I woke the other morning, realizing I had been dreaming about spiders. Now, normally, that would have informed me that my subconscious was working out some kind of stress. I have a phobia that has played out in spider nightmares my entire life. The irrationality of my fear must be connected to a past life, because even the tiniest eight legged being, spinning from my rear view mirror, could cause some screaming and hyperventilation, if not an accident. Silly, I know.
What was different that morning, was my sense that whatever had happened in my dreams, this time it was not focused on the fear or the havoc caused, but on the strength of the weave in carefully threaded webs. What I can recall was a tiny, armored being wrapping a thread between two poles over and over and over, until it formed, at once a supportive cradle and a powerful slingshot.
In the past, when I have had spiders show up (for real) in my life, I have asked the question to the Universe: “Why are you making me feel unsafe? What are you trying to tell me?” I have heard the reply: “What do you fear most?” Then, I could reflect on what false belief I was holding onto.
The words I heard in my mind this time were: “building a strong foundation”. What comes to mind (thank goodness something came to mind, because my brain has been too fuzzy to write for some time), is community. Not just the cliche ‘we are the web’, but in the way that we come together and pool our energy and resources to catch someone we love, rather than allowing them to fall or fend for themselves.
I’ve been doing some extra caregiving since January. A dear friend went through knee replacement surgery, and I was able to offer some needed support for her (age 75) and her wife of 40 years (age 83). With severe memory issues, it is difficult for her wife to navigate the hospital alone, and I had the flexibility to stand-in until her daughter could be available.
These women are also pillars of our Unitarian church community, and the recipients of much love and support from many others, in one form or another.
While at home healing from the knee replacement, my friend fell while getting out of bed, and somehow broke her femur. Yes. It sounds unbelievable, and she is pretty pissed off about the whole thing. It meant another hospital stay, another surgery, and this time, she had to go to rehab to learn how to maneuver without putting more than 20 lbs. of pressure on the healing leg.
Folks, the state of rehab care I’ve witnessed in the last two years has been an eye opener. That’s not to say that those who are caring for our loved ones in facilities are negligent (though some are clearly more skilled than others), it is that the carer vs. patient ratio is terribly deficient. When Dad was dealing with health issues, he ended up in the same facility twice. The first time, the space was brand new and beautiful. Not a bad place to recover. But the second time, he went to a different floor, which was not new, and conditions upon arrival were not acceptable. Both times, it was nearly impossible to find someone on staff to assist, and I shudder to imagine what he might have endured without my advocacy. (His version of self-care is to shrug his shoulders and say: “Oh, well.”) Both my father and my friend, were forbidden and physically unable to get out of bed alone, and yet response time to the call-button was often longer than 30 minutes. One in this position simply has to cast-off their sense of dignity and pride. It’s pretty awful.
When we are older, compounding these circumstances may be our sense of body betrayal and feelings of regret, fear, and overwhelming emotion which bottles up and spills over onto the people upon whose care we rely. And it’s especially difficult when we have grown old with a partner who has age-related difficulties of their own. My parents have been together for nearly 60 years, and while one has mobility and memory issues, the other has hearing and memory issues. There is not a whole lot of patience between them, but when I remind them that their partner is living inside their own world of challenges and fears, it seems that a bit more compassion rises for the other.
So, yesterday, I picked up my friend from rehab and brought her home, after a two week stay in what she has dubbed ‘hell’. We arrived home to her wife, who had already made some adjustments to make life easier. I had a plan for how we could get her onto the porch and into the house, which would have involved a series of maneuvers. But we ultimately decided to call for a non-emergency lift assist with our local fire department. These people are amazing, generous, and kind. Several friends from church had offered support and shared resources such as a wheelchair (until the prescribed chair arrives), a shower chair (from a friend who went through his own difficult recovery after knee surgery), a new shower head installed by a friend who also helped remove the bathroom door for easier access, and a sister-friend RN arrived just in time to help us get our healing-being settled safely into bed. They have more friends from church who are delivering meals and fellowship. Seriously, if you are dealing with some shit, it is a beautiful thing to be in such a caring circle.
Every once in a while, my friend and I have a conversation about the ‘why me’ of it all. Neither of us believe that things always ‘happen for a reason’, so we choose to seek the ‘what may I learn’ from this current challenge. What comes to mind for me is that body betrayal allows those who have served others to finally receive a karmic return on investment. My father was a Vocational Rehab counselor and supervisor for the bulk of his career, and my friend was a mental health counselor. They supported many grateful beings in times of need. Now, they are each being supported in theirs.
And, perhaps their individual challenges will lend a sense of patience and understanding for the struggles of their partners. But what I hope for the most, is that they each learn to forgive the betrayal of their own bodies, and to love them unconditionally for the strength and support they’ve always provided, as the sacred containers of their precious souls.
Caring for beloveds through this process of aging and supporting them through physical challenges is surely a message to me from the Universe, as I am reminded to offer myself the kind of care and attention I offer others. I have a whole list of things I would like to be doing for myself, including using a year-old gift card for a massage. What the hell?! How can I urge anyone else to self-care when I am not walking my own talk? Well, I’m getting there. I scheduled my well-visits with the doctor and imaging center, and got blood work done. Step by step, I will keep loving myself a little more, offering my body her own karmic reward. Hopefully, she’ll recognize my efforts and allow forgiveness over defeat.
Today, as I showered, I offered my body heartfelt gratitude and as I dried off, I sang to my own reflection. Oh, how we all deserve to be loved and cherished… especially by our own sacred selves.
So, the words I heard that morning were ‘building a strong foundation’, and I reflect on what meaning might be found. We are blessed with an unbreakable net woven with golden strands of individuals in our beloved community. Our friends, caregivers, hospital staff, physical therapists, and firefighters are among those who offer a cradle or hammock of nurturing protection. Our partners (if we are blessed to have one) are the home we get to return to, again and again. And the tenderness, compassion, and unconditional love that we offer ourselves is the beacon of warmth and healing light that we offer the world in reciprocity for this extraordinary earthly experience.
If you, dear one, are facing challenges in your own life, I hope that you are feeling held in the light of love, and that you are gently pouring unconditional love onto every wound and sorrow. Let that love spread throughout your physical and energetic being to soothe every ache and anxiety. Let peace settle into your bones, and witness joyful gratitude rising to the surface. And may that joy outshine fear and longing. Let that gorgeous light of yours become a healing balm that comforts you and those around you, as you witness the vision of your own transformation and new beginning. I’ll be right here to cheer as you emerge!
Thank you for walking this path with me. I am grateful for your care.