We’re All Broken   1 comment

From one of my all time favorite books, written by a non-christian with deep insight: Expecting Adam by Martha Beck,  a married Harvard student who discovered her fetus (Adam) had Down’s Syndrome.

With Adam, I had more fears than usual to plague me during those long, long nights.  The problem was that it was impossible not to fall in love with him.  It is a frightening thing to love someone you know the world rejects.  It makes you so terribly vulnerable.  You know you will be hurt by every slight, every prejudice, every pain that will befall your beloved throughout his life.  In the wee small hours, as I rocked and nursed and sang to my wee small boy, I couldn’t help but worry.  Will Rogers once said that he knew worrying was effective, because almost nothing he worried about ever happened.  That’s a cute statement, and I’m glad Will’s life worked this way.  But mine hasn’t–at least not where Adam is concerned.  Almost everything I worried about during the nights after his birth, almost every difficult thing I feared would come my way as a result of being his mother, has actually happened.

Thank God.


What my fears all boiled down to, as I sat with my tiny son in the days after his birth, was an underlying terror that he would destroy my own facade, the flawlessness and invulnerability I projected onto the big screen, the Great and Terrible Martha of Oz.  You see, I knew all along that there wasn’t one label people might apply to Adam–stupid, ugly, strange, clumsy, slow, inept–that could not, at one time or another, be justifiably applied to me.  I had spent my life running from this catastrophe and like so many other things, it caught up with me while I was expecting Adam.

In this regard, as in so many others, my worst fears have come to pass.  But as they do I am learning that there is an even bigger secret, a secret I had been keeping from myself.  It has been hard for me to grasp, but gradually, painfully, with the slow, small steps of a retarded child, I am coming to understand it.  This has been the second phase of my education, the one that followed all those years of school.  In it, I have had to unlearn virtually everything Harvard taught me about what is precious and what is garbage.  I have discovered that many of the things I thought were priceless are as cheap as costume jewelry, and much of what I labeled worthless was, all the time, filled with the kind of beauty that directly nourishes my soul.

Now I think that the vast majority of us “normal” people spend our lives trashing our treasures and treasuring our trash.  We bustle around trying to create the impression that we are hip, imperturbable, onmiscient, in perfect control, when in fact we are awkward and scared and bewildered.  The irony is that we do this to be loved, all the time remaining terrified of anyone who seems to be as perfect as we wish to be.  We go around like Queen Elizabeth, bless her heart, clutching our dowdy little accessories, avoiding the slightest hint of impropriety, never showing our real feelings or touching anyone else except through glove leather.  But we were dazed and confused when the openly depressed, bulimic, adulterous, rejected Princess Di was the one people really adored.

Living with Adam, loving Adam, has taught me a lot about the truth.  He has taught me to look at things in themselves, not the value a brutal and often senseless world assign to them.  As Adam’s mother I have been able to see quite clearly that he is no less beautiful for being called ugly, no less wise for appearing dull, no less precious for being seen as worthless.  And neither am I.  Neither are you.  Neither is any of us.


Posted September 17, 2011 by janathangrace in Reading

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One response to “We’re All Broken

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  1. True, if one is loved very often, so much less the necessity to chase after the false status brought by money…I’m not alluding to productivity, but to money, in itself. – BK

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