One warm afternoon in November of 2017, I decided that I wanted to take a short walk around the block, and I invited my wife, Anne, to go with me. At that time, I was trying to recover from a concussion I suffered a few months earlier from a bicycle accident. The fatigue from that crash seemed to be my constant companion.
As we started walking Anne asked if I wanted to walk to Harmon’s Grocery Store which was two blocks away and we would be walking on a level surface rather than slightly uphill if we headed east. She knew that even walking up a short incline would be a struggle for me. I told her “No, let’s head east” because I thought it was fairly level. I had never noticed that it did have a slight incline. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was walking uphill, but I was too proud to turn around and walk the other direction.
I made it around the block and by the time we got home I was sweaty and tired. I was also feeling guilty because I wasn’t sure if the residual effects of the concussion were causing the fatigue or if I was milking it for all it was worth and just faking everything.
As we walked into the house, Anne and I sat down in our front room just to relax and enjoy each other’s company for a few minutes. As we sat on the couch, I looked up at a picture we have hanging on our wall. It is a picture of my mother and father on their wedding day. Mom is wearing her beautiful wedding dress and Dad was standing behind her in his suit with a loving smile. The eyes of both of my parents seemed to be looking directly at me.
As I looked at their picture, I experienced an extreme sense of guilt. I knew that they loved me, but I thought I saw a look of disappointment in their eyes for me, their only son. I thought that they believed that I was using this concussion as a means to be lazy, lie around the house, and let Anne do all the work.
I had always felt they were proud of me and my work ethic, but now as they looked down at me from their home on the wall, I envisioned their disappointment.
I expressed these feelings and concerns to Anne who made a comment that restored some hope in me. “Cal, your parents always expected you to do your best and nothing more.”
That was true and as I took another look at the picture hanging on the wall, rather than seeing disappointment in their eyes, I now saw love, support, encouragement, and belief in me. In that instant I saw what Anne saw and that all they ever expected from me was to do my best. It didn’t matter if I had straight A’s or had some C’s and D’s sprinkled in. It didn’t matter what I achieved in life as long as I earned it and I was productive.
Less than two months later I learned the real reason for my fatigue. It was a legitimate reason, and I could honestly say I wasn’t faking. I was diagnosed with bladder cancer and had to have surgery.
The day I took that walk was very impactful to me because I was perhaps feeling sorry for myself, but my short conversation with my wise wife helped me to see my circumstance and the love of my parents in a different and more positive way. I never doubted their love and I hope that as I go through the rest of my life, I will never feel sorry for myself again.
Happy Failing Forward,
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