A tale of recovery: my path from traumatized to healer

I had lunch a few weeks ago with John, someone I’ve known for about 12 years but haven’t seen much in recent years. He commented that I am a very different person now from when he met me, and that would not be apparent to people who hadn’t known me that long.

When we met in 2004 (I think), I seemed troubled to him, and I was. John said that now, I appear to be happy and “like a fountain” (which I love), and he was curious about that.

Other people have said I’ve changed more than anyone they know. Well, that’s probably because I was starting from a more troubled place than most.

So I’m reviewing my path in search of insights to share. This is for you, John, and I know that some of you are interested in recovery from trauma, and some of you are interested in personal growth, so this is for you too. Continue reading

Reversing diabetes: Phyllis’ return to health. Part 2.

This is Part 2 in a series of posts telling the story of Phyllis and how she reversed Type 2 diabetes. Part 1 is here. If your reading time is limited, here is a summary.

To recap, Phyllis was working stressful 12-hour days with two-hour commutes each way. She wasn’t eating right. Her doctor told her she had a choice: be hospitalized or see an endocrinologist. She learned her A1C level was 10.2, putting her at high risk for serious complications…

Peace, Quiet, and Nature

Phyllis realized she had to do something differently. She knew she had to get away from food being such a comfort to offset the stress she was under.

She faced the stress first by giving a month’s notice and stepping away from her stressful job and commute.

She says now she was so sick back then, she couldn’t even think. Her body felt bad. Besides the diabetes, she had blood pressure issues, a heart murmur, and thyroid issues (Hashimoto’s, another autoimmune disease). Her memory declined. Continue reading

13 reasons for learning peripheral awareness, peripheral walking, and night walking

I did my 10 minute presentation on peripheral awareness yesterday. I wish we’d had  more time! I’m learning how to teach this by teaching it, and one attendee asked me a great question:

What would someone get out of learning this?

Thanks, Xtevan. That seems worthy of a blog post! So here are my top reasons for learning peripheral awareness, peripheral walking, and night walking.

  1. Using more of your human capabilities, which means you have more resources. You could have a choice about how to see.
  2. Better mood. The neurology of peripheral vision affects your state. When you’re doing it, it’s impossible to feel anxious or depressed. Your center of gravity drops, and your breathing slows. You feel more relaxed.
  3. Shifting attention away from minor pains and discomfort.
  4. Ecstatic states. Feeling joy, feeling euphoric, feeling very “in your body” and connected to the planet. Feeling really, really alive. Feeling one with everything.
  5. Altered states of consciousness! You may experience trippy effects such as “eating the trail,” a feeling of levitation and of being still while the scenery moves past you (while you’re actually walking). And more!
  6. Trust in your unconscious mind. The wiring used in peripheral walking and night walking bypasses your conscious mind. Thus, you step over a rock before your conscious mind perceives it’s there. It’s uncanny and takes some getting used to.
  7. No thought, stopping the world, shushing the internal dialog.
  8. The ability to see in nearly complete darkness. It takes about 20 minutes for the eyes to adjust to the dark, of course. With practice, you could do night walking in a remote place over uneven terrain on moonless or cloudy nights with no problem. You would be much more aware of nocturnal creatures and their activities.
  9. An advantage in activities where seeing more of your surroundings is key. Great basketball players know where the other players are and where the ball is while moving quickly around the court. Martial artists, gymnasts, dancers, other team sports players, long-distance runners and more can all benefit.
  10. Enhancement of other senses. Hearing and proprioception become sharper.
  11. You could also have more resources in unsafe situations, such as being where sneaky predators of any kind are, whether urban or rural jungle.
  12. When night walking, you can see the energy of some plants, which appears as a moving bioluminescence.
  13. The world you’ve always known becomes new.

Some of these benefits don’t happen right away. The originator, Nelson Zink, said it takes 15-20 hours of using a peripheral training device for the eyes to become trained not to switch to focused vision and for the eyes to consistently focus where they’ve been trained to gaze without a device. (He said they always took them with them, though.)

Oh, and walking in public wearing a peripheral vision training device definitely helps keep Austin weird! That’s another good reason to do it!

No wonder the great Japanese sword fighter Musashino said in The Book of Five Rings:

It is necessary in strategy to be able to look to both sides without moving the eyeballs. You cannot master this ability quickly. Learn what is written here: use this gaze in everyday life and do not vary it whatever happens.

If you find this interesting and are in the Austin, TX, area, I teach peripheral awareness/walking for 1-3 people at a time. We walk on city trails. This is required before night walking, which can be arranged when demand is sufficient.

Boundaries checklist for healthy relationships

Relationships : A Checklist on Boundaries in a Relationship.

I believe I have posted this before, but if I haven’t, here it is now. It contrasts relationships where you give up your boundaries and when your boundaries are intact. I’ve found it helpful and bookmarked it.

It includes skills like being clear about your preferences and acting on them (I heard Byron Katie say she’s constantly asking herself what she wants), doing more when it gets results, trusting your own intuition, and only being satisfied when you are thriving (rather than coping and surviving).

Some items that I’m resonating with now:

  • Having a personal standard, albeit flexible, that applies to everyone and asks for accountability.
  • Are strongly affected by your partner’s behavior and take it as information.
  • Let yourself feel anger, say “ouch” and embark upon a program of change.
  • Honor intuitions and distinguish them from wishes.
  • Mostly feel secure and clear.
  • Are living a life that mostly approximates what you always wanted for yourself.
  • Decide how, to what extent, and how long you will be committed.

About the last one, I’m liking the new law in Mexico City that allows time-limited marriages. The couple agrees how long they want to be married. The minimum is two years. When the time is up, they either go their separate ways without divorcing or remarry for another period of time.

Love that idea. Wouldn’t it be great to have no more expensive, difficult, embittered divorces? To have a built-in time to reassess how well a relationship is going and together decide whether and for how long to continue it without getting involved with lawyers and courts?

That’s civilized, in my opinion.

~~~

Aug. 20, 2013

I’m adding another resource to this post, which continues to get views long after its original posting. It’s an article about toxic relationship habits that most people think are normal.

The article points out:

…part of the problem is that many unhealthy relationship habits are baked into our culture. We worship romantic love — you know, that dizzying and irrational romantic love that somehow finds breaking china plates on the wall in a fit of tears somewhat endearing — and scoff at practicality or unconventional sexualities. Men and women are raised to objectify each other and to objectify the relationships they’re in. Thus our partners are often seen as assets rather than someone to share mutual emotional support.

A lot of the self help literature out there isn’t helpful either (no, men and women are notfrom different planets, you over-generalizing prick.) And for most of us, mom and dad surely weren’t the best examples either.

Fortunately, there’s been a lot of psychological research into healthy and happy relationships the past few decades and there are some general principles that keep popping up consistently that most people are unaware of or don’t follow.

Here’s the link: 6 Toxic Relationship Habits that Most People Think Are Normal. 

 

The anatomy of lying: An interview with Sam Harris

Anatomy of Lying | Brain Pickings.

This repost from Brain Pickings is worthwhile reading, very good food for thought. It’s an interview with Sam Harris, author of Lying, which is available as a free ebook on Amazon through August 5.

As one who has valued tact over honesty in the past, I’m rethinking that stance. I have opinions, biases, associations, memories, judgments, emotions, rules, blind spots, and an internal bullshit detector, like everyone else (I assume). Redefining “the truth” as accurately communicating one’s subjective experience (and presenting it as such) motivates me to be more honest.

Why not share our subjective realities? Why not put my integrity first, instead of protecting someone else’s feelings so they’ll like me? Every interaction between people creates a bit of consensual reality. Why not share what’s really going on? Honesty is liberating. I love those people with whom I can really be myself.

And yes, maybe not everyone needs to hear your truth. For instance, telling your mom’s boss at a Catholic school that you’re an atheist will not go over well, especially when her job is putting food in your belly. But what about your friends and those you’re closest to? Do they know the real you?

At least one study suggests that 10 percent of communication between spouses is deceptive. Another has found that 38 percent of encounters among college students contain lies. However, researchers have discovered that even liars rate their deceptive interactions as less pleasant than truthful ones. This is not terribly surprising: We know that trust is deeply rewarding and that deception and suspicion are two sides of the same coin. Research suggests that all forms of lying — including white lies meant to spare the feelings of others — are associated with poorer-quality relationships…

But what could be wrong with truly ‘white’ lies? First, they are still lies. And in telling them, we incur all the problems of being less than straightforward in our dealings with other people. Sincerity, authenticity, integrity, mutual understanding — these and other sources of moral wealth are destroyed the moment we deliberately misrepresent our beliefs, whether or not our lies are ever discovered.

And while we imagine that we tell certain lies out of compassion for others, it is rarely difficult to spot the damage we do in the process. By lying, we deny our friends access to reality — and their resulting ignorance often harms them in ways we did not anticipate. Our friends may act on our falsehoods, or fail to solve problems that could have been solved only on the basis of good information. Rather often, to lie is to infringe upon the freedom of those we care about.

What do you think? How do you feel about this issue?

My trauma recovery manifesto: the deepest compassion, the strongest boundary

I originally posted this earlier this year. Yesterday I received this comment:

Well said! I’m a clergy person with PTSD who can handle almost any trauma while in the collar thanks to good training and very clear boundaries, but when traumatized people insinuate themselves into my personal life, it sends me into a tailspin even after decades of hard therapeutic work. Caring does not involve being receptacles for others’ misery. Setting limits and sending them for the help they need is the very best thing any of us can do.

It inspired me to repost the original. I feel the same way as the commenter: Tell me up front you’re traumatized, and our relationship will be good. I will set the boundaries I need to keep it healthy.

If you fail to disclose your trauma, we’re probably not going to have a healthy, trusting relationship, and when I find out, it could send me back to a place I worked really, really hard to get out of. I don’t take kindly to that. It’s irresponsible and very unfriendly on your part.

Traumatic symptoms have a way of showing up in behaviors beyond your control until you face and heal the trauma, and specialized professional help (Somatic Experiencing and the like) is almost always required. I guessed you had been emotionally abused from your behavior because you were so weird. I just didn’t know the extent of it until I had that clairvoyant experience after seeing you be triggered that sent me into major fight-or-flight mode. The truth will come out.

I empathize with where you are. If you ever want to be a real friend to me, and not an unhealthy co-dependent, I need you to actively work on your recovery and “get on the other side of it”. I know it probably seems harsh, but I know whereof I’m speaking, having been there myself. You getting well is the best thing you can do for yourself and the quality of your future relationships. I wish you well.

~

Occasionally people who have been traumatized have gravitated to me because I’m open about having experienced a serious trauma and (mostly) recovered, but they don’t seem to realize how deeply their past still affects them. They haven’t done any trauma recovery work, and they show up in my life.

I believe they show up because their unconscious is seeking healing. Or perhaps angels bring these people to me so they can see for themselves that recovery is possible. You know, I don’t mind being a role model for recovery from trauma. I’ve come a long way in 10 years. I’ve worked at it.

It’s not like traumatized people wear signs stating that. The sudden discovery that a friend or love interest has been traumatized can create a huge amount of distress for me. Even though in hindsight, their craziness now makes more sense (“oh, of course, that weird behavior was a trauma response”), it can still really be a shock.

So I just want to put this message out there:

If you’ve been traumatized and feel attracted to me because I’m open about having experienced trauma and having done a lot of work on my recovery, first of all, please tell me clearly and up front (or as soon as you realize) that you’ve been traumatized, emotionally abused, get triggered, have flashbacks or nightmares, are shell-shocked, or whatever history or symptoms are affecting you.

There’s no shame in it — you didn’t ask for it. I’d rather know than not, and I just might be able to proceed with appropriate boundaries. I will help you find good help and support you emotionally — in a way that is healthy and not co-dependent.

If that’s what draws you to me, just own it. Do not be asking me out on dates and withholding information about your untreated trauma. That’s creepy. You may naively think you can hide it, but it seriously disregulates your autonomic nervous system, which means it’s beyond your control. Your trauma-related weird behavior will show up in your most intimate relationships sooner or later.

Having untreated trauma is like ignoring an elephant in your living room whose shit is piling up. It will stay there until you see what it’s doing to your life and determine to get it out of your house. Which takes help.

Secondly, if you’re not getting professional help, please do that — get professional help. And let me know that too, because I’m going to worry about you if you don’t, and I’d rather be happy than worried.

Please do not look to me to help you beyond being a cheerleader for your recovery work. I am a blogger who’s open about having experienced trauma and having done a lot of work on recovery. This blog (read About me, and do a search on PTSD or trauma to find related posts) describes some of my recovery experiences. Please feel free to ask me about them or try them yourself.

There is absolutely no need for you to just show me your wounds without any verbal warning. Seeing you suddenly be triggered by your past trauma triggered painful memories of my long struggle of not knowing I had PTSD and finding out, and then spending months processing, healing, and putting my life back together in a new, healthier way.

Your behavior freaked me out badly. It took acupuncture, herbs, and therapeutic assistance to start to get over it (at my expense, I might add, which you have ignored, which also makes me think less of you), and I really don’t trust you now.

Recovery from trauma doesn’t mean being bulletproof. It means being more embodied, emotionally present, and energetically open than before recovery, while still being an ordinary person who cannot read minds. I have more compassion now and am more of a whole person, and I need to set clear boundaries to take care of myself. I do know the difference between friendship and co-dependence.

It breaks my heart more than you can imagine that the innocent gesture I made triggered fear in you. It’s not anything I take casually or lightly. It’s emotionally disturbing to witness someone with their wires crossed, whose body mind mistakes someone who has never emotionally abused them with someone who did.

With help, you can heal your poor damaged nervous system and experience peace and stability and aliveness in your life. I am recommending Somatic Experiencing to people these days.

Please find your way to help. I wish you well.

So this is for everyone: if you know that I have had PTSD and you have had untreated trauma in your life, and you come around seeking a relationship, please tell me up front, do your own recovery work (I’ll be rooting for you), and get yourself in decent emotional and relational shape before you seek friendship or dating from me, for both our sakes.

I look forward to talking with the healthy you.

A reader shares her awesome trauma releasing experience; another TRE video

I checked my email this morning right before work and saw one saying that someone had posted a blog comment. It was in response to my very first post on the Trauma releasing exercises, posted way back in May of 2010, close to two years ago.

Jen wrote:

Learnt the TRE technique from a friend. After my 4th session (last night) I got up and my body started swaying at the hips, then shoulders went mad, neck went into awesome neck rolls (felt a lot like yoga) and then an intense feeling from the centre of my belly, rolling upwards. Went on for at least an hour before I eventually went to bed to sleep. Just the one hand kept doing a little shake.

This morning on my way to work, my neck started rolling. Once at work I was standing telling my friend about this when my entire body started swaying and all morning (at least the last 4 hours) have been spent with my neck going into involuntary neck rolls, shoulder rolls, back stretches. It has finally stopped, but I am just a bit concerned. What does this mean?

I got really excited reading this! The trauma release process is working for Jen very well. To have this response after only four sessions is excellent. Her body is releasing trauma! To have a release from the hara (belly center) like that is very liberating. Maybe her yoga helped.

When I was first experimenting with the TRE exercises, I remember feeling some fear around the idea of “letting go”. What exactly is being let go of, and if I let go (i.e., lose control), will I get my self-control back?

Then once I started shaking, trembling, rocking, and rolling, I wondered: Would I be able to stop? What if it was embarrassing?

I needn’t have worried.

I responded right away:

It means you are unfreezing and coming alive, Jen! Do it as much as you can when it feels right. Enjoy and know it will eventually slow and become “more voluntary” when you’ve released more of your stress. Awesome to hear from you!

She wrote back:

Wow, thanks for getting back to me so soon – you have put my mind at ease. My friend and I were laughing hysterically this morning as it just wouldn’t stop and then we started getting a little worried that it would NEVER stop. But this afternoon has been fine and when it starts again I will know it is normal and let it out!

Keep well
Jen

I haven’t blogged about the trauma releasing exercises for a long time, but I haven’t forgotten them. Once I learned them and began shaking, the process deepened. I released long-held tensions, especially in my shoulders. Every time I did them was different. I did them frequently for a while.

Sometimes nowadays when I am at Ecstatic Dance Austin or at home, I release tension in my legs and occasionally my arms/shoulders. I don’t think about it too much; if the thought pops into my mind, I never second-guess it. I just allow the release to happen. I’m standing, and my legs are shaking or my arm is writhing — something is moving, for sure.

And when I’ve had enough (again, without thinking about it), I dance (or rather, I do a more intentional dance, becaus release is dance) or go onto the next activity.

I’ve considered doing the training to become a TRE facilitator and may still do that when the time and money come together. For now, I’m happy to answer any questions that readers may have based on my experience and what I’ve seen and read of Berceli’s work.

I’m also happy to watch the exercises on video and do the exercises with anyone who wants to try them and prefers to have an experienced companion. There is something contagious about doing them with someone who already releases. It’s like permission to your body. (And a few people don’t need this; in my experience, it’s helpful to most newbies because releasing goes against the grain of what we’ve been taught, to be “in control” at all times.)

Also, I viewed David Berceli’s 2004 video, Mitchell Jay Rabin’s A Better World presents David Berceli Trauma Release, and I don’t think I posted anything about it.

Berceli tells Rabin the story of how he began developing the exercises, which I’ve read in abbreviated form but had not heard from Berceli before.

He was a Catholic missionary in the Middle East, living in Beirut during a civil war in the late 1970s. He was working with war refugees, and he himself became traumatized.

When he came back to the U.S., he was suffering from PTSD. He went to counseling (the only thing he knew to do) for two years, and at the end he realized he was still suffering very severely from PTSD, but it seemed to be more in his body than in his psyche.

That started him on the journey of exploring what PTSD is, how it affects us as human beings, how it affects the psyche and the body differently, and what healing processes need to occur to effect a complete resolution of trauma recovery.

He learned that the body holds in memory the contractions from trauma as a defensive behavior. He studied bioenergetics, tai chi, yoga, and other modalities, but was seeking a quick, body-based method of trauma release that could be taught in any cultural context to a large number of people even without knowing the language. 

Berceli then worked all over Africa and the Middle East with people traumatized by conflicts and civil wars. He discovered that conflict resolution is useless unless the underlying emotions can be released, that trust is impossible as long as the body holds the memory from trauma.

He worked with 150-200 people at a time, teaching the exercises to create neurogenic tremors and release the terror, anxiety, hurt, and fear of trauma, and then people would feel their bodies letting go of trauma behaviors embedded in their musculature.

Berceli relates the same knowledge that Peter Levine discovered and wrote about in Waking the Tiger, that animals don’t get PTSD because when they get out of danger, they shiver and shake and release the trauma from their bodies.

People tend to stifle the trembling after a trauma, and it remains embedded in the musculature. Berceli developed exercises to target the core muscles deep in the body affected by trauma (the psoas major, which impacts the energetic centers of the root and sacral chakras, the dan tien, the hara). Release of the psoas ripples throughout the body.

I love the psoas. It connects the legs to the torso and is the “fight or flight” muscle. We palpated it in massage school, getting to it through the lower abdomen.

I know that doing the trauma releasing exercises has been instrumental in releasing more trauma and defensive armor from my body. TRE has freed up my body and my dance! And in case of being retraumatized, however slightly, these exercises are good to do again.

There are more good stories on this video, even praise of dance as release, release, release. It’s inspired me to do the TRE exercises more frequently. Who knows what else can be released?

Daughters, hospitals, trust, relating

I’m sitting in a chair in a hospital. Next to me is my daughter’s boyfriend, P. My daughter, L, is lying on a portable hospital bed with us in this little pre-op cubicle, waiting to go into surgery. The TV is on — cartoons.

L is a nurse, and she’s saying what a good job the nurse here did of putting in her IV. She’s marveling at the paper hospital gown that is more like fabric than paper, that can actually have warm air blown into it should she desire it. I marvel too.

Me? I’m out of my element. I avoid hospitals as much as I can. I’ve dropped stuff off for my daughter at the hospital where she works a few times, but other than those quick visits, it takes something like this to get me into a hospital. (God forbid I should ever need hospital services. I’m planning not to. I’m going to be healthy for a long time and when I’ve used up my full life, I plan to die lucidly, painlessly, and with dignity. Like doctors die.)

I’m watching L and her boyfriend. He’s holding her hand, stroking it. I see how they talk and smile at each other, how they enjoy each other and laugh easily. The affection is palpable. There is trust there, and love.

Now she’s telling me about her anxiety dream last night where they were making her eat little Tupperware containers with little plastic dinosaurs as part of her surgery. She thinks it’s from seeing a commercial about gummy vitamins for grownups.

Now we’re watching Spongebob Squarepants, with subtitles. So unfunny. I know it dates me, but I really like the cartoons from the good ol’ days, like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Bullwinkle, even Popeye.

I ask her to turn the volume down. Silence. Thank you. We listen to the sounds of the hospital. It’s 6:55 am. Bright lights, people doing their jobs, preparing patients for surgery. Anesthesiologist came around to introduce himself, ask questions. Then the OR nurse.

The patient in the next cubicle has been wheeled away to the OR. L is probably next. I tell her I’m scared and ask if she is too. She says yes. I say:

It’s like I have to surrender to a higher power.

Yes. I do. This is out of my hands.

I hug her, my baby, my only child, who wrapped her tiny fingers around my little finger shortly after birth and entered my heart forever. I tell her I love her and kiss her on her cheek. I can’t help but tear up just a little. She tells me:

Don’t make me cry. It’s going to be all right, Mama.

The daughter becomes the mother. I love that.

Now we’re laughing because I told her I have to take a drug test for a temp job. I remind her that the last time I did anything was taking a hit of pot at her birthday party last May. We doubt that will show up on the drug test.

She thinks Spongebob is funny — sometimes.

Now the topic is politics, the GOP war on women. She tells me she encountered this awesome saying:

If the fetus that you fought to save grows up to be gay, would you still fight for its rights?

Then she tells me this is why she watches cartoons.

I’m glad to have this laptop, this blog, to have something to do besides just wait and feel. If I was feeling, it would be anxiety. Okay, it is anxiety.

The surgeon is here now. He’s older, a bit weathered, about my age. I’m relieved. He’s experienced. He’s serious, not jokey. I like that in a surgeon. He tells P and me that he’ll see us in a couple of hours. It’s 7:20.

I hug and kiss her again. The anesthesiologist puts the knock-out drugs into her IV. She says she’s high. Then her eyes close. I kiss her hand. She’s out. They immediately wheel her away. P marvels about her arm going flaccid. He has never seen or experienced the effects of anesthesia before.

P and I are back in the original waiting room, each with our laptops. There’s a TV blaring about rush hour traffic, weather, etc. Early morning programming. It’s now 7:22. I pretty much dislike television. I ask the receptionist if I can turn the volume down. No one is paying attention, and I can’t stand gratuitous noise, especially right now. She gives me the remote, and I turn it down. Yay.

Trust has been a topic on my mind lately, what it takes to trust another person. You can like someone, enjoy them, have compassion for them, and yet just not quite trust them.

Sometimes people withhold essential information about themselves. It’s not that they’re lying. They may have revealed some tender vulnerabilities, while concealing others.

Doesn’t everyone want to trust and be trusted by a select few? To have a safe circle of people with whom you can relax and be yourself? To have at least one person in your life that you can count on and be close to?

People not accustomed to trusting others can do things that hurt, scare, and freak others out. I don’t want to believe they intend this. Not only is building relationships new, sometimes they carry ghosts from past experiences with them.

It seems to me that trust is constantly built with every encounter. It’s a process. Sometimes it’s so deeply ingrained, it’s part of the fabric of relating and makes relating flow easily.

Sometimes a lot of time between encounters is the best medicine when affection exists but trust isn’t there. Trust can sometimes be rebuilt when the people and the timing are right.

Rarely, sadly, people I once was close to have become somebody I used to know because trust left the building. Watch this creative depiction of the pain of that.

 

Forgiving is not about the other. It’s about you and your heart. We talked about forgiving at my 4th way book group last night, about how to forgive. One way that I like is to imagine that you have already forgiven. Keep imagining that and eventually you cross over to the other river. I’m working on that.

I’m upset that what I believe should have been disclosed clearly, cleanly, up front, wasn’t, and I’m working with the best pro I know on unhooking these recent fearful, painful experiences in my own psyche. I want forgiveness and inner peace for myself. I’m ready to move on.

Okay, now I have to get up and move. Going to the cafeteria across the street to get breakfast.

Hospitals don’t have really healthy food. You’d think so, but no. Nothing is organic. Of course, none of the delicious-looking breakfast baked goods are gluten-free. I settle on scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, sweetened ice tea. I’m not gonna think too hard about the quality of this food. I’m hungry.

As I walk back across the street to the surgery center, I think,

My daughter’s in that building somewhere, in an operating room, unconscious under general anesthesia, and people I don’t know have cut into her body to make it work better. God give them peak skills. God be with us all.

I eat, sitting next to P. We talk about our hopes and fears.

A nurse calls us to come meet with the surgeon. It’s half an hour sooner than we’ve been told the surgery would take. This makes me feel afraid.

P and I sit in a little cubicle waiting for the surgeon. I tell him how I like that the surgeon was serious. P tells me his dad was a surgeon in Poland who has practiced various forms of medicine, including teaching basic medicine to African villagers and also teaching flight medicine in the U.S.

We both cross our fingers on both hands and look at each other.

Then the surgeon walks briskly toward us. A no-nonsense man. He makes eye contact and immediately says that everything went well.

Whew. Thank you, God.

He explains what he did in layman’s words. I reach out to shake his hand and tell him I prayed. His grip is very strong. His eyes light up, he cracks a bit of a smile, and he says he appreciates the prayer, because it helps. He and P shake hands. P and I go back to the waiting room. L is in recovery and will be perhaps able to go home about noon. It is now 8:57 a.m.

At 9:45, P is called to the front desk. She’s awake enough for one visitor at a time. He goes back to be with her. Then it’s my turn. She is so groggy, and with unstyled hair, no makeup, and her glasses on, she looks about 15.

I hang out with her as she removes an ice bag and fusses with the oxygen feed at her nose. They’ve inflated the paper hospital gown with warm air!

Her speech is slow and slurred, her movements slow and weak. She’s still high as a kite.

She falls back asleep. I hold her hand, images of her at various ages popping into mind. I marvel at how her hair has changed from blonde duck down as an infant to dark thick brown now, at the skinny scabby-kneed tomboy who’s become this smart, likable young woman. I watch her vital signs on the monitor.

She sleeps, snoring lightly. I feel reiki flowing through me into her hand and begin to give reiki consciously, hands intuitively moving to crown, neck, shoulders, chest, heart, abdomen, hands. I stand erect to facilitate the flow. I close my eyes and let this prayer of gratitude and love happen.

I’m given paperwork to read and sign about aftercare. The nurse takes her off oxygen and tells her she can get dressed now. I give her my hand to help her sit up and help her get dressed. There’s some unexpected bleeding; I call the nurse back; she bandages it and says it’s happens about half the time.

She can go home. We leave. Once home, goofball that she is, she makes a video of herself talking so she can later see how fucked up she was.

Life. Change. Growth. Love.