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Posts Tagged ‘surgery’

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

~Brené Brown 

Turning 50 was a huge deal for me! I was excited about the possibilities.  While I still feel sense of joy about the many doors that continue to open, I am also aware that I am single, with a small family, and a village that is beyond measure. On a good day, the gifts empower me to soar. On a challenging day, darkness and fear support how lonely I sometimes feel in our vast world. With a village so spread out, it is hard to feel nurtured when there is no one stroking my head when pain envelopes my entire being.

Today’s blog is my effort at being transparent. While I would prefer that light permeate my essence, I am aware that sometimes the darkness overrides. My hope and prayer is always that by opening the door into the fullness of who I am, I will allow more light to shine into my life and perhaps radiate that light to others.

Chava's Shadow 17January2016The Catalyst:
Recent health challenges opened the door to unrelenting vulnerability.  I know because I have spent the last two months virtually alone and in a painful haze that often felt dark and lonely.

During this time, I found out who cares and who cares less.  And regardless of who cares, I still felt deeply alone. Know that while my sons were close by and made a huge impact, it isn’t the same as having a partner, a close friend, or even a supportive community.  Aryeh and Dovi were great, but I needed more.

The love that flowed and continues to flow from my Facebook friends has been amazing and comforting. There is no question; I feel loved from friends that have surfaced from every time period of my life. I am awed by such genuine warmth.

My Reality:
Yet those calls couldn’t help me get a glass of water when walking to the kitchen was far too painful. Or perhaps worse, was the realization that if I slipped in the shower, I would have to scream to my sons for help; no mother wants to do that. Nighttime was the worst, but I was lucky. My brother and sister-in-law live in Israel and therefore they really could be available when I felt most raw.  As those living in the States went to sleep, my family in Israel was waking up.  And truth be told with so many of my friends being insomniacs, I probably could have reached out on Facebook.

To be fair, there were so many factors that made it impossible for some of my closest friends to show up:

  • They don’t live in Houston.
  • My back went out suddenly and surgery was scheduled quickly once the right doctor realized the necessity of my surgery.
  • Surgery was scheduled with less than a week’s notice and hours before the the First night of Passover and the Seder were to begin.
  • There is a huge cost to helping someone who doesn’t live around the corner.

Fortunately, I work for a lovely community in which there were those that would ask me how could they help and a few of those that really did show up.  And if ever I reached out, I didn’t have to ask twice.

Feb 2015 Walking from behindChallenges with friends:
Navigating close friends can be both challenging in fascinating. While, I would have loved to have my friends physically with me, I found the calls to be exhausting. I also realized that the calls and texts came from a place of worry.  I loved that people cared, but I struggled with what to respond. Healing is hard work; I had little energy for small talk, yet that’s what my closest friends seemed to crave.

From past experience, I know that if I was still married, my friends may have called my ex-husband to check on me, but they weren’t as compelled to call my sons. This forced me to interact with people before I was ready.

Friends are sacred to me. I treasure their presence in my life and I don’t take them for granted.  There were a couple beloved friends that didn’t reach out when I needed them. While I knew they couldn’t be with me, I desperately didn’t want to feel forgotten. During some of my darkest moments, I found myself wrestling with the realization that the holy connections could be lost at any moment and that would be ok to some of those I cared for most. Even as I type these words, the pain is almost inconsolable. I love forever and yet not everyone does. I have lost a few too many friends in my life and the sense of mourning is with me.  But friendships do change…. sigh.

As I heal, I am coming to understand that not all is as stark as I initially thought. Yes some of my friends have faded away, but some of them will emerge. AND there are new friends that are showering me with love and warmth. I am not alone, but that doesn’t take away the fact that blanket of loneliness that is all encompassing at times.

What’s happening now?
Knowing that I am not seriously ill has been important for me to remember; I was recovering from surgery-yes. But I always knew and still know that all will be good. Intense pain ended as soon as surgery was over. Yet that doesn’t mean I feel good or energetic. My entire life went out of control two months ago and in some ways it still is.  I may look good or better, but nothing feels good and the exhaustion I feel is bone-deep and overwhelming. While I can get up and do what I need to do, it isn’t easy.

Vulnerability comes from the realization that the doctor is looking at the weakness in my left leg and wondering if he will need to go back in to do more surgery. And what happens if he does? What will happen with my work? Who will take me to the hospital next time? How will I afford the mounting hospital bills when money is tight on a good day? Illness is lonely and in this moment, I am also realizing that as I reflect on the friends that ‘showed up’ over the last two months, I am not always a good friend to those that need me either. Life is busy and my creative spirit yearns for me creative time, yet . . .  How do any of us find balance with a world that needs our attention?

The hours of solitude have left me even more conscious than I was about EVERYTHING in my world. I am not sure where this deep reflection will lead, but I have a sense that certain changes are on the horizon.  Over the coming months, I will unpack what is filling my heart and soul via my blog, Facebook, journaling, and even talking — everything from aging/saging, relationships, finances, lifestyle choices, the world, and even my passions. And through it all, I need to embrace finding the gifts and engaging in actions that will move not only me, but our world forward.

Immense Gratitude:
When my orthopedic surgeon told me that surgery was needed as soon as possible, I was most sad about picking up the phone to tell my friends Kathleen and Eric that I wouldn’t be able to have them for our Passover Seder this year.  I had been so excited about them coming in from South Padre Island some 6 hours from Houston, but for all intensive purposes, Passover was being canceled. Their reaction shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. They said they would be coming anyway, they wanted to be here for me.

Even as I type this, tears are flowing from my eyes. One of my biggest fears was who would advocate for me. Hospitals are so scary to me; they literally terrify me. While I don’t necessarily show it, it is true. I struggle anytime I have to go to the doctor, support my sons when they need medical treatment, or go for any test. Even my blood pressure runs high as soon as I walk into the doctor’s office.

The years of having sick children have really impacted my life. And to make things even more complicated, I never thought I would be alone to navigate health challenges without a partner. When I first decided my ex-husband and I would part ways, I was sure we would always be there for each other. But reality is different from any illusions I once held.

The funniest part of having Kathleen and Eric come in was that not only did I have close friends, I had two doctors who could advocate for me and make sure that all was going smoothly. I so treasured how they showed up ready to do everything they could to make this experience as easy as possible. And they did.

Being spoiled by two beautiful souls was a gift. I hope the next time I have a friend that needs me that I show up with such an open heart and willingness to do whatever I need to do to make a difference.

Most of us have a few friends that we touch base with regularly and other friends that we may not talk to for years. I loved that three friends who I rarely talk to called me the days before surgery. Just prior to surgery, I was devastated and overwhelmed by my pain. Intellectually, I knew that I would land on my feet (literally), but that didn’t change how difficult it was for me to cope.  Each call made a huge difference and lifted a piece of the darkness.

Shortly after surgery, I received a lovely fruit basket from old friends and a sweet call from someone who I connect with rarely at best. Actually, he calls whenever he catches on Facebook that I am having a rough time. Again, these folks simply showed up and made me feel like I was worthy of their warmth.

Locally,  some special angels show up from my community. One member called regularly to check on me – always reminding me that she lived close by and would love to do whatever was needed (and she did too)! Another member of my community came to visit me weekly always with a baked goodie in hand. One of my favorite visits came from friends who brought me flowers, but more importantly brought our dog a new rope toy. The day after surgery, one loving soul brought us yummy leftovers from their seder. This routine of periodic visits and an occasional special delivery helped throughout the first weeks following surgery.  Sweet texts and cards (especially from my students) kept my spirits from plummeting.

Reality Check:
When we are ill it can be hard to ask for help, but people aren’t mind readers.  One thing that wasn’t so helpful were the many people that said let me know if you need anything. What I learned from most of those people was that they didn’t really want to help, they simply wanted me to know that they cared (and they would have helped if I asked). Next time, a friend is struggling, I will do my best to say that I am going shopping and would love them to have what they need and not what I want them to have. 🙂 Or perhaps I can offer to do their laundry, clean their bathrooms, or simply come over and sit with them.

I loved when the friends that I am in better contact with learned that a simple text was lovely. I was exhausted by those that expected a response from me every time they reached out. The good news is that I knew they cared!!

What I really needed was for people to be present without expectation. I think the hardest part about living in Houston for such a short time is that new friends don’t really know how to be present for you. And then there was the silence that came from people I would have thought cared. In truth, they don’t (not really) and that is a good thing to know too. I did feel horrible when I found out that one of my friends was having a hard time and that is why she didn’t reach out. I was, subsequently, relieved that she did care, but then miserable that I had temporarily made the wrong assumption. I am learning.

The World – sigh…
While my little world may challenge me, there is also the larger world that has me oozing with vulnerability.

  • Trump is a lunatic and the President of the United States. He is a sick bastard that is digging his professional grave. And when he goes down, we still have a Republican government and the next few possibilities in line are prejudiced and biased in how they walk in the world.
  • Millions of people are suffering and our country would rather close their doors than save the lives of entire families and villages. My father’s family would have been left to die if they wanted to enter this country today.
  • Our country feels like it has taken hundreds of steps back as it actively discriminates against people based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc.
  • The environment is being devastated by the actions of the human race.
  • The Occupation in Israel is in it’s 50th year. With this in mind, no wonder Israel is a mess. Hatred breeds hatred and Israel has done more than it’s share to destroy what could have been an awesome homeland for the Jewish people. I can’t believe I once wanted to make aliyah, move to Israel. (And yes, it is a complicated; I am not delving into those complexities in this blog.)
  • What about health insurance for my sons. The FUCKING government is actively trying to dismantle the amazing work of ObamaCare also known as the Affordable Care Act. My older son is thriving today, but that was not always the case; medical coverage could become an impossibility for him and so many others.
  • . . . and so much more.

I am disgusted by what I am seeing going on in our world. And the hardest challenge comes from the realization that I can never do enough to make our world a better place. Yet, I have no choice, but to do all that I can. Living in Texas and having Trump as POTUS, has totally impacted my plans for the immediate future because I need to take nearly every free minute I have, roll of my sleeves, and work towards undoing the damage of those that are either doing nothing as well as those that are actively destroying the fabric or our world.

Conclusion:
Two months have passed since pain rocked my world on Saturday, March 11th. I am blessed that the pain didn’t last for too long and yet it lasted just long enough. It gave me time to reflect about friendships (old and new), money, values, and needs versus wants. Illness has been a great tool for weeding out that which does not nourish me.

Mostly though, I have learned that I need to better care for my body, mind, and soul. And I need to nurture my village – near and far by both being present and allowing others to be present for me.  And when vulnerability rocks my world, moving forward is the only way to ultimately thrive.

Giving up is never an option. . . .there is too much work to be done!

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Writing Elul Reflections has given me the opportunity to share my intense side without delving into any drama.  On any given day, I reflect about the world around me.  I notice the small things; I notice the large things.  What I notice more than anything is how people handle life’s realities.

Accidents happen; moments happen.  It takes a moment to create positive and challenging reverberations that affect the rest of your day and sometimes the rest of your weeks, months, or years.

Over the past few days, I have excitedly been considering taking up running again.  I can’t wait to try, to gain physical strength, and to ultimately succeed.  I believe in myself; I believe in my power to  move forward by physically engaging in life.

Accidents Happen; Moments Happen.

Today was one of those days, I slipped and now I am in some physical discomfort.   To say I am just a little bummed at the timing is an understatement.  There is so much to do and in this moment I don’t have the physical endurance to do it. Not to mention, I want to run more than almost anything I have wanted to do in a long time.  Unfortunately, that probably isn’t going to happen for a little while longer; my entire right side of my body and now my lower back is feeling the impact of a little accident.

Reality is that I will absolutely be fine in a few days or maybe a week.  But in this moment, in the coming days, I get to decide how to move through this reality.  Tonight I am bummed and feeling just a little uncomfortable, but in truth the accident also feels like a message.  As I write this Elul Reflection, I get to decide how I will move through this moment.  Will I have a positive attitude? Will I whine? Will I ignore the discomfort and still push myself to what needs to be done regardless of how I feel.  The jury is still out for me in this situation.

Life is full of moments and we all get to decide how to move through each and every one of them.  Honoring your feelings is a good thing, but letting your feeling detract from healing isn’t so good.  When you realize that even some tough situations can be remedied, then you will truly be able to make a challenging situation better.

Just under two years ago, I had to have some surgery.  Friends from all over the country and even a few outside the country mailed me a thoughtful word to help me move through my healing journey.  With each word, I created a vision board.  The vision board helped me to focus on the positive opportunities that were possible.

We always have a choice how to cope with the moments regardless of how complex they might be. And for the most parts, while I often have initial moments of frustration, sadness, or anger, I am usually blessed to find the positive realities of those challenging moments.  And if I ever forget, I have a beautiful vision board to help me refocus my attitude.

Ultimately, I know I will be 100% fine; I always am!  Sometimes I just have to remember that reality.  I will be running again in no time, just maybe not exactly on the day I wanted to begin.

May we all be blessed to find the kernels of positive thoughts as we navigate life’s situations.

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One of my favorite children songs/books of all time is Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen.  This one story is quite possibly the most promising life-long teachings that we should be passing on to our children and remembering for ourselves.

In each or our lives, we will go through so many transitions, pathways, experiences, journeys.  We can come up for many euphemisms to express our life journeys, but the bottom-line is that we can’t go over it, under it, or around it. . . . .we have to go through it.  In the last months, I have been drawn to the symbol of doorways. Before recently moving from Washington DC to Tucson a friend gave me a door to paint and decorate with sayings and artwork that inspire moving through doorways.  I ended up leaving the door behind because I had not yet had the opportunity to do the work, but perhaps I shall find another door and try again.

This photo of Philadelphia Tunnels/Doorways is given by courtesy of my beloved friend and fellow writer Wicca Davidson. I love how she captured this view. Wow.

Life happens, challenges loom, sadness reigns, joy emerges.  Each of us have  personal stories that help shape the people we are.  When you go through life’s passages, you ultimately come out the other side.  Perhaps you come through the doorway and feel elation, perhaps you feel battered, perhaps you feel success.  Feeling is ultimately a healthy emotion; facing life isn’t always easy, but for the most part it is the right thing to do.

With each breath, I often find myself needing to do reflect on where I am at any given moment.  As someone that now walks through life feeling my emotions intensely, I find myself needing to take deep breaths so that I don’t let any moment guide me to an unsavory place. Bad moments are not bad days; a joyous moment doesn’t necessarily mean a day will be all-around great.  Yet managing these emotions means we might find a day of balance as we navigate our feelings and actively engage in going through life’s different doorways.

Before my older son was born, I did not know physical pain of any kind and I ignored emotional pain.  In spite of not feeling pain, I still appeared somewhat normal, nothing and  nothing stopped me.  And then when I was pregnant, I had a minor accident; I tore the ligaments in my ankle for the third time.  Well there went my running career.  (I was never that fast, but I loved it!!)  That one event transformed me on a personal level in a way that I am not always certain I like.

In the ER the doctor looked at my foot and noticed a really huge problem; little did I know that his findings would alter my life forever.  He told me what was wrong with my foot/ankle and then he added that he had never seen anyone handle this pain in the same way that I did at that time; he said I should have been screaming in pain.  It amazed him so much that he invited other doctors/residents into my little cubicle.  At that point in my life, I did not know from physical pain and I didn’t really deal with emotional pain either.

Years of soul work has changed the reality of nearly 20 years ago, I now feel intensely.  I am fortunate to have the ability to move through most life journeys with calmness.  I might feel intensely, but that never gets in my way of moving through whatever good or challenging situations are being encountered at any given time.

Fifteen years ago and again two years ago, pain came in handy as a means of telling both my doctors and I that I had a major health concerns brewing that would warrant surgery.  Fifteen years ago, the doctor wasn’t a 100% certain that I was in major crisis because he felt I should be feeling more pain.  Both surgeries led to me becoming healthy again.  If the surgeries hadn’t of happened because I didn’t feel pain, my guess is is that I wouldn’t be here today.  (Note: Both surgeries were normal.  If I hadn’t felt pain, I would’t have been able to communicate with the doctors so that they could remedy the situations.)

Remember, the best way to navigate life’s journeys recognize that you can’t go over it, under it, or around it. . . .you got to go through it (the door).

May each of us find the tools we need to make going through life’s doorways as easy as possible.

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