So this past week I’ve faced some stuff. While I’ve been busily building and revising and my “master plan,” life continues doing what it does best. Teach. And whip up challenges. Powerful ones.
My son Gus just got of the ICU. I actually began writing this post from the hospital’s Starbucks. A week ago he caught a bug from school, and then as story often goes with kids, almost immediately he got popped with something worse. Next thing we know we’re at the hospital staring at a diagnosis Pneumonia and RSV – a dreaded respiratory virus that tends to hit kids with Down Syndrome hard.
And he got hit hard.
When we checked in he just couldn’t breath. It was terrifying. At one point, when things were sketchy, he shot straight up in bed and said, “tunnel.” I’ve never heard him say that word before, nor did I know he even knew it. I about had a heart attack. Outside I may have looked calm, but inside I’m doing cartwheels and thinking, “do not go towards the f$&! light! Not yet!”
So, yeah. Nothing like life’s hardest moments to get you thinking. And this situation had me doing loads of it – especially on what I thought I knew about life.
Turns out I didn’t know nearly enough to see this crisis coming. Definitely not in my plans.
So paraphrasing a bit, she said, “Life is about learning to let go. Things go much easier this way. We create things like plans because we believe they can keep us safe. But plans can not.”
I remember not being impressed with her statement at all. First off, I felt like this statement was just wrong. It seemed to me that humanity was built on the backs on the world’s best planners. Imagine Rome being built without a plan, or Civil Rights happening without the genius oversight of Martin Luther King. Or Steve Jobs winging it. I mean, how the hell would we have gotten to the moon without a solid plan? So I reacted, inwardly of course, not being courageous enough to rebuke her outright. I thought, “If I don’t plan, what am I left with?!” I could actually answer that: I’d be stuck with the stinking unknown. I saw plans like torches we carried into the night. And isn’t it helpful to have light when it’s dark outside and you don’t know where you’re going?
Curiously, I found myself chewing on my mentor’s feedback while I was knee deep in my son’s medical crisis.
I remember staring into his swollen blue eyes as he lay in that hospital bed. I was suffering over this issue and wondered, “how will I ever be able to keep him safe? Or my family? Or me?” This only got worse when I thought of the financial hopscotch I was playing as business owner. So there in that stuffy ICU room with bells and buzzers buzzing, I went round and around. I was totally demoralized. I’m not sure how I got there, but I had an insight. I realized my mentor wasn’t criticizing planning. She was inviting me to reflect on the nature of true safety.
What becomes painfully obvious when you’re a parent stuck considering the mortality of your child, is how helpless you truly are. While I could influence certain things, I had no control over the ultimate outcome. As a healer and therapist I saw this situation play out all the time. A person can do all the “right” things, but still not get a good result. But my familiarity with the issue didn’t make it easier to swallow. As a father I found it horrifying. Here I was totally powerless at a time when my son needed me the most. And as my son’s health spiraled out of control, the more I spiraled too. So, there tiptoeing Christmas, I was revisited by the ghost of a very inconvenient truth. Life is bigger than all of us. And I could clearly see that no matter how thorough or well I executed my plans they would always play second fiddle to life’s Master Plan; if you can call the unpredictability of life such a thing. And I choose too.
I knew if I was to regain any sense of sanity in this situation I had to let go of the delusion that I could control anything. The outcome was beyond me. And it was equally beyond the professionals working with him too. As trained experts they certainly had better odds at making a difference, more influence, but ultimately they had no more control over the outcome than I did. The outcome just hung like some mysterious mist of possibility just beyond our reach. No matter how much we desired and worked towards a positive outcome, we’d have to ride the situation out.
So I after a few more cerebral spins, I realized if I wanted to create a real sense of safety, I’d best not base it in the hope for a positive outcome. Or in faith either, as I do believe and have faith in the good of all things. While I do believe they are the wisest investments, especially in times of crisis, neither could offer me the level of security I needed. My son could die, and our relationship could go away.
Eventually I allowed myself to look beyond the outcome. And I realized that the magic existed in not having control of his life. The truth was I didn’t need control or a guarantee. All I needed was love. My promise to never stop loving my son was enough to keep us connected, and foerver. It’s hard to explain, but in that moment I finally understood that love was a sacred bond, a promise and the surest guarantee of safety I’d ever get.
To me this seemed like a miracle to me! How is it that a force as powerful as love was entirely within my control and life wasn’t?…
While this situation was not one I’d choose to relive, I’d gotten a powerful insight. I could see that love is a gift that transcends all obstacles, barriers, and time. So like my mentor may have been suggesting; a plan can’t guarantee safety. Only love can. And while I knew this, intellectually, my understanding kind of shifted from understanding to knowing. I now knew my relationship with my son was forever safe.
I’m reminded of a familiar bible verse from my childhood,
“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. -Corinthians 13:13
Now that I’m back to my life, I’ve had to take a much deeper look at how I’m allowing love to inform all areas of my life. Including my business. I realized I’d sacrificed a large portion of my work as a healer in my efforts to build and launch my brand, for almost a year now. And while I’ve been missing that connection to people and the work, I’ve for some reason been playing down my role as a healer in my brand. I have reasons, of course, but it’s really been because of fear. So, in 2018 I’ve decided I’m going to allow my healing work to take center stage in my brand, alongside my other work. And I’m going to allow myself to reopen my relationships there. If I want love to flow freely, I can’t hide.
So for those of you that are wondering about the status of my son. Gus has been discharged and appears to be on his way to a full recovery. Man are we grateful. Here’s Gus enjoying a hula hooping Santa on Christmas Day.
Here’s an episode that features my interview with thought leader and TEDX’r Marcus Aurelius Anderson. He talks about his journey back from paralysis, which is powerful talk about the road back to health. I’ve also included the video for good measure!