Charley’s going to high school next year. The very thought of it has been enough to nauseate me. TheHealthSite.com lists the #1 cause of frequent nausea as “stress, fear and anxiety,” so I guess that’s no big shocker. I’ve been stressed that Charley won’t be able to do all of his homework due to his time-consuming evening routine of stretching, medications and electrostimulation. I’ve been afraid that walking from class to class down the long hallways will hasten the deterioration of his muscles. I’ve been anxious that his friends will get busy with sports and jobs and driver’s ed and girlfriends, and Charley will end up alone and depressed.
And then one day last week, I overheard Charley on a FaceTime call with one of his friends. Here’s what they said, more or less. (I had to act like I wasn’t listening so I couldn’t get the whole thing down word for word.)
Dylan: Charley are you gonna play golf with me next year on the team?
Charley: I asked the coach if there’s a lot of walking and he said I shouldn’t worry. He said we can work it out, like use the golf carts or something so I don’t get too tired.
Dylan: Cool. I’ll take you to the driving range next weekend and show you how to hit the ball. If you know what you’re doing you don’t need a ton of strength to be really good.
Charley: K. But I’m not sure what I’m doing yet ‘cause Coach Naventi asked me to be the manager of the varsity soccer team and I might wanna do that instead. Also I might go out for crew because the coxswain has to be small and loud and you know that’s perfect for me.
Dylan: (laughing) Yeah man that’s so perfect.
The nausea disappeared and hasn’t returned.
I often marvel at Charley’s incredible attitude. But I realize his positive outlook did not develop in a vacuum. It’s his natural bent to make lemonade from lemons, but that tendency is nurtured by the people who surround him. Charley’s friends and teachers and mentors make him feel like he is fully a part of whatever they are doing. It’s not phony or forced; they embrace what Charley has to add instead of dwelling on the things he cannot do.
To be sure, people do not pity him or sugar coat things. When the weather started to get nice a couple of months ago, a bunch of Charley’s friends started a band with the intention of playing on the street corner to entertain passersby and collect some extra cash. Charley was assigned the rhythm egg. After two rehearsals, however, it was determined that Charley has no rhythm and had to be mercilessly cut from the band. “Sorry dude but you just can’t keep the beat,” Nate told him. So Charley got a babysitting job instead, and now he’s making ten bucks an hour to hang out with an 11-year-old boy when his mom goes out at night.
I’m not sure which came first, Charley’s “sliver lining” approach to life or the encouragement and support of so many friends and mentors in our community. Chicken or egg no matter – Charley’s positive attitude and the support of our incredible community feed off each other. As a result, Charley is self-confident and happy and looking forward to high school. And my nausea is gone.