Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Watching the Clouds at the Beach (AKA Healing? We are NOT Life Wimps!)

I have been thinking a lot about healing lately. Healing of body, mind and spirit.

I think about how different it is-- for each type as well as for each person.

Three and a half years ago Roger had a roll over car accident, he needed 6 staples to his head, and we believe he has undiagnosed post concussive syndrome. He has memory issues as well as issues with too many stimuli-he can be easily overwhelmed-which is not good for the father of four, high school teacher in an inner city school, early morning newspaper deliverer and husband of ME. He still struggles with parts of it but he isn't as easily flustered now, and believe me, Kath tries. He's trying to find coping strategies that work around his issues.

Nick had his head-on collision with a cinderblock wall five years ago and is diagnosed with post concussive syndrome and he struggles every day with memory, as well as self discipline and assorted other issues. He's still trying to figure out the outer edges of his injury and what his new goals have to be in order to move forward.

Then there's Kath stroke and the myriad of issues that has provided us.

For each of these things that needs healing I notice that it is similar to the other two types...even when one deals with a mental or spiritual 'hit' you have to go through a grieving process, it seems. The mourning for the life path you thought you were on, but are no longer. The person or persons you thought you knew and find you don't. The confusion over 'why' and 'why me' and 'who is driving this boat, anyway?'

Roger and Nick wish they could get those seconds before their accidents back and stop them from happening. I remember thinking and praying I wouldn't have a child with issues, I didn't think I could handle it (I didn't know about Law of Attraction back then, but Nick had just had his accident). However, when I was asked to take tests for different health issues...I chose not to...knowing I would have and want my baby no matter what the tests showed. After Kath was diagnosed, I definitely mourned the life she didn't seem to have a chance at anymore and the life I wouldn't be able to fold back into.

But as I sat on the beach this week I thought a lot about healing. The girls and I went to Long Island to check in on my mother who is healing from spinal surgery (Alex was finally ready for some travel after healing from having her tonsils and adenoids removed) and also so the girls and I could go to the beach.

The forecast for the day we were to go to the beach called for thunderstorms. I decided to go anyway, with the idea that we could sit in the car and eat lunch, while still be breathing in salt air. We weren't going to be fair-weather beach bums. So we packed up towels, sunblock, beach toys, umbrellas, rain boots and off we went.

The clouds were even darker and more foreboding once we arrived at Robert Moses, field five, but we trekked to the water, opened our chairs and pulled out our lunches...and we were not alone. There were several other blanket neighbor families. About three minutes into eating we had our first metaphor for life. Kath put her sandwich on top of the cooler and I thought it fell, so I did the normal mom whine..."Kaaath, you have to watch what you're doing. Now your sandwich is in the ....where is your sandwich?" She just looked at me, and a little beyond me, eyes wide. I turned around and there was a Band of Brothers Brood of Seagulls staring at us, looking a little militant. The sandwich was already consumed and they were looking for the next weak move on our part. It was swallowed whole and they had no qualms about staring us down until we dropped our guard.

Just like in life, sometimes you think you are going along all fine and good and wham...someone snatches away your moment. Or your food. Sometimes it takes the wind right out from under you and startled you just stand and say, "What the hell just happened?" Luckily this time I was semi-prepared. I packed extra sandwiches! And my blanket neighbor buddies all shared in the moment, we laughed and it is a funny story. Now. Especially when Kath tells it in her high breathless squeal, "THE SEAGULL STOLE MY SANDWICH!!!" I thought, "This is fun, I'm so glad we came."

There were boughts of sun as it burned through some clouds. It really did look like it BURNED through too. The sky was covered in strips upon strips of layered clouds but there were areas where the sun lit up the sky in light waves and other times when it blew completely through the clouds...and poured straight down in a perfect circle of a hole that lit up where we happened to be. And I thought, "This is so beautiful, I'm so glad we came."

It did start to rain. One of our blanket neighbor buddies--an older couple with their grandchildren said, "Don't worry, it will pass quickly." I laughed and said, "Ah, spoken like the people who are under an umbrella!" And he laughed and said, "Well, we always have to believe that, don't we? That it'll pass quickly? Or we wouldn't do anything!" And it was suddenly one of those moments where you know you are getting life advice from a wise person...not just a weather report. This couple was one of the healthiest older couples I had ever seen. They ran around and played with the three kids, he swam laps in the ocean and had very fit legs, might I add, in a hopefully nonstalkerish way! And she smiled and laughed with her whole essence. And because he said that, even though I started to pack all of our things into our beach buggy, we stayed and it DID pass quickly. And I thought, "Wow, that is like life, sometimes those storms look so bad and you think you'll have to duck and cover, but all it takes is one person, sometimes a complete stranger to say, "Hey, it's okay..." and you stop the panic and you say..."Hhmmmooookay" and you see those great big raindrops aren't meant to be scary (this time), that the bad did just pass quickly and we can get back on track with our fun. And that was exactly what we did. Sometimes 'bad stuff' isn't horrible and breathtaking, it's just 'notgreat/notgood' and having that reminder is good. I thought, "Wow, I'm really glad we stayed."

Alex build a huge sand castle kingdom. Alex is my shy, focused kid. Very much like Nick use to be when he was younger, and in many ways he still is. She was determined to build this huge kingdom...she brought buckets up and down so many times, and the sand just sucked them up (we were too far away from the water), and she was too stubborn to stop. There was a two foot drop off from the area we had our blanket on to the water (it looked like the state had done some plowing of pushing sand inland) and so she had to go down a little ways where it wasn't so high, and back and forth she continued. Alex was not distracted by the two little grandboys next blanket over who were 'falling' off--in Charlie Chaplin style-- the two foot cliff, she barely looked at them. Well, except to eyeball them and her castle as if to say, "Don't mess with this, grrr." (Come to think of it, she might have learned something of that look from the militant seagulls.) Kath, on the other hand, was belly laughing at their antics...thereby providing an appreciative audience for them and egging them back on.

Side by side my serious girl and my goofball.

Kath lay back in the sand and swung her legs and left arm up and down. "What are you doing?" "I'm making a sand angel!" So I went over and helped her right hand make its path so she could have her angel with two wings. It was an instinct, but maybe I should have let it be. The way she is is fine with me, but I do try to 'fix' it sometimes and I never know if I'm right to. I know it is right for her to have therapy and to work so she can have the most use out of her body with cerebral palsy, but I wonder if I always should be 'correcting.' Sometimes, I think she should just be allowed to be. I didn't try to 'correct' Alex...I let her just be to figure it out on her own, but for Kath everything seems to be a lesson or therapy. I sat there watching them thinking, "I'm so glad we came and played. And that they make me rethink, always, even if it's exhausting."

Down by the water Alex is a dolphin who would LOVE to dive right in. Kath makes me hold her, then she clamps her lips tight. The last time we went to the beach she laughed sea water right in and down her throat. Kath learned quickly to keep her mouth closed, but she learned it to such an excess that even up on my hip, her lips are pursed and locked as she laughs nonstop, although muffled. I finally put her down and made her reapproach the water on her level...and by the end of the day she was doing that great little girl loop of running-and-laughing-like-the-wild-thing-she-is into the little waves then running out onto the beach and still laughing-and- running back into the waves. Watching them, I thought, "This is so freeing, I'm so glad we came."

Then another healing/life lesson was the rip tide. Once they both got their confidence wouldn't you know, the tide shifted and there was a very strong rip tide current. So I had to teach again about how beautiful and fun it looks on the surface, (my little self-life metaphor is it's just like some people, situations, life itself) but yet underneath there is something that wants to just knock you off your feet. Despite this, they still had fun feeling the tug from a safe distance, digging, grabbing shells, running in the winds and laughing deep in their core. Despite the danger, I was glad we were there.

I'm not sure if I really did learn anything earth shattering about healing, but I know that I came to the ocean for some healing and as I watched those clouds, the seagulls and the riptide I was oh, so very glad that I hadn't sat back; that I had risked the day. Instead of staying safe at home, I went to the beach when a storm was possible, and in my effort not to lose any beach time, I dipped my toes into solace, watched my kids just be and have fun and I breathed. Maybe it isn't really about healing (whatever THAT word does mean!)...whether from physical injury, mental insult or injury, or spiritual lags, maybe it's just about waiting the yuck stuff out, hoping the rough stuff passes through quickly, but at the same time keeping your eyes open to the humor, the joy, the inspiration, the teachable moments, the importance of blanket neighbor buddies, and the deep breaths of just being. in. the. moment.

On the way home the girls dug into a bowl of watermelon slices, polishing them off before we reached grandma's and our dinner out-- more stickiness added to the baby powder sand removal, some sun on everyone's skin that eeked around the sunblock...and further proof that worrying about dinner appetites and sticky, sandy skin is for wimps. And if my girls helped to show me anything on this storm-like beach is that we are definitely not Life Wimps. And maybe healing is just a metaphor for getting up and trying again the next day.

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