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Saturday, December 18, 2010

We shine through our broken bits

I remember my friend Julie once commenting here that our broken bits are the places that spirit can shine through. I loved that. And when I say broken, I do mean parts of us that are changed forever. I don't mean parts of us that are bad. Ellie in many a physician's and most people's view has a lot of broken bits mainly in her brain. I remember when she was born so early feeling guilty like I had broken my baby. And yet, here she is 8 years later, signing with Santa, rocking out to TMBG and engaging the world. She is powerful in her world and has made my world a place I want to be in all the time. That's powerful and important and something that makes the world a better place.

A student of mine quoted Emerson in response to seeing an Aimee Mullen's Ted talk. I just read it in grading their work and had to pause and reflect - here, out in the blogosphere,because that's how I roll. Emerson said, "Challenges are what make life interesting, overcoming them is what makes life meaningful." Aimee Mullins, in her TED talk on adversity, defined adversity as change we have not yet adapted to.

There seems to be a key in there that is particularly germane to understanding the quality of life I experience raising a child with special needs. Different but meaningful. It's a meaning packed life every day and sometimes in this way, intense. But somehow life wants me to get this message. I saw a movie recently, and of course, Hollywood can glamorize anything, but in the end the guy chooses to love his girl, despite her huge challenges which will become his challenges. He tells her he doesn't want a life where their biggest challenge if feeling guilty over having a cleaning person or driving the right car. Instead, having a life that has real meaning.

So how do we constantly make meaning in our life? For me, when Ellie takes a step, makes a small leap, cries, hugs me, or eats, there is meaning there and we witness it via love, sweat and tears. I am not sure I have any answers but I am struck by these questions: what is a meaningful life? What is a shallow one? Do we oscillate between the two simply based on our level of engagement? How does any of this help us experience love and happiness and the feeling of being connected? How resillient are we?

Picture: Ellie signing Thank You to Santa (who also knows ASL!).