My Lifesaver

“I save you.”

My two-year-old daughter said this to me one morning as I dressed her.  She reached up from the changing table and grasped my arm, hugging me to her.

“You save me?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said, a smile lighting her sweet little face.

She’s been playing games of chase, tag, and intrigue with her older sisters, which is no doubt where this line came from, as they ran from imagined assailants.  But these three small words held a much deeper meaning for me.

If it weren’t for Angela’s love – and my love for Angela – I might not have survived the three years that have elapsed since the news of her coming.

I read recently that humans have an evolutionary predisposition to always think the worst.  If we did not anticipate danger, we would get eaten by the wooly mammoth hanging around the corner.  If we didn’t worry constantly about starvation, we wouldn’t feel compelled to gather berries for the coming winter.  If it were always sunshine and roses, the species as we know it would not exist.

However, in the modern age, where thankfully we do not have to parry with wooly mammoth, this predisposition makes living a life of gratitude really hard.  Being genetically wired to pay attention to the negative, the positives of our life fade into the background without a concerted effort on our part.

And, sadly, I can say that I let that happen throughout my pregnancy and postpartum with Angela.  Letting the blessing of a child be outweighed by the unexpected timing of it.  Letting myself be buried by the drudgery of day-to-day rather than being uplifted by the wonder in her eyes.  Letting myself founder instead of accepting the help I needed.

There were times when I could pull those positives back into the foreground.  Little arms wrapped tightly around my neck.  Sitting in the living room, surrounded by my husband and the girls.  Watching the three of them splash in the bathtub.  I even started a gratitude journal as a concrete reminder of the blessings all around me on a daily basis, especially helpful on those days when the clouds made it impossible to see them.

It was through the filter of Angela’s unconditional love that I began to see the world differently.

If at the end of the day, chaos ruled, but our kids were safe and happy, all was right with the world.  If things didn’t go according to plan, maybe that was because God had a better one.  And if we weren’t happy, maybe that meant we were supposed to be doing something different anyway.

I decided to do a lot of things differently.  Acutely aware that there were some things in life that would choose me with no regard to my misery, I decided to only choose things that would bring me joy.  I found myself contemplating risks I never would have taken pre-partum.  With newly opened eyes, there were new possibilities.

It was Angela who gave me eyes to see.  She gave me back my life.  If her birth – and the resulting struggles – hadn’t happened, my serious examination of my life and place in this world wouldn’t have happened.  And every time I got lost or distracted by the discouraging things around me, her two little arms around my neck reminded me to come back to center – to the heart of what truly matters.

Angela returned the wonder to my eyes.  Watching her find her way in the world inspired me to find mine.  She is the ultimate gift of love – and isn’t that the greatest blessing of all?

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5 Comments

  1. I love the notion of having a gratitude journal. So positive, so uplifting. Definitely something I will start today!

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    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  February 17, 2012

      It helps keep things in perspective – especially on those days when you think you have nothing for which to be grateful. When you stop to reflect, you realize how blessed you really are.

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  2. Sheri

     /  February 24, 2012

    It can be nice to look at past entries when you are finding it especially hard to locate that grateful perspective.

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  3. This was lovely to read and so brave of you to share! Good for you for taking the time to slow down and appreciate the miracles of your family. I, too, have always found myself focusing on the negative and missing out on simple joys, wasting time while I wallowed in ridiculous, insignificant details. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in this, that being positive is a conscious effort for others as well. Thank you for sharing this…

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    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  March 9, 2012

      Thank you, Heather, for reading it! “Conscious effort” is the perfect way to describe it.

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