Two years ago, I awoke after hip surgery and learned that a 2 hour procedure had turned into an almost 5 hour procedure. That there were complications, and I’d had to receive more interventions than I’d planned on. The sedated drive home from DC was supposed to take 3 hours, but in pouring rain and endless traffic, it took almost 6 hours. My pain spiraled out of control on the ride back. We pulled over to a gas station in the freezing, driving rain, and I begged for mercy. The medication kicked in. We made it home.
But at home, the complexities of my recovery continued. My swelling took weeks to go down, my ankle swelled up and even after 3 months on crutches, I couldn’t stand on my own two feet. Doctors were perplexed. The foot doctor pointed to the hip doctor who pointed to the foot doctor. The physical therapists scratched their heads. Scans revealed that my surgery had, in fact, repaired the tear and the damage, but I wasn’t repaired. I wasn’t healing, and I was angry, then afraid, then angry again. Surely, SOMEONE was to blame, and surely SOMEONE could fix me, and if I could just figure those two things out, surely I WOULD BE BETTER. I would “go back to” my old life and be the person I was before my life stopped working at the same time that my legs stopped working.
Months passed, and I banged along in this same fashion-in relentless pursuit of the outside fix to my inside problem. Until one day, when the right combination of hopelessness and helplessness and powerlessness and victimization all swelled up inside of me at precisely the exact same time, creating a molotov cocktail of pain and pressure I could no longer avoid. I laid down onto my bed, listening to my children in the bathtub playing, aching deeply into every cell of my body, and suddenly I knew that it was time to let go. To surrender my resistance to my situation and to my pain. To give up hoping that someone or something would show up and save me from myself. To stop trying so hard to be God. To let the hurt hurt. To let the truth come back into the room.
Two years later, I tell people that I was always getting there. I was always getting here. Byron Katie says that “life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you.” But for most of my life, I’d believed otherwise. I believed that everything was happening to me, and that it was my job to get as far away from what was painful, while getting as close as possible to what felt good and easy. I worked tirelessly for control, and believed that if I stayed on top of it all that I’d be happy and comfortable and okay for the rest of my days.
While I was busy striving for control at all costs, I was surrendering my power, over and over again. Because everything I stood for was built on a shaky foundation that relied on an identity that I worked very hard for and clung to at all costs. After all, I was a smart, strong and together person who could do it all and do it all by herself. There were holes big enough to drive a bus through in my story about myself, but I ignored them readily and regularly. For example, I was exhausted all the time. I was fearful and anxious whenever I sat still for longer than 5 minutes. I was resentful and playing very small. I was saying yes to all the wrong things, while saying no to help I needed in a bad way. My life wasn’t working for me, but I kept working VERY hard to prevent it from changing.
When I woke out of surgery and all of my plans had already gone out the window, the foundation started cracking. When I came home and every day a new part of my body began to fall apart or behave bizarrely, I felt the ground shaking underneath me. When the story I told myself and the world about who I was began to unravel literally before my eyes, I held on for dear life, and friends, so did every cell in my body. And it was there, in that frozen state of paralysis, that an old, familiar way of being rose back up inside me. All those years in my childhood when I couldn’t and didn’t trust anyone rushed in on me. These were the very beginnings of my powerful and lifelong desire to be in control, and here they were, finally, nailing me to my seat. Literally. The fear and the isolation and the loneliness-it all came barreling back into the rooms inside my heart, and a story that I’d never healed, that had lived on inside my cells for decades began reliving itself inside my tissue:
The world is not safe. You are all alone. Batten down the hatches, send out the decoy version of yourself and hide like hell until conditions improve.
Before I could heal THIS body, I have had to heal THAT story and the wound that it was made from. Before I could stand on my own two feet again, I have had to sit still with pain I’d refused to feel for most of my life. There was never anyone outside of me who was going to fix me until I took responsibility for the way I had actively participated in getting myself right where I was. I have had to learn to surrender control in favor of gaining personal power. And I have had to level a shaky foundation in favor of building something solid that is based in trust and truth, first and most of all.
Why am I sharing this with you?
Because we have to ask ourselves if we truly believe that everything in life is happening FOR us or TO us. And if we really believe it’s happening FOR us, then we must be willing to open up to what is being played out in our hearts, in our bodies and in our lives. If we really want to share our stories and connect more deeply in our lives, then we have to be ready to examine what is true.
And if we’re willing to examine what is true, then we must be willing to heal, to stop playing small and to start living into our lives wholly and fully. I’m finally ready. Are you?