It's been two weeks since my surgical procedure, a uterine fibroid embolization that utterly ravaged my body. I am still in the process of recovering from the physical and emotional effects of this devastation. My body is struggling to regain strength, to find a sense of equilibrium, to heal itself. There are no gaping wounds visible from the outside. The incision is tiny and will fade to a pale speck, barely visible on my skin. Who knows exactly what scars will remain hidden deep in the arteries of my abdomen. I am trying to listen to the wisdom of my body, to let it tell me what it needs in order to fully heal. Of course, rest is a huge part of that, and so is healthy food, a bit of gentle exercise, a change of scenery, and most importantly, self-compassion.
The emotional part of this journey is much more complicated. My inner world has been turned upside down, which is natural when one emerges from the dense fog of an episode so painful that there were times when one felt the presence of death hovering nearby. The fog of pain is clearing, thankfully. However, I still feel so damn fragile, so vulnerable, so sensitive that the outside world and its never-ending tragedies are too much for me to bear. Every loss, every trauma I have ever experienced is much closer to the surface. It takes the smallest things to remind me of what came before. Sometimes, with just a single word, the images and sensations come flooding back. I haven't cried this much since losing my son ten years ago. Just thinking about how much I have cried is enough to bring tears to my eyes. How ridiculous is that?
The therapist part of me is gentle and reassuring. I tell myself what I have told my clients. This is normal, that all of this takes times to unfold and then even more time to process the experience. It is impossible to have gone through all of that and emerged unscathed. Healing is hard work, and in order to heal, we have to let ourselves feel the fullness of our emotions. We have to grieve for our losses. We have to go through the process. The only way out is through...
And so, I am muddling my way through. In doing so, I come back to Mary Oliver and her poem The Summer Day.
The Summer Day
Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear? Who made the grasshopper? This grasshopper, I mean- the one who has flung herself out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down- who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away. I don't know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
I am trying to pay attention as I walk through the park, past the swaths of wild plants where the butterflies and the bees are busily feasting. There are grasshoppers too. I hear them rubbing their legs together, an odd but effective sort of mating call. I watch this ordinary scene unfold through the eyes of the seven year old girl I once was, and my heart is glad. I, too, know how to be idle. I don't really know what a prayer is either, but I whisper words of gratitude for the simplest of things, and in launching them skyward, I feel that despite everything that has transpired, I am blessed. Doesn't everything die at last and too soon? It's always too soon. We are always left wanting more.... one more day... one more hour.... one more minute... one more smile... one more hug... one more word to tickle our ears...
And there it is again, the ultimate question. Life is precious and fleeting. But so are we, dear ones. I want to carry that awareness around with me and never lose touch with it. I want to surround myself with those who cultivate the same awareness, who are not afraid to be open and sensitive and vulnerable, despite the risks. I want depth, and I want mystery. I no longer have time or the inclination to wade in the shallows. Those who cannot take the plunge with me will be left standing on the shore. These desires are true for relationships, art, literature, movies, music, poetry. And so, what do I plan to do? I plan to dive into these luscious, life-giving waters and let them wash over me. I plan to return to the source, to my essence, to my wild nature, and to stay there, to not allow myself to lose touch with that again. I plan to make my life an homage to the beauty of simple things, tiny things, fleeting moments. I plan to share this journey of discovery in words and images with anyone who is interested in what I have to say. This is my plan for the sacred days that stretch out ahead of me. Who will join me?
Until next time...