The other day I pulled into a parking lot and started searching for a spot. I had my two young kids with me and I wanted to find something as close to the front as possible.
I pulled up to my “usual spot” – the one that says “Reserved for Families with Infants” – and immediately felt annoyed that it was taken. I looked at the spot next to it and noticed it was handicapped.
And then, I made a silly wish. I wished that I had a handicap parking sticker so I could park there.
Immediately, a flood of memories came back to me – because I’ve already had that wish granted.
There was a time, not so long ago, that I did have a handicap sticker. For one moment, I was back there, everything so dismally clear.
I was sitting next to my little sister as she drove me to the grocery store. We were parking in the handicap spot. I was using all my strength to make it to the doors where my sister had the electric cart waiting for me so I could rest as I wheeled around the store.
I was watching my sister put things in the cart, then waiting in line to checkout, wheeling back to the front doors. I was putting my arm around my sister’s shoulders as she helped me back to the car, where I collapsed in the seat, completely exhausted from the excursion.
I could feel the extreme fatigue, feel the pain I lived with every day, and especially feel the incredible ache in my heart that was always present – the sadness that never left as I wondered why I couldn’t get well, couldn’t heal from Lyme disease.
My baby crying brought me back to the present, and I pulled into an empty parking spot. I got my kids out of their car seats, put them in a shopping cart and started walking across the parking lot.
I passed the empty handicap parking spot and sent out a little “thank you” to God – so grateful that my car wasn’t parked there right now, so filled with amazement that I was pushing the cart in front of me with two children of my own.
The miracle of my journey, recovery from Lyme and present life filled me up, and my steps were light as the doors opened up to the grocery store. I had gone from barely functioning, with so much needed assistance, to me today – healthy, strong and caring for others.
I’m grateful I don’t need that handicap sticker anymore. I’m so grateful that I live with energy, with so little pain, and especially that the sadness is gone in my heart – filled instead with joy and fulfillment of a life I truly love.
I’m sure I’ll never make that same wish again. Saving a few steps to park in some great locations comes at such a high cost. And just like not seeing what it means to have a handicap parking sticker, we often don’t see what is attached to those things we think we want in life.
Looking back, I’m glad I’ve been there – I’ve gotten wishes that have sometimes seemed awesome from the outside – but when those wishes are granted, I’ve realized that most things look different in passing than they really are on the inside.
Everything comes with a price. My parking sticker came with such a life attached to it. And my health has come with a high price as well – paid in human experience of tears, grief, progress, regression, pain, despair, anger, perseverance, hope, patience, and eventually, joy.
I may make silly wishes again like the one I made in the parking lot the other day. I’m human, after all. But I hope I’ll always take time to stop and think about what it is I really want in life, and then consider the price I’m willing to pay for what I want.
I intend to keep living mindfully and remember my journey – and remember that the things that I have wished for most in life are now mine. They’re the wishes that I’ve focused on and made into realities – my health, my marriage, my relationships, my work, helping others – because that is what I wish for, value, and cherish in life most.