Life is not a relative experience.

What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

It has been an intense week already and it’s only Wednesday, but as it so often happens with intensity comes the opportunity for great learning.  As of late I have had a couple of encounters that have left me uneasy.  As I explained to a friend today, I think part of the reason I found both the experiences upsetting is they caught me off guard on a very sensitive topic and each time, the element of comparison was heavy in the air. And there I found myself, backed into the corner of relativity, a place I don’t like to be and don’t believe should exist.

Q prepares for his procedure and I will someday remind him of just how strong he is.

Yesterday, we went in for another VCUG for Q.  If you aren’t familiar, it’s essentially an X-ray of the urinary tract system and for little Q it seems to be his monkey, the monkey on his back.  Each time he gets the test, he gets catheterized.  The last time as I wrote about this experience, I felt as if I had failed him as I held him down and he looked at me accusingly me as he wailed in pain.  This time, he had words. He can now say, “no, no, no!” “Mama, all done” in between grasping for breaths of air.

As I lay my head on his, nearly in tears but retaining control and whispered, “I am sorry, I know it hurts bug, almost all done,” I could see the tears pooling in his ears after they had spilled from his red eyes and made their way down his ruddy cheeks.  He writhed in pain as they readjusted the catheter and screamed. To find the words, to tell him it’s almost done, it won’t take long pulled from the reserves of strength that you can only find when you know you are doing what’s best for your baby, but there is no way he can know.

When it was over, we walked hand in hand to the Urologist’s office as he pointed out leaves and bushes and birds in the sky.  He counted the floors in the elevator and repeatedly said “down” as I told him floor by floor we were going up.  People around us chuckled and laughed as he provided his color commentary on the world. They could have never known what we had just been through.

Several weeks ago, I sat at a table with a group of women who I was just meeting as introduced by a dear friend.  It was a lovely evening but just at the very end, one of the women started talking about her perceptions of the school system which of course she is entitled to do. She went on to talk about Special Needs children and their inclusion in her child’s classroom. She had no idea of my experience or anything about me for that matter, but as she spoke, the hair on every part of my body stood at attention. I could feel the cool wave of anger wash over me.  Her experience was her own and she had every right to say what we she felt.  But, as I sat and listened I heard the subtext that she had no idea really of what those families had gone through, go through or face daily.  That perhaps their apparent lack of consideration for what was happening wasn’t that at all, but the continued hamster wheel of trying everything and anything to get you what your child needs met in a system not necessarily designed for them. My blood was boiling but my experience was not her experience and she was perfectly lovely, but our experiences were not relative, I had to remind myself. My dear friend who sat next to me could feel without a word my feelings and simply put her hand on my back as the woman got up to say goodbye. It was perfect.  I could say nothing. I was angry which I was entitled to feel just as she was entitled to feel and advocate for her own child.

Today, I was reminded of this again in a conversation.  I won’t recount it, but again I was caught off guard. As if I was being pulled into a comparison of who’s child was worse off when while certain elements of our scenario were similar, they were by no means the same, just as the end result, whatever that may mean will be very different.

As I told my friend about this today, she rightly pointed out that the person sounded angry. And like a light bulb popping on over my head, that was the word that came to mind, “angry.” And although I wished I hadn’t been pulled emotionally into that situation, this women was certainly entitled to feel angry. To deal with her emotions however she wanted or needed to deal with them.  Because, her situation is hard. Had been hard and will continue to be hard. But like everyone else, who has been presented with experiences and situations we never thought possible or considered, she is so strong on the inside.

We all have this strength. We find it in the even the weakest of times. Times when we are compromised. Caught unexpectedly in life.  When confronted with our pain it is good to have perspective of course, but as my friend and I discussed today, it’s absolutely important to acknowledge your own emotions. How you feel, what creeps over you. To be in touch with this is to let yourself acknowledge and begin dealing and healing.  To shove it down in the “this person has it way worse than me” place is a good reality check but not a good barometer for your own emotional health.

So whether you life feels crazy and in transition, you are somehow confronting your own mortality or of those close to you, you are having problems getting pregnant while it seems everyone else is, your child or someone in your family requires all the strength you have, or everything is not how you thought it would be and that in and of itself can be the most challenging situation, take the time to be ok with the fact that you feel like “it’s not fair,” “why is this happening,” “this sucks,” “can I do this?”

The answers of course are always, “no,” “you probably won’t know until later and even then it might not be clear,” “yes it does,” and “yes, you can although it will suck at times, but you will be amazed at your own strength.”

As Q and I  walked back to car with him proudly holding his new Dr. Bear and his Superhero sticker, I looked up at the hospital we had spent so many days in, 113 to be exact.  I no longer felt anxious here. The sun was shining and 9 floors up I saw a figure in a hospital gown looking down on us.  He was on the inside looking out. I felt the perspective wash over me. I thought about 12 weeks the doctors had hoped to keep me on bed rest in this hospital before I delivered the minis.  I thought about what that would have been like. I thought about whatever that person was going through in that moment. I felt grateful to be outside in the sunshine. Feeling Q’s chubby hand in mine. His small voice saying “home, eat, bye bye.”

It can be hard to feel our feelings but today, feel a feeling, even if you somehow feel like you “shouldn’t” feel that way. Say it out loud to yourself even if you aren’t ready to say it to someone else.  Feel it and then feel forward and remember what lies inside of you is beyond measure and is a force to be reckoned with no matter what the situation. Feel the joy, the pain, the sadness, the disappointment, the hope, the faith, whatever it is, feel. Life is not a relative experience.

Last night Q had moved on to happier joys of chickens, cows and sheep.

Here we can learn from our minis. They feel their feelings when they feel them and then when it’s over, they move on. They do not compare to others and their feelings are their own, and sometimes this moving on can most definitely make a day like yesterday and today ‘mynewfavoriteday.’

Are there things you have dealt with that you feel like you had to come to this realization? Are there people in your life you wish would understand this?

(Featured image shared from Robert Sabedra onto Thoughts from Pinterest)

12 thoughts on “Life is not a relative experience.

  1. I had a very similar experience yesterday. A discussion with a friend (whose son is a high-achieving student) over standardized test scores.

    The irony of it — is that I used to be her. I was the honor-student-mom, the one with the refrigerator full of certificates recognizing my son’s accomplishments. Now I’m the learning-disability-mom. Proud of my son for his average scores. Celebrating what others would consider mediocre.

    And feeling a little bit sorry for my friend because she doesn’t realize what her real gifts are.

    1. Love this Lisha because you are always so wise and because milestones and achievement are not defining they are steps along the way and are to be celebrated but not compared. Such grace comes with knowing who we used to be or how we used to think and then understanding that that perspective is a gift in itself for us and our minis. Celebrate on my friend!

  2. Oh Shannon. This is EXACTLY what I needed to hear and feel today. You have such a gift with cutting right to my soul. Thank you so much for your vulnerability and your anger and then your ability to turn it into hope and gratitude. Just lovely. Xo

    1. Katy, I have been thinking of you so much. I don’t want to read too much into this so I won’t but whatever you are feeling and I know what you are going through in some way, is PERFECT because it’s so so so hard and the hope is that the rewards are so much greater than the hardship which is true even when things don’t go as expected. Big hugs to you girl. Xoxo

  3. This blog post has such an effect on me I had to go online to comment on it. I cry and am angry because you are my dear friend and I have experienced this. We do not ask to have problem with conceiving, miscarrying multiple times, reproductive diseases then to be born with special needs kids. No one asks for even one small one of these vs multiple. It’s easy to throw stones in glass houses. But reality is we are doing the very best for our simply amazing children (and us luck to have them in particular) how dare someone make a reference that insinuates our children are any less important or on the same scale as theirs. Shannon you were so eloquent. I honestly would have just gone off in a such a fiery tone with carefully executed words that those individuals wouldn’t know what hit them.

    Not family is apples to apples. Especially when you throw in special needs kids. They are all so very different and comparison is just not productive and dangerous. I say this as I’m currently having HUGE struggle with Roan’s environment at school and been battling the district. That poor child is going into his 4th environment since we moved because even ‘professionals’ don’t get it. And as I battle for services denied, him not understood, balance his daily needs from sensory overload and Autism I try to balance preparation for my other son’s day at field trip that has to be carefully calculated to with who he rides with, food in a separate location, 3 medications, medical waiver in the event something happens to him (the school wants no responsibility). It’s hard but it’s my life and it’s not a comparison to any other. Women like that need to understand everything isn’t wrapped in a pretty bow to go in her nice fancy car. And besides you know what I DON’T WANT MY CHILD in a class hers is in because an attitude like that just breeds negatively and I’m sure the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree….

    Okay I walk away now crying just sad…THANK you Shannon for opening your heart and huge for your courage and eloquence. love you dear friend…xoxoxo

    1. I am so sorry Y for what’s happening. I know how hard you work to advocate for Roan and Aidan and that’s exactly what we have to do but it’s not easy and it’s filled with misguided statements, comparison and conjecture. You are one amazing mama and thanks for your words as it helps me too to know I am not alone and it’s ok to be angry even when trying to make each day ‘mynewfavoriteday.’ 🙂

  4. I don’t know how you stay so level-headed and generous towards others in the situations you describe. And I can only imagine how tough it must be helping your son through his hospital visits. I know how many times I felt like my heart was being ripped out as my baby went through all sorts in Neo-Natal-Intensive-Care. I am lucky that so far we haven’t had to return to any circumstances like those. I wish you continued strength, courage and humility. I love your blog, haven’t visited for a while, but now I’m back I’m here to stay! x

    1. Hi lovely! So nice to see you here. Time my friend, time and more time. And trust me, in the moment I am not always so level headed but this place and all of my little community keep me level headed too. I also believe that people know not what they do or say sometimes and so I find myself knowing I can only do what I can do:) I am so happy to see you again and I need to visit you too! I haven’t been writing much or visiting anyone but am trying to get back into the swing of things. xoxo

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