Yesterday, I acknowledged a pivotal event in my life. Two years ago, at this time, (June 12, 2014), I was all wired up in the cardiac care unit of my local hospital. A bit more than 24 hours earlier, on that day, a fully occluded artery was threatening to put an end to this mortal existence. Fast action on the part of the staff, after a workaholic-fueled decision to head home from the gym, when the symptoms kicked in, cancel with a client and then drive myself to the hospital rather than calling 911, stood between me and the doorway to my next incarnation. Within a short time, a stent was inserted to prop up the broken tree branch appearing structure, instructions were given by the cardiologist and thus began my new life. Visits, calls and messages from far flung family and friends, expressing support and offering loving kick in the tush admonishment for the choices I had been making that contributed to the resulting cardiac event, were part of my recovery in the interceding 24 months.
This weekend was spent celebrating life fully. What I have realized is that the woman I was back then died that day to give birth to the one who is writing this article. She had to die, since she was literally killing me. Her choices to work insane hours (modeled by my father throughout my life), take on the weight of the world, literally and symbolically, sleep maybe five of six hours a night, don her Wonder Woman cape and practice ‘savior behavior’ led inexorably to that pivotal moment. As I glance backward over my shoulder at the events of that time, I see that it fits into a pattern that desperately needed to change if I was to live beyond 55.
One of the things I did yesterday was attend services at an interfaith community of which I have been a member since 2001. It’s called Circle of Miracles and what I receive there feeds me on levels physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. The speaker for this service is named Laura Barry and she is an interfaith minister and hospice chaplain. She spoke on the topic that is the title of this piece. I was fascinated with how accurately her sharing mirrored my own journey.
One of the concepts Laura held forth about came from the work of Kathleen Dowling Singh, author of The Grace of Dying. She outlined three stages of loss (not just related to death) that people experience.
I can vouch for that journey. Back when I was (as described by a friend) “running around 100 mph with your hair on fire,” life did indeed feel like it was fraught with chaos. I marvel that I was able to function as well as I did back then. I know for certain, that I will never return to the mindset that allowed me to run what seemed to be a treadmill to nowhere. I can still remember the racing thoughts that shouted their messages, “You need to keep up the pace, see more clients, make sure that they are doing well and come up with clever interventions to help keep them from drinking and drugging and making other destructive choices.” In my personal interactions, I was attempting to read people and second guess their needs; meeting them before they could verbalize them. I took on what wasn’t my own.
Not sure the next stage is any easier. When I consider the meaning of the word ‘surrender,’ what comes to mind is the Nestea’ Plunge in which I fall back into the waiting ‘arms’ of the God of my Understanding, as is expressed in the recovery community. Laura told us her definition of the terms ‘trust’ and ‘surrender’.
Trust is : “Reliance on the integrity, strength, ability and surety of something.” She asked, “What has impeccable integrity?”
Surrender is to yield to what that is and in her view, it is the Divine. What if we could let go of what we have no control over anyway? It seems absurd to keep doing what we know doesn’t work. I use the analogy of the trapeze artist who needs to release the swing on which their fingers are grasping in order to leap forward and grab hold of the one heading in their direction. If they played it safe and kept swinging back and forth on the current trapeze which they gripped, it wouldn’t make much of a show, would it? I ask myself daily if I can let go of what I think is ‘supposed’ to happen in my life, in favor of what might be in my best interest. Another is the image of ordering a pizza and being told that it will be a 20 minute wait. Instead of calling every five minutes to see if it is baked, all bubbly and golden brown, redolent with tomato and cheese aroma goodness, you adhere to the instruction to wait. Would that it be that simple in daily life.
Seems to me that transformation is not a one and done event, but rather, an unfolding experience. The butterfly cracking out of the confining chrysalis and spreading her wings over and over, is where I am in the moment. For me, transformation involves a willingness to:
- Stay curious
- Ask myself what’s next
- Consider what might very well be waiting for my willingness to receive it, for it to show up
- Contemplate further what miracles are just around the corner that I don’t even know about yet, being prepared (like that pizza…spinach and broccoli, please)
When I think about the simplicity of those directives, I know that they are rewarding and well worth integration into a daily practice.
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