I’ve wanted to write this letter to you for some time. And today, after much procrastination, I figured better now than never.
First, let me tell you that I’m sitting in a busy and boisterous coffee shop in San Francisco. It’s the 5th of a 7-day intensive with my yoga teacher. As always, Manouso has worked me over in all manners of yoga. I don’t understand why it seems that in a roomful of 80+ people of ALL ages and abilities, I seem to be the only one heaving and sweating like it’s a marathon in the Mojave!
And… fun fact for the day… the coffee shops in SF also serve beer! Who knew!
But, I digress.
The days you were born, all of you, were some of the best days of my life. I didn’t really know then what it would mean for me when you were born. I just knew that I loved you before you took your first breath and that life with you was going to be AWESOME! And I was right (maybe you’ve heard me say that before).
I’ve had so much fun watching you grow up and growing up with you. I know that the miles have separated us and the whole our-family-is-a-bush-not-really-a-tree has made things complicated. But, really. How much does all of that matter when I hold you so tightly in my heart?
So, now I have some things to tell you. Some things that I want to share with you about life. I’m your big sister, after all. I think that I’m supposed to do this. Here we go…
My biggest life lessons:
- Things are never as bad as they seem, nor as good.
- You are always, ALWAYS fully capable of handling whatever it is that life flings your direction.
- You are loved. By many. In fact, there are people who love you and think about your happiness and you might never realize it.
That’s the Cliff Notes version of this letter. You can stop here if you have something better to do. I’m going to drone on for a few paragraphs now.
You were all young when Ted was first diagnosed with Infantile Spasms. I don’t know if you remember how devastated and terrified we were. I was a wreck. And Travis was even worse than me! When I think back, I see that it was fear that tore through my soul. What would happen? Would he die? What did I do to cause this? His first treatment was a heavy-duty steroid called ACTH. We gave him injections twice daily in his little, pudgy, infant thigh. Travis would inject him as I held him and kissed his fat cheek. I tried to soothe him through those alligator tears. I told him how much I loved him and how proud I was of his strength. I loved him so much and it was gut-wrenching to be part of the “treatment” that made him suffer so much.
It never took more than a few minutes after the injection when Teddy would erupt into laughter. You know, the big belly laughs that babies do. Well, Ted’s were always music to my ears and comfort to my heart. He cried in pain and then laughed with the joy that only that beautiful boy knew existed.
You see, the pain of holding him and doing my best to hold myself together was hard. It was terrifying. My only protection was to withdraw. I sucked my tears back and bound my heart deep within so that I didn’t have to subject myself to the uncharted waters of fully experiencing how bad things were. Yes, it’s how I survived. I needed to do that. It was the only way that I was going to make it through. But the result was that when Ted laughed and cooed and bubbled his spit and laughed again, my heart was still bound. I couldn’t expose myself to the pain or to the joy. Unfortunately.
I’ve only missed out on something A MILLION TIMES and look back now and want to experience it again, all because I was afraid. Truly, I don’t know what I was afraid of except the “what ifs”. I can think of so many times when I missed out on your lives because I was too scared to reach out and sink my teeth into our sisterhood. Trav’s family taught me a lot about how to embrace life. I am forever grateful for them.
It’s a lesson that I’ve also learned from my yoga practice. The ongoing lesson of Skillful Action. I don’t look as much anymore for what I want. I look for what’s best. What’s the best decision, action, response. It’s never an easy equation to solve. In fact, most of the time it’s quite simply impossible. Because there’s never a RIGHT answer, only the BEST answer for this moment.
Typically, what I want is to just look at the pool of water. Maybe I dip my toes in from time to time, but I certainly don’t dive in! What if it’s too hot, too cold, too deep, too shallow? What if there’s a MONSTER WAITING TO CHEW UP MY FEET! Worse yet, there could be dirty dishes, stinky bathrooms, or some other form of torture for me to endure. Hell no. I’m not diving in.
And yes, I think sometimes about the possibility that the water will be warm and that when I dive in my suit will conveniently slip off, revealing a Sports Illustrated hot body, just in time for my Adonis (in the form of Brad Pitt, Norman Reedus, or David Beckham, or Travis of course!). But let’s be honest, it’s likely a monster in that pool so I’m not going to risk it.
That pool of water is my life… your life… all of LIFE. I like to plan, to ponder, but I really have to force myself to participate. It’s something that I’ve learned to do and now I embrace it… or at least I try after I’ve thrown myself into it! You see, I finally figured out that if I’m really going to enjoy all the good that life has to offer, then I have to also be prepared to experience to low points. After all, we live by comparison. If I want the good, the bad is coming, too.
And at the end of the day, the bad is never as bad as I think it will be. And the good is sweet but fleeting. What makes it all work is also one of my life lessons (#2), that we are always FULLY capable of handling whatever is in that dark, murky pool of the unknown – good, bad, and ugly. We are smart, strong, and quite talented.
You can do it. I can do it. We can do anything.
That’s part one of my letter to you. I’ll write more on the rest later. For now, just remember that I love you all and I love you with all of my heart.