By Helen Rose
Originally written on November 8, 2018
Published electronically on November 16, 2018
My sweet boy isn’t feeling well today. He’s had a cough and been very clingy for about three weeks. Last week, I took him to the pediatrician, where he was diagnosed with an ear and sinus infection.
Last night, he coughed on and off most of the night, and this morning we were on our way to daycare when he had another coughing fit. I called the pediatrician’s office and they had an appointment available for him in less than an hour.
I took him for a doughnut to kill time before the appointment. He wanted one with sprinkles and purple icing. They only had pink today. He was disappointed, but said, “ok, mama!” I am simultaneously jealous and thankful that his worries include the color of icing on his doughnut.
Thankful, of course, because I am his mother, and if I had my way, he would never worry about anything more serious than this. Jealous because I myself no longer have the privilege of childhood innocence.
In the sick waiting room of the doctor’s office, we met another family – a mom, dad, two older children, and a baby. The older sister was doting on her baby brother, bouncing him on her lap and repeating, “I love you!” in a singsong pattern.
The older boy was sitting at a low table playing with cars. He had an infectious smile, complete with oval-shaped dimples in both cheeks. He engaged with Henry immediately and shared the toys with him. Henry was delighted and I commented to the father that the boy was clearly a wonderful big brother.
I assume the family was Arabic based on the mother’s attire and the sound of the language they spoke with one another. While we were waiting to be called back, I looked up friendly Arabic greetings on my phone. I would love to be the type of person who is not too anxious to follow through on trying to speak to my fellow travelers in a way that makes them feel seen. However, I’m not quite there yet, so I just smiled and chased after Henry when it was our turn to go back.
I wonder about that family. I wonder what their journey has been. I wonder what joys and concerns they were facing. I wonder if I could have helped or empowered them in any way today.
Of course, none of this is any of my business in any sort of practical, human sense.
But in a larger, spiritual sense, of course it is, because they are not just a family we met in a waiting room – they are our family that we reconnected with in a waiting room, not by chance or circumstance, but by the careful synchronization of lifetimes and spirit guides beyond all comprehension and for a purpose.
We are all one. We are all family. We are all divine, immortal, eternal souls. We belong to one another in that we have a sacred obligation to lift one another up wherever and whenever we are able.
The thing about privilege and oppression is that they are man-made.
The thing about love and compassion is that they are as natural as breathing.
We often have to learn how to work within the systems we are a part of, no matter how we feel about them.
For example, I personally think that the concept of money is ridiculous, but that does not change the fact that at this point in my journey through this realm, I need it to survive.
One of my most patient teachers once told me that all we can do is our best, and sometimes that means that hypocrisy must be a part of our human nature. There is the eternal paradox of trying to reconcile our highest values and ideals with the practical functions of the world we live in.
Compromising our ideals in order to get our needs met does not always constitute hypocrisy, nor does it mean we are falling short or abandoning our values. It means that we are humans, and the human experience is not always in line with our highest selves.
All we can do is all we can do, and that is ok. More often than not, falling short of our ideals is not a reflection of our character, but rather, our environment.
That same teacher told me recently that I am in the process – the excruciating process – of giving birth to my authentic self. As I lay here reflecting on our day, listening to Henry cough and snore, I notice that his sweet head is resting on my lap right above my c-section scar.
Henry’s birth was terrifying. It was physically and emotionally traumatic and I had PTSD from it for over a year. Sometimes, I still cry when I think about it.
That said, I would do it all again in a heartbeat. Of course I would. Because some things are worth it. Some things are worth more than the anxiety surrounding them. Some things are bigger than our fears and more important than our reservations.
It is up to each and every one of us to make the decision for ourselves what is worth it. What are our highest values? What are our deepest truths? What is more important than fear of rejection, confrontation, or failure?
No one else can answer those questions for us. We are each on our own journey.
It is easy to be told what to do and what to believe.
It is incredibly difficult to forge your own path, find your own truth, and live it unapologetically. I have found for myself that the positive connections I’ve made along the way make it easier to bear the burden of the responsibility that I have to myself.
I’ll leave you with a passage from one of Henry’s favorite books, “The Pout Pout Fish and the Big Big Dark” by Deborah Diesen, which I find incredibly relevant and profound not in spite of the fact that it is a children’s book, but because of it.
“The ocean is wide
And the ocean is deep
But friends help friends –
That’s a promise we keep.
We are bigger
Than the dark.”