Sometimes, mostly when I’m exhausted, I start feeling sorry for myself. It’s not a very flattering admission to make, but it’s true. Lately, for a variety of reasons, I’ve been feeling worn out, irritated, and a little bit scared. This has led me to have some mini pity parties that I’ve (mostly) kept to myself. If I’m not careful about these episodes, I get sucked down into a full-blown depression that takes a while to get out of. I might have started spiraling today if not for what happened.
I took my son to get a haircut this morning. He loves to go and chat with the gals who work there, so as he settled into the chair, he started with his usual questions and chatter. He’s not in any way quiet about his perseverations with people, and a gentleman who was waiting for his own haircut made a small comment to me about my son. I mentioned that he had autism, and the gentleman started telling me about the son of a friend of his who also has autism and how that kid loves baseball facts and recites them all the time. We chatted quietly about this for several minutes.
Then, out of nowhere and with great sadness in his eyes, this gentleman says to me, “My daughter became a paraplegic on June 2. She’s 29. I am wiped out.”
Talk about a cosmic smack.
I’m not sure what made this man tell me the story of his daughter’s accident. I sensed in him a desperation to connect and feel normal. I understand that because I’ve been there. When you’re living through a trauma or major life change, you reach out to whomever will listen. You long to know you’re not alone in your grief and sadness.
As he told the story of how she had climbed a tree to take a photo of the sunset, my eyes filled up. The branch had been hollowed out by bugs or disease and snapped, sending her falling to the ground. In that single moment, her life changed. His life changed.
And I had woken up this morning feeling sorry for myself because I’m exhausted.
I believe that gentleman was an angel sent to remind me to be thankful for my blessings, to remind me that life as I know it – even though it may not be the exact way I want it – can change at any given moment. My exhaustion can be extinguished with sleep and self-care. His daughter will never walk again.
My son’s haircut was speedy, and I had to leave. I wish I’d been able to chat with the gentleman longer because I think he needed it. I think he needed a stranger to hear his story and validate his pain and sadness. I hope I did. I thanked him for sharing his story with me, and I told him I would be keeping his family in my thoughts. He thanked me with a sad smile.
I kissed my handsome boy on the forehead as we walked out the door, realizing suddenly that my tiredness had completely disappeared.