Thursday, January 29, 2009

Without Regret

She has always heard her own special tune . . . and it has been a beautiful one. She hopped and skipped over developmental milestones to join others in their journey, caring not whether she earned accolades or honors, but rather feeling the call to be by a struggler’s side to encourage them to seek the heights. Her first step at 7-1/2 months did not elicit cries of “Genius!” but instead started a Herculean effort on one older brother’s part to walk with her. Pride likely flowed heavily through his autistic view of the world (laced with the obstacles posed by cerebral palsy) as he fought to keep from being left behind, but she merely followed an instinctive call to her feet. When she heeded her natural call he received a gift of motivation – we discovered her gift of helping others long before she even knew she had gifts.

Bible clubs found her aiding a slower member at the expense of her own ribbon count. Backyard drama fests offered no starring roles for her as she directed others in their quest for applause. Though a gifted musician, she always chooses a group over solo performance. She just prefers it that way
. . . always has. “Shy?” One may ask. Nay. Reclusive? Never. Merely tuned to the call of a drum fewer hear.

As a youngster raised with two handicapped brothers and later the addition of two much younger sisters, she naturally found opportunity to lead, teach, encourage, and provide that special touch that removes the competition from a game and reveals a celebration. How much more fun to clap and cheer as your brother completes a simple puzzle than to easily beat him at a relay race. Awards come in all forms, hers seemed most often to include the holding of hands rather than the clapping thereof.

All too quickly the homeschooling roared toward graduation and decisions. Many paths, many options, but for the first time the need to “prove something” took the reins and drove her life toward the well-trodden path. SAT tests, college apps, requisites, transcripts, interviews, and auditions all mounded up before her. She climbed to the top in victory. Each college offered entrance with honor. She prayed, she chose high-caliber, and then she embarked on a journey toward the academic goals she had held in her heart from early on. She smiled through the tears as we drove away leaving precious daughter, eager musician, deep thinker, hard worker on the steps of an institution that knew her by merit, but not by heart.

In a whir and a blur the days, weeks, months, even years flew by. Big changes, strong challenges, bitter disappointments, honored achievements. Her worries melted away as her discernment grew, and along with the discernment grew a nagging doubt that this path would lead to the fulfillment of her dreams. Reading excerpts of works and hearing a professor place it au courant contradicted her core education. At home we read whole books, we examined other cultures, we saw ourselves as a part of a whole not The Center. We engaged in discussions, seemingly endless discussions, as we reached further and deeper to answer the questions spilling from our hearts and minds. All ages participated; all ideas received respect. In a quiet classroom with only one voice droning, she wondered, “How can one read a snippet of Thoreau and claim to have “read” Thoreau?”

The busy work, the tedium of quizzing to trip-up the lax readers in class, the politicking by professors as generals questing to capture the thoughts of the students and funnel them down a proscribed alleyway of thought, rather than as gatekeepers throwing wide the entrance to bigger thoughts/ideas/avenues caused a ripple of discontent. The education offered in a boxed-in classroom with prescribed notions failed to feed the soul itching to soar. Boredom took root, casting a longer shadow of doubt. Thoughts of pursuing a teaching career unraveled as she began to see the pitfalls for a dreamer in a profession much like a PR job designed to convince students to stay in school for yet another degree in hopes of securing a BIG job someday. The vain search for something other than knowledge caused her to wonder whether she had chosen the wrong pathway after all.

It would take no courage to stay. It would require great courage to pause and consider a different path. With continuous honor roll recognition and close relationships with professors, she confided and consulted with confidence. She prayed and followed her heart down a grassy lane not generally chosen.

Raised by parents who danced down unusual avenues -- having learned long ago that “boxed” offerings would not meet expectations -- she gathered herself together and set out for that less-traveled path, lush from disuse, toward a sharp bend along the way. No clear view of the destination may worry some, but hardly one of such questing stock. She set out with much wind beneath her wings and a plethora of open doorways offering respite and refuge should she choose to return to the comfort of college. Confidence ultimately financed her venture.

Today I smile as she packs her lunch and sets off for another day at massage therapy school. Her desire to help people coupled with her natural gifts of encouragement and empathy dovetail neatly into a therapeutic package. The stack of weighty books she has set by her bed (no excerpts will do) confirms that her quest for a literary education has not ceased, and her towering harp in the music room attests to her success in weaving her love of music, literature, and art with a strong thread of desire to touch another’s life for good. The less-trodden path offered the very nourishment her dreams hungered for. Her first day of therapy class brought her face-to-face with much-older students who had followed the standard path of trading dreams for school-job-$-depression-despair before they took a chance. Some needed the push of unemployment or the pain of breakdown before they acted. Thankfully, my daughter listened to her heart early enough to avoid regrets and pain.

Do I worry that without a piece of paper stating she has duly completed a college education she will somehow miss opportunities? Will I lose sleep fearing she will stand behind those with such a paper? Let me see . . . I have walked in the proscribed path of higher learning, attaching sanctioned letters to my name, eagerly reaching for the title of professor only to find the double birth of special boys shunting me off the widely-trod pavement and down a weedy and unrefined pathway to MUCH HIGHER EDUCATION (and pure joy laced with deep fulfillment) . . . I married a man who thinks so far outside the box that I don’t think he even remembers having a box (“everyone has to have a what?”) . . . I once answered the door to a cable salesman and when his product had been politely declined he volleyed, “What do you people do without TV?” (I chose to merely sweep my eyes across the bookcases larded with books, rather than defend our choice of a different path) . . . I think I can confidently encourage my daughter to follow her heart and dreams of a better way or count myself a hypocrite. As one grassy-lane traveler to another, I prefer to picnic with her along the way and celebrate without regret.


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then took the other as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet, knowing how way leads onto way
I doubted if I should ever come back

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in a wood
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference

~~ Robert Frost ~~

*Dedicated to my dear daughter, Elizabeth*


Britt-Arnhild said...

Dearest Debbie.
What a beautiful written proof of love. You are proud of your daughter, she has all reasons in the world to be prod of you.

I am proud to be counted as your friend.

Karen Deborah said...

Beautiful and a powerful life changing message in this story. Well done mom, the story, the daughter, the path, I count myself so blessed to have stumbled along to frolic as a friend and witness the joy.

Hypocrite your not. Pioneer you are, and that road less traveled? Seems to me it's actually a garden path to heath, home, faith, and love. God given wisdom and blessing and something else some have lost, freedom.

imbeingheldhostage said...

Powerful and inspiring. How lucky she is to have you as a mother!
When I went after my degree, I once had a professor tell me "It's not about the classes you take, the professors you study under. It's about showing that you can put up with the tedium, make your way through the red tape. That's what the degree tells your prospective boss".
Being an artist, that didn't sit well with me, besides, I intended to be my own boss ;-)

Karen said...

I think allowing her to choose her own path is the best thing that you can do as a parent. You done good.

Laura ~Peach~ said...

I often wonder where my feet might have led me had I had someone like you in my life at a young age... as it is I took a super rocky path and have loved most of it... and I see my kids taking the same rocky road but I do believe in the end they will arrive at the top of the hill happy and all the better for the stubbed toes along the way.
What a wonderfilled and exciting young person Elizabeth is!

Anonymous said...

My absolute favorite poem of all time. Thank you for bringing it forward for all to read. Lovely blog.

Dawn said...

This is so beautiful. Your daughter sounds like such an amazing young person. I wish her all the best as she embarks on this new path in her life. Good for her for listening to her heart, and for you, in supporting her.

sukipoet said...

A lovely story of courage. Your daughter sounds extra special and I wish her luck on the path she has chosen. She is lucky to have a mom like you who understands and appreciates her so beautifully.

FancyHorse said...

You and your daughter are amazing people. She will do well, I'm sure, with the roots and wings you have given her.

ELK said...

this tribute is a breath of fresh air
as well as a well told story

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