Tag Archives: Strength

Forgive


“Forgiving is not forgetting. It is remembering and letting go.”  -Claudia Black

I’m making progress on this one. We’ve all been hurt to the quick by people in our lives. Some of these scars are drive-bys:  a passing but cutting wound inflicted by someone who’s otherwise a minor player in our lives, except for that moment when they’re inflicting a lasting wound. We remember, often for years. What they did or said hurts, generally because they poked a spot already soft and sensitive inside us. It’s hard not to internalize these reinforcements of our deepest fears. Sometimes these are one-off inflictions which scab over, but sometimes they cumulate, one on top of another, and never fully heal. Either way, we take these blows and carry whatever part with us that we seem unable to set down.

Then there are the slow motion injuries, delivered by someone not easily steered clear of:  a bully at school or work, someone in a position of authority, a family member. These long-term assaults on our psyches are a whole other thing altogether. Each one is unique, depending on the relationship, the giver’s intentions, and the relative power of each party. If we’re not careful, these experiences can erode our humanity, turning us into someone we wouldn’t otherwise be. Heaven knows, I’ve struggled with that at times over the years. 

But I’ve turned a corner. As I’ve put more years on the odometer, it’s getting much easier to let go. Not fully easy yet (I’m not sure I’ll ever get there), but definitely much easier. I’ve lost too much of my life carrying around baggage that only poisons me the more more tightly I hold onto it. I’ve decided I’d rather be happy. And so, I now work hard at letting go much faster. Sometimes that means walking away from a situation or a person or even a whole chunk of your life, if that’s what it takes to move on. But more often, it just means taking the thing in your hands, turning it over and studying it for a short while to mourn or to learn, having a good cry, and then setting it down and walking away. And not looking back.

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”  –Mahatma Gandhi


Children’s Hospital

20140725-204043-74443436.jpg

September is Histiocytosis and Children’s Cancer Awareness month

“Children’s hospital” is an oxymoron–not just two words that don’t belong together, but a thing that shouldn’t have to exist at all. Kids are supposed to be the healthiest among us. There’s something not right with whole buildings dedicated to things that go wrong with them.

Children’s hospitals are a bizarre proposition:  a place where the parents are as dependent as their children, depending on doctors for their schedules, their information, their hope. We’re easy to recognize in the halls, even without our special tags associating us with our VIP’s. You can tell us by our not-at-our-best appearance and by one of our standard expressions of fear, worry, or fatigue. We observe an assumed code of avoidance as we pass each other in the hallway:  because we don’t wish to be seen in the clothes we slept in, we grant each other the silent dignity of ignoring each other’s unwashed hair and tear-streaked face. Our zombie appearance barely conceals the grief and guilt and sheer terror on the inside. I often wept uncontrollably as I stepped outside of the hospital during our long stay, temporarily shedding the armor that I wore inside to protect and fight for my child.

Our children’s rooms are places of tenderness, but also of terror, where every day, every visit by a doctor has the ability to change our lives forever. The hallways are no refuge. Here other parents’ children are being moved to their next test or procedure:  bald, staring vacantly, heavily bandaged, hooked up to machines. We passed too many children’s rooms where, day after day, the only visitor was a nurse. A child without an advocate, without love, is the saddest of all.

There are also wonderful stories in these places, stories of healing and miracles and love. These stories must be what makes it possible for the dedicated staff to get up and face each day. Yet I am dismayed that these institutions are needed at all. I look forward to a place and time–somewhere, someday–when no child will ever hurt again.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” –Revelation 21:4


Rest


Why does it feel so good to lay your head on your pillow at the end of a long day? I understand the biological need to recharge, but why would God have made us so that we need rest in the first place? The Bible says on the seventh day, after He completed His creation, that even God Himself rested. Clearly, rest is good.

I’m fascinated with the concept of rest, probably because I’ve never been good at it. I’ve always been restless, feeling like I have to be doing something. Even when I was just sitting, I was reading. Or paying the bills. Or organizing something. That is until recently. Since Megan’s illness, I’ve slowed down. It was understandable when we were in full stress mode, but it’s lasted. It would be easy to assume that it’s the result of a fundamental change in perspective, which did happen. But that’s not it. Somehow, I’m more tired. I still want to get up and organize the pantry and weed the garden and clean out the garage. But for the first time in my life, I don’t feel like it. I’ve lost something permanent, some reservoir of resilience.

I’m learning that life doesn’t get any easier…it’s been a mild surprise. I somehow had the illusion that one day it would. That once I got through school or established in my career or some money saved that I could relax. But the challenges just mature as we do. And if you’re a parent, then you suffer others’ challenges on top of your own. Yet I’m surprisingly not discouraged by this revelation. In a strangely comforting way, it’s almost a relief. I’d hate to get too comfortable with this hard life. I’m pretty sure that by the time it’s done with me, I’ll be ready to let it go.

“Any fool can face a crisis–it’s the day to day living that wears you out.” –Anton Chekov


Perspective 

I met a remarkable young person recently. A friend of my daughter’s, we visited her in the hospital where she remains months after a horrific car accident which killed one parent and injured the other. In addition to this gaping loss, at 17 she now knows that she will not walk again. It’s more than anyone at any age should have to bear.

As someone who suddenly learned that there is an invisible subculture, hidden and present every day in every hospital in the country, I know what it feels like to have your life turned instantly upside down. I know what it does to your sense of safety and normalcy to spend every day in fear of the doctor’s next pronouncement. To live your entire existence in a 12×20 room which beeps incessantly, with constant interruptions which simultaneously wake you and allow you to sleep. Still, I was a little apprehensive at what we would find on our visit. What do you say to a young person who’s already lost more in her short life than I have in my much longer one?

What we found left me in awe. We visited a girl who has retained a wicked sense of humor, which she unleashes regularly. I met a girl whose smile lights up a room. I met a girl facing her altered future with strength and resilience. I have a new hero.

There is much to worry about in our world today, and I regularly weary of the headlines. But our future lies in the hands of our children. Our fate rests with the generation which includes this brave young woman and my own bright and caring daughters. I believe in them. In them, there is much room for hope.

Dear young people:  Do not bury your talents, the gifts that God has given you!  Do not be afraid to dream of great things!”  –Pope Francis


Time

I don’t know where the time has gone. We’re creeping up on Megan’s 17th birthday; later this summer her kid sister will follow her siblings into teenagehood. Seventeen. It sounds so near-final. I know I shouldn’t look at it that way, but it’s hard not to. Her brother left home a year older and never came back. No boomerang kid, no summers and Christmases back home the way I’d reassured myself it would be. He simply walked away, shoulders back and unblinking, straight into the sun and his future. Of course I’m proud of his independence and happy that he’s happy, but weekly phone calls and annual visits are no substitute for hugging him goodnight every night.

It’s impossible to say what path the girls will take. Our own journey would have been unbelievable at that point in our lives. We all must find our own direction, stumbling and feeling our way, getting extraordinarily lucky sometimes, falling face first into the pavement others. Our scars either make us hole up and hide away, or they leave us stronger…limping and bruised, but wiser and more certain of what we believe in.

I am just as optimistic about our girls’ futures as history has proven  that I was right to be about our son. They are optimists. They know how to laugh. They are smart. They are so very strong and independent…I never worry that they’ll allow themselves to be taken advantage of by anyone. But I also know that they will make mistakes…some big…and they will get hurt. And I will continue to hurt when they do, just as I always have. Except that I won’t always be right there to rub their backs and say soothing things to help make it better. I will have to count on who they have become to get them through from here. I know I won’t be ready. It’s a good thing that they will be.

“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.”  –Denis Waitley


Some Days


Some days I’m so tired that I can barely think. Some days I don’t know how I’m going to muster the strength to get out of bed and go through the motions at work. Some days I feel like I can’t read one more story about a histio kid relapsing, or suffering through chemo, or worse. Some days I wonder why life has to be this hard and such a struggle.

Then there are days when I can’t believe how gorgeous the sunrise or sunset is. Sometimes I’m in awe of the beauty of the flowering bushes which bloom next to our fence and the hummingbirds which frequent them, amazed that they are now six feet tall when they were only knee-high when we planted them last year. Nearly every day I am grateful for my friends, who seem to know just what I need to hear. And every day, I know how blessed I am to come home to my husband and best friend of 35 years, and our two amazing, talented, funny daughters who make our hearts sing. We are older than most of their friends’ parents, but we can’t imagine life without them. Yeah, some days I can’t believe how very blessed I am.

“This is my family. I found it all on my own. It is little, and broken, but good. Yeah. Still good.”  –Stitch


Adjustment


As I’ve reached mid-life, I recognize the patterns eventually, if generally later than I should. Every day, every year is different, but some common themes emerge, and so I adjust based on what I’ve learned from the times before. Then there are the “mega shifts”, the really big shifts that happen every decade or so, at the most. Sometimes the trigger is obvious, like having a child. But some are just the cumulation of everything that’s happened in life until then:  age, relationships, deep wounds, personal growth. These tend to sneak up on me. For a long time, I only know that everything’s “off”, but I can’t put my finger on why. Eventually, I realize that I’m the one who’s off, and that something has to change.

It’s in the middle of this realization process that people make radical, ill-advised decisions. It’s a temptingly obvious thought:  when things aren’t working, change them. But we’ve all seen people we care about run from their problems, only to realize that they were carrying their problems with them to their new destination. Running doesn’t work for me. A reason to make a change may eventually become crystal clear, but I find that I have to first work to change me. Life hands all of us our share of disappointments and curve balls. If I assume that my old perspective and approach will still work in a new, permanently changed situation, I’m setting myself up for unhappiness. Even though things have changed, somehow in the middle of it, I become the frog which will allow itself to be boiled, if only the heat is turned up gradually enough. The trick, as always, is to notice the rising heat before it’s too late.

The changes in my life have cumulated enough again that it’s time for me to adjust. I must focus on not losing any important part of myself in that process and on protecting my relationships with those important in my life. But I must find a new thought process, I must adjust to my new reality. Most importantly, I must choose happiness.

“Life is the continual adjustment of internal relations to external relations.”  –Herbert Spencer