Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Beautiful Gift

Last night I couldn't sleep (too much sugar before bed!) and so I got up and finished a Karen Kingsbury book I'd been reading. The book is in part about a woman who was always afraid of losing her firefighter husband. On 9/11, her worst fears were realized, and eventually, through the healing process, she regrets spending so much time worrying instead of enjoying the time she had with him. Moving forward, she realizes she has to do what her husband had always urged her to do. Choose life (from Deuteronomy 30 - "I have set before you life and death, blessings and cursings. Now choose life...").

I closed the book and realized I had something to do. God's been kind of "whispering" in my ear about this for a few weeks. You know how there are times when you hear people say the same thing, in different ways and at different times, and you know there's a message that's trying to get through to you?

The past has been gnawing at me for awhile now. But it's time to let it go. It's time to stop approaching every episode that occurs with Ethan through the lens of my childhood. I thought of it the other day when I burst into tears because I was reminded of something that happened to me as a kid, with Andy. Again. It's not that it's wrong to grieve. It's when grieving becomes like an old tape that you pull out and play, more out of habit or obligation than anything else. I thought it while listening to Joyce Meyer the other day, who was talking about not staying stuck in the past and who quoted Isaiah 43, where it talks about not dwelling on the past because God is doing a new thing. I especially thought about it the other day when I ran into an old friend at the mall and was telling her about Ethan. The second sentence out of my mouth was, "Well, my brother has severe autism..."

I drove home thinking about that. Why had I said that? It was superfluous information. She didn't need all the details, yet I felt this urge to constantly link Ethan to my own past. The habit had become ingrained.

Beyond that, the habit of worry and fear and dread has become my method of operation for years and years. That's another thing I was feeling last night, as I finished the book. Regret. My eyes became opened just a little more to how much time I've wasted worrying. I thought of my pregnancy with Ethan, tinged with fear. And from the day he was born, there was always something to worry about. He had jaundice. He took awhile to smile. Nursing problems. Some of them may have been autism-related in retrospect, but that's not the point. I sat there last night and had trouble thinking of many times I had just sat and played and truly enjoyed my little one for who he was. True sorrow flooded within me, as a remembered his "babyhood," and how I was always looking for something to be wrong. Yes, something did turn out to be wrong, but what had been the point to my stress? Was I so eager to protect myself from being rocked by a bad diagnosis that I completely stopped to just enjoy the sweetness of every day?

My grandmother died years ago; we were very close. I am very much like her. She was a worrier, a fretter, a crier. She was also a sweet, dear woman who happened to develop Alzheimer's in her seventies. Someone said to me wryly not long ago that the years she lived with the disease were probably the only time in her life spent not worrying. The thought stopped me cold and made me want to smile and cry at the same time.

I can't live my life waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for everything to just collapse around me. I've not just done this with Ethan, I've done it with nearly everything. I've lived too long dreading tragic possibilities that may never occur. I've known this for some time, but it's one thing to know it intellectually, a whole other thing to feel it down deep inside.

So God and I had a little talk as I stared out the bathroom window in the middle of the night. The snow looked so beautiful in the darkness. As I prayed, I felt a peace come over me. Not only that, but the joy of a weight being lifted off my back. I looked out again and saw that I could see the stars, lots of them. More than a usual night, living so close to the lights of Hartford. A split second later, I saw a shooting star. Just one. I felt as if it were just for me.

This Christmas I'm thanking God for one of the most beautiful gifts I could ever receive: a different perspective. I'm thankful for a new desire to fully taste and breathe in each precious moment, and to stop holding the future captive with my fears. This will be a process, I know. But I'm ready to begin.

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