Emily D’Ambrosio – Smelling the Roses
Emily was born and raised in NY but now enjoys the warmer weather of NC. She loves Jesus, her big Italian family, french fries, and chocolate. Emily is a CHD survivor who lives with only half of a heart but loves with all of it. I hate the game of tag. Literally, hate it. I hate man hunt too. That's just tag in the dark and I'm not a fan of the dark either. When I took my students to the playground the other day and they asked me to play tag I said, in my nicest teacher voice, "No, you guys play, I've got to keep my eye on all of you." and in my head, I was thinking, "Absolutely NOT!"I watched them play tag, and laugh, and shriek, and chase each other around, and get into arguments about who was on the base for too long. As I watched them running and playing and got involved when I had to set the ground rules for the base; I thought to myself, ' I hate this game! Why do I hate this game?'
The answer was pretty clear. Because of my Congenital Heart Defect. Because I can't run. Because I get out of breath. Because I get tired easily. Because my body isn't fast enough to get away from the tagger, nor is fast enough to be the tagger! Who likes a game they are terrible at? Who likes a game that they are incapable of doing? Who likes a game that reminds them of all the things they don't have and can't do? Definitely not me. Instead, I did what I usually do in these situations. I stood on the side and watched.
So much of my life has been spent on the sidelines watching other people run and jump and play and have fun. In gym class, in sports, in any activity that requires physical exertion. I couldn't participate because of my heart. I had to sit out because of my heart. I had to take a break because of my heart. If I were trying to make you feel bad for me, now would be the time where you should start. But I'm not. At all. Because I learned something along the way. I learned that the sidelines are pretty exhilarating too.
Sitting on the sidelines gives you such an interesting perspective. Sitting on the sidelines allows participating in the experience. Sitting on the sidelines teaches you to observe. Sitting on the sidelines forces you to see the whole game. Sitting on the sidelines causes you to get to know people. Sitting on the sidelines teaches you how to be an encourager. Sitting on the sidelines can get your heart racing and your blood pumping too.
Learning that the sidelines had so much to offer wasn't a lesson I learned over night. There were day where I spent my time on the sidelines wishing I could be in the game. Eventually, as I grew to accept that my CHD wouldn't allow me to be 'on the field', I made it my mission to make the best of the seat that I could sit in. I decided that if the only action I would see was going to be from watching, I was going to make the very best of it.
Growing up, my siblings played sports and I made it my mission to go to every match, meet, game, scrimmage, competition and tournament that I could. If I couldn't be on the team, I was going to be the team cheerleader, team mascot, team score keeper...whatever the team needed me to be. In gym class I got A's because I dressed out, I kept time, and I encouraged my classmates as the ran the mile or played softball, or climbed to the top of the rope. I made sure the sidelines was just as exciting as being in the middle of the action. CHD was not going to stop me from enjoying myself. CHD was not going to stop me from having fun. CHD was not going to stop me from being active and being involved. To this day, I LOVE to watch...sports, plays, people...clouds. I think that being able to observe all that's around you is a gift. To be able to sit and to watch is peaceful. To be able to stop and to see is priceless. You don't always have to do things to truly experience them. Sure, it may not be the same but, with the right mindset, it's just as exciting as actually being a part of it.
My dad and I like to people watch. Airports and fast food restaurants are the best places if you're into it too. When we people watch we play a game where he asks me how I think the people are related and what they are saying to each other. I always ask him what he thinks first. Because I already know. I've become an expert observer. I can read people from miles away. I can look at a situation and pick out details that many people might not notice. I can look at that same situation as a whole and put all the pieces to gather to understand the whole picture. If you people watch long enough, you eventually figure out what you're looking at. When my dad eventually does, he turns to me and says, "I think you're right!" Yes dad, I know. I usually am. CHD has stopped me from doing many things in life. But CHD hasn't stopped me from experiencing life in ways that many people will never get to experience. CHD has taught me that point of view from the sidelines is a unique one. CHD has taught me that I don't need to go from adrenaline rush to adrenaline rush to feel exhilarated. CHD has taught me that there is so much value and importance in observing. CHD has taught me that being able to encourage people is a gift that our world needs more of. CHD has caused me to slow down and to "stop and smell the roses". Yes, having to "stop and smell the roses" is a way of life for me with CHD. Thankfully, I love the smell of roses.