Monday, September 7, 2015

If There Were Only Joy

We could never learn to be brave and patient, 
if there were only joy in the world.

-Helen Keller

Good morning. Here's your official *WELCOME TO SEPTEMBER* message on the blog.

The first week of September may've been the most emotional of my life to date. I felt all the feelings, & I felt them deeply.

Monday morning, moments after I posted this treatise marking the occasion of Reagan entering school, we piled in the car & headed to Jackson (by way of Chick-fil-A) to visit the endocrinologist.

I snapped this on the way over. Please ignore the stroller wheels as they detract from the preciousness of the picture.

That's the only picture pre-A1C news. I was a cranky bundle of nerves Monday morning. To give you some perspective, I only drank a sip or two of my Chick-fil-A coffee on the way over to Jackson. My stomach was in knots over the A1C we were about to learn; I was fearful we were going to score our first 8+. 

I'll spare you the stomach churning I experienced; Reagan's most recent A1C was a 7.6, down a little from our visit three months ago. I think I was expecting worse because of a few hairy nights over the past three months when she was stubborn to fall, coupled with some occasional under-dosing on my part due to grossly misjudging carb content. 

Here's the kids (post-A1C news) soaking up all the germs possible from the train set at Barnes & Noble.

The good A1C news was only a temporary balm for my nerves.

On Tuesday morning, Reagan & I rose early, dressed, & together journeyed to WEE School.

On the ride there, I asked her, as I often do, what she wanted to listen to in the car, & she said, "Let It Go." No joke.

I call this next one, "Metaphor."

She was sold on the place when she saw all the balloons. 

Reagan was in her classroom for about an hour that morning while I attended parent orientation, after which we both had an appointment at the beauty salon. 

I don't know why I scheduled her first haircut on the heels of her first day of WEE School, but that's just how it worked out. I was so tired from Monday's journey & the first early school morning that I didn't get overly emotional about the haircut . . .  

. . . until I was handed Reagan's hair in an envelope. 

School is just grueling. Wednesday morning we had to get up early again. Wednesday was the first "real" day of WEE School; Trey dropped Reagan off that morning & she was there for THREE WHOLE HOURS.

When Reagan left the house with Trey Wednesday, her backpack was full of Joy & Sadness. No, really. Reagan has wanted Joy & Sadness ever since we took her to see Inside Out, & she found them in Barnes & Noble Monday. She took them with her for Show & Tell on Wednesday, & a small part of me wondered if she wasn't subconsciously giving her mother a metaphorical shout out with her selection.

By the time Henry & I arrived to collect Reagan Wednesday, I was in the throes of an anxiety attack. For now, I've decided that there's no need for Reagan's teacher to check her number unless Reagan says she feels low. If she's low, they can give her some food. If she's high, however, they don't know how to work her pump remote to dose her insulin, & so what's the point of checking & discovering a high reading if no one knows how to give her insulin?

As soon as she was in the car, I checked her number, & it was a little high, which I'd expected (it was a little high, but not gasping, heart-palpations-high). I gave her some insulin, & the three of us headed to meet Trey for lunch.

My stomach was in such a state of turmoil at lunch that I ordered a real Coke. On a scale of one to ten, my heartburn was a twelve.

I snapped this of Reagan's newly shorn hair so I could text it to my sister, who'd requested a pic of Reagan's new cut.

Henry had a nice time at lunch. After my Coke, I was feeling a little better so I took pictures of him & then let him look at them in an attempt to get him to HUSH because we were surrounded by serious business people in sharp looking suits who likely didn't have Henry's antics in mind when they chose Portico for lunch.

I'd originally thought maybe I'd accomplish a few things Wednesday afternoon since the kids & I were dressed & out of the house, but no. I went home & collapsed. The physical strain of the week's events caught up with me. I was battling heartburn off & on & my stomach was just weird, so weird, in fact, that I was drinking hot green tea & no coffee. I think I was asleep by ten thirty that night; I know that when Trey woke me to tell me Reagan's number at midnight I'd been asleep for a while.

Thursday went well. I slept a lot Wednesday night, & I was breathing a little easier. I had to teach my speech classes (which, much to my students' delight, I cancelled Tuesday in order to attend orientation). My mind was occupied & the time flew, in contrast to Wednesday morning when I paced around the house (a befuddled Henry looking on) until I couldn't stand it, loaded Henry in the car so we could go stare at the WEE School front door, watching the clock tick, tick, tick until finally it was time to collect Reagan & check her number.

I'd assumed my physical ailments were attributable to me literally making myself sick with worry, as the only other time in my life I've dealt with heartburn was during my pregnancies. When the heartburn continued to hang around Thursday, I took a pregnancy test just to make certain I was indeed stressing myself out to the point of physical illness. I dug a test out of the cabinet, saw that it expired in 2014, & figured I might as well take it as I needed to throw it out anyway. It was, as I expected, negative. Yeah, they tell you they're useless once they've expired, but they say that about cheese & eggs too. I 100% expected a negative; had the results read otherwise, I'd have forgotten completely about the emotional turmoil of the week & sat down to begin a memoir about my life with Trey titled, Defying Birth Control: We Are the One Percent. 

The bookend to the emotionally fraught week was Friday night's book club meeting. It was not any book club meeting, mind you. This was the much anticipated finale of our Harry Potter summer. And really, it's only fitting that I sat with friends & discussed Harry's journey Friday evening.

If you didn't know, the first season of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood was added to Netflix at the beginning of this month. I've turned it on a few times, wanting the kids to know Daniel Tiger's history &, yes, hoping they grow up to be people who appreciate cardigans. I've been reading up on Fred Rogers, with whom I spent a good bit of time in my formative years, & I came across this quote Friday morning:

Part of the problem with the word 'disabilities' is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can't feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren't able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.

These words struck a thousand chords when I read them. Given the events of last week, my immediate thoughts were of Reagan & of Lord Voldemort (stay with me here).

I worry about Reagan at school not only because I can't obsessively check her sugar, but because at some point, a child is going to ask her about her pump, which is sometimes obvious under her clothes, or visible depending on what she's wearing. She eats a different snack than the other kids in her class, something that, so far, she seems to think is great. She comes home & immediately wants to help me pack her snack for the next day.

Having no functioning pancreas is certainly something the world would view as a disability. I don't care for the word disability. I teach students who've been labeled disabled for one reason or another; their true disability is defining themselves so completely by their disability.

Reagan couldn't have picked a better week to finally locate Joy & Sadness on a shelf & bring them home with her. The range of my emotions last week rivaled my emotional fluctuations when I gave birth & subsequently brought my babies home. I was anxious about her A1C, & I was anxious about being separated from her, leaving her in the care of adults who don't fully understand her diabetes. I was sad that my baby girl is beginning school; I was sad she's doing so with a pump attached to her providing her with insulin. When they're tiny & pink & squirmy & you have vague visions about their future, there's no insulin pump in that picture.

I was, I am, so proud of her. She's already memorized her Bible verse for next week, & ten different times on Saturday we discussed possible snacks for the week ahead. Giving me tremendous peace of mind is that she almost always knows when she is low & she knows to tell her teacher, who has a page of handwritten instructions detailing how many boxes of raisins Reagan needs depending on how low her number is.

As Inside Out teaches us, so often our greatest joys are born of wrestling with tremendous sadness & pain, sometimes physical, sometimes emotional. Sometimes both. Giving birth comes to mind. Harry Potter also comes to mind. As I mentioned, Mr. Rogers' words made me think of Reagan, & they also made me think of Voldemort, the supreme villain in the series who suffers from what Mr. Rogers would argue is the true disability. Voldemort lacks the ability to form close relationships. There is no true joy in his life, & he is *spoiler* ultimately defeated by the same power by which Christ defeated Satan: sacrificial love.

Without the horrendous back labor, I'd have no Henry. Had I not gained nearly fifty pounds carrying Henry, I wouldn't appreciate (& strive to maintain) my current weight as thoroughly as I do. Without the 1990s, we'd not truly appreciate an eight-win season for LSU. Without the memory of Gerry DiNardo, we'd assume Les Miles really is an idiot. Without the sadness of letting her go, I'd not know the pride of listening to Reagan recite her memory verse.

Without the love & protection & subsequent loss of his mother, Harry Potter would not be in a position to rid his world of the gravest threat to their happiness, their very survival, they've ever known. Harry's kids inherit a world much improved from the one into which Harry was born largely because of the sacrifices of their father & of others who came before them, some they'll never meet because theirs is the ultimate sacrifice (including their paternal grandparents).

Without the pain of the cross, we'd have no hope. Without the pain of the cross, we would never see Jesus face to face, never worship at the Father's feet. Without the trials, the worry, the anxiety, & even, sometimes, crippling loss, we would not know complete joy. We're not all that malleable in a blissfully joyful state; the trials teach us, mold us, & we come through the better for them, eager for the joy laid before us, & more equipped to recognize it, appreciate it.

I never knew the joy of a 100 blood sugar reading until I saw the meter read 400+ for week after frustrating week until we got Reagan's insulin needs sorted out. I will never take a good sugar reading for granted because I will always remember the helpless panic of repeatedly seeing high numbers & not knowing how to help my child. Joy & sadness, sadness & joy. You cannot fully appreciate standing atop the mountain until you've seen that seemingly unattainable pinnacle from the depths of the valley. You cannot fully appreciate Christ's sacrifice on the cross until you see yourself clothed in the filthy rags of your sins & realize you're helpless to do one thing about your depraved state.

I agree with Mr. Rogers; the true disability is hopelessness. If you've never read the Harry Potter series, I encourage you to do so. Its popularity speaks to the fact that the world enjoys a story about an unlikely hero who confronts evil & restores hope when all hope seems lost. The world responds to a hero with humble beginnings who is brave despite fear, who endures physical pain & bears the scars of his encounter with evil, but walks away triumphant. Such stories speak to our humanity, to our base desire to believe that, in the end, good trumps evil, & from seemingly unendurable circumstances, joy emerges.

I'm going to sign off now. I have a letter to write to the elders of my church that I'm going to Cc to the preacher. I have an idea for a series of sermons titled, "The Gospel According to Harry Potter."


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