Daddys Little AngelLaurie asked me today how I felt about Kaylee.

It’s a really interesting question.

I managed to get out my stock answer, “She’s a beautiful little girl… who needs us.” But I realized that there was a lot more than that to how I felt and I couldn’t quite put it all into words at the moment.

I continued, “I used to look at her just like you do now, but lately, I’ve been looking at her differently.”

And I DO look at her differently now. She’s become her own little person, with her own challenges (really, just like every other person on the planet).

Now, instead of feeling sorry for myself when I look at her, I see her as a challenge… for ME.

That was quite a big change in attitude, and that conversation made me think about how that transition might have occurred. It didn’t take me long to find the connection.

You see, I feel like I am good at a lot of things in life, and when I became a Dad and looked at Ryan at just a few hours old, I realized that being a Dad was DEFINITELY something that I wanted to be good at. So, I worked on it, and I learned as much as I could about my own son (For example, at 2 years old he likes “Enchanted”, but not “Alvin and the Chipmunks”! Go figure.) but the initial shock of Kaylee’s diagnosis set me off of my “Be a great Dad” path for a little while.

The new challenge for me now was how to be a great Dad for Kaylee. What would I be able to do in order to get through to her better? Would I be able to understand her interests enough to give her what she wants? How could I help her have a better life?

Hey, it’s a new challenge. Perfect – I love challenges!

In a subconscious way, I had started to connect Kaylee in my mind to something I already love. My brain has a set of neural networks that have very positive associations with “meeting a challenge”. Anyone who knows me knows that I often choose a VERY challenging path through life. For example, in college, I took a full course load AND held down a full time job (by the way, I do NOT recommended that). My new company is another good example. I dreamed up the idea, transitioned to businessman to plan and market it, changed into my software development cap and wrote the system myself, and then put on my salesman suit to give presentations to potential customers. It’s a whole lot of different skills in a lot of different areas, but it all fits under the big umbrella of “meeting a challenge”.

…and that’s what keeps me stimulated. I *need* challenges.

So, as soon as I connected Kaylee to that entire neural net of “goodness”, my feelings toward her definitely started to change.

Now, I can’t wait to try to be the greatest Dad I can be… to Kaylee!

And you know, aren’t those always the most inspirational parents anyway? When you see someone do something amazing, their parents definitely get some cred. However, when someone like Kaylee does something amazing, the parents get a LOT of cred. In fact, if those parents have their lives together, are friendly and supportive in the community, and ALSO helps their child with a genetic disorder do something amazing, now THOSE are the parents to admire.

So, instead of my old way of thinking that it might make me look bad if I had a daughter who was mentally challenged, I now think that it has the potentially to make me look good! REALLY good. (How is that for a reframe?)

In fact, Kaylee and I will probably develop our own special way of communicating, or our own little inside jokes that just the two of us know, and I just know that I’ll find something that she LOVES to play with Daddy. All of them: challenges.

Anyway, I started to remember that any situation is all in how you see it.

It’s an easy lesson to forget.

Not to get too far off track here, but this experience helped me to remember a “life lesson” that I learned years ago from a wise man that the contents of your mind are, for the most part, under your own control. This was probably one of the most valuable things I’ve learned in my spiritual journey through life. In fact, even that’s not quite accurate enough.

The fact that we are in control of the contents of our minds is DEFINITELY the most valuable thing I’ve learned.

Probably ever!

It seems so obvious, but its still not all that easy to “get” (why is that?).

Yes, we control what goes into our minds through our thoughts the same way that we control what goes into our bodies through diet. As with food, the thoughts become integrated into your being, and as with food, the thoughts can accumulate over time (but luckily, not on your ass!).

No, its not always “easy” and we all slip into old lazy patterns of just letting our mind go where it wants, or letting it go into an endless “loop” pattern of recurring thoughts (hey, I sure do it), but when I’m more conscious, I remember that everything is shaped by how you see it. It’s a difficult thing to explain to someone, but I know when I myself “get it” and I learn the lesson again. And that realization… that “getting it” is the beginning of a change.

Anyway, when you manage to connect the current situation that you used to see with negative feelings (like, the diagnosis?) with things that you already feel positive about, your mind starts to reframe and adapt. Kaylee isn’t just her diagnosis anymore. She is own little person, and an opportunity for me to rise to a new challenge.

When you start CHOOSING to see things in a positive light (especially once your mind is able to justify it to yourself… like I did), the whole “feeling” of the experience starts to change for you, and the mind begins forming new connections in its neural network. You start coming out of anger. You start seeing the situation in a way that will benefit you (instead of hurting you). The pain begins to fade. Love enters.

– Mark

 

One Response to A New Challenge

  1. shirley bidnick says:

    I love the photo of you and your daughter. You are a deep thinker and a reflective writer. I really appreciate your ability to put your grief process into words. Thank you for sharing your transition from negative thoughts about a diagnosis to hope for a positive relationship with Kaylee. It is a transition that some people never make. They get stuck in grief forever. You did it in record time. I agree with you. The transition requires a conscious choice. Congratulations on the arrival of your precious baby girl.
    I pray that you will have a fantastic life together.

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