Earlier this summer my son broke both of his arms in a freak accident with his bike. The timing, the learning to navigate with no arms, and the millions of times people asked him how he did it was enough to drive even my steady and constant boy up the wall and then some. He hated every minute of it and by the end of it was telling his story in three sentences or less with little to no inflection. By the end of those weeks he was simply done with it all.
My son keeps things close to the chest. I rarely know the complete story until he is ready to tell it which might be weeks after the event that is weighing on his mind actually happened. And while his father and I work hard to ask the questions that might lead us to knowing how he is feeling or what he thinks about something, the truth is the boy will only give us hints until he feels ready to talk. And I must mention he is eight.
The other day my son came to me. I was sitting on my porch and he curled up in a chair beside me and for about the hundredth time shook me with his very personal thoughts. Have I mentioned that getting that boy to share his thoughts is like trying to open a can of beans with your fingernails?
I am embarrassed to say that I am a very selfish person and can easily be accused of being so caught up in my own ups and downs that I forget that this quiet child has a depth, an old soul if you will, that few ever get to experience. I watch him carefully for signs of stress but I often forget that he doesn’t show them. Whether that makes me a bad mother depends on your own point of view and isn’t the point of this story.
So I sat there while my son talked to me about being scared to try anything new because of his very real fear of breaking another limb. He could get back on his bike, I made sure of that, but he was no longer interested in riding it. He could make himself play with the other boys but he knew that playing by himself, living in his own head, was safer for his own health. My eight year old boy was scared of living for fear of those million people talking to him, for fear of those days when he was completely dependent on me, and for those days when we as a family were forced to stay at home because he couldn’t participate.
This, as it should, got me thinking. How much of life do we step away from because of the fear that is taught to us? Fear, as everyone knows, is a evolutionary symptom there to protect us from very real threats. It is meant to keep us aware, keep us awake and keep us from walking down dark alleys with thousands of dollars in our hands. Fear is a very real thing and a very important thing. But do we use it as an excuse? Do we convince ourselves that safety is easier; that staying in the cycle of our own normalcy is better than stepping beyond that which we know? Do we allow ourselves to hate something as mundane as strangers and then turn it into a fear of unnatural proportions?
I spend my life looking deep inside of myself for answers to questions that no one else is asking. I spend my life trying to find ways not to be happy, or content, but ways to feel beyond the simplicity of commonality. I need those demons that reside inside me and those voices in my head not for entertainment value but for the validation of who and what I am. I use what others so easily fear to allow myself to be cut off from the ability, the courage, to leap beyond what and who I am. I allow the broken pieces of myself to bathe in the rain of madness rather than step aside to dance in the sun. I allow my disease, my mental illness, to define what my fears are going to be and then I use them to ignore the truth that is often right in front of me.
It is a strange feeling to realize that I have a personality that is so comfortable in the darkness of this disease that I shun the beauty that resides all around me. I would rather understand what drives me to pain than what drives me to tears. I would rather understand what drives me to a single mindedness of which there is no cure than to simply understand that while bones break they also heal. They do become right and useful and often times better than the day before you lost them.
And I sit here typing on this cloudy, dreary day and realize that I know that the beauty exists. I know the feeling of watching mother nature create beauty that is beyond the ability of the greatest painters ever born. I know the feeling of seeing a child laugh with their whole soul; I know the feeling of watching a child fall in love with an secret they never knew they had. I sit knowing that deep in the sea, far beyond the sky, and in every corner of every part of this world’s soul there is a fascinating and often speechless series of moments that can take the breadth of the most jaded of us all. Beauty isn’t there to mar the ugly but to give to each of us proof that even in times of absolute horror there lies a hope that we are welcome to hold onto.
But still we see the ugly. Still we watch the darkness fall and cover the world as if the beauty has died. We watch as the great stag tries to bring another moment to life but we only know the value of his life. We see the devil, the demons, the very parts of our own selves that preview such disgust because it is far easier to handle than knowing the possibilities are there to lose. Because to see beauty you have to intimately know that this ugliness is there to balance it all out.
We use fear. We use fear to figure out how to be not the purposeful and knowledgeable souls that reside inside of us, but to be the easier and oftentimes loner souls that need nothing that can so easily be taken away. We don’t allow the beauty to follow us because we know that giving up on the hard is easier than seeing and loving the ugliness inside. We forget the greatness out of fear that those who demand it will find only disappointment. We forget the purpose in order to hide the solitude.
It shames me that long ago, probably before I was even aware, I too broke something deep inside of me. It shames me that I easily fall into a pattern of disgrace rather than confront the ease of such things that tear my heart and rebuild it with tears. It almost makes me want to change so that I can find happiness in the contentment of a event that happens whether I am there or not, and it almost makes me want to believe that the storm coming is one that I can weather.
My son, my incredible son, showed me that I don’t know the definition of beauty any more than I can pinpoint with accuracy the purpose of seeking it. It was my son that reminded me that the cost of something so incredible as to be recorded in our very soul was worth the scars it took to reach them. And it was my son who in his wise way showed me that maybe the journey shouldn’t be about understanding only that which is dirty and mad, but the journey should also be about understanding the unexplainable perfection of one single moment.