Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn't people feel as free to delight in whatever remains to them?
I haven’t blogged in 10 days since my son was in an ATV accident while vacationing in Pismo Beach, California. In my reporter days, I can’t count how many times people said they felt “lucky” after surviving some tragedy whether it was a tornado or house fire or near drowning. It seemed cliche’ and not all that genuine, like it was something people thought they were supposed to say.
But now, I can truly relate. Both of my son’s wrists snapped on impact. I drove up a few moments later and my heart sank when I first saw his abandoned vehicle. It took me another moment to locate him crumpled on the ground behind the four wheeler. He was moaning and his left arm was deformed by the bone trying to poke through the opposite direction from where it should be. The realization that we were in the middle of remote sand dunes with no mile markers or even natural markers to direct an emergency crew was mentally crippling. Thank goodness we flagged down a nearby driver in a pick up truck who drove my son out of those treacherous, unpredictable drifts.
My son is casted to his elbows on both arms, rendering him helpless for six to eight weeks. But he is alive and will not suffer any permanent disability. I am grateful that I will only be feeding, bathing, clothing, scratching his itches and opening his doors on a temporary basis. I am incredibly grateful that my son has accepted his limitations with the most unbelievable grace and humor. I can’t imagine being three thousand miles from home and being completely dependent on others. Actually, since I am with him, I can imagine it. But I can’t imagine being as joyful and unaffected as my 12-year old.
This month, my focus is on awareness. I am currently reading Anthony DeMello’s Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality. DeMello was a psychoanalyst and Jesuit priest who was born in India in 1931 and died in New York City in 1987. He was a controversial Christian voice that borrowed his beliefs from all faiths. His ideas are a product of his diverse East/West cultural influences. Father Demello’s basic philosophy is almost every adult in this world is functioning in a state of self-hypnosis or sleep. In order to wake up, you have to be observant of yourself and your external experiences with impersonal detachment. There was a passage that particularly reminded me of the grace I am witnessing in my son right now.
DeMello talks about the paradox of being depressed and still being happy. If you suffer from depression, you are not identified simply as depressed. You can either give power to the dark clouds by worrying about them and trying to force them away or you can let them pass over head and continue on with your day, simply aware that storms are in the forecast for the moment. DeMello expands on this idea by talking about how the same rain falls on sinners and saints; the rose doesn’t withhold it’s fragrance and the lamp doesn’t shield its light from some people and not others. We are who we are, no matter who we are in relationship with or what circumstance life finds us in. Our reaction to events and other people is always within our control.
My son suffered an injury. He is not injured. He can’t use his hands and arms. But he is still on vacation. He is still, at his essence, a 12- year old boy full of curiosity and love of adventure. The surprise of snow in July in the Oregon mountains can still make him smile. Watching elephant seals spar on the beaches of San Simeon, California can distract him from the ache in his bones. Peering down the rim of a Volcano’s caldera, walking among the ancient redwood giants and viewing Saturn’s rings surrounded by billions of stars in the shadow of night in the high desert are opportunities still available to be enjoyed and explored.
My son did not have to read a book to practice being more detached in dealing with his current adversity. He didn’t have to dedicate a month to focus on being more aware. He just naturally is who he is. He may be dependent on me for his physical needs right now, but I’m not sure there is a lot he can learn from me through this experience. I am so lucky to have him as a teacher.
Imagine living the next two months of your life with your hands literally tied and useless. How would you choose to react? Who would you depend on? What opportunities would still be available to seize?