So Scott and I finally made it out of the country - and we chose Amsterdam as our first European country to visit. We were not disappointed. I'm posting a few pictures, and will post my perspective on international travel later.
Happy to be home, and very happy for this opportunity to travel.
This was a very very hard concept for me - releasing the life I'd planned, getting back to "normal."
When trauma hits, plans are thrown out the window, and crisis living takes its place. We live in the moment, from one doctor's visit to the next, one service to the next, begging for "as it was" to return, but it doesn't. And accepting this is difficult, so hard, in fact, that people spend their time longing for this rather than moving forward, into the unknown.
Most of those I serve long for their old skin - and while they know, to some extent, that they cannot return to normal, because we can't go back, they want what they thought they could have.
Just today a woman asked me when would "life get back to normal." And I carefully and gently told her that "back" is not where she wants to be. Because "back" includes the diagnosis and treatments of yesterday. We can't selectively go back.
The only way is forward. And just as when living in crisis mode, living in the moment is not a bad idea for moving forward. One day at a time, and sometimes, one hour at a time.
We must be willing to get rid of
the life we’ve planned, so as to have
the life that is waiting for us.
The old skin has to be shed
before the new one can come.
If we fix on the old, we get stuck.
When we hang onto any form,
we are in danger of putrefaction.
Hell is life drying up. When I prayed, seeking guidance for what was next, the spirit told me, "The life you were leading no longer suits you." What I took that to mean was that I could not "go back," because not only could I not return, but the old me is not the new me, the now me, and back would not fit. You may not see it today or tomorrow, but you will look back in a few years and be absolutely perplexed and awed by how every little thing added up and brought you somewhere wonderful - or where you always wanted to be. You will be grateful that things didn't work out the way you once wanted them to. Attributed to Brianna Wiest I am finding this to be so. And awareness of this has made my journey rich with living in the moment, reflecting on the past, and anticipating tomorrow.
This week I've had the blessing of counseling several clients who have terminal illnesses. And interestingly, the one thing they've all commented on is the loss of being touched. They've been poked and prodded, pricked, pinched, lanced, but not touched.
When I was a young mother I remember telling my husband, after he came home from work, wanting a hug, a snuggle, that I was "all touched out." I had given all of my touches to the kids, saving none for him, and having none to give him.
There's differences between medical and care-giving touch, giving touch with wanting something in return, and giving touch with the goal of only giving, no receiving.
I have to say I've been on the end of medical touch and giving touch (or receiving from a giver), more often than I have been on the giving (or receiving) of no motive touch.
Until Scott. His touch tingles my body, soothes me, electrifies me, warms me, calms me, and heals me. His touch has no motive (well, most of the time :)), and his giving is pure energy.
I remember our first touch - we were in his car, our second date, I turned my left shoulder toward his right shoulder, lightly put my hand on his shoulder, which was covered with a heavy coat, and at that very minute I felt such strong powerfully gently energy, that I knew I was a goner. His touch fed me then, and it continues to feed me.
During my cancer treatment and these 4 years post-treatment, I've struggled with touch. Seems as if my body is touched out, again. I have nothing to give in return, and I've been on overload of being examined. I hunger for the warmth of the human touch, while at the same time recoiling from it - what is wanted in return - blood, urine, examination, etc.
Yet - as I've chaplained, the one thing I can give, that few other chaplains (particularly male) can give is touch. I can wipe tears, hold a hand, give a hug, touch a shoulder, cuddle a cryer, hold the weak, the sad, the worrying, the despondent, the mourner.
There are non-physical touches as well - sincere eyes, complete awareness, devoted attention, a smile, a nod, listening ears.
And when I do touch - I give. I give fully and freely, without an ounce of thought of myself. And although I feel the energy move from me to those I touch, surprisingly, I'm never "touched out."
Consider giving a tender touch these next few days. It's a way to give what some people need most - no questions asked, just a gentle moment.
I've been thinking about this quite a bit lately. I'm still, nearly 4 years post-cancer, having a difficult time welcoming the outside me into the inside me. I'm still a stranger to myself, in many ways. Yes, there are days when I know who I am, when I'm confident, self-assured, comfortable in my skin. But for the most part - I'm still my own stranger.
I teach my patients that time heals, that with all their struggles, as they become comfortable in the here and now, they will begin to make peace with their journey - wherever it takes them, if they desire. Because we have to find peace with our present before we can begin to move forward - or at least stop long enough so that we can see where forward is taking us.
So here I am - and I often wonder if the "C" stigma is still attached to me - if I am defective, contagious, rejected. Do I wear that "C" on my sweater, do I attach that to me, and use that as my tool to withdraw, step aside, stay in the back? What am I afraid of?
That stranger who lives within, is really the stranger who lives on the outside - I am at my best when I forget the stranger that has occupied my spirit.
Must make peace with this person - again.
Speaking of a friend: She became depressed with each
milestone because she realized there was no going back to normal. She would never be “out of the woods.” Her
life was unalterably changed and she couldn’t stand it.She was reading the
book, A Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, when she got the
insight that she lived in the woods.The point was not to try to get “out of
the woods” but to learn to live in the woods.Make peace with the uncertainty.
Learn to navigate the woods.