Several weeks ago I had a stroke. In many ways I have fought my inherited genes for many years. After arriving at the ER, my symptoms started worsening and we haven’t left the hospital system. We went directly to an acute rehab center specifically to help people like me.
I believe I have several advantages coming into this process. Some of them I can take credit for and some of them I cannot. I’m certainly not going to offload it all onto God and give him the credit or even blame. The things that have helped me and my stroke recovery should be useful for anyone in all different challenges of life.
In my book, Being, I talked about my experience with how the things that we ignore and push down essentially come back to haunt us later. Through a process called focusing, I’ve been able to face some of these emotions from past experiences and heal the trauma that I had been living with.
Overall, shadow work makes me less reactive and more responsive to situations and helps me pause and make better decisions. In a way, I’m not using mechanisms of the past to deal with the present. Both Laura and I communicate more authentically because of this hard work that we have done in the area.
There is no avoiding the hard work. Ad the saying goes, “pay me now or pay me later.” Because we did the hard work a few years ago, we are better equipped to handle this current situation.
The tea shop experience was probably my first introduction to the value of being present. Too much time spent in the future can bring fear and worry and too much time in the past can bring regret. But most often the best place to be is where we are.
When they ask me to try to move my finger, it takes all my focus and all my attention and all my energy. If I am anywhere else besides where I am, I am wasting a lot of people’s time including my own.
Being present doesn’t mean that I’m not doing anything, and I’m often doing really, really hard work. Being present also means that sometimes I have overwhelming emotions like sadness, and anger. My best move seems to be to sit with those emotions and have compassion for them instead of trying to get past them.
It’s hard to express how close Laura and I have been over the past few weeks. I remember when she looked at me and said, “I just want to grow old with you.” It was her way of saying that she wanted me to take this serious and work hard.
We will not survive this if we don’t have authentic communication. When we are sad, we have to admit it, when we are frustrated we have to speak it, and when we need something we have to be clear about what it is. It’s almost a childlike experience when I move my finger just a little and look over at her for approval.
When we got married, there was an unspoken promise to sacrifice for each other. The trouble was we didn’t know exactly what that meant and what that would involve. Now, here we are facing maybe the toughest challenge of our life.
It’s 6:47 in the morning and I can’t wait for her to arrive at 8:00. There are times in life when I didn’t know whether we were going to stay married, but here we are after 33 years facing this new adventure.
Really Good Friends
Often when people talk about whether or not to have church in person, they mention community. Over the past years of my deconstruction, I have found some friends out here in the desert. I won’t mention them here, but it should be obvious through my social media interactions who they are.
These friends are people that I can talk to honestly. They affirm the things that I do well and they know of my weaknesses, but they don’t have their own agenda when they call me. They are honestly concerned about me.
When I tell them things like “I am sad” they allow me to experience that emotion without trying to fix it for me. They don’t superficially try to cheer me up even though their presence often does that very thing.
Another thing I appreciate about my new friends is they don’t pray for miraculous solutions. What I need most is to be where I am and do the work that needs to be done here, I don’t need to bypass the reality of the situation. Good friends, help me do that.
One of the best things one of my friends, Jason Elam said to me was that he considered me to be strong. Another friend, Derrick Day, told me I was tough. My other friend, Paul Fitzgerald, just reminds me of all the tools and attitudes that are helpful for me at this time.
These voices and attitudes of my friends are actually part of what is healing me.
I don’t in any way claim to have the silver bullet for stroke recovery. But I do think I am discovering things that help with recovering and healing in all areas of life. Every day, I am reminded that presence and authenticity matter so much in many areas of life.
Here’s to my recovery and to embarking on the next journey in this life!
Be where you are. Be who you are.