Ruin is Beautiful

So it's snowing in Middle Tennessee, which means life as we know it stops and we are stuck in the house, until all 62 snowflakes have melted off. For me, that means watching movies to keep my sanity. Last evening, before the flakes started falling, I hit the Blockbuster kiosk at the mother ship Publix for 2 for the boys and one for me to watch after the boys went to bed. I selected (with minor trepidation) Eat. Pray. Love.

I should know better by this point in my life...but apparently, I don't. I usually hate chick-flicks. I have a very low tolerance for shallowness and psycho-babble...especially when it involves the concept of some woman whining "I don't want to be married any more, I need to find myself, so let's get divorced." Call me old-fashioned. I believe that "till death do we part" actually means, um, till somebody croaks (or misbehaves insanely).

So, from very early in the movie, I was turned off. Julia Roberts' character says to her husband, "I don't want to be married anymore." and off she goes, in search of herself and some kind of unquantifiable "peace". Any way. Whatever. Speaking of self-absorbed crap.

There was this one line in there -- one single line that redeemed the entire movie. In a particularly heart-wrenching, epiphony-style moment, Liz observes, rather quietly, "Ruin is beautiful."

If ever there was a three-word summary of my life, that is certainly it. "Ruin is beautiful."

I've spent a great deal of time the past few years in a state of semi-grieving for what will not be for Julian, and consequently, for Joal and myself, and I suppose, in some ways, for Grey too. We've known since he was 2 that something wasn't right with him and that he would never achieve normal childhood milestones, at the pace of a neuro-typical child. With each new diagnosis, came a new set of disappointments and a new wave of grief. When a developmentally-delayed child looks physically normal, it's deceptive for everyone who encounters him, as well as, at times, for his parents. What we call normal, with Julian, is certainly our own definition of normal and looks and feels quite different from the real normal. At some point, I hope, I will let go of the concept of the "real normal" and just fully embrace Julian's brand of normal. Is that possible? I don't know. He's 15 and still I find myself challenged to accept certain aspects of what it means to accept what he's capable of and where his limitations are. Where's the line between accepting what is and giving up? It's a constant accept what is, and yet to still push for more.

But ruin is beautiful.

Social cues are a challenge. He talks too loud. Or not at all. He is responsively slow. He stomps his foot when he's angry and raises his voice. Defiance for Julian is less about rebellion and more about a brain that misfires and will not allow him to move on. Understanding requires endless miles of repetition. Transitions breed hostility. Walking through life with a 15 year old body and the brain development of a 7 year old is to be a walking conundrum.

There are times when I'm not sure who's more ruined--him or me, in a beautiful, grace-filled way. For all the challenges that are Julian's, there are also these stunning moments of clarity...brief glimpses into the child's heart that resides inside him...the living in innocence that's been prolonged by the very developmental delays that so challenge us.

Those moments are rare. Perhaps that's how I've come to collect them and recognize them--to cherish them like the priceless gifts that they are to me. When my heart is at it's lowest, when the grief seems deepest, and the weight of what we lack seems to be too much, I cling to these moments of clarity as the lifelines of hope.

Ruin is beautiful.

Sunday mornings tend to be difficult for me. My closet never seems agreeable and let's not discuss my hair. However, every Sunday morning, when I emerge from the bedroom and come to the living room, dressed and prepared to accompany my guys to church, Joal compliments me. Often he says "you look very nice" or some variation on the theme. It's genuine and never fails to make me smile, no matter what kind of hair-day I'm having. He's quite good that way.

So a while back, on a Sunday when Joal was away, I came out of my room, dressed and pressed, ready for church, but not really feeling it, to find the boys waiting in the living room, as usual. Julian turned to me and said "You look very nice today, Mom." He said it with genuineness and exactly the way his father does it. It was a clear, unencumbered thought and quite obvious that he'd been waiting on my arrival so he could deliver the message he'd heard his father express on a multitude of Sundays before.

It was a moment. He was so proud of himself for surprising me and recreating what is normally his father's moment. I had no idea that he'd ever noticed our little weekly exercise in affection. He had no idea the power a compliment can hold. We are both growing up, I suppose. Slowly, with plenty of moments of ruin and beauty.

Ruin is beautiful.



Mic said...

What can I say about this post? Beautifully written. I have an autistic 7 year old grandson and I often wonder what his life will be like as a teen. I will be sharing this with my daughter. Thank you so much for this glimpse into your soul. Have a very blessed Christmas season....Pam N.

Mic said...

P.S. I grew up in Middle Tenn. When it snows there, it is so lovely. You made me homesick just a little!

DebW said...

Ruin is beautiful.....and Julian is too! Thank you for sharing this post Sarah. Happy Holidays to you and your family.

Lulu said...

Your dad & Andy are not the only great writers in your family!! Well said. You touched my heart.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Sarah...I like this so much. Dalton has Asperger's, and while it is a mild form of autism (as I'm sure you know), Dalton is becoming more self-aware, that "i'm just not like other kids"...that breaks my heart to hear the tone of his voice-but of course to me, I told him that is a good thing, not a negative thing-who wants to be like everyone else...anyway, your blog spoke to my heart, because although I'm not Dalton's Mommy, I love him so much, and to see him struggle with things, and get picked on because he is different, and know that there are more struggles ahead is hard to think about-but I know that we'll deal with them as they come...


Jamie Lynn and the boys said...

Sarah! You have a blog! I knew you were a fantastic (and funny) writer but I didn't know you wrote from your heart and I love it! Also, I loved Julian's "lawnmower cover" he showed me today!