Last week I received a Facebook message from an old friend.
Her youngest son had been diagnosed with autism, and our mutual friends suggested she contact me for guidance and support.
That happens a lot.
And I’m happy to respond and help when I can.
After we set details and coffee, I accepted her friend request and went to her Facebook page to read her public declaration of her son’s diagnosis.
My heart cracked wide open, just like it does every time.
Then one line stood out to me in bold, italicized, underlined, size 453,663 font.
“I know it’s cliché, but I never thought it would happen to me. I can’t be the parent of a special needs child. I’m not patient enough.”
Immediately I knew I had today’s blog fodder.
Thank you kindly, ma’am.
A couple of years ago, when I was shopping at Aldi, the young cashier who rang me up really impressed me and caught my attention.
She was bubbly.
I mean, this young lady was downright lovely.
And how often does that actually happen anymore?
People have just stopped being nice to strangers.
So I remembered her.
The next time I went in to Aldi, I looked for her and chose her line.
Her demeanor was the exact same during the second visit.
And the third.
So I spoke with my direct manager at the offices we manage together, and we decided to offer her a job working in one of our primary care practices.
The very first day this young lady started working for us we took her out to lunch. just like we always do with our new hires.
She spoke of her son, her hobbies, her dreams for her career…
and she said something that has stuck in my mind about her ever since.
“I don’t know why you picked me to work for you, I don’t know if I’m ready to be a real grown up.”
One of my dearest and lifelong male friends has been a bachelor for years.
Years and years.
Don’t get me wrong, he dates.
He just doesn’t commit.
We lose touch every few years, but then for one reason or another, we reconnect.
I had dinner with him recently.
Yup, still single.
I asked him why he can’t just pick a good one and settle down.
He laughed at me.
Avoided the question.
He changed the subject.
But toward the end of dinner he looked at me, sort of sadly, and said something I think we’ve all felt at one time or another.
“I’ll probably settle down eventually, I’m just not ready.”
Three years ago when I was still working at the front window at the surgeon’s office, I met a young lady who had come into the office for a consultation.
She was interested in finding out more about having weight loss surgery.
The struggles and pain and details of her life aside, she just needed some help getting her mental demons and eating habits under control, but was terribly fearful of having the procedure done.
Every once in a while when I was working in that clinic, I would connect very easily with a patient.
This was one of those times.
I sat down with her one day and listened to her talk about her addictions, her apprehensions, her curiosity about having the opportunity of a brand new life.
And after months of counseling and preparation, right when she was about ready to be signed off by the behavioral therapist to have her procedure done, I got promoted to a new position. I told her I was going to be leaving.
It was emotional for both of us.
I still remember one of the last things she said to me before I transferred.
“I don’t know if I can go through with this. I don’t know if I’m strong enough.”
Yes, my friend.
I hear you.
Believe me, I hear you.
Every single one of us at some point in our lives has been faced with something we aren’t prepared for.
That we don’t feel ready for.
Not patient enough.
Not grown-up enough.
Not strong enough.
Not ready for love.
I read something this week that read, “God gives his toughest battles to his strongest warriors.”
Isn’t that sweet?
It’s horse crap.
For a number of reasons.
God didn’t gift-wrap a little non-verbal destructo-mobile in a toddlers body and give him to a wonderfully patient, Julie-Andrews-esque, sweetheart of a perfect mama.
He gave him to ME.
A sarcastic and selfish wise-ass with zero patience and a hardened heart.
Often the things that come into our lives do not come to us because we are equipped for them.
They come to us as a means for us to change.
Not patient enough to raise a kid with autism?
The best way to develop that patience is trial by fire, baby.
Not ready to be a grown-up and act like a professional in a doctor’s office?
Good. I will coach and train and mold you until you are. And then 18 months later you’ll get offered a job in another department in the hospital making almost double what you were making at Aldi.
Not ready to have a girlfriend?
If you say so. You don’t need to be. Someone will walk into your life and show you unconditional love and care and devotion, and you will have no choice but to love again.
Whether you were ready or not.
Not strong enough to overcome your food addictions?
Well, my sweet friend, your 200 pound weight-loss begs to differ.
So here are the two bottom lines, my loves:
- We don’t have to be “enough” of anything to be ready for the task.
- If we wait until we are ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives.
Here is the number one, greatest life-lesson I have learned from raising a son with autism:
The very thing you feel you lack to be capable of the task, is the very thing the task came to change and create in you.
You aren’t equipped now?
And oh my friend, then you will be.
You will be.