My mother and I were talking last night about my brother Craig, the one with Autism. More specifically, about his childhood.
“Sometimes I wonder,” Mom said, “what my life would be like if Craig were a ‘typical’ kid. What would I do with all my free time? All the resources? How much better would his childhood have been?”
Along those same lines, my father once said, “Wouldn’t it have been great if someone had told us way back during your recovery about different healing methods and the power of the mind and meditation? You would not have had to suffer for so long.”
Perspective. I have noted before that a phrase I often utter goes something along the lines of “it’s all in how you look at it.”
Craig’s disability could be seen as a tragedy. When parents find out their child is developmentally disabled, it is emotionally and physically crippling. The news can tear marriages and families apart. But the suffering happens on the periphery. Observe Craig. We see his inabilities as terrible—how sad for him not to be able to speak clearly! Make his meals! Shave! However, if his condition were truly a tragedy, wouldn’t Craig be a little more melancholy? From what I observe, that is not the case. Craig lives utterly and completely in the moment. He may show frustration, but often because something simply is not going his way in this moment. He expresses his feelings immediately and lets them run their course. (We could stand to learn from this.) For instance, the other night he was upset that we served him chicken for dinner and not his usual sausage. Don’t you know there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, Craig?! He asked for sausage repeatedly in his broken speech, but finally relented and finished his chicken relatively peacefully. After a steamy bath and a chilly swing, he was upstairs in bed, without any stimuli, laughing to himself. Laughing. Seemingly at the mere thought of being alive. Really, does that sound tragic to you?
I have found that some of the happiest people I have met are facing the most troubling conditions. In contrast, I have met many who appear to have it all or have never had to face true challenges—from my perspective—and yet they are some of the most miserable people I know.
There is a couple in my town with three children, two of which have a degenerative disease that will end their life. Apparently there is no question—they will not survive the disease. One child already passed away from the same condition. Devastation? Hardly. From what I hear, they are the happiest people around. The family participates in community and church events and speaks amicably with those they cross. Never a complaint. They have learned that it would be a waste to spend their precious moments in despair. “Live like you were dying” is not an adage or just wise words for them, this family lives it.
When my mother asked those “what if” questions, I sat with the notion briefly. Then I replied back, “You would have another way to be busy, another way to not have enough, and another reason to look back and say, ‘what if I had known differently?’ All that matters is that right now, we are moving towards a great solution. And right now, we appreciate all we do have, even though we forget it sometimes.”
It comes back to how we see it. My family has been faced with a challenge, like so many others out there. A different, unique challenge…each one is. However, we could see it as a debilitation, or we could see it as a blessing that has brought us closer together. We appreciate more the moments of laughter. We find new ways of healing. We understand that this is a journey we signed up for, and we are here to learn all about it, together. If we did not have this challenge, then our egos and minds would have found something else to attach to. Either way, it is all in how we see it.
Perspective. When I look back on my recovery from head injury, I could see it through shaded, damp eyes. Sleepless nights, endless tears, paranoia that shook me to my core. But mostly, I widen, and I observe new, inspiring friendships, an appreciation for nature and walking, a life-changing career move, and the opportunity to help those in a similar position. All of which I would not trade. I told my dad, if I knew then what I know now, then there would be no story. So, what’s your perspective? Do you see the dark or the light?