My sofa calls. “Come on over and sit a while,” it says seductively, with its plump cushions and close proximity to the ultimate mind-and-heart-numbing box.
I don’t think I’m alone in celebrating the arrival of a long sought-after goal on this arduous journey we call special needs parenting — reaching a developmental milestone, getting a special school placement, securing extra services, making it through a difficult surgery or health scare — by opening up a cold one and plopping right down on that couch. Sometimes simply making it through the day is an accomplishment.
At those moments, the call of the mindless activity is extra strong. And rightly so. The body had its rhythms. It needs recovery and restoration after these feats of determination and strength.
But after a time, a small voice distracts us from our distractions. Not a siren call, but a mosquito’s buzz. It reminds us that while we may have much to celebrate, there are so many others who don’t. We wonder about those who can’t afford to hire an advocate, who can’t navigate the system, who are too busy simply surviving to make the phone calls, who don’t know they can speak up. This, I think, is the gift and the burden of parenting through so much challenge: that our heart breaks open so wide that it becomes difficult to close it again.
At that moment what can one do but get off the sofa, get back on the path, turn toward the place from which one just arrived, and reach out a hand to those who need it? We join committees, we call our representatives, we volunteer. We accept the mantle passed to us from generations of civil rights advocates whose work made so much possible for our children. We go out to meetings, we prepare presentations, we make phone calls, we sign petitions, we send money.
But the sofa beckons. Loudly. Why do we make life so hard for ourselves, we wonder.
Last night, when the sofa’s call had reached a fever pitch, I was serendipitously reminded of these inspiring words of Robert Frost:
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village though; He will not see me stopping here To watch his woods fill up with snow. My little horse must think it queer To stop without a farmhouse near Between the woods and frozen lake The darkest evening of the year. He gives his harness bells a shake To ask if there is some mistake. The only other sound’s the sweep Of easy wind and downy flake. The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.
So many of the folks I’ve met in recent years who have made advocacy and justice their life’s work inspire me. Even Bobby Kennedy, a great example of someone who could easily have whiled away the years on the sofa, on the lawn in Hyannis, at the club, but through the gift of his sister’s own challenges decided to head back out onto the trail to make the world more just for all. In fact, the last lines of Frost’s poem were found on Robert Kennedy’s desk the day he died.
In re-reading this, I am aware of how smug this post reads. Let me be honest. The woods are lovely. The sofa calls. And often I succumb. I am not trying to make anyone feel guilty, even myself, because I don’t think guilt is particularly motivating. I guess I’m just trying to say thanks to the folks who inspire me to get up off the couch every now and then.
Why do we make life so hard for ourselves? You know the answer. See you on the trail.