One of the benefits of enjoying a prolonged recovery is the ability to sit and ruminate over lots of things. There are two recurring themes really, which regularly come to mind...one is the captivating yet elusive feeling we call hope. The other is compassion.
I believe that hope involves a process that is both active and receptive...one which ignites a curiosity about the human condition, and a desire to take part in it. It is an ongoing practice. It requires an embracing of our vulnerability in exchange for the armor of our well-cultivated sense of self....that one which sets itself apart, or makes us somehow "different" from other human beings. As Brene' Brown shares in her book Daring Greatly, Shedding this armor is what we long for, and are most afraid of.
I came across this article a while ago that shares this understanding beautifully:
CNN: How Hope can Help You Heal
I don't think walking the thin line between hope and denial, or grieving and "moving on" (whether relating to death of a loved one, loss of a dream' or loss of an ability) is something we ever get "good" at. I think it is a process...a distillation, if you will...of the stuff that makes us human. If we're lucky' we get the honor of finding other struggling souls along the way. Some may seem to engage in this dance gracefully, and others of us go into the gig kicking and screaming. (I would qualify as the latter).
The point is....hope is a communal thing. We need folks to help us keep hope alive, to maintain our grounding in reality, to remind us to laugh, to take ourselves less seriously, and to pick us up when we're down. We need people to remind us that even though life is messy and complicated, it is also like one hugely-magnificent, gritty, textured, experiential art project. The process can be yucky...really icky and smelly sometimes. We might even want to start over. But this life is our canvas, and we can either trash it or share the masterpiece.
It seems that many folks are reacquainted with this "soft spot" through encountering their own difficulty and struggle. When I pause to really think about it, this reacquainting is something I have come to treasure deeply. It is the part of me that I hope to be able to continue to touch into, especially in times where it is easy to get swept up in the whirlings of my mind--where things become too cerebral and I clamor for some kind of ultimate answers. I share the tendency that a lot of folks have to try and fix, to jump to some kind of an assumption or conclusion, make a connection, or whatever....in an attempt to steer clear of the soft-spot--that receptive part which can be touched so deeply if we allow it.
In working through difficult times, Pema Chodron tells us:
Most of us do not take these situations as teachings. We automatically hate them. We run like crazy. We use all kinds of ways to escape....all addictions stem from this momet when we meet our edge and we just can't stand it. We feel we have to soften it pad it with something, and we become addicted to whatever it is that seems to ease the pain. In fact, the rampant materialism that we see in the world stems from this moment. There are so many ways that have been dreamt up to entertain us away from the moment, soften its hard edge, deaden it so we don't have to feel the full impact of the pain that arises when we cannot manipulate the situation to make us come out looking fine. (When Things Fall Apart, Chodron)Interestingly, as I visit with patients, the thing I am most concerned about is that they can perceive me as somehow "different" than they are. Now that I'm no longer donning a beautiful hospital gown and I happen to be wearing a name-badge, folks reflexively perceive me as someone here to "help" in a service-provision sort-of way. Actually, I often end up minimizing my role... telling folks that I am really just coming back around because I love talking with people and hearing their stories (although usually they ask about my little scooter, and notice the "boot" on my ankle, which segways into the fact that I was in this place a year and a half ago) It usually isn't until I sit down and really listen that genuine connection happens, and I continue to ponder their stories throughout the day. I hold their stories close in my heart and keep them with me.
I also feel blessed, in a way, to have been given this "life-time out" called recovery...to learn these things....
.... I also like to write about them. I did this piece for the Elephant Journal (first writing I sent elsewhere, outside of this little blog.) published yesterday. One of the small joys of learning self-compassion, becoming more mindful, and trying to stay in touch with my own soft spot.
Lessons in Humanity as Learned from a Sparrow