Thursday, September 10, 2015

Some Thoughts on Pain and Suffering (with love)

There are many stories I want to share about the surgery I had on July 27, but they aren't ready to be told. Among them though is this new, unexpected, sister story that I really do want to share. Now. Even though it may not be ready either.

It started a couple weeks after my surgery. Everything went well with the surgery and initially I felt great. Then my body (specifically my skin) moved ahead with its own agenda. 

I quickly developed wounds where my skin refused to cooperate. Two weeks ago I had a second procedure. My skin is stubborn. So now, this is how it goes once, usually twice each day: I work up the courage to change my dressings. I peel back the existing dressing on one side of my body. I peel back the existing dressing on the other side. I apply ointment to non-adhering transparent gauze and then place that gauze, ever so tenderly, over my wounds. I cover that with regular white gauze and adhere it to my body with surgical tape. Finally, I adhere a surgical pad over the gauze with more tape. I am very well padded.

There is wincing. And often tears. There is curiosity, wonder, doubt, fear, and occasionally regret.

I have restrictions. I cannot do the things I want or need to do and I've grown weary from asking other people to do them for me. I am walking a fine line between sustaining the strength I know I need to sustain to properly care for myself and withdrawing into my warm, cozy bed. Indefinitely. I cry a lot lately.

I miss the things I can't do now. The things that normally bring me comfort and joy. Bear hugs, bubble baths, and yoga to name a few. Believe it or not, I even miss my ability to do laundry - to carry heavy things.

And every single day I think about the other people. The people who have been doing something just like this for weeks, months or even years. For themselves or for someone they love dearly. I think about how those daily rituals affect these other people. I wonder how they keep going? If they keep going?

I often think about what goes on under our cleverly cloaked faces and bodies. The pain that resides beneath the surface is no stranger to me. I carry it frequently. I know anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and grief from all of it. It creeps up when I am not expecting it. I wonder who is in it with me - at the grocery store, at my son's soccer game, on Facebook. I know there are others. I feel for them.

And now I have a new understanding of another kind of pain that nobody can see. Wounds that are dressed and then dressed again for protection - and hiding. The wounds we don't discuss when we see friends around town. The wounds we carry all by ourselves. 

In these moments I think about the way we treat each other on this planet. I think about the ways we can be so quick to criticize one another. I think about the ways we so carelessly inflict pain on each other - with words, with our bodies, and with weapons. In our own homes, on the playground, in the board room, on the field, and all around town, we hurt each other. Often. It is usually on the defense. We want to protect ourselves from each other's choices, actions, and beliefs. We hope none of it is contagious. We don't want our kids to catch it. We lash out. And we have no clue about how the other person came to these choices, these actions, or these beliefs. And we don't even care. We lash out anyway.

These thoughts have been lurking in my head for days. I write to process things. These thoughts and this experience are things that need to be processed. I kinda don't want to process them though. They aren't easy for me to face. They are heavy. So why would I share them? Why today? Because this morning I woke up to learn that today is World Suicide Prevention Day. And I thought about all those people I know are out there suffering in silence and I wanted to tell them (you... us...) something...

You are not your experience. I am not mine. I am not my wounds, my pain, or my suffering and either are you. I don't care who you vote for or whether you vote at all. I don't care who you pray to or whether you pray at all. I don't care if you kneel before altars in churches or build your own altars on the beach or at home. I don't care if you use your when you mean you're. I don't care where you went to school, where you work, or where you live. I don't care what kind of car you drive or if you even drive at all. I don't care if you swear like a sailor or speak with the eloquence of the Dali Lama. I don't care if your body is covered in tattoos or moisturizer. None of that matters to me (although some of it is really interesting to me and I might want to talk more about it later... Without judgment.). The only thing I do care about is that you don't hurt yourself because of the stories - the lies - you've come to believe about your situation. And, I ask, please do not hurt others.

Ask for help, even if it is hard and you think you might have worn out your welcome.

I will too.

Sit with what you need to for as long as you need to, but please don't suffer alone in silence. It's not necessary.

I love you. God loves you. The Universe loves you. Mama Earth loves you. You are lovable and worthy of all the love you can imagine. It's true.

Heading to the doctor now... letting the tears flow. I'll be the one with the runny mascara. 


Be gentle with yourself. 
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. 
In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. 
- Max Ehrmann

an old favorite


Friday, August 28, 2015

I'll Have What She's Having

Kindred Connection Workshop, 8/15
Photo courtesy of the lovely Heather Heffley of Heather Heffley Photography

Look at those smiling faces.

Sometimes, when I'm having an off day (for example) photos like these make me sad. I feel left out (even when it is completely irrational to feel that way). Sometimes, I am jealous of the women I see looking out at me. I wonder if I can have what they're having? I wonder if there is a place for me?

At this point in my life, I have come to accept my jealousy as a welcome messenger coming in for a landing. She says, it is perfectly okay to want what you think you see in that picture - sisterhood, community, a tribe of kindred spirits. My jealousy reminds me that there is a place for me and it is up to me and only me to own my place in the world, to stand in it, to occupy it.

Arriving at this point wasn't necessarily easy and I still struggle with being here sometimes. I hear the same is true for a lot of women. A lot of people. We all want to feel like we belong somewhere - in community with likeminded people. And when we see others who appear to belong, we can feel left out.

It is a gift to be seen by others. To feel understood. To be accepted despite my quirks and flaws and insecurities. It takes some courage to put myself out there - to show up, to be vulnerable, to risk being misunderstood, to risk being rejected.

Group Hug! Heart Connected Retreat 9/14

What I have found though, is that showing up is always worth the risk. Once I began to put myself out there, I learned there are other people whose hearts skip a beat when they walk into an art supply store. There are other people who go bananas for a cool new pen. There are other people hoarding journals and notebooks for art and writing. There are other people reading through self-help books as if the books were flashcards. There are other people like me. Seeking, growing, learning new tricks. I never would have found them had I not allowed myself to be seen.

Heart Connected Retreat, 9/14

Before I found the courage to go searching for my local people, I took online art classes. I started with the Brave Girls Club and the amazing women I met online in those classes led me to other teachers and other classes to explore. I attended retreats where I met some of the teachers in person and where I was inspired to start teaching myself. I discovered we are all teachers and students learning and growing together. We share our stories and see ourselves in each other's stories.

I am constantly blown away by the generous teachers out there sharing their work and the processes they use to create. It is beautiful.

Not too long ago I received a beautiful package from Brave Girls Club inviting me to join them as a teacher at their newest online offering - Brave Girl University. This, for a learning junkie like myself, is an epic opportunity to continue learning and, now, share some of what I've learned along the way via the courses I teach. I am THRILLED about all of it.

So, if you are curious, or craving a space to learn among kindred spirits, you must check out Brave Girl University! Not to be all bossy pants or anything, it is simply that exciting - command worthy.

This is an excellent opportunity to explore many interests - art, craft, spirit, personal development, meditation, and so much more. It's a place to do deep soul work and have fun while you're at it. For me, maybe most importantly, it is a place where I can continue to learn new things and to build and nurture community. It is a place where all of us can have what she's having. It is a place where we all belong.

School starts September 1st! I look forward to seeing you on campus! xo

Click here to reserve your spot!