Sunday, January 31, 2010

Loose Threads

Choosing a title for this stage of my journey, I had the visual of a handful of loose threads hanging freely in the air while waiting to be woven into the fiber of my life. I lived through these threads/experiences, considering them to be unrelated to each other...until years later when I saw how they had individually played a part in helping create the person I am today.

The first occurrence brings me back to the Procedure Room where my dad peeked in to help give me the courage to face the task ahead of me. I think I described it as an icky procedure that involved a fine set of stitches on the inside of my leg, right at the bend of the knee. My doctor explained that this was an especially tricky place for stitches due to the constant bending, so he asked me to carefully limit my knee movement. Being a first grade teacher meant that I was active throughout the day, so I knew that would be a nearly impossible task.

I had recently been a silent participant in a group discussion about our ability to quiet the body and invite God's energy to help in the healing process. I wasn't able to contribute to the conversation because it was a new idea for me and I first needed to process all this information before I could begin to formulate a comment. Now two weeks later, I was literally being given the opportunity to put this into practice. Each day I would sit on my sofa, taking a few deep cleansing breaths while inviting healing energy to surround and penetrate the wound. I was easily able to hold my hand over the bandages,visualizing this energy as a warm glowing light. I would quietly sit like this for a few short minutes and then whisper a prayer of gratitude. I could repeat this several times throughout each day since it took hardly any time to do.

When I returned to have the stitches removed, my doctor was delighted with how well the wound had healed. He wondered what I had done and commented that I could give lessons to his other patients on how to heal. Sitting there on the examination table I felt a bit awkward and unsure of what to say to him...this was a whole new way for me to think about healing. So after making small talk, I headed home with a feeling of wonder and delight and of course lots and lots of questions to ponder. How I wish I had again been able to touch into the same sense of wonder and delight just a few short months later...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Seeds of Change

As I reached my late thirties and early forties I felt the "nudge"to become more introspective, hopefully bringing some clarity to myself and my world. I had already encountered one divorce, two bouts with cancer and a clinical depression. I tried not to let these circumstances define me, but I admit that at times I felt like the poster child for When Bad Things Happen to Good People. I considered myself a well-behaved, respectable person, but as I grew up I wondered what I had done to deserve all these challenges. I began to ask God's help in understanding my life and my purpose for being here. Would I ever be able to go through life without the need for my daily companion, fear?

Saving money for a retreat with Francis was a two-year project, so when I finally achieved my goal, I was surprisingly nervous about spending an entire week with this woman. I was well aware of the deeply hidden feelings that she was able to bring forth during the brief weekend retreats in Milwaukee, so I was worried about what may come to the surface when I had more concentrated time with her. Even though the unknown aspect of this retreat was scary, I knew I was hungry for exactly this level of communication. I remembered how quickly I had trusted Francis when meeting her, and how refreshed my heart felt after each encounter. Yes, this retreat was exactly what I needed, so I put my uncertainties aside and headed out to California with confidence and just a wee bit of trepidation.

The best way to sum up my week in Idyllwild is to explain how I spent my last day. When I met with Francis that afternoon I brought along a small pad of paper and pen, quite seriously asking her to describe how I could recreate this peacefully quiet environment back in Madison. Now as I reflect back on that request, I smile and gently shake my head back and forth while feeling a mild case of embarrassment. Did I really believe Francis could give a detailed list of what needed to be altered in my life in order to achieve a retreat-like atmosphere? Oh my, I truly did begin at the beginning...but know that the seeds of change were planted during that stay.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Slow and Steady

It amazed me how life continued to move forward all around me even though the bottom of my world had fallen out from under me! Leaving the hospital, I noticed that everyone around me seemed to be engaged in the mundane realities of their world. How could they be going on their merry way when my treasured dad had just died?? I felt physically and emotionally drained, as though I was draped with the weight of grief and loss. Viewing life through that veil of sadness made everything around me seem surreal. Seeing his obituary in the paper was like getting a slug in my gut! There it was--a photo I had taken of him just a year earlier, now published with his obituary...surreal I tell you, surreal!

Moving forward was a slow process, but I found returning to my daily routine was one way of easing the bottomless taste of loss. I was also gifted with a simple way to honor my dad: a wind chime. He and I shared a love of them, and years earlier I'd purchased a beautifully-tuned one in Door County for him to hang on his patio. On the day of his funeral I stood alone on that patio whispering a gentle prayer of good-bye, when suddenly the wind chime rang. With no hint of breeze in the heat of that August air, this totally shocked me, momentarily taking my breath away, but leaving in its place a sweeping sense of peace. I felt like I had been in communication with Dad! Imagine my joy when a few days later at Wild Birds Unlimited I spotted a miniature replica of that exact wind chime! I purchased it, took it home to hang from a cupboard handle in our kitchen. Opening that door and hearing the soft ring of the chime provided a tangible remembrance of my love for him, and each time I would gently say, "Hi Popsi." It was a tender yet profound way of helping me heal in my grieving process.

With our home selling so quickly, we needed to move out two months before our new home was completed. That would have been a major nightmare if it hadn't been for Mom's generous offer to have us stay in the condo with her. This meant we would be with her for the first Thanksgiving and Christmas since Dad's death. Even though her three bedroom condo was busting at the seams with the addition of us and our two dog entourage, we shared a special holiday season filled with an abundance of emotional release and support...quite beautiful and exactly what I needed on my road to living with the loss of a deeply loved man.