We have been traveling for nearly two weeks. Our whole family. Far, far from home. We are with a tour group. Most of these people we have never met before. They do not know our stories, and we do not know theirs. We are all getting to know each other as we travel from place to place and cling to one another as something familiar, something from home, in this land that is foreign to us all.
One thing almost nobody on this trip knows is that Blake has OCD. They do not know that one way it shows itself is in scrupulosity and that he repeats prayers over and over because that last one didn’t feel “quite right” or that he frequently worries that his actions may offend God. Since they don’t know, their reaction to him has been interesting to me, even refreshing for my own perspective.
Let me say that is has escaped no one on this trip that Blake is a religious young man. However, since our group is more than forty people, it doesn’t stand out to everyone that he repeats or overdoes. Most only recognize him as religious. So, instead of the angst we experience at home with his practice, I simply keep hearing words of praise.
“Blake is such a dedicated young man at such a young age,” one woman tells me.
“Blake, you impress me with your commitment to your religion,” another tells him.
“He is so smart and he knows so much about religion,” another traveler who has been enjoying conversation with Blake remarks. “Do you think he’ll become a religious scholar?”
There are times when I might have wanted to correct these people’s perceptions. I might have wanted to adjust their viewpoint by letting them know that, yes, it is lovely that he is so dedicated, but that they didn’t know the downside – the fear and anxiety that came along with it. I have opted against that on this journey. First, Blake (and the rest of our family) deserves whatever privacy he can get. It is his personal life and I’d rather the fact that he has OCD only be shared if he wants to share it. Second, it has actually been a perspective changing experience to listen to people glow with compliments about my almost 15-year-old son and to just sit with them, soak them in.
It is this second thing that has created some very positive and appreciative feelings in me. Often, I sit in angst about Blake’s OCD. Instead, over this vacation I’ve been able to see my son through another lens. I’ve been able to see what others see when they look at him and interact with him. I’ve been able to appreciate myself what a special young man he is.
Yes, of course he has his challenges and those are his to deal with, but, for this time, I am enjoying hearing others praise him. I am enjoying seeing him take in that praise. I am grateful he is having the opportunity to be appreciated by others without having “OCD” hanging over his head. More importantly, I am reminded that there are wonderful, non-OCD parts of his religious observance, and he deserves to enjoy those.