My junior year in high school, a friend asked me “where is swimming ever going to get you in life?” I trained six days a weeks for 2-3 hours, 11 months a year. I was often tiered and sore, and I didn’t exactly have a lot of time to go to parties or get into the mischief that many 17 year olds do. While I had a list back then of all the things swimming added to my life, it dawned on me today that I have an additional set of skills that I had never recognized:
I can do hard things without losing site of the positives.
You see, every day at swim practice I was given a challenge. As a teenager, I had a particularly “creative” coach who enjoyed creating new workouts to push us to our limits and basically torture us. I learned quickly that there were two ways I could react: I could whine and complain, or I could smile and embrace the challenge. Many days, it was a fake smile, but I tried to be positive nevertheless. I learned to focus on the next step, and not let the bigger obstacle overwhelm me. I would focus on why we were doing that specific workout, and what I could gain from it. I would try to make positive comments to my team mates, because hearing those comments out loud helped me finish the next thing. That’s not to say I didn’t sometimes cry, or lose my temper, or have a bad day. No one can be “on” every day. But in general, I tried to face every workout with a positive attitude.
Now, to present day:
I have heard others comment many times that my life is hard. My life is very structured, I have a lot things I have to remember to do every day (that are above and beyond what other parents do), and forgetting/missing something can have life altering consequences for Lyra. I left my career, and I have to focus all of my energy on what Lyra needs to stay healthy and have the best quality of life possible. But, I always flinch when people tell me that my life is hard. I totally get that they are recognizing the work that I do, but I just don’t view my life like that. I have hard moments. I have hard days/weeks/months. But if I got bogged down in all of the things in my life that are so different, I would miss the positives. I wouldn’t hear the giggles when Lyra is doing something she knows she isn’t supposed to. I wouldn’t enjoy the brief cuddles that are her way of saying “I love you.” I wouldn’t recognize the joy she gets from swimming in the pool. And I wouldn’t see the peace she feels when picking my flowers in my garden.
Are parts of my life hard? Yes. I manage 20+ providers for Lyra, and have special meetings for her school. I rarely go a day without needing to send an email or make a phone call. Even on weekends. I have had to face the reality that I don’t know when I will lose her. I have watched her almost die. I have listened to doctor after doctor tell me that some part of her is abnormal/not working correctly….. and they have no idea what it means because they have never seen a case like hers before. I have cleaned up more puke and poop than I care to think about it. I can’t travel like I used to, and international travel is off the table. Some places simply aren’t safe to take her, even if I’d love to share them with her. I basically never sleep through the night. I can be awake anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, depending on what she needs. And even at 7 years old, I have to frequently life and carry Lyra.
All of this is true, but I don’t view my life as “hard”. It’s different, and not what how I envisioned parenthood. If I let myself get overwhelmed everyday by the challenges, I would miss everything good about my life. And there is a lot of good. I view my life, and the life of my children, as being full of joy, laughter, and love. On days that I don’t want to smile, I try to do it anyways. When others are having a tough day, I try to say something positive, because I need to hear myself say it our loud. I have hard days and hard times. I cry and yell and think about how unfair things can be for her. But I don’t let those things become my life. Because there is a lot of good. There is a lot of positive. I can do hard things, and life can still be good.
Also, just like at swim practice, I don’t do it alone.