Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: Learning to Fly

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Learning to Fly

When I travel by air, I still fight for a window seat like a 6-year-old girl flying for the very first time. As many times as I have flown over the years, I have yet to understand the people who snap the slider on their window shut and instantly bury themselves in their laptop computers or the newspaper when they have the amazing opportunity to watch the contours of the earth pass gracefully underneath the wings of the plane. I love watching the mountains slide slowly by like mosquito bites marring a checkered expanse of farmland, tiny confetti squares of cars and trucks inching along delicate ribbons of freeway, and glinting, turquoise backyard pools catching the sun's bright light like exotic gems. From the air, the earth is quiet and peaceful, and everyday structures created by mankind look nothing short of wondrous to me. From my cramped seat high in the air, it is hard to imagine anything on the ground isn't absolutely perfect and serene. When I saw this photo of our house taken from above, it was odd seeing my familiar surroundings from another point of view. In looking at this photo, one would have no idea that there was a highly irritated woman inside trying to work on the brink of phoning the authorities and wondering why the hell there was a helicopter buzzing the house repeatedly all afternoon (now I know how Madonna feels). At the time, I didn't know there were photographers hovering over various parts of town snapping photos to sell. My point is that it is not possible to see a lot of detail or many of the things that were happening in this photo, although life was extraordinarily busy that day.

After my last post, I have done a lot of thinking. I have laughed hard and cried harder in response to what everybody who responded wrote. When I was in the middle of writing this week, I felt like I was tapping into a very sinister vein of emotion, but now that I take a step back and look at what came from my heart, I see hope there, too. By watching the WS videos, I have taken a look into what we can expect in general with Erik, even though his life may turn out to be different than what we expect. It was the most difficult thing I have ever done, but I was ready for it, and I believe I am now equipped to handle meeting other WS families with older kids or adults. I can now attend the convention in a couple of years without having to grieve later, at least to this degree. I do not have to fear accidentally running into a WS family somewhere and having a complete breakdown for days afterwards because it was too much of a shock and I had no idea what to expect. I can do a lot of things I would not have been prepared to do only days ago. There is a lot of grieving left to do, and I know I have a long way to go yet, but I feel like I am making some progress. I understand that everybody is different and has their own method and speed of coping and that a lot of you are in different places emotionally, including my own husband. It is comforting to me to realize that this is not a race and that it is okay to say, "Whoa, I'm so not ready for this," and take a couple steps back, even if it means changing your mind about where you are. One of my very good friends here has taught me I have the right to feel what I feel without apologizing for it. There are days I feel strong and other days I simply don't. What is beautiful about the girls I have gotten to know in this is that no matter where they are in this process, they don't hesitate to cry and laugh with me with a general understanding of what I am going through and never seem to judge me for what I write. As for the people around me who are not in this situation, they have been wonderful, too. At the beginning of this, one of them gave me a copy of the serenity prayer that Alcoholics Anonymous uses, and this prayer, along with some of your recent comments and thoughts about where you are in your personal journey, helped me realize that looking into the future to be prepared can be undeniably useful yet, in general, the "one day at a time" approach to life is the only way I am going to get through this. When I look at what likely remains of my life and the years ahead, I am scared out of my mind and want to hide in my closet with a bottle of very cheap wine and a giant bag of chocolate-dipped Oreos. However, if somebody asked me if I could just get through today, I would not hesitate to say that I could. Not a problem! That I can do. It's simple yet powerful knowing I can very easily survive a single day, no matter how bad or good it is. My answer would have been quite different five months ago, as I was living hour by hour for the very first time in my life. These days, I can't promise you I'll make it a month, a week, or even two days in a row yet, but I am confident I can make it through one more day. I might not do it gracefully, but I can do it. I can take one day at a time forever if I have to, like rungs on a very long ladder. Now that I have the overview of what WS means, I am going to try this approach. I have been thinking of the things that bring me joy, and my generally yawn-inducing day-to-day life provides me a great deal of pleasure. Erik has given me a greater capacity for enjoying the simple things every day.

It is very nice to now have an overview of the Williams world from a relatively small window, even though it doesn't necessarily provide me with an accurate reflection of all that is true and there are undoubtedly surprises that are not yet visible from where I am at this moment. It is wonderful to be on this journey with you and listen to the description of what you are seeing with me, whether you have a child with WS or not. Thank you for your companionship and being brave enough to tell me that you are a little scared of flying, too. If you ever feel overwhelmed while looking down at the big picture, don't forget to come back to put both feet on the ground and deal with one day at a time. If you need me, I'll be right here doing the same thing.

The Serenity Prayer
by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.



Blogger Lisa R said...

I love the "The Serenity Prayer" always have :)and you know what else? I love you and I am happy and honored to face this journey as your friend. We are yotally going to make it and so are our kids. Love you tons :) Lis

9:26 PM  
Blogger Kerry said...


You are RIGHT on target --- we all have our own speeds and we need not compete with each other... just drive and we will all meet up sometime!

You are a fabulous person with such strength... i am honored to have met you. Love lots!

7:06 PM  

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