A good friend who I haven’t spoken with for a long time wrote to me recently. I think of him often and wonder what life is bringing his way. He mentioned how he wanted to talk with me but that, in reading my blog, he felt as if his problems were petty compared to what I was facing on a daily basis. I'm not sure.

If I’ve learned one thing since Calvin’s birth it’s that we, as humans, are incredibly adaptive creatures. I remember, before Calvin was born, driving with Michael along a winding road on the Bolinas Ridge just north of San Francisco. The narrow road snaked through densely wooded glens broken by pristine, wide, open seascapes and rolling, golden hills punctuated occasionally by a gnarled oak tree. While listening to the radio, we were not only captivated by the scenic beauty, but by a story about happiness. The story described a study that had revealed findings about human adaptation. It explained how—even in grave circumstances such as incarceration or physical debilitation—after an initial adjustment phase, individuals ranked their level of happiness on par with a control group. It seems it’s well within our ability to adapt and be happy amidst less than ideal circumstances.

I will say that life with Calvin has been grave at times. It is true that grief has choked me, frustration has frazzled my nerves, nights are often sleepless and worry abrades my spirit. But, so has raising Calvin been the most uplifting and rewarding adventure of my life. To love this child—who rarely looks me in the face, who cannot express his feelings in words, whose dreams I’ll never know—and to have this child love me back, unconditionally, is to feel an emotion impossible to adequately describe, but one that brings me joy and happiness beyond measure. I believe that my life, especially since Calvin, is a reflection of nature in its ability to adapt and find ultimate balance—a path not unlike the meandering road with its dark, obscure hollows juxtaposed with bright expansive heights.

So, too, has the strain of raising Calvin heightened my sensitivity to the burden of others. I imagine that floating down a raging river through coarse, magnificent rapids might feel treacherous to some, while for others, the tempered water rippling at the eddy’s edge might prove as terrifying. Both realities are true. Equally, no malady is petty or shameful—none to be belittled by another—and no accomplishment is unworthy of praise. As humans, we all suffer hardships and we all celebrate triumphs, both large and small alike, and through this constant ebb and flow between despair and rapture—and because of the compassion and empathy of others—we adapt, we find balance, we persevere.

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Originally published 12.05.2010.

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