Would you look into the future if you had the chance? Would you want a crystal ball, even if you could do nothing to change the finale?
I used to think it was a stupid question. I used to think I would want to know. I am all for planning and lists, organization and pre-emptive worrying. I have to-do lists for my to-do lists, and ‘prepared’ flashes on my forehead. I squirm in the ambiguous, and tap my toes while sitting in the questions. I like to know the outcome before I take the action. I want to be guaranteed a positive result as I anticipate the risk. I want to taste the promise of freedom prior to the struggle and sniff the glory of success in advance of leaving the shore.
You would think I would choose the crystal ball – a future spelled out in surety, clear cut plot lines and endings marking the last page. But we don’t get to choose what we see in this crystal ball. We don’t get to sift through the tears and heartache as we zoom in on the laughter. If we couldn’t change the last word or implement detours, would you want to know? If you couldn’t use this vision as a method for change, motivation to eradicate bad habits, turn a bit more to the left, shift backwards to avoid the potholes, would you take a peek? I would have to pass.
There is a protocol found among parents. An underground network where parents can find others who share their struggles and are willing to act as tour guide for the newly exposed. They share with parents who shake with fear and stumble blindly into this new world of sickness or disability or troubles, all laced with powerlessness. They speak words of calming compassion; offer shoulders to lean on and tips for survival. The idea is that these parents who have come out the other side can offer glimmers of life at the end of the tunnel.
But what if you don’t have a happy ending to relay? What if you still wake with a racing heart and a mouth dry from fear? What if there are ups and downs, but the straight lined life has disappeared from view? What if the journey has left wounds still seeping and pockets of pain too sensitive to touch? What would you tell this new parent? Would you tell them what they ache to hear: that everything will be ok, that if you send her to this therapist or take this drug, she will be all better? Will you speak of simple steps to take in order to regain equilibrium, assurances of time marked in days rather than years for recovery? Or would you share your truth? Would you turn your crystal ball outward and offer a glimpse of a gray-lined future? Which is kinder? Which is true?
One person’s future isn’t contagious. Her outcome and life path doesn’t have to intermingle with his; her path might be uniquely tailored to fit. One parent’s trauma doesn’t have to be served at the potluck, and the journey is painted by the individual’s hand and therefore not transferrable to new participants.
That’s the thing. Hope trumps the appeal of a crystal ball. Hope balances out the worries and buoys us with salt while we paddle our challenging oceans. Hope can shade the gray with sunshine, and fill us with the promise of a better tomorrow. And if tomorrow greets us with rain, there is always another tomorrow only a day away.
If I could see what laid in store for me, I would have waved my white flag, burrowed beneath the covers and refused to emerge. If a crystal ball offers only plot, then the lessons learned would be absent. The small joys and moments of bliss would fade amidst the setbacks, and I would be too caught up in the drama to recognize the supporting cast in the wings. With too much future information, I would have dropped the course long ago.
But why am I assuming that my crystal ball would show only plot showcasing falls? Maybe it would depict waves jumped and tide pools discovered. Maybe I would see birthday cakes and cards in the mail, graduation tassels and puppy kisses. Perhaps my fortune would tell of apartments transformed into homes and visits greeted with bone-crushing hugs. Maybe belly laughter is the soundtrack and the stage is set with supportive love. Maybe gardenias bloom and hands are held, puddles to jump in as the side effect of rain.
Maybe it is only me who looks back over the past decades and lands on the bruises and failures, overlooking the warm grins and tears of joy. Maybe I would tell parents to ignore my life’s plot in favor of gearing up for their own journey.
I would tell them to be patient and get educated, to find support of their own, and to love despite the walls thrown in their face. I would tell them to look for the sprouts of life, the glimpses of truth, and to celebrate the small steps rather than waiting for the finish line. I would tell them to expect stumbles and broken bones, days of fear stirred with anxiety. I would tell them to search for the blessings, the lessons learned, the points of connection exposed. I would tell them to cry, to scream, to lament and complain. I would tell them to speak their truth and stop at nothing to save the ones they love. I would tell them my finale doesn’t have to be theirs, and that the future isn’t set in stone. I would tell them that hugs matter more than words, and hands to hold soothe more than pills. I would tell them that it’s a wordy book, but to pay attention, not only to the plot, but more to the spaces within. I would tell them that there is no crystal ball with sure results – not for me and not for them. I would tell them my story and share my wisdom gleaned.
I would tell them that should their plot twist where mine did, that they shouldn’t be fooled – it’s not about the storyline but rather the tally of blessings at the end.
I would tell them to ignore the crystal ball and to breathe in the living. I would tell them never to give up hope.