As a child we lived close to the Florida border so summer time meant regular jaunts to the various beaches along the Florida panhandle. One particular destination required we cross a bridge that connected the mainland to an outlying Island.
I still have vivid memories of that bridge. It was incredibly l-o-n-g and it seemed to take forever to cross it. I could feel myself getting antsy at mid-point, where it peaked in height, because for a few seconds it appeared you were out in the middle of the ocean. All I wanted to do was get across that bridge because that meant I would soon be running through the sugary sand to the waters edge before finally submerging myself fully into a crashing wave.
The bridge posed a contradiction of sorts for me. Though I didn’t particularly like crossing it, once reaching it I could feel a sort of excitement because I knew it meant the beach would soon follow.
Yes, looking at the bridge as a necessary anxiety in order to get to the “pay-off” – the beach – made it tolerable, even anticipated, therefore any discomfort was a small price to pay when compared to the countless hours of fun waiting for me on the beach.
Interestingly, it was a different story when heading home. The dread when seeing that bridge remained and hitting the mid-point only deepened the sullen feeling that had started when told it was time to leave. Why? What was the difference?
The “pay off” was different therefore my perception was different.
That is often the case in life. Whatever challenge we find our life facing, it is our perception of it that determines how we endure it. Do we focus on the challenge or the “pay-off”? Will we “cross the bridge” and move our life forward or will we allow our life to come to a stop – staying in that one spot and becoming bitter, unhappy, miserable, and complaining?
I have been giving this a lot of thought since my sister, JB’s, motorcycle accident. This particular ‘life bridge’ presented an array of challenges for all of us – with each focusing on something different, it made our perceptions different … which meant we each had our own way of “crossing the bridge”.
That is fine – it’s absolutely normal and should be expected within families. It can become a problem, though, if we try to pull someone across the bridge with us. That is what I realize I have been doing with JB.
Almost from the start I have been focused on what JB will be doing to get her life back on track. I regularly picture her, with her prosthetic, working out in the garden or lounging by their pool.
I see her as she will be, not as she is now.
That isn’t necessarily wrong – in fact, it helps breed a positive perception which helps the way I approach this challenge … will I stop and wallow in every negative aspect of the situation or will I have a sense of anticipation to cross the bridge quickly and help JB get on with life as it is for her now? No, it isn’t that my approach has been wrong but, rather, my timing has been wrong.
I need to see JB as she is now … and grieve the changes this tragedy has brought to the little girl I knelt in front of 38 years ago while urging her to take her first step. And I must accept my role has changed, I must figure out how it impacts my view, my perception of this challenging situation.
The bridges of life. No matter how imposing or how insignificant, they must be crossed if we are to get on with life. I now see I’ve been trying to speed across this one, perhaps thinking it would ease the feelings I’ve been trying to avoid.
So, for now, I’ve pulled back, I’ve slowed the momentum of my approach to cross this bridge and get on with life because I see I must acknowledge – and deal with – what is going on in life now… especially where JB is concerned.
Ah, it’s time I acknowledge how I feel about the limitation my illness has placed on my ability to “be there” for JB and, actually, my next post is going to delve into some of the issues I’ve been stuffing. When it comes to everything else I figure ….
“I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”
Come on, you knew I was going to say that …. now, I have no idea what you are going to say unless you share it – so feel free to speak your ‘piece’ …. of mind.