the pieces on the table and started working the puzzle. Then there was a long silence.

“You know, Dr. Marisol, life is like a puzzle,” he said. “Sometimes you don't understand what the picture is all about. You just have a bunch of pieces and none of them make sense. It's overwhelming and confusing and you don't know how to start. “

"You're right," I agreed. Then there was a long silence.

"You know what’s hard for me?” I asked. "What?" he replied. "For me, what is hard is knowing where to start," I said.

"Oh, when I don't know where to start, I just grab the corner piece,” he said. “I find my corner piece, and then I find all the pieces that match the corner piece in color. Then I start building around it."

My mind started spinning. I asked him, "When life gets difficult and overwhelming and confusing, what is the corner piece that helps you start building and making sense of the picture?"

After a long pause, he said, "I make a list of all the things in my life I’m thankful for. And all the times I have gone through something difficult that I overcame. Then, I realize I'm going to be okay."

I went home that day and thought - what is my corner piece? The Bible doesn't say anything about a puzzle corner piece, but it talks about the cornerstone – Christ being the cornerstone. The cornerstone was the main block in the foundation of a building. It was a block in an L-shape. Based on that block, every single block added to the foundation needs to align. I thought about how Jesus is that cornerstone. When life doesn't make any sense, when the pieces don’t fit, we can go back to Him. When we realize that He's alive in us, He's working all things for our good, not sometimes, but every single piece; even the pieces that do not seem to make sense, like an awful divorce, a cancer diagnosis or losing a loved one. All of those pieces make sense when we start building around the corner piece. They all have their proper place. We will be okay even if those pieces are not making sense. I can be assured that at the end, my story will be a picture of God's grace, hope, forgiveness. And that’s what gets me this strength to keep building.

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