The Arthritic Heart
This is about me and Sweet Girl, but it could be about anyone. As a matter of fact, I thought of several amazing women I know that are currently going through their own version of this, and I just want them to know that I'll be there for them: now and on the other side of Someday.
“We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, 'I survived'.” ~Chris Cleave, Little Bee
Several people I love have varying forms of arthritis. There's rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and plain old osteoarthritis running amok in my loved ones. For some, it's a minor inconvenience but for others it is a daily battle to be won or lost. Looking at the gene pool from which I sprang, I think it's a fairly safe bet that some kind of arthritis is in my future. I'm not looking forward to it but I kind of feel as if I already have experience with it.
When Sweet Girl was little, I spent a lot of time inwardly raging against a great number of things I thought were important for her life. How she couldn't sit still long enough for me to read a story to her is one. How she had to release all that was wrong in her world through yells and screams is another. Selfishly, how she and I would never be able to have the relationship where we sat around and just talked about our respective days and how she would astound me with her intelligence and kindness to others. She would be smart but without hubris. She would be cute but unaware of that. She would be kind but unknowing that this is more often an exception than the rule. And she would have the mother that challenged and supported her just the right amount at just the right time. - all instinctually, of course, and always gracefully. This is how I saw her life and how I saw myself in it. Then reality came crashing in upon us. As Sweet Girl began her retreat into herself, I began my rage against it.
Impotent fury is rarely productive: it usually drains the motivation and power of change out of the person it is inhabiting. I knew that. I still know it. But I was powerless to change how I felt. Why would this happen to this beautiful girl? Why would this happen to me? Why would this happen to Sean, my parents, his mom, his sister, my siblings? Why would God find this an ok thing to do to anyone? Why can't this just be a phase? Why would a six-letter word turn everything I ever thought upsides down? Why didn't I realize sooner? Why hadn't I acted faster? better? been smarter? been more accepting? been more patient? had more grace? Why? Why? Why? That rage is exhausting. Those questions are razor-sharp and cut anything in their paths. That kind of fury leaves scars. And in this case those scars are all over my battered heart.
The good news is that scars heal. And often things that are broken can become whole again; stronger. I'd like to think that's what happened with Sweet Girl and me. My vision of her life and how I will be a part of it are much different, but my eyes truly see what beauty, intelligence, and kindness are now. Before the scars left by my rage, I thought beauty was matching clothes and well-kept hair. I thought intelligence could be measured on paper, and I thought kindness was seeing others in need and helping. I suppose all those things can be true to an extent, but now my eyes see beauty in smiles born of nothing but pure pleasure in the moment; intelligence is decoding and making sense of a world that is innately foreign; and kindness is helping even when helping hurts. My eyes see these things now and my heart understands, all thanks to the scars.
But sometimes, on days when EVERYTHING is hard: days when words don't come; days when everything has to go a certain way; days when I can't predict the mood or the outcome or the consequence or the behavior; days when she leaves me again- for however briefly- on these days the scars flare and my heart has to work harder to do its job. On those days I feel the arthritis that is a side-effect of the damage done by my past rage and fury. My heart aches. I want to crawl into a corner and nurse my wounds. I want to rage some more. I want to lash out despite the fact that I know it will only create more scars. I want it all to go away.
We are about to start another ABA program with Sweet Girl to help her be more successful in a school
setting, and I know dark days are coming. This time it will likely be Sweet Girl's rage that wounds anyone close to her. It will be difficult for her to break these habits and to replace them with others. And if I didn't feel that it would truly benefit for years to come, I wouldn't do this. Because the days ahead are going to be hard. Days when my arthritis will nearly consume my ability to do more than survive. I'm not proud to know that, and ultimately knowing these things does little to assuage the coming onslaught. So I look forward to the time when the scars settle back down and my heart barely feels the pang of its emotional arthritis. I try to remember that there is always the other side of Someday; a place where my doubts, second thoughts, self-pity, and clumsy love don't aggravate these old wounds. On the other side of Someday, scars are just proof that we have fought for every moment and arthritis is just the evidence of a love strong enough to break and heal a heart.
“Sad words are just another beauty. A sad story means, this storyteller is alive. The next thing you know something fine will happen to her, something marvelous, and then she will turn around and smile.” ~Chris Cleave, Little Bee