“Hi! How are you?” asks an acquaintance at a grocery store. “I’ve been better,” I answer. “We have two close relatives in the ICU right now and…”
I’m about to continue but their facial expression is indicating they’re sorry they asked. Honesty may not be the best policy in this situation.
We have been experiencing the most challenging year I can remember. I feel challenged to the core in multiple arenas. Personal, family, professionally, financially, spiritually, and most pressing, health.
It is my turn to be at my beloved mother-in-law’s bedside. She is succumbing to stage four lung cancer. Selfishly, I’m hoping there will be fringe benefits to my attending to her. What kind of fringe benefits? ICU therapy of course. It’s right up there with sand-tray therapy, narrative therapy, art therapy, and exposure therapy. ICU therapy has a simple premise. Just sit in the ICU until you get some perspective! It shouldn’t take long. My troubles will pale compared to what the patients there are experiencing. Every bodily function I take for granted needs a medical device. Respiratory therapists, special doctors called intensivists, pharmacists and nurses buzz around monitoring the whole precarious situation. This should whip me into shape in no time at all.
I arrive at the ICU and am shocked upon seeing my mother-in-law’s condition. Despite all prior warnings as to how jarring the situation is, I’m temporarily rendered speechless. And then, like most things, the shock factor starts to wear off and I begin to acclimate to the rhythm and sounds of the ICU. On the one hand, it’s eerily quiet because my patient is sedated. On the other hand, there’s the constant sound of pumps and beeping.
And then I start to hear them.
The familiar voices of my inner demons.
They bring me back from ICU therapy to my all too familiar ruminations about my own challenges. My tears start flowing freely and in walks my sister in law.
“Oh Dolly,” she gushes, “you’re so upset about mom! I’m sorry it’s the worst thing in the world to see her laying here like this.”
I confess: “No, I’m not even crying about mom. I’m so wrapped up in my own stuff and so ashamed that I’m such a selfish, small person to be crying for myself at her deathbed.”
“I know,” she said, “I do the same thing.”
I don’t need Intensive Care Unit therapy. I need a different kind of ICU therapy. Intensive Courage Underway, because my struggle is real for me. I need to face my fears, deal with disappointments and address them, rather than will them away because someone else needs a ventilator to breathe! This will take courage. Lots of it. And strategies!
I will reach deep into the recesses of my knowledge of timeless Jewish wisdom for practical coping mechanisms that will help me:
Hachitzoniyut meoreret Et hapnimiyut – The externals have the power to awaken and spark internal attitudes.
How we present ourselves can influence how we feel. I will pull myself together and dress up as if I wasn’t feeling like a complete wreck. AKA fake-it-till-you-make-it.
(BTW any stylists out there who want to barter for challah?)
Eizehu ashir hasameach bechelko – Who is rich she who is satisfied with what she has.
I will renew my emphasis on an attitude of gratitude by focusing on the myriad blessings I have in my life. I have a beautiful family. My immediate family is healthy. My husband, besides for being an outstanding human being is over 40 years old and isn’t balding and doesn’t have a big beer belly. What did I tell you: seek and you shall find. The blessings are all around me!
Ani maamin – I believe
G-d alone orchestrated, orchestrates, and will orchestrate every detail of our lives. There is a Higher Power running the world. Sometimes we get a glimpse into the inner working with something we can mistake as coincidence. So far my journey has been tailor made for my growth and development as a person. I must strengthen my faith that this chapter will also be an important steppingstone for my soul’s development. HERE for more on that.
We are all created with a Godly spark.
We call this Tzelem Elokim (Godly spark). I have Tzelem Elokim, you have Tzelem Elokim, every moment that God is breathing life and breath into our neshama (soul), is an indication that God wants us to be alive. God is investing in me. My Tzelem Elokim shines brightly regardless of my accomplishments or lack thereof. Whether my kids are performing how I had hoped or whether I am excelling at anything or not, I am enough. I am worthy. I am enough. The light within me honors the light within you. Namaste!