maybe it’s not really a problem.

Eleven years ago today we heard the word Adrenoleukodystrophy for the first time. Part of me feels like it was yesterday and part of me has trouble remembering life before that day.

Our family has certainly been through our share of challenges during the last eleven years. It’s one of the reasons that I’ve been surprised that I’m finding it so difficult to deal with the relatively small challenges we are facing these days – Anna preparing to head off to college, friends moving, an oil tank reeking havoc in our front lawn, deciding when/where to move, our rat-dog’s new haircut. My body didn’t betray me eleven years ago when our challenges were grave, why now? I have my theories that I won’t bore you with, but for now I’m trying to tackle what I can before I get swallowed whole.

My first test was last Friday. I spent a week preparing for a two mile drive – The Delaware Memorial Bridge. Trying to explain my new fear of bridges is impossible. There’s nothing rational about my explanations and it’s often made worse because I walk away from an explanation feeling like I sound not just fearful, but kinda crazy. Then, I worry about being crazy and what people must think . . .

I was dreading the drive to Baltimore and the huge bridge I would be facing, so when Jack and I got in the car on Friday I had a post-it note with a magic number firmly stuck to the dashboard. I was planning to call a “bridge escort”. I was not going to judge myself for it. It was the right decision. Safe and responsible.

The drive was going smoothly and I was relaxed thanks to my “safe and responsible” decision. Jack and I listened to good music and I caught up on some phone calls. I was on the phone with Mymom when suddenly I was faced with the bridge directly in front of me. It came out of nowhere. I was in the middle lane and frantically trying to figure out how I could pull over, “Mom, I’m here. I don’t know what to do. Oh my GOD – I’m ooooooonnnnnn the BRIDGE!!!”

Mymom was in the delivery room when I delivered both Jack and Anna and I swear she used the same words with me on Friday, “You can do this Tates. Keep your eyes on the prize. Just keep going. You’re almost there.”

By the time I reached the other side of the bridge I was soaked with perspiration, but I had done it. I felt overwhelmingly exhilarated. Adrenaline and pride is a great combination (and knowing at almost 50, Mymom can still be my cheerleader is pretty awesome too).

After a lovely weekend at Hopkins, I insisted on driving home so that I could face the two miles again. This time I managed to keep a decent speed and didn’t even sweat through my shirt. I can’t say that I’ve conquered my fear of bridges, but I’m not going to let a bridge stop me from moving forward – and certainly not stop me from visiting my girl next year.


Sounds silly, but I do feel like I’ve taken a huge step forward. Last Thursday a father of one of Jack’s classmates said something to me that’s been helping, “If you can fix it, it’s not really a problem.”

So simple and just what I needed to hear. There’s plenty in our lives that we can’t fix and I no longer want to give strength to the crap we can. A weekend at Hopkins confirmed that it’s going to be a great place for Anna and it’s not too far – and the bridge won’t kill me. The oil tank is gone and our yard is getting fixed soon (money and time won’t destroy us). We are planning fun trips with our friends who are moving. We are prepping our house so that we can move when we are ready (months, years, who knows, but we are in control). Even Finn is working on growing his hair. If we can fix it, it’s not really a problem.

Eleven years ago I never imagined that we’d be living this life, but here we are. We can’t fix everything, but we will do what we can and take one bridge at a time.

Love, Jess


17 thoughts on “maybe it’s not really a problem.

  1. That is an AMAZING story!! Bridges are such powerful metaphors and here you used an actual bridge to overcome a paralyzing fear. You weren’t even planning on it, it surprised you. And your MOTHER helped you through. It all sounds so symbolic and poetic. It doesn’t matter why we develop fears, it matters that we can face them bravely and be victorious, without savaging ourselves in the process. These are times of big change. (Seeing Anna at JH even got me all choked up!) You are brave and wise and strong and funny. Thanks for sharing your experiences and inspiring us all. I for one will definitely use the word “problem” more selectively after hearing that story. Love you Jess.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is amazing that my body chose bridges (reaching the other side of change) as it’s way to tell me that it’s having a hard time. A powerful metaphor indeed! Let’s walk soon and catch up on all of our changes. I apologize in advance if I start crying. I’m better but I am still freaking out!


  2. Jesse, You continue to amaze me with your ability to tell us your story with such clear and poignant prose. I remember when I was in college and working as a steeple Jack and duct cleaner and I was driving my panel truck over the Manhattan bridge one night. I was in the outside lane, very narrow, and half way across the Easr River when I had a panic attack! It was all I could do to get a grip and finish the crossing. You are not alone in this phobia but you have bravely worked through it. Good on Jean for being a cheerleader. You are an inspiration for all of us. Love to all at 26Clinton.


  3. I love this. Overcoming obstacles is such a monumental thing. I think we get so caught up in everyday life that we don’t realize how big the small stuff is and vice versa. Love you, miss you, and hope to see you again soon.


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