I sat with a friend last night whom I hadn’t seen in months, catching up on what has been ‘a tsunami of awful’ for her. Her husband’s got colon cancer that’s spread to his liver. She’s got several other relatives in deep trouble in terms of physical health (dementia, cancer, autoimmune disorders).
As a teacher, she has a very challenging job (with lots of students needing her care and attention) and she is clearly not taking care of herself. At. All.
She is full blown overwhelmed.
Who Can Blame Her?
In fact, I completely empathize with her plight, having just been through terrible health trials myself over the past six months (heart trouble, sleep trouble, peripheral edema, high blood pressure). I’ve also stood by, wringing my hands, with nothing but prayers to offer as solace, as a number of my dearest friends have gone through breast and ovarian cancer treatment, job loss, and the death of a parent (or both parents).
“We awake at dawn.
To sink or swim.”
― Kiera Woodhull, Chaos of the Mind
How do we bravely face such trials when a big part of us just wants to collapse in a heap on the floor?
“There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater. But sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life. That is the sort of bravery I must have now.” ― Veronica Roth, Allegiant
Words Offer Solace. Words are a Salve.
The only saving grace for me has been writing.
Writing letters to the universe. Writing letters to myself.
Writing and sending my writing out into the world to see what might echo back.
What will my inner voice tell me?
What message from the deep, intuitive, unconscious part of my soul does it carry back to me?
Put Yourself on Your ‘To Do’ List.
“You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.”― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
My friend’s a writer; a depressed, frustrated writer, who is not writing what she feels called to write. She has long neglected including herself on the list of people she should care about.
Over dinner, I reminded her that she deserves a place on her list of priorities, too. I reminded her that what she’s doing — being a safe place to fall — for her husband, is profound spiritual work. I reminded her that ‘this too shall pass’ and there will come a time when she will see the purpose of all this suffering.
Are you drowning right now?
Ask for help. Don’t worry what others might think. Just do it.
Do you know someone else who is struggling not to swallow these huge waves?
If you do (and face it, we can easily see the terror or desperation in that person’s eyes), remind them that even in all this mess, all this loss, all this guck, something beautiful is emerging.
A gift, an idea, or perhaps, the germ of a story. A seedling, a poem, a manifesto. A painting, a quilt, a tree.
So much rises up out of us, if we look with the intention of finding it.
One day soon, this chaos will ebb.
Will you find it allowed you to stretch and grow and re-envision yourself and life as you know it?
I hope so.
I believe in our ability to withstand whatever comes our way. I believe we can transform that suffering into joy.
© 2015 Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved
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