Monday, December 21, 2015

Wiser Today

A man should never be ashamed to own 
that he has been in the wrong, 
which is but saying in other words 
that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.

-Alexander Pope 

Two years ago I wrote a blog post that has come to haunt me; we'll return to that momentarily (see, now you're on the hook).

Last week was a mixed bag. A great deal of Monday was spent unboxing what Reagan received for her birthday. Instead of harassing people over lightbulbs & toilet paper, the EPA ought to be all over the people who package children's toys. The amount of cardboard & plastic & those hard, hard twisty ties used to package toys is unbelievably excessive. Our trashcan (the big one outside we haul to the road once a week) was full by Tuesday afternoon. I don't know that I've ever, in nearly five years of blogging, shared this with you, but Friday is our trash day, so you see the problem a full can on Tuesday presents.

Tuesday & Wednesday were the perfect introduction to the non-schedule schedule that's ahead of us in the coming weeks. I asked my mom to text me Tuesday morning to remind me to go pick Reagan up at school, as I am not usually the Tuesday school pick-up point person.

Tuesday threw Reagan off her game as well. She was told to wear her favorite Christmas pajamas to school for a, "Happy Birthday, Jesus!" celebration, & as is the case with most celebrations, this one was carb-heavy.

Her favorite Christmas pajamas are completed by a tutu, naturally.

Henry & I retrieved Reagan & went through the window at Chick-fil-A so we'd all have a few nuggets in our belly before heading to the grocery store. Reagan expressed some concern over going in the grocery store in her pajamas, but I assured her that adults do it too. Not this adult, mind you, but some other adults. Yes, I leave the house in my pajamas, but only when everything on my to-do list can be accomplished via a window. I have standards.

After unloading the kids & the groceries, we had about ten minutes to sit & gear up to head out again, this time to Nana & Papa's house. The kids were dropped off with Nana while Papa & I headed to the theater to see Mockingjay. My dad read the series a few years ago (at my urging), & so I graciously agreed to see the film again with him. When it's Tuesday & I'm sitting in the theater, sharing a huge tub of popcorn with my dad, you know it must be Christmas Break. You can find Gordon a variety of places on a Tuesday afternoon, but rarely is the movie theater one of them.

So that brings us to Wednesday. I'll tell you more about Wednesday in just a moment. I know, I know. Stringing you along today, I am.

A few weeks ago, I wrote this in which I ramble for a bit about the heroines I was reading at the time, Jane Eyre & Katniss Everdeen. By the way, this is not the post I've come to regret (still on the hook, you are).

Having seen the second half of Mockingjay twice now & having finished reading Jane Eyre, I'd like to add a few thoughts to those I shared about a month ago. The original post mentions that both women return to a love they thought they'd lost. This is true, however little is said about the agonizing journey back, or about what these women, & the men they love, learn in the process.

There is a sentence in the final chapter of Mockingjay that I both love & hate. It reads, "Peeta and I grow back together." Um, what? What? When I initially read the series I was of course thrilled that they find their way back to each other after the many agonies that befall them throughout the course of the series, but I'd appreciate some dialogue or something.

Neither Katniss & Peeta nor Jane & Rochester would work in their original coupling; they have to be torn apart, shaken to their core, & then rejoined. They have to, "grow back together," a phrase I love & one that reminds me of a fantastic line in the Journey song "Faithfully:" I get the joy of rediscovering you. Sigh. You're the man, Steve Perry.

Anyway, the things they learn (about themselves & about the person they love) while apart are invaluable. Rochester loses his sight & is maimed, forcing him to rely on Jane when she returns to him, a reversal of the roles in which the reader first comes to know them, when Rochester is constantly tugging, leading Jane here & there.

Only when Katniss loses Peeta's constant, devoted love does she realize how bleak her life is in its absence. She begins to rethink her words & actions, cringing & wishing she'd known before what she comes to learn when the Capitol takes Peeta from her.

With these ladies & their respective gentlemen in my head, I rose early Wednesday morning. Wednesday morning was a tough one for me. I left a coughing Henry with his grandmother & took Reagan to school. Her Christmas Party was to begin shortly after school started, so I stayed, lurking in the doorway or in the hall & enjoying watching her interact with her friends. I also watched as the food for the party was unveiled, & internally I began to fall apart.

After seeing what would be placed before her, I told Reagan we needed to go ahead & get some medicine in her. I knew things were going to get ugly, numerically speaking. She walked out of her classroom & down the hall with me & showed me the bench where she sits with Trey when he comes to give her medicine for her cookie(s) on Wednesdays. That broke my heart a little. She was very matter-of-fact about it all. She was three when diagnosed. I don't know the extent of any memories she has from before her diagnosis, but she's yet to have a meltdown about why she has to have medicine, etc. She obviously prefers for her number to be checked & her medicine dialed up & given outside of her classroom, but she's very grown-up about it all.

I gave her a lot of insulin. I also set a temporary basal rate, upping the basal amount she'd be receiving by a tad for a few hours.

Some of the merriment:

I saw some terrible, terrible numbers Wednesday afternoon. We never hit 400 (that I caught), but it took me longer than I'd have preferred to get her down from the rafters. At some point Wednesday night, I sat down with my laptop & clicked on the stats page of the blog.

Someone was reading this blog, titled "Feast or Famine," that I originally posted December 10, 2013. It seems someone is always reading this particular blog. I don't know why, exactly. Maybe it pops up in some common search or something, but for a blog that's been up over two years, I'd say at least once a month it shows up in my stats feed.

Don't worry, you're not being stalked. At least not by me. I mean, I'd been blogging over two years before I realized there is numeric data I can access pertaining to my own blog. Seriously. Anyway, there's nothing particularly special about this blog from two years ago. It chronicles our first Thanksgiving with the new babes, Henry & Maisie, & there are, of course, a lot of pictures. In the closing paragraphs, I make this statement, "I'd like to teach Reagan that Christmas is about more than going into debt (or a diabetic coma) . . . "

A little over a month after I typed that, she was diagnosed with diabetes. Every time I see someone has pulled that blog up, I think about that line. Yes, I could edit it. Yes, I could delete the blog entirely, although it's included in the book I printed for 2013 so evidence would remain.

I can't help but think of Paul. I don't want to compare myself or Katniss (or Jane or Rochester) to Paul, but goodness, sometimes people are foolish & ignorant & their ignorance naturally flavors their words & their actions & it is not until they are stripped bare, blinded, or otherwise humbled that they see themselves fully & truly.

Not only do I obviously regret my poor choice of a phrase two years ago (a phrase that enrages me now, as it's one usually uttered by people who have no understanding of what leads to a diabetic coma), I also regret having lived a long time largely oblivious to & willfully ignorant of the fact that perspective is not only important in understanding people, it is perhaps vital to being able to befriend them, help them, love them, & maybe even lead them to Christ.

If Reagan's diabetes has taught me anything (I mean aside from a whole lot of stuff about the human body), it is that there are people all around me (& all around you) every day who're fighting battles you cannot imagine. My mom learned years after she'd graduated high school that some of her fellow Bastrop Rams thought she was a snob because she was so very shy.

Don't assume the mom at the kids' Christmas party is a snob or is uninterested in her child's activities; she may be quietly having a meltdown inside, calculating carbs as her daughter gleefully shovels them in, oblivious to the damage they're doing to her tiny body. She may be weighing the pros & cons of keeping her child home on party day in the future, rather than face another afternoon of what are certain to be horrific sugar readings.

I don't know what your personal demons are. It's likely they're not written on your face or on a T-shirt. I don't know what burdens you carry or what sometimes sends you quietly to the corner, but I think I have learned enough to know it is unfair to make assumptions about why you are over there, disassociating yourself from the group, from the merriment.

There is a scene in Mockingjay that I think is particularly well done, well-acted. Peeta, for those of you who've been under a rock & haven't read the books, is a Capitol prisoner at the conclusion of Catching Fire. When he is rescued, it's discovered that the Capitol has interfered with his memories, altering them significantly, resulting in him forgetting that he loved(s) Katniss. He believes Katniss is dangerous & he sees her as his enemy. The second half of Mockingjay (the book & the film) traces his journey back - back to himself, & back to Katniss. In the film (& I've seen it twice now & thus had ample time to analyze) there is a scene in which gunfire is being exchanged, but when it ceases, Peeta is curled into himself, shaking like a leaf & muttering incoherently. It perfectly encapsulates Peeta's storyline in Mockingjay. Despite all that's happening around him, Peeta's primary battle throughout that final novel is with himself.

Having just seen the movie Tuesday night, I thought about Peeta, cowering & shaking & having a conversation with himself, while I attempted to appear to be lighthearted Wednesday morning.

Sometimes perspective can only be gained by enduring hardship. Paul was literally blinded in order to finally see himself & his actions clearly. Rochester is also blinded, & literally walks though fire toward his redemption & a reconciliation with Jane. Katniss loses the one thing that was a constant in her tumultuous life, Peeta's love, but this is what it takes for her to realize how desperately she wants it.

I don't want to bemoan our situation any further. I just want to share with you what I've learned, & encourage you to give thought to life from another's perspective, especially when you find yourself at odds with someone, when you're tempted to judge their behavior quickly & harshly. You may not know, not today, & maybe not ever, what is happening in people's lives; not everyone has a blog where they spill their guts, you know. Regardless, even if they are sullen & mean only for the sake of being sullen & mean, they still need you (& me!) to show them patience & the love of Christ.

There's nothing you can do about the past. You can't unsay things or undo actions; you can't edit. You can gain some perspective though, & then the wrongs of yesterday that niggle at you will at least count for something. Paul behaved as he did because he didn't know any better; once he was enlightened, he became one of the greatest forces for good, for Christianity, this world has ever seen. The man persecuted Christians, & then wrote half the New Testament, even while in chains for Christ.

Learn from the past. Do better, be better, be kinder, choose your words carefully, & attempt to see the world through someone else's eyes; cake is not always cake, to use a Peeta-centric metaphor. To some, cake is a slab of carbohydrates, a math equation to be worked through. May we all be wiser today, & wiser still tomorrow.

There are presents still to be wrapped (because there are presents still to be delivered), & various other loose ends to tie up before the big day. The calendar tells me that, the Lord willing, we'll chat once more this year before saying goodbye to 2015.

I pray you have a Merry Christmas. I challenge you to spend Christmas in someone else's shoes, metaphorically. It's tiring, it is, when you're the magical elf who makes Christmas happen. I'm too old to be an elf, you know? See Christmas through your kids' eyes, instead of your tired thirty-something eyes. See Christmas through the eyes of the widows you know. See Christmas through the eyes of those who're spending this holiday without family they love, separated by distance, or even death.

I'm going to tell you one last thing I've learned since Reagan's diagnosis, & that is this: every day, we're confronted with the option to wallow in our sorrows, or to give thanks for our blessings. I don't always opt for the latter, I am ashamed to say. I did some wallowing last Wednesday afternoon. Every week, but particularly this week, I have countless reasons to be thankful, & when prayers of thanksgiving are on my lips, there is not much room for griping.

Much love to you all, & Merry Christmas,


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