Facing the Music

We found out last week that Hudson doesn’t, in fact, have Sleep Apnea. Or at least it isn’t severe enough to do anything about it.

The Specialist who conveyed the news did so in a manner almost congratulatory, blissfully unaware that his ‘good news’ to me was an unravelling – a collapse in the blocks I had confidently begun to stack into a tower.

For the past nine months, Dave has been sleeping on a bed in Hudson’s room. His restless night time wakings eventually necessitated the move, a practice we had stridently announced that we would never do… until it became the choice between sleep and enrolling as a member of the walking dead.

Last August we found out that there were a number of reasons to be concerned with Hudson’s development. I wrote about the gut-wrenching realisation here after we took him along to his 3.5 year check up and left with a lengthy list of issues that would need immediate attention. Dave and I cried that night. It had been something we had suspected, but having it confirmed in an authoritative and concerned voice on the subject made it suddenly real… and terrifying. We are a little ways down the track of exploring assistance now – hearing tests, assessments and appointments with specialists.

When he began to show signs of abnormal fatigue a few months ago, I quickly went to Google. Amongst the long list of life-threatening illnesses that popped up, Sleep Apnea caught my attention. Restless sleeping, night sweats, snoring, problems with focusing, learning difficulties, excessive sleepiness. Tick, tick, tick. I went from not knowing anything about the condition to chastising myself for not having picked it up earlier. Maybe it had been this all along!

And then, it wasn’t. A wave of sadness hit me as I hung up the phone. Back to square one, back to the unknown. The day that had been beautiful, free and easy suddenly felt complicated and darkened.

Whether an intentional message or not, when I was growing up I absorbed the idea that some emotions were ‘good’ and others ‘bad’. Negative emotions were for stuffing down, avoiding, powering through. Anger, fear, doubt, sadness, insecurity – these could all be conquered by turning away from them, not partnering with them, ignoring their effects.

It doesn’t help that I am a Type 1 on the Enneagram. I don’t like complicated emotions and the deep seated anger that explodes violently from within me from time to time scares me. Life is fine when it can be categorised, controlled, maintained…. and good planning can alleviate most of the problems that arise from day to day existence.

This morning I stumbled upon a podcast interview between Rob Bell and Susan David, Ph.D. It was incredible. A lifetime of study in emotional psychology has lead Dr. David to hone the concept of ’emotional agility’ or the idea that “holding [difficult] emotions and thoughts loosely, facing them courageously and compassionately, and then moving past them” is what enables people to succeed.

I suppose I thought of myself as a fairly self-aware person emotionally. Despite the messages of perfection that I internalised growing up, the practice of blogging and journalling has enabled me to face the difficult emotions and make sense of them in a way that allows me to move forward. After listening to the podcast, I went straight to the website to take Dr. David’s free five-minute quiz that diagnoses where you are at in the process and provides a ten-page report. It turns out that I have a bit of work to do!

The epiphany that there are no ‘negative’ emotions, that emotions are really just data to be analysed curiously, is remarkably freeing. Dr. David suggests that if you are feeling guilt about something, you should ask what it is showing you about what is really important to you… if you are experiencing anger, see if you can identify what form of injustice it reveals as a core value.

The experience of finding out that the story with Hudson wasn’t as simple as we thought was heartbreaking. And yet, when I write about it this week, I am experiencing none of the difficult emotions that plagued me then. Talking it out with friends and family, writing a poem, facing the sadness head on – these were the things that enabled me to move on. I may not always succeed in following this pattern – more times than not I would have just poured a bigger glass, made a decadent dessert or scrolled through Netflix to distract myself from the uncomfortable feeling instead – but the reinforcement of the lessons learned through Dr. David’s research has buoyed me.

As for Hudson, I’m facing the reality that the road ahead is unknown, unpredictable and scary. There will be experiences we cannot protect him from, struggles that he will have to face. In the midst of that, I’m appreciating what a gift and shimmer he brings to our lives. His contagious joy, the vitality and humour he constantly shares, his fierce love for his siblings – these are all incredible elements that inspire me daily.

Life is a complicated mix of experiences, emotions and expectations…and I guess (now) I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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    1. There was so much in the Susan David stuff that made me think of Brene too! Thank you for your encouragement – means so much xx

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