Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My (Over) Extended Metaphor

This week I am attending an intensive course about World Religions and a major part of the class is visiting various temples/mosques/churches/centers/etc. to learn first-hand about those religious communities. So far we have been to a Native American community center, a Hindu temple, a Jain temple and an interfaith labyrinth at a Presbyterian Church. Since it's only Tuesday, you can imagine how many more there are to come!

Each visit has been profound in different ways, but the labyrinth was especially moving for me when it comes to my view of parenting. If you're not familiar with a labyrinth, they are not mazes in that you can't get lost - you follow a winding path to the center while meditating/praying and then follow the path back out again. (see http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/68/Labyrinth_at_Chartres_Cathedral.JPG for a pic of the labyrinth this one was modeled after)

The interesting thing about labyrinths is that everyone uses their own contemplative approach and therefore they interpret the metaphor of walking the path differently. For me it was inward-focused meditation and as I entered the path, I tried to think about what kinds of things I need to "let go" of in my life. It didn't take long for my mind to focus on the pain and frustration of dealing with albinism and how I can approach the possibility of having two young sons with special needs. I know that as Emerson gets older and more aware of the world around him, it's becoming increasingly important for me to approach our family challenges with more strength and optimism.

The thing about the labyrinth path - especially when you walk with a large group of people going at different speeds and in different directions - is that at times it's easy to think that somehow you got turned around and "messed up." Sometimes the path leads you close to the center and you think you're almost done, then suddenly you find yourself on the outer edge again. The hard part is trusting yourself enough to keep walking forward and only focus on what's immediately ahead. This is the second time I've done a labyrinth walk and yet I still had doubts along the way.

What came out of this experience was the realization that in many ways, parenting Emerson is my labyrinth. The parenting path I laid out in my mind before he was born was certainly very simple and clear, but what I got was a path full of twists and turns! I constantly doubt myself and beat myself up for "messing up," but there's no going back. I think the hardest part of our journey so far is that lack of control ...not being able to see where the path is heading.

The labyrinth offered the perfect metaphor for what I've known all along - I need to focus on what's immediately ahead. I should say that I personally don't believe in divine plans or destiny, so in that sense I don't think the way is already laid out. But I do believe that I have to make critical choices: I can choose to move forward resolutely or I can choose to waste time retracing my steps and trying to discern what's coming up.

How I move forward and become a good example for my sons will take a lot more time and reflection and discipline. I probably won't stop writing "depressing" posts (as much as some friends and family wish I would!) because I find this forum to be very therapeutic for myself and other parents of children with albinism who are dealing with similar issues in similar ways. But obviously I still have work to do on my own.

To finally beat this metaphorical horse to death, I just want to recognize that every parent has twists and turns in their path. Some have more than others; some are more obvious or dramatic than others...whatever it looks like, parenting is rarely simple or clear. I'm just glad to have crossed paths with so many amazing parents and wish every one the strength to keep moving forward!

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