2013 Family trip to Festival of Trees
About a week ago I adamantly declared to Eric that I was NOT going to attend this year's Festival of Trees, an annual Christmas event my family and I attend each year.
The pronouncement caused Eric's moustachioed face to take on a look of vast bewilderment; he knows how much I love this festival. Not only have I attended nearly every year since the age of 9 and look forward to it all year, but to my family this event heralds the beginning of the Christmas season.
|Little Sammy's first FOT, 2010|
But, hardening my heart a little, I decided that if the only way I could go to the festival this year was in my wheelchair....well then I simply wasn't going to go.
My mobility challenges have impacted so many of the regular family activities that have long been a part of the fabric of our life:
* Easter found me near tears, when I discovered last minute that when one can't easily walk/ stand for very long, it is completely unrealistic to think one will be able to race around the kitchen gathering ingredients to make adorable devilled eggs in the shape of baby chicks, while simultaneously running to the door to greet 18 guests, while also attempting to set a pretty ribbon-laced table that looked like one I once saw in a home decorating magazine.
* This summer was the first time we didn't go on a family vacation, or even take a day trip to the lake.
* When fall rolled around, I still was having trouble with sitting for long vehicle rides- the annual trip to the pumpkin farm I love was nixed. So too went the autumn walks in golden leaves against vividly blue sky, a staple of life I long cherished but took for granted I would always be able to do.
Now it was nearly Christmas and the Festival of Trees was upon us once again. And somehow, I wanted to keep this festival sacred. If I couldn't go whole and moving on my own two feet... well... I'd just pout and skip the whole entire event. If my family wished to go they could go and have a fun time without me. So there!
Feeling like a martyr, I told one of my dear friends about my plan not to attend. Through tears, I tried to explain how nothing has been the same this past year and this way by not going, I could at least be in control of not having to face another event where everything was so different than before. My friend was unimpressed.
What followed was a chastisement unlike one I've had had in a long time, and yet one I truly deserved. Telling me to stop my complaining, she firmly yet compassionately reminded me I had a choice in front of me, the same choice each of us has before oneself. I could chose to be a force for joy in my family and to those around me, or a force of misery.
In other words, I could stay home and be morose, or I could buck up, put a smile on my face... and celebrate with my family at this cherished family event. It could be an opportunity to show them that while so much has changed... nothing that is truly important has changed.
I might have to go to the festival in a fashion I never dreamed I'd go in, but I still had the opportunity to go with a thankful heart for having the opportunity to attend an event I have long loved with the people I most love.
So tonight- I went. I'm glad I did. I didn't have the stamina to stay too long- but it was long enough to enjoy the lights and colours, marvel at the many creatively decorated trees, and most of all see the delight on my family member's faces as
|Festival of Trees, 2016|
Maybe next year I will walk in to the festival, maybe I won't. Only God knows the future. But I hope that no matter what, I will go in with a smile on my face and joy in my heart.
I'm learning a powerful lesson through my situation about what life really is all about, including what it means to live with true joy even when significant challenges are present.
I no longer think that living with true joy means always having a smile on my face. I went through a state of grieving for a period this autumn where my smiles were less than frequent. But, now as I (metaphorically) walk forward out of that time of grief, I can clearly see that living with genuine joy means living with authenticity.
It means not letting how we think things ought to be stop us from living life as fully as we can. It means never giving up when things are tough, but seeking to find creative solutions to the problems that present in our lives. And it means choosing togetherness and connection with those we love, no matter what.