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July 29, 2014

Growth, Suffering, Death, Loss, Pain, and Peace

Graduated school summer session 1ended with a triumphant finale; summer session 2 enters with gusto! Graduate school is littered with growth opportunities and increased self-awareness. Internship launched me into the “I am a therapist” mode. I am honored to join clients in their journey of healing; I am amazed each day by the vast expression of resiliency that the human spirit embodies. The layers of trauma, suffering, and what I refer to as the inevitable “spin cycle” of life, that weighs heavily on some of the most vulnerable populations, is extraordinary. The desire to improve balance, connection, and adaptive responses is awe-inspiring.

Recently I lost two important individuals in my life, both within days of each other. The first was my beautiful grandmother, Dorothy LeGall. My childhood home was nestled behind the home of my Grandma and Grandpa LeGall; this provided opportunities for daily contact, interaction, and connection. My grandma and I were incredibly close; she always seemed to know the right things to say and expressed loving me, just as I am – no matter what. The day prior to her passing, I spent several hours with her. I cried, laughed, reminisced, expressed my love, and gently whispered to her, it is time to go be with Grandpa. I was touched to learn that my grandma’s gold wedding ring, she faithfully wore, was being passed onto me. My wedding ring now sits atop her modest gold ring – I sense that she is with me. On the day of my grandma’s passing, I learned a beloved uncle – Jim Hampton, on my husband’s side of the family, was in the intensive care unit in a coma. I was with him as he took his last breathe. What an honor is was, to be in the presence of a dear loved one, as he transitioned from this lifetime. I witnessed the end of his suffering; I know he now rests in the gentle grip of peace, compassion, and endless joy. He was a man of great faith with a servant’s heart; he too was filled with happiness, was a fabulous desert chef, and personified patience. I will miss my uncle and my beautiful grandma.

In the midst of these events, I was processing the idea of my own mortality. I was watching and listening closely to the reactions, thoughts, pain, and words of the many friends and family that surrounded my grandma and uncle. It was beyond surreal for me; often I took on the role of the casual observer as I walked among the sorrow. I asked myself, is this what my passing will look like on the face of my friends and family. It was tough. I know for certain that I do not want to suffer nor do I want my loved ones to feel the pain of witnessing me suffer. I understand that hospice is a beautiful and angelic organization however, when it is clear that I am dying, I do not want to linger or be made comfortable, – I want to pass with my dignity in tact absent suffering.

I enjoy observing human behavior, reactions, responses, and expression of feelings; I find it quite fascinating. The commonality found within each, is the longing for acceptance and a feeling of connectedness with others. The expression of connection and acceptance is sought in adaptive and maladaptive ways. Lately, I have by awe struck by maladaptive expressions; these rest heavy on my heart. The two that come to mind are the “step on someone’s neck” to falsely build confidence and connection. The second is “joining forces against another”; this is where negativity is a driving force with a twist of passive aggressiveness toward another. There was a time when being on the receiving end of these types of behavior would evoke an equally maladaptive response and leave me feeling worthless, uncertain, and lonely. That time has long since passed. To those of you that this is resonating with - it may be worth considering, stopping and holding the eye roll, the snarky comment, and verbal assault. When these feelings arise, ask yourself – why am I responding so harshly, defensively, emotionally, or negatively to this individual. The interpersonal conflict is exposed by the interactions with others yet the answer will be found within you. It is unnecessary to hurt, mock, or condemn others. This is not to say that I am without flaw - I too have moments when I falter and fall into these maladaptive response and reactions – my aim is to quickly repair and offer an extension of compassion.

What I like about myself is that I am perfectly imperfect; I am not trying to be the perfect mom, wife, daughter, auntie, sister, friend, therapist, student, or citizen rather in each moment, I strive to do well. I love that I embrace the fantastic pieces of me and equally embrace the rough jagged edges of me. I see my strengths and I see my areas that are in progress – both are beautiful parts of me. I like to play a game whereby, without thinking, “say the first 3 words that describe me”. The three words, at this moment that describe me (according to me): compassionate, laughter-filled, and determined.  

It is my determination, laughter, and compassion that will in part, allow me to sustain peace. In the late evening hours of July 27, 2014, I felt another mass in my breast – the breast that cancer has been removed from two times previous. I was devastated. I sobbed as my body folded under the weight of my emotional pain. I struggled to catch my breath, to find center, and feel peace. I retreated outside, to be alone and sit with my pain. I sobbed. I am an ugly crier – I cannot talk when crying and I quickly look a hot mess…and that is okay. I gazed into the darkened starlit sky. This was painful. It gets more painful each time cancer decides to show-up. At times, I was experiencing the beginning stages of a panic attack, teeth chattering, breathing out of rhythm, and heart racing. Then it stopped. I started processing where this pain was coming from – I knew it was deeper than the cancer. Always go deeper. I want a break; to be cut some slack this is unjust in many ways. The core of who I am is to stand beside those considered “the underdog” the recipients of unjust circumstances or situations. It is not about fairness – it is about justice. What does this all mean – oh hell, I am not completely sure! I have a working theory; it is unjust that my adopted son be left without his mother. It is unjust that all my children that have passed through my house and left an impression on my heart, be left without there “white mama” as my Texas boys would say. It is unjust that my husband searched for 35+ years to find his life-long companion and that he be left without his wife. It is unjust that my friends, family, and clients be left with a hole in their hearts. It is unjust that my journey during this lifetime may end before I have had the opportunity to fully experience personal growth, aspirations, grow old with my husband, and support others toward healing.

Then there is another way of looking at my journey. It is because of my journey that I am able to fulfill a majority of my heart desires. I want to live. I do not want this life to end so soon. I believe in miracles – I am open to receiving my healing miracle. Healing ones physical or emotional brokenness is not predicated upon “being more faithful” or believing “deeper” in a higher power. To believe this, is to believe that your higher power is punishing. God, the Devine, and the Universe – these entities offer grace, love, and light.

Today, I am hopeful~