My Son’s Open-Heart Surgical Scar Reminds Me Of…

Would you say that you are one of the many people today that lean heavily on the statement… “everything happens for a reason”, especially after an emotional event? Attaching a meaning to a traumatic moment seems to help many cope with the shock that trickles in quickly thereafter. Although I could empathize with this very “protective” behavior, I do not believe the mainstream superstition behind this claim. But I will admit that I have an ability to work out a lesson nonetheless; a “what’s the moral to this story” from almost anything that has occurred in my life. We can all thank our favorite childhood fables like The Boy that Cried Wolf or Little Red Riding Hood for instilling that useful habit. After each relationship, I’ve learned how to make better partner options. After each uncomfortable call with a debt collector, I’ve learned better budgeting skills. After each medical scare I’ve learned how to take better care of myself. Even after burning toast a few times, I get to “know the settings” of each new toaster allowing me to achieve a perfectly golden brown slice. Aside from the toast, these experiences have provided very valuable lessons that have changed my life … although my oldest toast-lovin’ son will beg to differ on the latter. He says I make the best buttered toast. Now there’s an accolade you don’t often come across.

I’m very comforted by the fact that I personally bear the control to draw out the lesson (or lessons) from all that happens, and NOT that every event was set, destined or allowed to happen to provide me with a lesson or test.

Think about that for a minute. Imagine IF for just one second I was wrong.

My youngest son who is to turn 4 in a few months comes to mind. Some know my experience with him, but I’ll fill you in. When I was about 6 months pregnant, my munchkin was diagnosed with TGA (Transposition of the Great Arteries). In a nutshell, a fluke in his arteries. They were flipped from their normal position. Simply put… he could survive “normally” inside of me since I was breathing for him, but he would not survive in the real world without having to undergo open heart surgery for an arterial switch immediately after being born.  We had already gone through 2 rounds of IVF to create him, now we had to keep him alive.

When I look back at the moment I shared the medical news with others, an outpouring of emotional suggestions came with it. Pray to god was the most popular. Pray to Jehovah for strength and comfort. Some even went as far to assure me that “everything will be alright”. There were other reminders sent my way… “Jehovah doesn’t abandon those that serve him” and “God does not test us beyond what we can handle”.

We set out for the best surgeon for this procedure. We carried on until the memorable day that my son came in to this world. I couldn’t even touch his newborn skin since they had to rush him away to get him hooked up to a breathing tube and stabilize him. I saw him for only 2 seconds then I was left in that room, alone, to contemplate all that had happened to lead up to this moment and to meditate on all that we would about to experience.

Fast forward … my son survived it, and so did we. So, does that mean that everyone was right? Everything WAS going to be alright? God did not abandon us? He gave us the strength needed?

What lessons did I make sure to pull from this experience?

  1. If what others or what the bible teaches is correct, I would have to rest on the fact that God had tested us. He tested us with the life of an unborn child. An innocent baby. A human life. Sure, it wasn’t beyond what I could handle, but it does not minimize the lack of moral standing of testing someone with the life of another.
  2. I gained strength in the love I had for my son. I gained strength as all parents do when it means having to protect their young. We had insisted on creating him, no way we were giving up now.
  3. Prayer did not help save my son. A cardiologist that detected the condition early on did. A team of doctors that came together. A surgeon did. His skill and experience in this procedure gave my son a chance of survival. And a blood transfusion is what sealed that deal. Even though the surgery itself was a success, a child that small and new could not generate enough blood on his own to bring up his levels. And according to the religious organization I once belonged to, that action in itself is going against god, so obviously, god did not save my son, nor was god with us.
  4. That morality and a sense to do good and what’s right comes from within and from logical thought. Not through the hundreds of different teachings and beliefs in the world.

Seeing my son’s scar is a constant reminder to live, to explore, to learn and to grow. And saving my son’s life was the moral thing to do, the right thing to do, the human and loving thing to do. And how dare anyone try to tell me or guilt me in to thinking otherwise.

— The Pretty Platform

 

 

I Questioned my fear… and I learned from it

I’ve made many changes this year. Due to that, as of late, I’ve been taking advantage of every moment of silence to pull apart the inner depths of who I am, what I want and how to reach my goals. On the bus to and fro from the NY office, there are days I never get around to opening the book I’m reading. As I drive to the daycare, I rather listen to my own thoughts than blast the radio to the sounds of Adele. And say what you’d like, but on our way back home, to allow for my moments of meditation, I equip the boys with their own tablets and headphones. Everyone is happy and to cover my parental bases, I make sure to ask them about their day as I’m tucking them in to bed at night.

These moments when I’m deep inside my head, despite the amount of people and commotion that surround me can be enlightening or filled with anxiety, many times both. I have not yet found a way to take up residence in the confines of my mind and not have an emotion emerge from the experience. Positive or negative though, it’s quite educational.

One emotion that had surfaced some time ago was fear.  Traveling in to your own head and heart can be a scary thing.  I had to quickly sort out exactly where it was stemming from and learn how to combat it. This required more thought, more meditation, and it was time to use my analytical skills.  I had to walk down that stereotypical path of “facing my fears”. I made sure to question everything to help understand everything. I summoned up the basics I learned back when I was in school and found that using the five W’s was useful at a moment like this.

Below are a few of the questions I found needed resolution (not all are included since this brain was on constant overload). Personally, I found it helpful to write these down in a journal for the occasional reference.

 

Who?

Who am I, for real, deep down, without filter, without guilt, without imposed expectations? Who do I want to be? Who’s supportive of my life and decisions? Who’s a true friend? Who can I count on, eyes closed and heart open? Who’s been there through it all without judgement?

What?

What do I expect of myself and others? What positive things do others bring in to my life? What drama and negativity do I need to avoid? What am I so concerned about? What purpose do I want to fulfill, not what others or an organization expect me to fulfill? What makes me happy? What have I learned from this experience?

When?

When did this all begin? Was the timing of my changes right for me and my family? When do I want to take a stand against negative folks and negative talk? When will I say “enough is enough”? When will I give everyone else that bring nothing to my table the finger?

Where?

Where do I place those that have turned their backs on me as far as importance in my life? Where do I see them in the future? Will their absence truly matter? Am I in a better place without them?

Why?

Why was this bothering me? Why are they behaving this way? Why does it matter? Why do others that claim to be good people find justification to treat others so poorly? Why did I need to make the changes in my life despite the risks?

How?

For journalistic integrity, I instinctively kept in the How as well. This part was definitely essential…. How do I move forward? How do I close the door on the ugly and open the door to a brighter me? How do I release the fear of losing some people, or being judged or shunned? How do I accept the inevitable?

 

After I answered all of the above honestly I realized that the people I was so concerned about were not in my life when I was at my happiest or when I was most in need. They were not there to contribute one iota to my goals, they were not there when I got married, they were not there when I was caring for my ailing mother. They either provided superficial support when my youngest son needed open heart surgery or they weren’t there at all. Plus they didn’t care to understand my changes by asking questions or showing interest.

I realized that the reason stepping deep in to my brain and heart was so scary was because they were taken hostage for so long by the organization I belonged to. My thoughts and heart needed to belong to their teachings. If I veered from that, even in the slightest I would lose everyone that was part of my social circle, my children would lose their so called friends, my religious family would easily turn their backs on us all. And in the process I had to forget who I was, who I truly was, forget who my children could be and mold in to their expectations. But we all grow up some time. Just as children need to leave the nest and find a great big wonderful world out there filled with adventure and information and make it on their own, at 44 I finally grew up and away from the trapped expectations of others.

What I once feared losing is what I now fear being a part of. May they too find their true selves one day.

 

— The Pretty Platform

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fear Life… Not GOD

When we’re kids, the norm is to be taught by our parents with regards to what’s right and wrong. Along with that, teachers seem to also have a hand in how our psyche evolves toward these two elements given how much time we spend under their influence. I’m no doctor, but I was definitely a kid, and as kids, we are vulnerable and modifiable to the standards by which we are raised.

Right or wrong. Yes or no. Stop or go. If you’re a kid, you hear these CONSTANTLY. As an adult, you hand these out like hotcakes to your own kids.

And with these standards come the dreaded consequences. A smack to the hand, a timeout, no gadget time, parental disappointment. Temporary stings that adults hope will be enough to teach these little people cause and effect.

What happens though when you’re all grown up?

In most cases knowing the difference between right and wrong can be simple. It can be logical, so as long as the adult, for argument sake is of sane mind and emotion. As for the scenarios where the line between the two get a little fuzzy, for the most part, it’s an ethical stand that begins to trump logic. But the logical aspect of even those blurred moments still hold the foundation of the argument in question. “Sure, it’s still wrong to (kill, cheat, steal)… although (A, B or C, fill in the blank with self-defense, true love, poverty)“.

And what is our punishment as adults for these infractions? Again, logic comes in to play here. If the offense is one against a set governmental law then we get court time to be then handed our sentence accordingly. Not difficult folks. Depending what that judge and jury dishes out, the “sting” can be either temporary or fatal.

Cause and effect.

Now take the two; childhood and adulthood and add the FEAR OF GOD to the equation. What happens then? Does it change anything? Does it change people? Without thinking it through, you may instantly say that it does, but I can tell you with all certainty that it does NOT change a thing. Don’t be too quick to get offended. My statement is not one of blasphemous or critical nature. That’s just reality.

Growing up, as many other kids, I was initially taught about a heaven and hell. An eternal hell-fire that waits for anyone, man or child if disobedient to god. A place of torture as the ramifications of going against his written rules. Other religions do not teach about this place of torture, but it does provide eternal death as the consequence. Long term punishment. From a higher being. Your creator gives you life and he can easily take it away or make you pay forever.

Cause and effect.

What I have noticed is that the knowledge of someone more powerful than yourself does NOT deter someone from taking a certain path. Knowing the possible consequence of a Hell or eternal death is not enough. Even those that are “god fearing” do not take this as their foundation of determination. I was raised in two different religious organizations, and although they are filled with some very spiritually righteous people, they are also filled with the spiritual inversion of that. Sure, you find that everywhere in the world, but my point though is that being closer to god, or neck-deep in religious activities, or truly believing in a god does not change your desire to act differently. People don’t truly fear god. If they did, they wouldn’t  “serve” god and sleep with someone before being married. If they truly feared god, they wouldn’t smoke. If they truly feared god, they wouldn’t gamble, or swear, or get inebriated or secretly celebrate events that are against their organization. They wouldn’t consult psychics, masturbate or watch porn. They wouldn’t allow women to teach (I understand your reaction to this last one, but hey, it’s actually in the bible). They wouldn’t try to justify their actions with their “imperfect” ideas. They wouldn’t minimize their god’s standards with human reasoning. They just don’t fear god.

What have I seen though? That many of these very same people (myself included) do actually fear, but it’s life and the consequence their actions have in ‘learned’ effects that they (we) fear. Smoking can equal cancer and other ugly and painful health issues. Constant inebriation can lead to alcoholism, blackouts, cheating. Sleeping around can lead to diminished dignity, disease, unplanned pregnancy. Cheating will most likely lead to a broken family, lost trust, and in many cases violence (a partner scorned is a dangerous thing). Drugs can lead to brain, heart and organ damage along with crime, violence and even death. The smaller stuff like swearing like a truck driver is usually perceived as unprofessional (although I occasionally curse too).

As a kid, I watched my nephew, who I adored make some very bad decisions in life. And with those decisions came a life that I definitely did NOT want anything to do with. So with each of his actions, I did the complete opposite. We used to joke around how he paved the path for me and my “better” life. He used to claim all the credit as to why I avoided the “expected” life of a young Hispanic girl being raised by a single mom in the hood. We joked about it… but it was entirely true. His life became unnecessarily difficult, lonely and dangerous. I FEARED his life although I was taught to fear god.

More kids today need to be exposed to this unwanted life, to the reality of a decisions outcome within their lifetime. Kids and teens alike need to understand, up front, in their face what can happen to people when they make the wrong decisions. Not through a TV screened commercial. Not through a FB article on their phone. Not through a YouTube video. And certainly not through a supposed “on paper” teaching of a torturous flamed destination.

Will this help with everyone? No, but it will up your chances as a parent to avoid heartache if your child feared real consequences. If they truly learn and grasp other people’s suffered consequences. If they see where they can land in life, and talk to the people best suited to tell them the truth. As a parent you can find the best way to do this for your child, but take it from this chick…. without that type of exposure, I’m not sure how much I would have truly feared.

And for THAT, although saddened for my nephew (who has passed away), I am still grateful for having SEEN his truth.

— The Pretty Platform