I have been up to my ears in caregiving with my mother, my mother-in-law has been very ill and is in the final days of her life, and I broke two fingers on my right hand 2 ½ weeks ago. I’ve also encountered some glitches in the last phase of getting my caregiving book ready for publication. Clearly, this is one of those challenging periods – difficult to be sure, but truly rich with lessons and possibilities for growth.
I’m focusing on the “gifts” in this article because I find that deeply acknowledging how we are growing and changing in the midst of adversity strengthens and empowers us. We begin to see the deeper meaning in all of our experiences and find that we are more than unfortunate victims of circumstance. At an earlier time in my life, I might have leaned into acknowledging the “positives” of unwanted situations as a way to avoid frustration, grief, sadness, or fear. This is what spiritual bypassing is all about. We may turn to our spirituality, for example, as a way to rise above the difficulties in our lives rather than fully being with the many dimensions of every life experience. I am no longer one who “flies to the light” to escape the messiness of the human condition. Light, dark, our infinite nature, our embodied human nature – it is all divine, all sacred.
I’ve been reflecting on the important shifts that have occurred for me over these last months. I rely on intuition a lot in my life, but have noticed that my attunement to and trust in my deeper knowing has increased exponentially. Many times a day, sometimes many times an hour, I’ve had to unhook from fear-based thoughts that have me worrying about catastrophic outcomes, trying to figure out what’s next, coming up with strategies to control the uncontrollable, and more. Letting go of this mental turbulence whenever possible, I direct my attention again and again to the wisdom at the core of my being. At times, I bring questions: How can I best serve Mom today? What do I need to do to be in my center when I’m communicating with John’s sisters? What are my lessons with regard to my broken fingers? In other instances I just turn to deep knowing without a specific focus and listen to the benevolent, ever-present guidance that invites me to relax, be still, focus on the spaces between breaths, perhaps sit in the backyard for awhile. The guidance I’ve been receiving has been spot on and I feel strongly anchored in my knowing these days. What you feed, grows!
The broken fingers have been teachers for me. I’m right handed and writing (long hand with a fountain pen) and fine line drawing are my primary mediums for creative expression. Writing poetry, journaling, and drawing are spiritual practices for me and, typically, a day doesn’t go by that I don’t spend anywhere from one to four hours engaged in these activities. For the first time, I’m not able to do any of these things, and I won’t know until the next x-ray when I can use this hand again for these endeavors. The other limitations of not having a functional right hand pale in comparison to this. I’ve let myself feel frustrated and sad about this loss, but, for the most part now, I’ve surrendered to what is so and I am much more peaceful as a result of letting go of these attachments. I used to wonder what would happen if I couldn’t use my right hand, so sure that I truly wouldn’t be okay if I couldn’t write and draw. Well, I can’t and I’m just fine.
There are many more soul gifts that I could share, but I will end by writing about the gift of service. Serving others without expecting anything in return opens the heart and deepens our connection to Being. My mother’s health has been declining for the past two years, as has her capacity to fully bounce back from flare-ups and setbacks from a number of ailments. I knew the day would come that more time and energy would be required of me, and was quite worried about and resistant to this eventuality. This has come to pass, at least for now. In recent months I have been praying and wishing for the willingness and capacity to heartfully serve her in whatever ways were needed. I am now more involved with my mother than I can ever remember, almost all of my resistance has melted away, and I just want to serve her in any ways that I can. One of my fears was that this new investment of time and energy in caregiving would consume me, that I wouldn’t have enough time for my work, my creativity, or my grandkids. Truth is, for the most part, I’ve had all the time I need. I know that part of the reason for this is that I am committed to self-care and, in addition, I’ve learned to cultivate good boundaries. Mostly, though, it is due to the power of love. The walls around my heart with regard to my mother have softened. I feel blessed to have had my hopes and prayers answered.