To New Beginnings
What will this day be like? I wonder.
What will my future be? I wonder.
It should be so exciting,
To be out in the world, to be free.
My heart should be wildly rejoicing.
Oh, what’s the matter with me?
It has been a year to the day since my accident turned our life upside down. I find it fitting, in a full circle sort of way, that on this day we move into our new home. New beginnings, quite different from those of a year ago.
That day when my eye was smatterized by a cat-o-nine-tails, and I instantly lost my sight, I turned away from my grandboys and roared into the sky, ‘NooooooOOOO’ before I collapsed to my knees.
Neither discipline nor willpower were strong enough to describe the immense need to contain me within enforced immobility; my emotions, my mind, my hurting body, my utterly devastated eye, my dependence on others, or my reliance on the skill of my medical team.
In those stunned days following my loss of vision in the arrested state my body needed to assume, my heart battered at the edges of my soul and my mind flew into space undefined and untethered to my hindered physical state of being. I slept no longer than forty-five minutes at a time during those endless nights. Some nights in the midst of this loneliness I swung among the scattered stars at the end of the thin thread of faith alone. (Wendell Berry) As days turned to weeks, and weeks to months, I learned to harness my mind to be about the business of thoughtful quietude of spirit for the sake of the healing of my eye.
Throughout those days my husband would read the words so many of you wrote to me. Drops of honey for my soul. You were the soft harbor into which I could safely fall.
Over those months of reflection, I found twelve truths I share with you.
· Life is a paradox of crushing loss and rising joy; of being lifted on the wings of a host of souls whose love, prayers, and energy carried this wounded one forward.
· Loss is just that. Loss. It didn’t happen because I, or anyone, caused it. It wasn’t the universe telling me something. It was sudden, inexplicable, devastating loss.
· One doesn’t ‘move on’ from grief, one ‘moves forward’ with it.
· Stilling a body speeds up the mind. I needed to keep that mind occupied. My mental sorbet involved audible fiction that required total concentration such as a mystery or espionage novel; science, philosophy, sociology, or medicine — the stretching of one’s mind with new ideas; human interest and/or accomplishment; where belief or love (or both) and perseverance spurs feats nearly unbelievable; and then humor. Buckets and buckets of humor.
· Balance will always be achieved on the high wire of life. Balance or paradox is life’s sweet tension. Too little or too much will upset that equilibrium.
· Slow to ‘in the moment’ at least once each day. Use each of your senses. I would have my husband open a door so I could listen to the world outside. Leaves rustling, bees buzzing, Canadian Geese honking a cacophony, or the utter hush of a winter snowfall. When I couldn’t see, I mentally turned a full circle and remembered what surrounded us. The moment the door opened the scent of evergreens drifted in. I wanted to feel the breeze, to touch water. And, did you know sucking the nectar from a honeysuckle blossom is incredibly sweet?
· Find joy in each day. Finding joy face down 22 hours a day required some imagination, but because I went looking (figuratively speaking), I found it. Every day. Nestled inside joy is positivity. Not the chirpy “there are no weeds, there are no weeds, there are no weeds” kind of cheerful, and not merely optimistic. Positive people are kind, generous, unassuming, supportive and solution oriented. They look for good and find it. A subtext for this truth is laughter. As Anne Lamott says laughter really is carbonated holiness.
· Profound self-care is not only good for you, it’s an incredible gift to others. But how does one practice self-care, if one cannot move? It was heart, mind, soul work in order to free my body to heal. When at long last I was allowed movement, I walked a circle eight in our bedroom suite. Around the bed, into the bath area, across the hall to the walk-in and walk through closet, turn and crisscross back. 50 steps. As restrictions lifted in the months to follow, I worked up to 3,000 steps. That’s a lot of figure eights.
· Lying face down isn’t natural. I will never willingly do so again.
· Exercise — the right kind — is meditation. My sunrise SUP (stand-up paddleboard) rides put me right there. This communion of body and spirit strengthens physical and mental wellbeing. Eight months following my accident I carried my SUP to the lake and put in. My shaky body managed ten minutes. Ten. But I was jubilant at merely ten, for I was on water feeling it — feeling the movement of a liquid surface. Feeling my whole self expand into the beauty of that precise moment. At one with myself and the world.
· Grit is achieved by pressing the limits imposed on you by others, your own beliefs, or your body’s limitation. The impeded stream is the one that sings. (Wendell Berry)
· Belief. One step ahead of hope. Your belief, whatever its form, strengthened mine. It gave me courage, provided comfort, hope and trust.
At this moment I hover at the edges of legally blind in my left eye. The experts tell us that six more months must pass before we’ll have a final outcome. I have also been yielding the river inch by inch as I say goodbye to this body of healing water, for our move takes us from it. Yet today we will begin to make a house a home, with eager anticipation for the melody our life will sing out of its impeded stream.
“All I trust I leave my heart to.
All I trust becomes my own…”
— Richard Rodgers