(Our peanut allergy research journey. October 7th)
WALLS AND HALLS…
“Hi, How are you?” Everyone asks. It’s seamed into a polite greeting. It’s the first thing you learn when studying a foreign language. “Bonjour, ca va”. The correct response to that is “ca va”. It means “fine”. That’s what you say. You say, “I’m fine, thank you.” That’s the polite response to the polite greeting. Any other answer might be met with a little surprise that you actually solicited conversation about your state of being. If someone replied in French, my best hope would be that confused facial expressions mean the same in any language.
I’m an honest person to a fault. I’ve had to learn to restrain my honesty for the sake of dignity and kindness, and I fail far more often than I succeed. For the past week, my “fine, thank you ” has only been half true. I truly thank you. I’m grateful you asked, I’m grateful when people are polite. I’m grateful they are genuinely caring, that “kind” still describes humankind. But the truth is, I’m not fine. I’m not damaged or alarmingly in distress. I’m just not fine. For a minute in this journey, I’m not fine.
We’ve hit a wall. He’s struggling in school. We have everything in place. The teachers are bending over backwards. Team Coleman is asking the right questions and balancing accommodations with expectations. I’m checking his assignments and keeping him accountable.
We’re hitting the books and the study guides and worksheets…
and a wall.
I’m hitting the laundry and dishes and Scouts, church, football…
and a wall.
I’m hitting the poisoned pudding and electronic diary and activity restrictions and monitoring every night…
and a wall.
I’ve hit it before. I’ve bounced back and I’ve splattered all over it. This is no different really. It just happened to show up (and I very realistically expected to see this at some point) during a clinical trial that requires a lot of grit and stamina. A clinical trial that also yields a benefit that was never even a possibility when we first learned fifteen years ago that we would need it.
Lately, when he walks the halls of school, his shoulders are slumped, his head is down, he shuffles. When he gets in the car, he sighs, asks what does he have to do tonight, lacks joy. I hear “I can’t do anything right” come out of his mouth and I hang my head, too.
I tell myself it’s typical teen stuff. I tell myself it’s temporary. I tell myself the ball’s in his court: choose joy, do the work, check your attitude. I tell myself he doesn’t deserve this, I need to lighten up, I should never have enrolled him in this trial. I tell myself I traded his safety for his self esteem and that wasn’t mine to barter with.
But when we get here, when we pull off the interstate after our 90 minute drive, he changes. He spots a good parking space, jumps out of the car, grabs his computer and Warrior blanket, and says, “Let’s go Mom!” He walks down these halls with a highly charged pep in his step, shoulders back, arms swinging, leaning into the challenge, determined to tackle it and claim the victory. He sets up camp in his hospital room, looks the nurses in the eyes, smiles, goofs around with them, and gets down to business.
I’ve never doubted his heart, he’s kind and sacrificial – he is passionate about doing this for the benefit of others as much as, if not more than, for himself. But I’ve learned something about my Warrior: I give him far too little credit for understanding how big this is.
When he’s walking down THOSE halls, he’s carrying a burden because he cares… he wants to do well in school and prove himself in what he does outside of this hospital. He’s not just down in the dumps, he’s pushing through some legitimate muck and mire. And I give him far too little credit for understanding how big this is.
When he’s walking down THESE halls, he’s carrying a torch. He will finish his leg of this race, he will finish strong. He will pave the way and pass the torch. He knows it and he seizes it. And I give him far too little credit for understanding how big this is.
Today my back is against a wall that I hit a few days ago. His determination has turned me around. His self worth has locked my buckled knees and straightened me up. His victories: getting all the answers right when I quiz him for a test, ingesting 120 milligrams of peanut powder, just knowing he has to do it all again tomorrow and NOT GIVING UP… his victories are the springboard that push me away from this wall.
The walls aren’t going anywhere. I’ll hit them again. So will he. We may hit them together. We will have moments, like this week, where we crumble to the bottom of the wall, sit and catch our breath, and help each other back up. But here’s the thing…
Between the walls are the halls. We can slump and shuffle down those halls or we can throw our shoulders back and run our race. Chances are we will do both. But we are learning that the walls of the halls are beside us, not in front of us. They are a border for a hall that beckons us to just keep moving. And we do. And we’ve learned that we give ourselves far too little credit for understanding how big this is…
“Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!” Psalm 122:7