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I Am Just Me
" Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out. . . My [child], if you accept my words, and turn your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand what is right and just and fair -- every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart." [Proverbs 1: 20-21, 2: 1-10].
Every once in awhile, a good book comes along, that changes your mind, that touches your heart, that imparts pure wisdom.
I have just finished reading such a good book, that has changed me, touched me, made me wiser. The book is "Just Cate", a dual memoir by Noelle Alix and Angela Martin. In this book, Noelle and Angela, lifelong friends, recount the story of their enduring friendship. In alternating voices, they tell, as well, the story of Noelle's daughter Cate, a child diagnosed at birth with Down Syndrome. Along the way, as Noelle and her husband raise Cate, Noelle's faith, while faltering at times, ultimately deepens.
This book has touched me for so many reasons: I endured a very difficult childhood. I was in an environment where I was not safe in my bed at night. I used to keep myself up at night, until everyone in the family was in bed. In that time, I would read by the shaft of light that came into my room from the hallway.
In recent years, I have been unable to read books any longer. Reading has become associated with those times of feeling unsafe. The fact that I was able to read "Just Cate" is a miracle in and of itself. This book has become a significant part of my healing journey! If I could meet Cate, I would tell her, "Cate, you got me reading again!"
Cate has given me wisdom in so many more ways. When I was young, no one ever hugged me or said, "I love you." I had years when I feared that this meant I was unloveable. In this book, I was struck by how family and friends insisted on holding baby Cate all the time. Here is a tiny girl, who is "different", but who receives so much love! I learned that we are all imperfect, but we are all loveable.
As the years went on in my insecure home, I began to shut down. I stopped speaking at age ten. It is still hard for me to speak my mind. I agonize over whether I have said too much about myself; or whether I have said too little to defend myself. But then I read about how Cate went up to each person in a doctor's waiting room and asked everyone what was wrong. She asked each patient, "You okay? You feel better?" I need to remember that it is always okay to be outspoken in your love.
Some nights, growing up, I was not fed dinner. I began to hoard candy in my room. I developed "food rules": analyzing which foods go with which other foods; or eating food groups one at a time, and in order. Then I read that Cate eats lemons! I thought this was about the old cliche of, 'When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.' No, Cate goes one step further. She eats the lemons. I guess I need to learn to be less anxious about what I eat.
Over time, I tried very hard to be invisible. In my house, being conspicuous was dangerous. I began to dress carefully in order to blend in. And then there is Cate, who does not worry about what she wears. She wears what she likes, even to her mother's dismay. I wish I could be that way. . . . I am working on it.
Like Cate, I have a chronic lung disease. Every time this disease spins out of control, I fall into despair. Sometimes, the treatments feel worse than the symptoms themselves. I know that I fight this disease. But I have learned something from Cate. At times, she needs to wear a vest to break up the congestion. She cheerfully declares, "Hate the vest", and she doesn't dwell on it.
I have had times lately when I feel so broken and useless from the damage of my past, that I wonder, 'Who would want to be with me, or even want to know me?' Then, I read about Cate, who in our society is the very definition of imperfect. What I see is a girl who loves everyone, who knows who she is and what she wants-- a girl who has spunk!
I am on my own personal journey of healing now. I am trying to learn to speak my mind, with love. I am trying to worry less about what I wear and what I eat. I am reading books now! I am trying hard to accept my lung disease and not waste my energy fighting its very existence.
In the end, my journey is focused upon Wisdom. I want to accept my imperfections, my frailties. I am telling myself: if Cate can be "Just Cate", why can't I be "Just Me"? Yes, I am broken, but I am exactly how God made me.
There is "nothing wrong with Cate". There is everything right and just and fair about her. The priest who gave Cate her First Communion said, 'She is a tremendous gift.' And she IS truly a gift: to me, to everyone. If only you care to open your heart to her wisdom, you will receive a hidden treasure, the gift of Cate!
[Resources: "Just Cate", a dual memoir by lifelong friends, Noelle Alix and Angela Martin. Available at
and at Amazon.com.
Thu, Jul 12, 2012 06:06 PM
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