Blinking once-sealed eyes
“I do not know what I am doing. But just like a baby bird, I am blinking once-sealed eyes and unfolding damp wings.” – Julie Gregory
No matter how old we grow, life forces us to keep learning. Sometimes it helps to re-frame even the most difficult experiences as opportunities to increase our competence, tenacity or courage. When the full force of Jeff’s stage IV diagnosis came crashing down on our heads, there was a period of shock and grief, and then a tentative, logical period of weighing options and making plans for various scenarios.
During this time I gradually became aware of the many things in our personal histories that had prepared us for navigating these ominous passages. Jeff had extensive experience and training, up through the post-doctoral level, as a military medical officer whose responsibilities went far beyond that of the typical dentist. He knew a good bit, in a general way, about what would be facing him. I had worked as an administrative assistant in an NIH-funded brain tumor study at the medical center where Jeff went to dental school, and much of the lingo, practices and atmosphere of the chemotherapy clinic were familiar to me. Most significantly, for over 27 years we had been riding the waves of Matt’s major surgeries and ongoing medical challenges.
At one point I told Jeff and others close to me, “We have been preparing for this situation for 27 years.” It’s true that the obstacles facing us are very different than anything we’ve faced before, with unprecedented potential consequences. But remembering what we’ve already been through has helped us muster the confidence, however shaky, that we can and will get through this together.
Whatever obstacles lie ahead of you, chances are you have somehow been prepared for it in at least a few ways, whether or not you feel conscious of it. As the baby bird struggles through growth guided mostly by instinct, I hope you will reach back into your inner resources and reassure yourself that you have what it takes to find the right direction and make it through the often-frightening learning curve ahead. As lonely as it may feel, others have walked the path before you, and emerged victorious. Vaya con Dios!