I've been wracking my brain to figure out how to write about my other thoughts about healing...without sounding new-age-y or crazy. Oh well, that might be impossible. I last wrote about how healing sometimes seems like it's about getting back up and moving forward (as Dori would say in Finding Nemo 'Keep swimming')...but I often feel it is really more than that.
When I first found out about Kath's stroke I just kept swimming...some days in circles, but I knew I had to keep moving. Mind you I did my turtle impression and pulled away from every one and everything that I possibly could, thereby losing several friends because I simply didn't have the energy to keep swimming and also be there for anyone else outside my home. I was concentrating on keeping my nose above the tide while trying to hold everyone in my family, with their variety of issues, up above the waves. And everything was so heavy. So darn heavy that it took all I had to just. keep. swimming.
Then things began to ...I'm not sure what to call it...but I was able to start to breathe...maybe the waters started to recede...but, no, not really because all of the same problems were there...well, more actually, because now great financial difficulties raised the water level.
You know that anecdote that says that most American families are one crisis away from financial ruin? Well, we were hit over and over...within two years.
1) While I was working part time (job sharing my teaching position),
2) Nick had his TBI accident.
3) We found out I was pregnant (not a 'crisis', quite a blessing, but still a financial struggle).
4) Then after she was a year, we found out Kath's stroke diagnosis.
5) Two weeks later Roger had his roll-over car accident during a snowstorm, totaling the car we had just paid off and taken the collision coverage off--to save money--a few weeks prior)
6) and his head injury.
7) Our well stopped working and we needed a new one.
8) Our entire cesspool system stopped working and we needed a new one.
9) We had to purchase two new-used cars.
Each time we thought we were getting a grip on some unwieldy part of our life--something else slammed into us, with our credit card companies adding the icing on the cake by raising our interest rates and decreasing our limits then charging for being over this new lowered limit and all that craziness before federal credit card regulations thankfully came into play this past year. This basically decimated our credit scores.
What I noticed and maybe Hurricane Irene helped me notice--was how far I've come in how I look at problems and recovering/healing from them. In the beginning I used to say things like "Now what else?" but as time went on I began to say, "Ok, I'm ok, I can handle this."
I actually walked around saying that for a long time.
Until I believed it.
It took a long time.
I was introduced then reintroduced to the idea of Positive Thinking and Law of Attraction. Sounds hokey. But whatever works, right? It finally 'took.' I of course prayed, found strength in myself and found that all of those together are pretty amazing tools to have. I began to think of healing as being able to handle the big problems and the little problems without feeling like I was ripped open and walking around raw.
While Hurricane Irene was building momentum and coming up the coast we took her seriously. Afterall, this was a possible catastrophe we could actually PLAN for...we don't often get that opportunity. In my world, catastrophes hit you when you don't expect it...I don't get days notice to stock up on essentials. So we filled containers of water, made sure we had plenty of food, ice, batteries. The wash was caught up. Bathtubs were filled. Then we kept checking the news and the weather, watching the stories of what others were going through as the storm came closer. Praying Manhattan, where our son Chris lives, wouldn't flood. Praying my NYPD brother wouldn't have to risk his life to rescue some Hurricane Jerk. Praying my parents on Long Island would be okay without power and not need to evacuate. We packed up and packed in all outside objects we could so nothing would be a projectile, including my favorite outside porch chairs.
I also checked facebook and watched friends struggle with power outages, flooding and scared kids, prior to the storm actually reaching here...having a bit of a 'heads-up' warning of what to expect was pretty nice. Then I also read posts from people who seems to be trying to egg on the storm. "THAT was a hurricane? Irene was nothing!"
Those comments made me angry. Really upset. Didn't they know that when you are blessed to walk away from some catastrophe you don't say, "Eish, is that the best you got, Mother Nature?" If you are so fortunate to walk away unscathed from any type of storm, diagnosis, or evaluation, you don't taunt it, you walk away gratefully. You say thank you to God, the Source, whoever you pray to. To your planning, the early warning, the president, FEMA, your governor, the squirrels, whatever, but you don't thumb your nose and say, "Phsaw."
The reason people's attitudes probably bugged me so much because I was a bit cavalier like that before our crash.
Having so many issues to deal with, especially in a span of 2 years, has made me appreciate when things go right with a strength of conviction and gratefulness I never did before. Even the little things that others may take for granted, a sunny day after a storm, the fish survived another night, the dog didn't eat my junk food, are reasons to celebrate and be thankful.
I look at this storm...and the cups my daughter Alex, filled with water (we have jugs in the basement) so she could help prepare, and the furniture that could have stayed out of the garage and I say, "Whew, thank God we didn't need all that, but at least we knew we were as prepared as much as we possibly could be. We did what we could, we prepared ourselves for the worst and hoped for the best.
So when the basement sprung a leak, it was annoying and frustrating, but it was not as frazzling and overwhelming as it would have been when Kath was first diagnosed. Although when Kath did fall up the stairs, --after following us up and down while we swept up the water, she tripped and almost bit through her lip,--I did lose it. I couldn't even look at first. I held her, Roger hung up on his father and we tried to figure out if we were heading to the ER during the storm. The bleeding stopped and ice pops calmed her. Monday morning when I called the doctor's office to ask what to do...and found out I was doing right (Woo-hoo!) and all that could be done, I felt that notch click into place. I DO know what I am doing. Sometimes.
I think my idea of healing is also being able to breath again, without reminding myself to. You have to find what works for you, kind of like my idea of religion and faith (previous post). Some things that help me are Healing Touch, Power of Positive Thinking, Law of Attraction, doctor and therapy visits, grateful meditations, praying. It could also be as I said in my last post...showing up and getting back up after being knocked over. Or a combination of all of the above. I had to go through each of the above topics, reading, researching, trying them on, keeping the parts I felt worked, letting go of the parts that didn't.
One of the major constant sources of hope, help and sanity have been the fellow families who also struggle with a child on a different path, whether it is CHASA (see sidebar link for more info), facebook groups or friends I have who also have challenges. People who understand are priceless in surviving and healing in a way you just don't understand until you need them, and they are sadly scarce.
Whatever happens, whatever storm, diagnosis, evaluation, issue, I'm grateful that my tool bag of healing ideas is bigger today than it was five years ago when I began 'falling apart' with my son's accident. Some days I need each and every tool to get through the day standing. Other days, just one or three.
Healing one's body, mind and spirit is a slippery thing...maybe that's why there are so many books about it, therapists and thank goodness friends to help get us through.
Whatever works works.
Some days it all clicks and notches into place and I'm okay with the juggle of trying to keep everyone above the water. Other days I want to be on the damn beach already, sunbathing. But many of us know in our very core that now that we have embarked on this life, this journey of having a child with a different ability/path, a different Holland (http://www.our-kids.org/archives/Holland.html), our days on the beach sunbathing are cherished healing breaths of regrouping--which may not happen as often as we want or need. No longer are those beach days the beach days of a carefree youth. We move and think differently than we did, than many of our friends do. No easy feat. One that often leaves us feeling lonely and adrift, unless we connect with other families.
We prepare for the worst and we hope the best. We smile. We laugh. We cry. We try to heal those around us and build bridges for them so they can reach mainland as often as possible and we hope we can heal ourselves along the way. And if we are smart, we learn that by trying to heal ourselves, by putting the oxygen mask (more on that soon) over our own face first, we can heal and be strong enough to help those we love around us, and we can weather the life storms with a bit more of ourselves in tact.