Choosing Love

9 Nov

Hard to believe that it is less than two weeks since we learned that Kim has ALS. The days last much longer when you are deeply immersed in each moment. Every touch, smell, and casual glance has more meaning and there is such solace in being absorbed in those moments that we hunger for them when our minds drift. When my mind does wander it tends to land on either regret or fear. Fear and regret are very real obstacles that we process every day.

A few days ago Kim was deeply engaged in conversation with my brother so I went outside with Jack and the rest of our visiting family to tend to some fall cleanup. As I was sweeping leaves out of the garage I uncovered a blue paint spill on the floor. I knew exactly what it was from: a couple years ago Kim had saved a set of outdoor table and chairs from some combination of trash and thrift stores and was refinishing them for our back deck. I noticed she had not covered the floor as well as I would have liked and of course paint spilled out on to the garage floor. I never said anything at the time but every time I saw that paint spill I felt a pang of annoyance.

This time I was so grateful that the paint spill was still there and it reminded me of how artistic and creative Kim is. I was transported back to all of Kim’s other thrift store projects that dotted our home and how fond Kim is of pointing them out to guest. I loved that paint spill, and then cried for all the time I spent wasted on being annoyed about it. My life is filled with memories and moments that have a loving side to the story, but so often I turned away from it and let myself carry those memories around with regret or even anger. I used to think that emotions like fear and regret were simply assigned to moments, and then we had to live with them that way. As if some spiritual bureaucrat was sitting behind a desk handing out emotions based on a checklist, “your wife spilled coffee grounds on the counter again, that will be 10 minutes of quiet brooding, followed by an undercurrent of general annoyance…next!” But it turns out that by really attending to moments like this you get to choose how you feel about them – what a revelation that is.

Kim was told at one point that there is a path through this experience that includes making ALS her friend. I have to admit that when I first heard that I thought it was the stupidest and most callous thing I ever heard. But then I watched Kim turn her whole being towards this bright light of love. Just as my instinct was to circle the wagons she opened herself up bigger and bigger until there was room in her being for everything to have a place. Even the fear is not banished by rejecting it – she simply lets it pass through her, experiencing it, acknowledging its presence and then inviting it to move on. Someday I will write more about how we do that together because I have learned so much from her.  — John

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5 Responses to “Choosing Love”

  1. Nancy November 9, 2011 at 10:24 am #

    John, you have so beautifully captured some of the process that our family has experienced in the wake of Alex’s brush with death. We can choose not to frame those moments, not to freeze them in one state of emotion, and turn them into something completely different, if only we are brave enough and vulnerable enough. As much as I have learned through our experience, you and Kim are teaching me even more, every day. Thank you for sharing this gift with us.

  2. Lisa November 9, 2011 at 9:39 pm #

    Thank you for this John. I’m so grateful that you spoke about choice. My most critical life lesson in recent years has been acknowleding that I can choose my ACTION in moments of REACTION. I love that you saw the beauty in that paint spill…more, more!

  3. Mary Thompson November 11, 2011 at 8:01 pm #

    It is so true that living moment to moment makes it as though there were more time. When I was at your house today, I became completely aware of that…..but only after checking the clock twice and asking Kim if it worked! ( as a side note: I was completely enthralled in conversation, I was not by any means watching the clock in boredom). Thank you for the laugh on the emotional checklist.

  4. Jeanelle November 13, 2011 at 4:14 pm #

    Beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing these words! You both are such amazing writers and truly inspire me….every day!

  5. Nick November 28, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

    John, first and foremost thank you for sharing so openly and honestly on this blog about how ALS has affected you and your family; that takes a lot to do. I came across this web series a while ago that focuses on a young man with ALS and how those close to him rally around him to support him and I felt it might be worth a watch. Truly inspiring. What you mentioned about how every interaction with Kim is becoming more special and meaningful reminded me of the husband and wife in the series.

    Prayers and Blessings!

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