In recent days, the following events have occurred:
1. Clive’s had surgery on his hand and finger for Dupuytren’s contracture. Because this was the second time for the hand, it also required skin to be taken from his upper forearm and grafted onto his finger. The hand, finger and skin graft are healing slowly but well. For various awful reasons, the wound on the forearm is taking forever, causing pain, and still requiring frequent hospital visits.
2. Clive’s father, in a local nursing home, is near death. Every time the phone rings, we think it is the end. As I write this, his father is hanging on, but it’s likely Clive will be in charge of planning a funeral very soon.
3. One of my dearest friends in the US was diagnosed with an aggressive, inoperable brain tumour. She has lost the use of her left side and is already in a wheelchair, facing specialist appointments and treatment decisions.
4. My US stepson will soon have surgery to remove both kidneys, followed by several weeks of dialysis and then a kidney transplant from a living donor.
5. Another of my dearest US friends has had a mastectomy and learned the disease spread to multiple lymph nodes. She too faces oncology appointments and treatment decisions.
In the broader context of Clive’s and my life at the moment, we’ve been anticipating our Aussie family’s long-planned visits. Clive’s daughter arrives in the UK in early September. His son, daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren will be with us in late September and early October.
Clive’s son is also facing work challenges Down Under. We’ve wished we were there to provide practical support at a stressful time.
Trusting One’s Inner Compass – What I’ve Learned
Distance complicates the challenge but at times events collide for everyone, even if loved ones live within minutes of each other. In the 19 years I’ve lived away from the US, I’ve developed a few ways to find and trust my inner compass.
First, I try to get a ‘total picture’ of everything that’s happening. For me this means slowing down for a few minutes, just long enough to write a physical list – of people, places, dates, prior commitments and everything else that’s worrying me. Then I look it over and asterisk items that seem most urgent or ‘call out’ to me in some way. Nothing formal, just an instinctive ‘this is really important’ or ‘this seems most urgent’ feeling.
Next, I talk it over with Clive. He somehow manages to express his own point of view, which I ask him to do, and simultaneously put on his coaching hat and ask me non-judgmental questions such as, ‘How would you feel if you don’t go?’ or the one that resonates most, ‘What is your heart telling you?’ Having a valued ‘sounding board’ helps me so much (though if a trusted confidant is not available, you can find lists of coaching questions online).
Finally, I think the most important thing is to take a few quiet moments to get centred, close my eyes, focus on breathing and prayerfully reflect upon the questions in my mind. I try to listen for the little voice inside, to hear what my heart is telling me.
Why is it so hard to physically and mentally pause for even one minute? To be mindful instead of reactive is a constant challenge, and I no longer have young children. The location doesn’t have to be glamorous or peaceful. I sat in my desk chair this week, leaned back, closed my eyes and tried to still my mind for more than 10 seconds.
What Is Your Heart Telling You?
It’s rarely easy, rarely black and white. This time, I’ll go to the US and Clive will stay in England, to continue his arm and hand treatments and remain on call with his father’s situation. Not the way we like to travel, but it feels like the right decision. I’ve booked flights for mid next week, to coincide as best I can with events on both sides of the Pond.
Within an hour of making the reservations, I received a call from my mother’s assisted living home in New Jersey. She is deteriorating, and they need to meet with me. I will be there. I took this as a supportive sign from the Universe.
Unless our plans change again, next week’s letter will be from the US.
Thanks for visiting and cheers until next week.