I tend to be an annoying optimist. I like to believe in unbelievable things … I see the bright side … I don’t believe in bad days, only bad starts to good days. But recently (Christmas Eve in fact) I had a terribly traumatic experience; and all at once, I was caught right in the middle of the bad day I didn’t want to believe in.
At five o’clock, we were at church. At eight o’clock, we were opening Christmas presents. At nine o’clock, my daughter couldn’t walk, and we were on our way to the emergency room. Calm seas to a hurricane – just like that. Fear wasn’t an emotion, or even a feeling … it was a predator that stalked, and caught, and paralyzed me. Eight hours of swelled ankles (painful to the touch), a mysterious rash, three x-rays, a urinalysis, blood draws and an IV, and we had a confirmed diagnosis of something I’ve never even heard of. It’s amazing what you aren’t afraid of until you’ve been improperly introduced.
HSP: a tricky autoimmune response to a virus that wouldn’t go away until her little body decided to fight itself in the process of healing that just made her sicker. I know I am vastly oversimplifying things, and I know the acronym stands for a complicated medical term, but basically, it is a scary combination of rashes, bruises and temporary inflammation of the joints. Good news? It is mostly completely curable! Bad news? It is unpredictable and tricky and presents itself in all kinds of freaky-frightening ways that are enough to make mommy paranoid.
Will Smith once said, “Fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create. Do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real. But fear is a choice.” I would like to say I agree with him, I do in theory … but theories and practices are not as closely related as they seem. I hate the fact that I am a worrier. And I try to squelch my anxiety whenever I feel it stretching long before me, dark and impending, but then – there are moments – moments that flex into hours, and days of a fear that grows from benign to crippling. My daughter, thank God, is okay. But just the seed of an idea that she might not have been, watered by tears and nurtured with cries of “I just want to go home,” solidified my fears, strengthening them from shadows to a living, breathing monster under the bed.
In the end it’s not the diagnosis … it’s that the whole event was a catalyst, a trigger, a tripwire into the parts of my subconscious I try desperately to ignore. Then the questions. Is she okay? Why did this happen? What do you mean it’s rare? So she’ll be fine? What do you mean most-likely? Why can’t I help her? When do we need to check up again? It might come back? And finally, why God did you let me bring precious people onto this planet when I cannot protect them from the realities of it?
After I remind myself how to breathe … after I close off the emotional side of my brain and click back to the logic setting, I know the answers. She is okay. This happened because sickness does. I cannot help her because I am her mother not her creator, and I can only do what I was chosen for her to do – love her. It’s not my job to protect her from life, it is my job to be there for her when life happens. Plato, in his philosophic genius said, “We easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” And the irony there is … I am sometimes. I am not so afraid of the dark as I am the light of God reminding me that I’m not as “in control” as I think I am … and I never was.
The world is broken. Our lives are broken. And no amount of loving my children is going to protect them from the scrapes, the sicknesses or the scars they are meant to endure in their walk here. What I can do, is walk beside them. I can hold a hand, kiss an owie, tuck a blanket, or tell a story, but the only act of true consequence, is to teach them to walk in the light of truth, and not be afraid of it.
Here’s to cutting the conditions attached to your prayers. Here’s to saying “I believe” and meaning it. Here’s to not letting pain become a paralyzer, or allowing fear overshadow your faith.
So maybe bad days do exist, but when the fear rescinds … the light’s not far behind.