“So that others won’t have to”

(other people’s children mentioned)

A while ago I went to the dentist for my hygenist appointment, and got into conversation with her.  It turns out that her son has a kind of disorder I’d never heard of – something about not being able to make oils, so his skin is extremely dry & prone to eczema.  He needs to be slathered in a perscription lotion, have baths infrequently, and make regular visits to the children’s hospital about an hour away.  It sounds pretty miserable all in all. 

My hygenist mentioned that when her son questions why he ended up with this disorder – and the other things that affect him – she tells him “you go through this so that others won’t have to.”

Now, let me make the disclaimer that I know we are all different; we all find different ways of making sense of the world and our own situations.  The above explanation appears to work for my hygenist and her family, and I don’t want to minimize that.  I want to say, however, that it really doesn’t work *at all* for me.

It’s too close to sentiments like “God only gives you what you can handle.  He knows your strength better than you do.”  In my view, God doesn’t dish out the pain, misery and tragedy in the world.  I think most of that is evidence that evil is at work in our world – sometimes in an individual, often because of the overall sum of how humankind works.  For example, I think alot of infertility could be traced back to pollution issues, pesticides, etc.  I do think that sheer random back luck happens.  I suppose God sometimes does send us trials, but I just can’t imagine a loving God planning and sending the most terrible experiences that some of us undergo. 

Much of my thinking for this comes from the book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.”  That book was critical in the search for my own faith.  If I accepted the view that God is loving – which is what I felt to be true – how could I understand all the terrible things that happen in this world?  This battle with evil, affecting all of us, was part of my answer.  As I studied science, it was also important to me that these answers made sense with what I knew of the world tried by experiment. Thus came the idea that God created the universe, and set the laws of physics etc. in motion, and put the power of self-determination in our hands.  The theory of evolution makes sense to me; I really have a hard time seeing why people find science & faith to be opposite sides of the divide.  The more I study science, the more it seems to me I see God’s signature in everything.  Watching cells under a microscope still takes my breath away. 

But God isn’t going to contravene the laws of physics to make miracles happen just because we pray for them.  That’s not to say I don’t believe miracles ever happen, but just to say that I don’t think God is like a gumball machine.  Enter the correct number of prayers, out rolls the desired answer.  It isn’t that simple.  We are in the world as it is, as it has come to us from countless ancestors, and future generations will inherit the results of our decisions.  We are caught in that current.  I can’t stop myself from praying for miracles for those I love, and for myself too, but I also put faith in the decisions made by others that will bring light, love and hope into this world.  I sure pray for the scientists working on ways to help those with infertility, asthma, allergies, and many other things.  Perhaps the Spirit will give them a flash of inspiration that will lead to a great discovery – within the laws of the universe.  (and I do think prayer is very important, but more because it develops our relationship with God, than for deal-making.  Of course, I can’t deny I’ve tried making deals at times too.)

I also believe that no matter how grim the situation we are in, if we can offer it to God and come to Him(Her), it can be made better.  We can get through it more easily with His support – we can find peace.  He is with us in all of the most terrible times.  I believe He sheds tears with us, holds us when we are sobbing, and guides us towards the peace, hope and strength to go on.

If someone seriously told me that the struggles that we have are ours so that others wouldn’t have to deal with them – well, I’m afraid I’d return a pretty uncharitable response.  I did not choose to have these struggles.  It is not fair that we have them – it is not fair that others struggle with their health issues, watch their children starve, or suffer war crimes.  Instead of bringing me comfort, this kind of statment makes me angry and resentful.  How do you react to this explanation for the question of WHY?  Do you have a different answer?

What is my answer? I suppose, part of it is the wide-spread and often random effects of evil, and the randomness in nature too.  Maybe exposure to pollution, mass food production, and very different challenges to the immune system than what we used to have.  I guess we all have to find our own answers.  And anyway, I think the really important question is how do we move on, how do we cope?  For me, prayer and asking for help in the struggle is part of the answer.  Others perhaps find their way in advocacy, fund-raising, supporting other people.  All of these are life-giving ways to take a personal tragedy and help others and ourselves. 

I volunteered for about a year with a shelter for street youth.  Some of them were refugees from other countries, some were home-grown Canadians.  Many of their stories would break your heart.  One boy in particular had been forced to be a child soldier, and faced all the horrors of war, his family & hometown and everything torn apart.  He had escaped to build a better life here.  His determination, courage and perhaps even desperation really struck me.  I think about him sometimes and hope he has found his way.

But I would never have told him that he went through those experiences so that I, or anyone else, would be spared from them.

 

Advertisements

Bowing out of NCLM …

Hmmm – so much for NCLM … I have bottomed out!  With 2 short-notice trips, including one this past weekend, I am hopelessly behind and just conceeding defeat.  However it is wonderful to have met some great people that I hope to keep up with, and if Mel keeps the list up perhpas I will get to visit everyone in a month or so.  It is amazing how the internet can help us get to know one another.

Vegetarian “pepperoni” (for pizza)

Someday I will post about the balancing act I try to do with food.  Just as a quick background, I should perhaps let you know I’m not vegetarian, but I am working towards having at least 2 vegetarian suppers throughout the week – maybe more.  (part of the reason is that we try to eat organic just-about-everything, and organic meat is expensive; the other part, because I’ve been won over by some arguments about how our high meat consumption is affecting global warming).

That’s why I’ve been on a quest to re-shape my thinking beyond “supper must include a meat for protein.”  I”m trying to find veggie recipes that are  delicious, healthy & easy.  If you know of any great sources or cookbooks, please let me know!

The following recipe for “zucchini-roni” is based on a Rachael Ray recipe.  Some people love her, some definitely do not – I have found her an inspiration in my cooking.

Zucchini-Roni

Thinly slice zucchini.

Combine the following in a bowl, then put in the zucchini slices to toss:

2 cloves garlic

extra virgin olive oil

red pepper flakes

Italian seasoning

salt to taste

I’ve made these a few times and never been disappointed – they have a great flavour punch.  (mind you, I’m not a hard-core pepperoni sort of girl.  I like bacon best).  

Most recently I made pizza using Sepp’s whole wheat organic tortillas for a crust (not sure you can get them in the USA – they are BY FAR the best tortillas I’ve had), tomato sauce, zucchinironi, red pepper, cheddar & parmesan cheese.  Delicious!

****

I’m looking for help on a taco kind of recipe – trying to sub out the ground meat for black beans.  I cooked up onion, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, salt and black beans in some extra virgin olive oil in a pan.  It was still “meh” so I put in some salsa, which was a good touch – but it’s still lacking something.  Maybe lemon juice?  Any ideas?

The ultimate destination is to do it up like a taco in a wrap or tortilla, with cheese, sour cream, salsa/tomato, lettuce etc.   Thanks!

Little sweet treat

Just wanted to share a yummy treat I had today – toast w/ peanut butter, sprinkled with maple sugar.  I bought the maple sugar ages ago (it’s pretty expensive – maybe $10 for a small jar) and was saving it for … what??? I thought it would be delicious on PB toast and it was.  YUM!

Searching for a way to let go of the familiar path

NOTE: This post mentions children ***** 

Does it happen for you – that when you’ve been on the verge of tears all day, they just come out when you are in your car?  I’ve had tears sitting just behind my eyes since 1 am and they flowed out today on a 40 min highway trip. 

You see (this is the children bit) at 1 am this morning my 3.5 year old DS was having trouble with breathing.  This appears to be the second asthma episode he’s had – the last one was in November.  I had been starting to hope that maybe November was a fluke, something other than asthma.  Now, I’d have to say that’s unlikely.  Thanks to help from many people, and especially Amy (she has an amazing asthma site), I was able to calmly & competently give him the right meds and calm him down.  I didn’t want him to see how upset I was.  And then when he was in bed, I didn’t want to let loose on my DH – he has been unemployed and job searching diligently since February, and he had a big interview today.  He is an amazing guy!  But I still didn’t want to bring out any extra stress just then.

 

This long-awaited, much treasured little DS just seems to have gotten the short end of the stick in some ways.  He has food allergies – egg, tree nut, and fish – and the last two are in the category of “most likely to be life threatening” allergies.  If you also have asthma, your chances of having anaphylaxis from your food allergy (ie. you die if you don’t get the epi-pen) are much greater.  Is it any wonder I’d hoped so much we didn’t have asthma too?  Food allergy itself takes such a toll in terms of stress and lifestyle.  In its own ways it destroys – well, I should frame it positively and say changes dreams.  Many dishes and foods are off-limits.  Going to restaurants or parties is stressful and limiting and can be isolating.  Travel seems like such a challenge.  I know there are solutions for all of these, and we’ve managed quite well.  But every now and then it just beats down my spirits and I have to bleed a little.  I love him so much and it makes me sad that things most kids can do – like go for ice cream – are just not going to be possible for him – or at least not possible at any time like they are for others.

And then DS also has lazy eye – so he wears an eyepatch 4-5 hours a day, glasses always, and hopefully he won’t need surgery.  It seems like he just got hit with a few difficult things at a young age.

I’ve noticed a theme in my life lately – through the prayer/meditation that I do, and through some of the comments coming through here too.  I have to learn to let go more – instead of clutching at my sadness, sense of unfairness, hopelessness, despair, self-pity – I have to try to let them go.  I did try last night, thinking instead of the many many things we have to be grateful for.  There are so many people dealing with even more devastating things – like me, 5 years ago when we were slogging through infertility.  I would have been overjoyed then if someone had told me that in 5 years time, these would be the things I am grieving.

This counting my blessings effort did help.  I was able to hold it together and calm down enough to function.  I think it helped me move from that feeling of “it’s just not fair” to simply grieving another blow, yet knowing that we will get through somehow.  Clutching on to the unfairness, the resentment of those who appear to “have it easy,” being bitter, even angry – these are all feelings from the time we were ttc and experiencing IF.   They are feelings that I seem to have nurtured and now it’s harder to let them go, maybe because they are so familiar.  It’s easy to walk in that well-worn path when I am scared of what the future holds.

I’m really trying to turn this momentum around too.  I’m trying to let go.  All of these challenges my DS will face – they will help him build character and resilience.  I’m going to remind myself to treasure every day with him, every hour.  Nobody knows what the future holds for any of us, regardless of having food allergy or asthma or whatever.  I wish he didn’t have such a hard road marked out.  I hope and pray for him to outgrow his allergies, for medical science to provide more and better answers (and be grateful for the answers we do have).  But people all over the world are walking their own difficult paths, and this just happens to be ours.  Please, God, help me let go of the spirals that deaden the life and joy out of me.  Help me to grieve cleanly, then get up and go on with courage, peace, and joy.

The song that really brought out the tears for me was “Let It Go” by Great Big Sea:

“Let It Go”

Hey man, you don’t know what you’re missing
You count your curses and forget about the blessings
Don’t you think you should learn a little lesson
What are you waiting for?

Hey man, what makes you so special
Can’t seem to find the angels for the devils
Don’t you think that if you learned to love a little
You’d live a whole lot more

[Chorus]
Let it Go Let it Go
This is smaller than you know
No bigger than a pebble lying on a gravel road
Let it Go Let it Go
Got to leave it all behind you
Give the sun a chance to find you
Let it Go

.

.

[Bridge]
How can a man not see
It seems so clear to me
You’ve just got to live and learn
Smile at the simple stuff
This road ain’t long enough
To miss a single turn

Turning the Momentum around

(kids crossing the street to go to school mentioned)

I was pretty chagrined yesterday to be involved in an incident that bothered me all morning and part of the afternoon.  I guess thinking about resilience doesn’t mean becoming resilient, hey presto!

Not far from my house there’s a place where crossing guards help the schoolkids cross the streets.  It’s a busy intersection with stop signs, and the guards do a great job.  As usual for me, I stopped quite a bit back from where the kids walk.  When there were no kids in my path, I edged forward.  I like to stop far back and then move forwards, wait until everyone is out of the intersection, and then go.  So I had no intention of moving until everyone was clear.

The crossing guard must have seen me start to move and assumed that I was going to go through before everyone was clear.  He started yelling and gesturing with his stop sign and making a big scene.  Which is actually good, if I were planning to go through.  I mean, he was being very protective of the kids in his charge.  I was stunned and disbelieving, though, since I had already stopped the van and it took me a few moments to realize he was yelling at me!

Anyway the time came for traffic to move again and I went on about my morning.  But this incident just kept nagging at me.  I went through all kinds of different scenarios, imagining different conversations with this guy, explaining everything to him in my head.  I just couldn’t let go of it.  I’m really not sure why.  It could be because I have a thing about looking stupid –  I really, really  dislike that.  Anyway it got me very frustrated because I wasn’t bouncing back, or being “resilient” in this situation, now was I?

An absorbing part of my life lately is learning an approach to meditation and prayer based on the Spiritual Exercise of Ignatius of Loyola.  It is based on the Bible and a Christian faith, but also borrows many aspects from other faiths where meditation has been practised for much longer.  Anyway I eventually realized (yes I’m a bit slow sometimes) that perhaps I should take a few minutes to pray/meditate about this, since it was obviously giving me no peace.  The idea of calling the town to tell them how caring and protective this crossing guard is came into my mind.

So, that’s exactly what I did – looked up the number to call, phoned the contact person, and described the situation with my compliments for the crossing guard’s obvious care of the kids and dedication to keeping them safe.  It felt great and allowed me to release all the yucky feelings I’d been carrying around all day.  The contact person told me she much more often gets complaints and next week is their appreciation night, so my call was coming at a good time.  Also, that they’ve had a lot of problems with that intersection, which may be why the guard was so quick to assume I was an ignoramus.

After having this minor incident affect pretty much everything about my day, it felt great to be able to release it and let it go.  It also felt very ironic, to be blogging about resilience only to hit a wall where resilience seemed beyond my reach.

Claiming Our Resiliance

Aha! As I read Margalit’s response to my question about what could be the opposite of pain, I think I can finally collect the thoughts about “resiliance” that have been haunting me. Here is Margalit’s comment: “The opposite of pain is supposed to be pleasure, but I don’t think that’s actually correct. I think it’s peace. When you’re in pain, or when your body is in some sort of destructive mode, you feel pain, but you also feel out of balance with your enviroment. So for me, it seems like the calm and peace of being pain free is about as good as it gets.”

Yes – peace – not just absence of suffering, but that feeling of being – existing in harmony, with a flame of joy or life within, an awareness of just – being – and knowing that somehow you have your space int the world, and you will get through wherever life’s journey takes you next. I can see that as the opposite of pain and lack of balance.

I’ve been wondering about our power of resiliance as human beings, and whether our society encourages us to be resiliant or actually encourages us to stay wounded and stuck.  Here’s a bit of the book that got me thinking – the book is “Against an Infinite Horzion: The Finger of God in Our Everyday Lives” by Ronald Rolheiser.  It references a story in the Bible where Jesus cures a paralyzed person and says “take up your bed and walk” whereupon the person jumps up, takes his stretcher, and is cured.

“Daniel Berrigan once wrote that if Jesus returned to earth [he would say] ‘take up your couch and walk!  You have skin to cover raw nerves; you don’t have to be that sensitive!’ … as human beings we have tremendous powers of resilience, and we owe it to ourselves and to our world to claim them.  Otherwise we will never come to comunity … to stay with each other … singularly the most difficult task that there is.  We cannot ever be close to anyone for long wihtout seriously hurting that person and that person seriously hurting us.  Hence community depends upon us having the resilience to fogive, forget, bounce back, and live in some joy and happiness despite being hurt and wounded.  And all of us are wounded … this damage … is permanent, but not fatal.  Today, however it is in vogue to live as if it were fatal.  So much … enocurages us to be hypersensitive … therapy itself can be good, however … it can also become an excuse for not claiming the resilience and toughness … without which we cannot live with each other … Sensitivity to our wounds and dysfunctions [takes us to a point where] we can no longer take the normal bump and grind that is simply part of all livng and relating … there is a time for claiming one’s hurts and licking one’s wounds, but there is also a time for claiming one’s resilience and to get on with the hard … task of living and working together – despite and beyond the fact that we hurt.”

Let me confess right away that I am still chewing over the difference between being resilient (ie. “bouncing back”) and new growth.  I doubt we can ever “bounce back” to being just who we were before the hurt – even if that’s what we’d like to do.  I think we become something different in the process of finding peace, joy, and balance again.

I also wonder if there’s some force in our society that has a vested interest in our not claiming our powers of resilience, or toughness.  Since I do believe in a force of good and a force of evil (God & evil are the terms I would normally use), that would be something I would speculate about.  But then it could be something like our consumerist culture.  After all, you’re not going to convince someone to buy your product unless you generate the sense that life is not complete without it, right?  I’ve heard that when people shop, it is like a fantasy about what having these clothes, this car, etc. will mean to them and their lives – how it will transform everything.  If you go into the store believing you have everything you really need, what incentive do you have to buy stuff?  (note:  this is coming from a woman who wants to pitch 90% of her wardrobe to go shopping for things that actually fit and that make me feel like I’m looking good.  I am also expert at buying tons of scrapbooking stuff that has not been used.)

And when I relate this to my own pain about the IF journey – well, while ttc,  I definitely crawled under a rock at pretty much every opportunity.  I was too sensitive to walk down the street or to take the subway some days.  I think that an increased awareness and recognition from society as a whole might have gone a long way to easing the pain.  Perhaps if there was a greater sense of a place for IF women and men, the childfree/less, etc – then going through IF wouldn’t feel quite as much like being a fish out of water.  The sense that it was a private, shameful thing may have kept it festering longer instead of allowing for healing to set in.  Perhaps these same factors are at play in other, major betrayals and pain that people suffer – sexual abuse,  infidelity in marriage, addiction – any experience or state of being seen as something “you just don’t talk about” – if these were more openly understood and accepted, with the realization that it could happen to anybody, I think healing would happen more quickly and naturally. (hmm – but does this put the onus on society to accept as opposed to the individual to claim the power of resilience??)

This involves being willing to be open to others’ pain, to be less eager to see “winners” and “losers” and to not have a vested interest in seeing ourselves as winners.  And the funny thing is, the stress it creates within us to constantly be able to claim we are a “winner” takes us away from peace and towards stress and imbalance as we try to find a way to be a “winner.”  If I’d begun by accepting IF as a medical issue, and a big challenge to making my dreams come true – instead of something that made me a “loser” – I bet that healing, resilience, and moments of peace would have come more easily, and sooner.  Instead, even now bitterness can come over me at times.  Maybe I just need to figure out how to claim this gift of resilience.