Mirabile Dictu

A friend and I got to talking this week about miracles. She had been a nurse for 25 years, and had seen plenty of medical miracles, while my experiences with “I cannot explain how that wonderful thing happened,” have been fewer in number.

One stands out though. A long, long time ago, when I was still working for a Fortune 100, with all the lockstep misery that entailed (dress codes, time clocks, a sea of cubicles meaning no privacy, awful commute, handsy bosses and no corporate policies to call them  out…. ptui!). I was also in the early years of single parenting, and given the resulting time and budget constraints, I had to cadge exercise on my lunch hour. I’d do a quick change, jog for thirty minutes, do a rinse off, and be back at the desk in 59.9 minutes.

Something was better than nothing… or I so reasoned.

I was also in therapy at the time, up to my elbows exploring how family of origin issues impacted my adult decisions and behaviors. That was hard work, involving a lot of tears and shifts in perspective, but I had a good therapist and enough benefits (thank you, Fortune 100) that I could stick with the process for several years.

I was not enjoying therapy at all, because to get anywhere, I had to start with, “Where does it  hurt?” and then go looking for a why. The why always seemed to point to, “Because I made a foolish, short-sighted, decision that I regret and can’t do anything about. Because I am not very smart about… Because I am not as grown up as I look… Because even though I knew better, I didn’t do better…”

So I’m out jogging my allotted thirty minutes on a summer day, through a quiet and leafy DC suburb, and for no reason, I felt lighter, then lighter and lighter… I felt as if the whole sky was trickling into my chest, and my mind’s eye rose above me. I could see myself thump-thump-thumping along the hot pavement, resenting every step, but knowing a kid needs a healthy mom if that’s possible, and knowing that it was a lunch hour jog or nothing. I was sweaty, I was bright red in the face (Irish genes?), and I didn’t want to jog ever, much less go back to the office ever, much less do the same thing over and over.

But as I was imaginatively rising into the sky and becoming light and air and altitude, I also got deluged with compassion for that chubby, sweaty, tired, determined single mom doing her dogged best to be a decent human being. It was as if some emotional force put its hand over my grouchy, judgy, negative mouth, and said, “I admire the Grace I see. She has faults–we all do–but see look how hard she’s trying and cut the woman a break. She’s doing the best she can.”

Sweetest Kisses Series Collection by Grace BurrowesAnd somehow, this shift in perspective on myself was delivered from a loving rather than a lecturing place. The voice in my head pleaded with me to grow some self-compassion, and lordy, did I need to hear that voice. The miracle is that I could hear it, and believe it, and change my perspective in the space of that one outing. The love got through to me, the joy, the hope… a light came on, and I cannot explain why then or how or what the physical sensations were about, but I have been a different person–happier and kinder–ever since.

I can’t explain it, but I can accept that it was real and good. Having genuine compassion for others became much easier since that day, as did having compassion for myself, my family, my world.

Has life ever walloped you upside the heart that way? Has it happened to your friends or family? I’ll send three commenters the trilogy bundle for The Sweetest Kisses series, which is now on sale in the web store for $9.99.





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19 comments on “Mirabile Dictu

  1. I read your post tonight after a long day (on top of a long week on top of a long forever). This afternoon I learned that my son has dyslexia in addition to autism and adhd. Oh and he has depression now too. And I have new evals to show that all the social, emotional, pharmaceutical, behavioral, and physical supports that we’ve put in place over the last four years haven’t moved any needle.

    Your post tonight felt not only timely but comforting. He’s doing his best. I’m doing my best. Maybe something miraculous will happen to make both of our bests count for more than they have been lately. I feel like I’ve been repeatedly walloped, but not “upside the heart” as you say. Maybe I should take up running. Or maybe this post is the beginning of my miracle.

    Thank you for sharing. Sometimes I think the universe is more circular than linear… Maybe your miracle, this good that rested on you and sparked your self compassion, was the energy from all your many readers who have thanked the Universe for you and your books and your characters (who feel like family). Maybe a bit of that miracle was part of the same miracle that good books like yours (read by the right person at the right time) are. I’ve consoled myself through many no good very bad weekends with one of your HEAs. Creating a safe escape to a place of comfort that renews a reader’s courage is no small achievement. The Universe takes notice. Maybe the Universe found a way to bring you a type of overture to all the little miracles your words would bring.

    • A good social worker once told me, “I don’t worry so much about the special needs kid. We have behavioral psychologists and therapists and meds and educational accommodations and and and for that kid. The system, if it’s half-working, will SEE that kid. I worry about his parents. I worry about his less special needs siblings. For them, we have NOTHING, and their burden never ends….” At the time, I though the comment a little… callous, maybe? How can you NOT worry about a special needs kid?
      And that was her point: All eyes, ears, hands, and hearts go to that kid naturally and by law. But the energy to help the child is expected to come first and most often from those closest the child, and the demands on them are relentless.
      I commend you for keeping that needle, ALL THOSE NEEDLES, from slipping back. Many a special needs child has coasted into the school-age years managing somewhat, only to hit a wall in first or second grade, and start de-compensating like a boss. I suspect in many cases, it’s because dyslexia, or one of its near kin, was never diagnosed, much less treated. The schools throw up their hands or make the situation worse, and Mom and Dad have nowhere to turn and no resources with which to turn anyway. .

      You haven’t let that happen. You have continued to gather information, to observe carefully, to recruit the right support for your son, to try this and test that, and consider the other. Now you have one more piece of the puzzle–quite possibly the piece that has been holding some of those needles back.

      But so what if the needles–as measured by a bunch of clinical tests–didn’t leap forward. A special needs child is on his own timetable and has his own yardsticks. Did he bond with a pet in those supposedly “no-progress” years? Did he learn to water flowers? Can he sit at the table for the duration of a meal? Has he found any joy?
      Had you not been so vigilant, conscientious, and devoted to your son, he might well have lost what language he has, lost any social skills, and chucked his gross and fine motor skills onto the dust heap for good measure. And that ground, once lost, is very, very hard to regain as we grow older.

      You are winning this fight, Amy, simply because you haven’t given up.
      And THAT is a miracle to me.

    • Amy, I am right there with you, my teen (autistic, medical ptsd, anxiety, suicidal depression) was recently also diagnosed with OCD. Sometimes getting that foot in front of the other is a major struggle, especially when you are essentially doing it for two. What I have found is that the progress tends to be more clear in hindsight. So, I can see the progress we made 8 years ago a little easier than the current struggles and gains. I don’t know if it is true generally but with my kid, there tends to be times that seem to just be plateaus no matter how hard everyone is working. Not losing ground is a major success (and frankly sometimes it is even just not losing as much as you feared) but sometimes those plateaus are what it looks like before a tipping point and a leap forward. It was like that with speaking with my kid for example, or more recently learning distress tolerance skills. Its a long game.

      I just wanted to say I understand and I am rooting for you both.

    • Amy, I don’t know how helpful this will be, but when my child’s life seemed to be represented by a thick binder of articles, tests, and reports from educators, therapists, and a Yellow Pages full of medical specialists, I recalled an anecdote from the late, great neurologist Oliver Sachs. He had been conducting an examination of a child with significant and diverse neurological+ diagnoses. On his lunch break, he happened to see the child on the landscaped hospital grounds playing with her grandmother. He suddenly realized he had read all the reports, tested, and examined but he had not SEEN THE CHILD. My son is now 30. He is a lovable young man with his own gifts–not a TV “savant”–and a community of people who are glad he’s part of it. FIND YOUR COMMUNITY. We are out here.

      • Amy, Sarah and Mo, my heart goes out to you all. I also admire you so much for being there, seeing them, and being their best advocate.

  2. What a beautiful story, Grace. And I love your reply to commenter #1, about the family of the special needs child. My hubby is the brother to a special needs child (now adult), and he was… not seen. It leaves so many scars. It’s SO TOUGH on the families. Amy, please make sure you are getting help for yourself too, and not just to your sweet child. Blessings on you!!

  3. Sometimes I swear I hearthe voice of my murdered cousin in my head telling me to keep going on she and I were very close I am dealing with multiple health issues and her voice in my head helps me push through

  4. Like all of us I’ve been through some significant crap in my life, but had many many blessings that I am very aware of and grateful for. My heart goes out to Amy, and I second her remarks about your writing gifts to us.

    I’m not commenting for the chance for the books, but I did want to take the chance to say I believe I see the significance of the three images of Kintsugi on this week’s post.

    Thank you for your wonderful story, Grace.
    I’ve been re-listening to the Thomas, Matthew, Axel, Jack series and loving them again.

  5. That was beautiful, Grace. Thank you. I say brava to the you who you were then, the you who you are today, and you you will be tomorrow.

  6. When I was taking a new year’s eve restorative yoga class a few months ago, I had this thought “I carry my shame on my back” and an image of taking off shame as a cape and it fluttering away in the wind. Miraculously, it really did take away my reflexive shame response and historical stored shame. I can still see where it was to try to understand its origins etc, but the freedom from it is amazing. And boy, does it make dealing with my aging mother easier.

    Grace, I’m so glad you got hit with self-compassion, that is a true gift.

  7. Oh Grace, I love your stories, the calm sense of knowing the ladies feel as they surrender to the love of their life. I so want to believe in that (even at 52) – but this moment, above all others speaks to me, I am that single mother, I am that moment.
    Thank you for speaking that truth in that moment. X

  8. Grace, thank you for describing your shift in perspective and the lightness you felt immediately upon ‘reframing’ how you saw yourself. You’re to be admired for making two important shifts (1) from seeing yourself as flawed to reconnecting with your unique, true and wonderful self, worthy of love; and (2) realizing that the lightness came from your own wisdom, which you know now that you can trust. Well done. Thank you for the love you give us readers through your books.

  9. One of my best friends has a now 30ish son with ADHD who took care of his beloved girlfriend while she died of cancer recently, and he did a great job with it, exhibiting vast amounts of compassion and courage. You can’t help but wonder if he developed all that mental strength slogging not always fruitfully through school, even though it may have looked like he was not doing much but struggling.

    Interestingly, my friend is a miracle baby. She was born very, very premature, and owes her life to a nurse who basically picked her up and decided she would devote as long as it took to making sure that she lived. This after the doctor took one look at my friend at birth and declared that she’d never make it.

    So, leftover miracle dust all around?

  10. This is such a meaningful post and the comments are so moving. I have a niece with special needs and a grown nephew who has OCD and anxiety. It is very tough on the family, both the immediate nuclear families and our shared extended family. There is also dementia in parents/grandparents. I remember with my mother being angry at her for not being her “true” self. When I finally accepted that the disease had taken what I remember and I needed to meet her where she was, my anger faded. If I had to answer questions repeatedly, I did so, etc. With my niece and nephew, I try to be there for them and meet them where they are. Your books always show such understanding of human character and frailty, it helps model how people should interact with each other. Your stories and characters bring clarity and a way to rest in calmness, maturity and understanding. Thank you.

  11. I recently had a revelation that if I was believing for a miraculous healing then I didn’t need a Dr to verify it had happened I just needed to act as if……. You see 12 months ago I was told that the Breast Cancer was back and had spread to my lungs and ribs. I was told I wouldn’t last 12 months. I kept believing for a miracle and then one day I realised that if I believed in miracles and that I was miraculously healed by faith then why was I waiting around , wasting time, putting my life on hold. I’ve had 2years of treatments etc and now it’s time to move on with my life. I’m only 57 years old and I have so much living to do.
    I have to tell you Grace your books have been my escape, my Relief and my friends throughout the battle.
    Sometimes battles are forced on us unexpectedly but it’s whether we continue the fight or just give in that makes us , to those Mama’s who have children with different needs your strength is valued by your kids. You’re showing them incredible role models

  12. Eight years ago this coming November, I was in the hospital after developing neutropenia following my first chemo treatment. On my second night, fever spiking and feeling miserable, I closed my eyes and was traveling down a neighborhood street lined with houses and shade trees awash in that golden glow that sometimes follows a rainstorm. Then, I was looking at the foot of my hospital bed. I could see my toes pushing up the thin blanket that covered me and a bright white light was growing in the corner of my room. I heard “ He is right. She must be saved.” The light spread over me like a web and from above and behind me I heard, “I am here to protect you.” The rest of the story is very wordy, but in the end, the web of light wrapped up the “evil” that tried to get in and left me alone in the room again. My fever broke, my nausea was gone, and eventually, more quickly than even the Dr expected, so was the cancer.