by Ali Valdez
It only took one look. The dark circles gradually building up around the eyes, the sallow pallor to her skin. When she came home once full of chatter, now she collapsed into naptime, met me at the dinner table with ennui and took an apathetic interest in my cooking. My normally perky little peach, aka Bunz, wasn’t feeling herself. Or looking herself either.
During the summer, I was heavily contemplating keeping my daughter out of school. The reasons ranged from the practical to the philosophical to the indulgent. Is it just me or is anyone else loathing the implementation of Common Core? I have found her passion for mathematics dwindling. Lice is rampant at her school. In the first two months she contracted it three times and just last week there was another outbreak. Although I really admire her teacher and the collaborative approach to learning that her third grade teachers have, I am not a fan of the level of education that she is receiving versus what I was learning and reading at her age.
My kid is bright, inquisitive, demanding and creative. She loves to laugh, play and explore. These are all attributes that I feel the conformity of public education seeks to siphon out of our youth.
Also we love to travel. We held a demanding travel schedule over the past year as I built several businesses requiring international insights and networking. I have always been a big advocate of travel and experience. We even had a plan to travel to Costa Rica this week.
But that all changed.
Any notion of things following plan or keeping the elements of my life under control were lost, even shattered that first time she fell asleep while sitting in the bathtub, or pushing her full plate away to fall asleep at the table.
Feeling at a loss when the usual tricks up my sleeve failed to prevail over these unusual symptoms, I went to a medical clinic. Lacking the big corporate health insurance benefits I once enjoyed at Microsoft, I thought this would be my only option as a first line of defense until I was issued a referral. It saddens me honestly that some people actually view Western medicine as effective. In my experience, and we went to the same clinic twice in two weeks and was sent off with vague diagnosis, minimal questioning and two rounds of back to back antibiotics which did in fact nothing to improve her condition. Meanwhile at home, I am scratching my head (but not from the lice) thinking through every possible scenario: environmental, mold, diet, psychosomatic, travel, etc. If there was a way to intellectualize, rationalize and hypothesize what was happening to my daughter’s declining health, I pulled it through some sort of thought process.
But from bed all she wanted was Mommy to hold her.
Two weeks without any yoga practice, I have held her hand, brushed her hair out of her face while she slept, made sure the covers stayed over her shoulders. I’ve made teas, soups, rubbed her feet, prayed over tummies, and cried at night when she was asleep. My yoga has been laundering sheets, sterilizing toothbrushes and airing out the house. My yoga has been longer, more pregnant pauses, sitting in stillness not working on bandha engagements but on soul connection.
This has nothing to do with intellectualizing; it has to do with being present in care and loving.
So much of my approach to life is about seeking to understand. Understand not so much to accept but to strategize on how to best control, mitigate risk and optimize returns. You would be this way too, I suspect, if you were also raised to be a high-performing, Type A, strategic thinking type.
You know who isn’t like that? My older brother Larry.
Larry was a PT and nurse for a quadriplegic. Larry cared patiently for his wife’s ailing grandfather. He is a medic with multiple tours of duty caring for the wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. My brother lifted me into bed when after a major surgery, I still forced myself through a weekend of yoga teacher training. My brother is less of master of the situation but a master of being present in the moment; creating comfort, being fully attentive and caring for others. To care, not to think, is his MO. He is a true companion man and from that, there is a lot to learn about facing challenges in life and dealing with problems from a different vantage point.
Throughout this journey of illness, I have thought through all the scenarios: from all will go back to normal to life-threatening, a cruel pendulum of unfathomable distance between the fears conjured up by fantasy and the truth which is only relieved slowly in time.
What I have learned is control is an illusion. Nature itself is indiscriminate in how it shatters one’s conception of even being in control in the first place.
Traveling seemed amazing, now maybe that wasn’t such a great idea. Keeping her in school instead of homeschooling seemed prudent but this has been the source of so much illness being brought back into our home. Any “decisions” I make have repercussions on me and also on the mini-me but it isn’t clear any of them ultimately are better than the other. Is there a right? Now I am not so sure and I’m too tired to want to think about it, or anything.
For now, today and each day that follows, as long as necessary, I just want to be the mommy there holding her.
Tackling problems with the rationale of the mind has its pluses but will only take you so far in finding solutions. Surrender, faith, hope, diligence are all active ingredients in the remedy of understanding and living life fully. Once I let go of controlling the situation and laughing inside at my foolish assumption that I ever really could, the reigns were loosened, creating space for the slow road of healing to commence. First, I gave myself permission to press the pause button, including cancelling our trip to Costa Rica.
We have since explored my much preferred naturopathic doctors and specialists. Apparently my health insurance isn’t so bad after all, a true #simplegratitude moment. Or perhaps, I am long overdue at checking my mailbox and seeing what’s inside. Three hours of inquisition and prescription of practical at-home solutions have brought healing and line of sight in exiting out of this chapter of my daughter’s life. In Naturopathy we discussed her symptoms, anatomical indicators, took blood and did ultrasounds. We also discussed emotional health, comfort at school and with her studies, any changes at home, her diet, how she felt inside her own body. It was about her, not her symptoms rolled inside a wrapper of textbook logic.
Understanding her humanity not mastery of a medical degree is what got us on the road to recovery. We needed science and poetry on this one. Humanity requires heart not just head smarts.
My control, capacity for research and drive to know didn’t get us to that place; my heart, imagination and intuition got us on the right track. There is not controlling of the diet and the environment, there is just stability and consistency. I am committed to making the best informed choices in earnest on behalf of my family but I am walking out of the shards around my feet that once suggested in their uniformity that I have the ability to control every outcome. I have a few cuts on my feet but the further I step out of the grips of control, the closer I am to being by my daughter’s side.