This past week has been a busy one. Spent more time with my dad than I had in years. My nephews and niece all packed into our apartment for a Wii bowling challenge on Saturday. On Tuesday, I sat for hours with my brother and Dad at a diner discussing theology, apologetics and the Godhead. On Thursday, I took Zoe to the park and Barnes & Noble. She swung, giggled and chased two different blond boys in circles.
It’s Saturday again, and I’m laying in bed home alone. My mother-in-law, Everis, who has been visiting with us from Trinidad the past few weeks, is out shopping. K and Z are out, too, spending some quality daddy-daughter time together. I should be feeling happy. A busy week full of family, Everis’ delish Trini cuisine, and very little neuro pain. Yet, I’m not. Instead I’m swimming in regret.
On Thursday, I dropped Everis off at the train station headed to New York’s Penn Station. Thirty minutes and she was in the greatest city in the world (or so says Mayor Bloomberg). She was taking advantage of the relatively mild weather to pick up a few things. I got train times for her and giddily gave her directions. As I watched her head up to the platform, I felt a sting of jealousy. Back in college, as an intern at Vibe, I loved heading into the city. The massive push of people, the speedy pace of pedestrians, the cabs on every corner. I remember then feeling so small amongst the Manhattan populace, crowded but lonely. Just then, with Zoe strapped into her carseat, and me behind the wheel of our little silver Civic, I felt alone.
Later at Barnes & Noble, while Zoe was chasing towhead number 2 about, I struck up a conversation with his mom. Seeing how Zoe had taken to her Benjamin and to her (Z hugged her after showing her pics she had taken on my iPhone), she suggested we join them for a playdate. I felt a wave of excitement, followed promptly by fear. Zoe took off through the aisles to a group of other kids, and I quickly followed. Mad at being caught, Z did her best limp noodle imitation in protest. I swooped her off the ground and began walking back to the stroller. I could immediately feel my walk had changed. I was doing the funky, wide-legged, halting gait-thing. Augh. More fear. The word “spastic” screamed in my head. I plopped down in the chair closest to the stroller and quickly strapped Z in. I looked up and realized the mom and son had migrated across the room to where we had just been with the group of kids. I again felt alone. I choked down dual waves of fear and loneliness and left… well, I first went to the cafe for a chocolate milk for Z and a tall skim iced black and white mocha for me. Then I left.
I’ve just about drowned in those negative feelings now. It’s a rainy, gray ugly Saturday and it matches my mood. While writing this, I’ve kept thinking of the milk I spilled while I was out at the park on Thursday. Yup, that’s it in the picture at the top. Why did I Instagram a picture of it and my sneaker? I don’t know entirely, but it also matches my mood. A whoops, a loss, clumsiness, annoyance… not worth crying over.
Shortly after the spilling, I spoke to my friend Aja. Relentlessly positive, she proves that not only does a tree grow in Brooklyn, but so does edenic happiness. Later that day, she emailed me a link to a story by Liuan Huska about dealing with chronic pain. An excerpt:
Perhaps the meaning of the pain in our lives is like the prophecies of old. Isaiah’s beautiful foretelling about Israel’s restoration may have been partially fulfilled in the immediate future, but won’t be completely fulfilled until God binds up the book of time. Likewise, though I can glean some meaning from my ankle pain – it has made me more compassionate toward the sufferings of others, for example – I don’t think I’ll fully understand it in this life. This isn’t a copout to avoid wrestling with pain and suffering or to not make wise and informed health decisions, but an acknowledgment of my limits. Even though I don’t understand it now, it is enough to live with the trust that, in God’s boundless love, there is meaning to my pain.
Hopefully one day, I’ll be able to look back on this time of no train rides and playdates but plenty of spasticity, and see the meaning that eludes me now. There’s no use crying over spilled milk, but it will be nice to know it wasn’t simply a waste.