Pre. S. Massive apologies for the recent lack of posts and the post mix-up today for email subscribers –we’re currently having some backend issues and are working to get it sorted out ASAP.
There’s a picture of my parents I’ve seen over the years; they’re standing on a beach, newly married maybe, long before my sister and I came along, at least. My dad’s beard is thick and his hair, now silver and sparse, is as brown as a coconut shell.
In their eyes is a distinct mix of grandeur and impishness; the delighted twinkle of young love, the mystical significance of a young love grown old.
So many times, I stared at that photo with one thought crashing over me like a rogue wave: they don’t know. Those two people standing there–laughing, so happy, so vital–they don’t know what’s in store for them. They don’t know how the happy, idyllic, easy life they’re envisioning they’ll have will never be. Or, it will, until it gets hit head on by the semi truck that is chronic illness, the picture they had fracturing into a million and three tiny pieces upon impact.
I wanted to warn them. Or, more likely, I wanted to change the present so those two shining faces never had to learn the fate of their future.
Perhaps my interpretation of the photograph of my parents is invented, and my parents never once envisioned whether their future would be hard as boulders or as easy as sitting calmly by the sea. Maybe they’ve never considered themselves to look any way other than they do.
For myself, I spent years grieving over my family’s failed chance to be the way we were supposed to be, which is to say: healthy and happy, everyone in their places with sunshiny faces. That was where we were headed for so long, it seemed. Until we were unfairly, tumultuously, incorrectly diverted.
At some point, though, I let that thought go.
I realized how futile it was to grieve over an imagined reality, thwarted. I realized how hopeless it was to feel heartbreak at our inability to be what we could never now be. The vision I had held for years in my mind of a life in which my mom had never gotten sick ceded from memory. Not that it wasn’t hopeful, but that it wasn’t helpful. Our picture was never ruined. This was just how it looked now.
Of the several lessons this Multiple Sclerosis business has taught me, chief among them is the realization that there is no such thing as “how it was supposed to be.” There is only “how it is.”
The more you understand that fact, and learn to move with the fluidity of life, the better off you are. The more easily you disavow your expectations and remain focused on the present, the more lush the moment in front of you becomes.
It was when I forgot to keep comparing our reality to a hypothetical version of life that all the beauties of our present circumstance became clear to me. Not all at once, but little by little. Like the tide moving in and out over your toes as you stand on a beach, yourself the portrait of a young love grown golden, turned back to young love, again.