From Victim, To Veteran

Posted on December 7, 2011


carol went in today her for her first trimester screening, and because of her age and the fact that she underwent intensive medical treatment recently, the doctor did some preliminary tests to gauge if the baby is at risk for birth defects, a procedure called a nuchal fold scan.  the test revealed that this baby does have a higher risk of genetic problems like down syndrome, and so carol had another test done that can more conclusively determine if the baby will have special needs – we get those results back in two days.  we are committed to loving and raising this child no matter what, but please pray for God’s protection and healing upon carol and especially the baby.

it’s going to be a long two days…

when i got the text from carol about the test results, i have to say i had a bad case of deja vu. it reminded me of the moment that carol told me that her mammogram results worried her doctor, and she needed to have a biopsy done.  my blood ran cold, and my hands started to shake somewhat, and the physical sensation of fear gripped me.  it was not a pleasant moment, as you can imagine.  her text took me right back to that moment, nearly two years ago to the day – deja vu of the worst kind.

but after talking about it with carol, we both agreed that although the situation felt very similar, it was not identical.  the specific situation is not the same, and what’s more, neither was our response.  even though this was news that we did not want to hear, we were able to face it quickly, and push back the unpleasant memories while we wait for the results later this week.

and strangely, this made me think about tennis.  actually, i have many unpleasant memories of playing tennis, so maybe this is not as strange as it seems.

i used to play tennis a long time ago, and was pretty good, i suppose.  i have quick hands and feet, and could usually return any ball hit my way, especially serves – i was always good at returning serves.  but every so often, i would face someone with a serve a cut above average, perhaps they could serve well over 100 mph, or else place the ball wherever he wanted.  and when facing those kinds of players, either i would stare stupidly as the ball zipped by, or else i would dive after it, making a complete fool of myself in the process.  the worst part about playing big servers like this was the emotional toll, that they made you apprehensive and jumpy as you tried to predict where he would serve.  playing guys with big serves can be quite intimidating.

but after a few games of leaping after these monster serves like an idiot, they began to slowly lose their intimidation factor.  yes, they were fast and accurate, but at the same time, the serves were not novel, or shocking anymore – i had seen serves like this before.  and because of this, rather than staring in slack-jawed wonder, i instead began to notice patterns, that perhaps his first serve would always go down the middle, while his second would always go to the backhand.  perhaps there was a way to take the ball on the up-hop, and cut down the angle he could serve to.  and often i would discover that the guys with the biggest serve were usually compensating for a weak game elsewhere, and if i could get the ball back in play, they didn’t know what to do with themselves any longer.  i would still lose to those guys, just not by that much.

i think this helps explain why this news about the risk to our child is not hitting us quite as painfully as before.  after all, we had heard worrying and shocking news from doctors in the past, and had experience in situations like these.  it does not surprise us to hear hard news from a doctor.  and so, once we pushed past our initial shock, we found ourselves in a place we had been before – an unpleasant place to be sure, but one where we were not unfamiliar, nor untested.  in other words, we had seen serves like this before, and could face this one down as well.

there is a thin but important line between a moment of “deja vu” and a moment of “experience”.  deja vu is the unbidden memory of the past event, an altogether natural feeling to have when we step into a situation that seems eerily familiar.  but deja vu does not have any value in itself – it does not necessarily help us, and often times, causes us to become a victim to our past fears, as we re-live past traumas.  deja vu does not necessarily teach us anything.

and that is why it is important to look at moments of deja vu, and look at them instead as experiences that we have learned from and been strengthened through.  in this way, we don’t simply re-live the past, we learn from it, and gain the ability to face down situations that, the first time we experienced them, made us quail in fear.   in other words, we go from being victims of our past, to veterans of it.

we’ve all seen hard serves in life – unemployment, post-partum depression, cancer, you name it.  and for some of us, our experience with these things is not over.  but next time you see that serve coming, you don’t have to sit there, shaking in your boots – tell yourself this instead:

“i’ve seen that serve before, and i know how to handle it this time around.”

i’ll update everyone once we get the results back in a few days.  let’s see if i talk so big then…

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