Do you need anything? Is there something I can do for you? Can I get you something to drink? Want some help with that? Are you hungry? I’ll do that for you. This is the caregiver’s litany. The words alone are restorative. A promise that you are not alone. A belief that this situation can be improved. A way of embracing a difficult reality without succumbing to it. There comes a time in all our lives when we need to give ourselves over to healing. We need to believe this will heal, to trust in our capacity to heal. The state of mind we hold when we believe we are healing is essential to the process. When we trust in a positive outcome, we generate the biochemistry of hope. We feel better because hope is healing.
It’s been a week since his surgery. We’re learning how to be together in a new situation, testing ourselves as we witness each other dogpaddling in uncertainty. Our vibe is humble, modest, and considerate. I’m organized, but also frazzled. Doing laundry, I lost a bedsheet for three hours and I was about to have a nervous breakdown. Then I retraced my steps, checked the bed, and saw that I had simply put the clean sheet on over the dirty one. Where was my mind when I did that?
His mind was loopy at first, but as the pain meds diminish, he is sharper, pushing himself to advance from walker to cane. Next physical therapy. He’s very independent. Had a hip replaced in 2015. Had shingles last month. Says on the pain scale from 1 to 10, shingles is way worse than knee replacement. So, all in all, things are getting better. He’s not an invalid. Just a guy who needs some help. And a sandwich. With patience and a kind word. This is how we heal.
Together we nurture our biology, cheering on the invisible biota that conjure blood and bone, mending the incision. It’s a beauty, long and perfectly cut, dark blue and busy sewing itself together. Skin color normalizing, swelling reduced, suppleness returning to the muscles. Progress is being made. It’s a wonder, adopting this alien body part as though we’ve taken something wild and we’re taming it, domesticating a beast, housebreaking Legos. We trust the process that weaves wholeness from separation, on its own, without supervision or instruction. The life force.
Trust is the glue that holds us together. Him and me. Me and you. We and them. A shared expectation for the future. This healthcare experience is deepening our trust in one another, but also in the system, our society, that big amorphous blob of human behaviors that connects us from one person to the next. The system may need repair, it can be improved, but our capacity for collective action is extraordinary.
Now it’s the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, a time when we pause to reflect on the calendar, the season, and the passage of time. Enjoy the festival of lights, the celebration of stars and the communion with loved ones. For me, it’s also a time to conserve myself, turn my energy inward, minimize, sleep, stare out the window and drift into silent imaginings. I align myself. Appreciate myself. Forgive myself. Regenerate. This is the way I heal. I hope in the coming season you’ll take the time you need to heal. Trust yourself. Be well.
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By Arlin Cunci, July 17, 2019 for VeryWellMind.com