I’m going to wrap the spirit of my article in the (somewhat worn) body of my own experience. I hope others find it helpful. I won’t get very personal or explicit but will be honest about my feelings.
Retirement hadn’t been on my mind more than the usual after reaching age 65; my plan was to work past 72. A diagnosis of cancer in early 2018 changed that, producing what I later called “the 90-degree shift” in my life. From a person some call a ‘professional’ and member of a clinic medical team, I became an officially retired elder with a diagnosis and a not-very-favorable prognosis.
Rearranging one’s life, making those now-very-necessary adjustments takes a little time. It means emotional and physical ups and downs. I came to appreciate the members of my health care team who treated me as a respected and valuable member of the team. This has been true of all but one or two of the medical professionals. As others who’ve been through major surgery and chemotherapy know, although we try our best to stay positive, there are occasionally rather difficult and challenging side effects. (“Side” note: my spiritual hat is off to all those, especially the children, who undergo chemo. Blessings to you all.) Those medical staff who appear less caring may have been trained to appear so, may have difficulties of their own, who knows? It wasn’t for me to judge and much less important to become upset about.
In truth, what became the most valuable healing medicines for me were the friendships I have. People express their caring in different ways and what was also wonderful was that I could reciprocate the love and concern. Some people prayed for me. Others did some shopping for me. When that snarky little (nameless) COVID-19 showed up, changing our contact arrangements….that is what we did. We Zoomed. We texted. We snail-mailed. And we had fun and wonderful conversations. In fact, some of my acquaintances became good friends. In return for the connections I have acquired, I pray daily for people, do distance Reiki, smile and chat with store staff, make others smile with funny experiences I’ve had (like the time I got trapped inside one of my chicken coops. Yes. Truly.)
What became the most valuable healing medicines for me were the friendships
Recently, things shifted again. Now let me pause and ask: How much control do we feel we can have when we need to arrange our lives, at least to some degree, around a medical condition for which we were ill prepared? How much does the rearrangement bring pessimism, or grief, or sadness and anxiety? Do we feel angry or sad when control is taken away from us? We’re all human, right? Control, in its benign forms, is considered a basic human need.
I’m human, too – and in the process of the medical stuff and emotional changes, I began to use more meditation and so-called ‘alternative’ healing techniques. I do believe that healing takes place on many levels – spiritual, physical, mental and emotional. These practices did provide me with a sense of having more benevolent control over my life.
But…Cancer is a tough one. My positive thoughts and more spiritual direction also seemed to pose a challenge to this condition. I was doing my practices diligently and finding blessings and learning experiences. But towards the end of 2020 – that freak-of-nature year – I began to feel a bit frustrated and disappointed in myself, in the techniques and the teachers. Was this due to ‘chemo brain’? Fatigue and weakness from the chemo? Bad vibes from 2020 in general? Not enough practice? Am I not doing things ‘right’?
Fortunately, one of my spiritual advisors gave me a good suggestion about putting more of my own creativity into my practice and paying more attention to my intuition and body reactions, including asking my body what it needed – rather than trying to complete the exercises and meditations as I ‘thought’ they needed to be done – in other words, I was paying more attention to the external routine rather than to the inner wisdom. Doing the former, I realized, meant I was putting more stress on myself, trying to ‘be correct’ and not letting my soul guide me. (I hope that makes sense.)
In addition, I realized that one of the groups with which I practiced (online) and its teachers did not have the same attitude towards me as did my health care staff. I felt more like a recipient than as a valued team member and contributor. The specific method and its teachers reminded me of how it was to buy a car years ago – when you walked into the showroom and up until the moment you signed the papers and drove off in your car, you were treated like the Absolute Most Special Person On Earth. After that, however, you became
invisible to the dealership. (Yes, I realize not all dealerships are or were like that.) With this particular training, once I declined spending more money, I felt, perhaps wrongly, that I became invisible.
But that could be a good thing. Being ticked off can be valuable. It depends on what we do with our feelings, yes? And there is the kernel of the lesson. There is the control. Yes, we’ve all heard THAT one before, too. But now, having had months of practice in staying positive, I felt my disappointment, frustration and anger melt away in the face of the realization that I have more power than I had realized. The negative feelings were honest; I let them be felt, and they left. The blessings remained the same. A couple of doors of opportunity had opened in the meantime. My choices, which included changing the way I approached my practices, were my choice. No one forced it, and that in itself is a blessing. And of great value was texting my friend Jennifer; our discussion brought me new realizations.
I became more creative and much less stressed. In short, I began to use more of my own assets, which was a message to my body, my mind and my spirit that I still have more good qualities to explore and use. This is most likely true of all of us. I can’t advise anyone as to the best way of doing their own best practices. Guide, suggest, support – yes. Command – no. My article isn’t intended to direct someone or tell them to do something a certain way. I wanted to inspire, if even a little, to instill hope, to send a virtual COVID-free smile and loving thoughts to anyone who needs these things via my words. And the journey continues.
Honoré is a retired clinical social worker and dear friend of the owner of Your Royal Healness, Jennifer. Following a conversation, that sparked into a “you should write this as a guest post on my blog”, Honoré graciously offered her insight. She writes “I hope my offering lives up to the caring and knowledgeable standards she’s set in her blog”. I think we can all agree that yes…yes she lives up to it and more. Until next time…