Dancing. Traveling. Meditating. Boxing. Cavorting in urban neighborhoods. Browsing art museums. Lingering at happy hour.
Just a short list of what I’d planned to be writing about when I embarked on a new decade as 2011 came to a close. I saw 2012 laid out before me like a joyous playground to romp in, feeling better than ever before in my fresh and vibrant 50s.
But when I flipped the virtual calendar page and realized we are halfway through the year and that it was time for a check-in on how 2012 is going, it was a reminder that a very different reality had emerged. The first half of the year has in fact been jarring and only in the last week did it occur to me to apply what I’ve learned over the last decade or so of mental and spiritual growth to take stock of it all.
It can be summed up like this – it is essential to keep living. Through a knee injury that slowed me down and in fact put me at a grinding halt for a while. Through the sudden death of someone who I assumed would play a major role in my life for a very long time. Through other deaths that have had me witnessing people I love grappling with the enormity of the pain. Through others dealing with elderly parents whose health is failing.
Keep living. But let’s be more specific about what that means.
It means feeling. Take those hits. If there was any advantage to a knee injury when I was trying to process a death, it’s that I was forced to be still. Knee-up-on-a-pillow-with-ice-on-it still. The pain train came rumbling toward me and there was nowhere to go. Bam. Feel those feelings. Because burying them is only going to cause big trouble down the line.
That means relinquishing control. Yes, you and me. Control freaks anonymous. I am Nancy and I am a control-a-holic. At least once a week this year, my mother has tried to gently tell me I need to let go of the need to control something. And she’s right (although she doesn’t need to know that). I injured my knee, wound up in the emergency room, had tests, had surgery, started physical therapy. Stuff happens. I’m healing. I’m not the bionic woman. Who knew?
The well-meaning and the know-it-alls ask about the lack of a smile on my face, the knee brace, the cane, the limp and offer all kinds of advice, admonishments, judgments. The tone is filled with pity or tinged with annoying wonder as to what’s taking so long for me to heal. This has taught me – through occasional gritted teeth, I confess – to trust the experts in whose care I have placed myself. The orthopedist is top-notch, the physical therapist a jewel. In them I trust. In them I blessedly trust.
H-E-L-P. Learn to ask for it. Not one of my strong suits at all. People love to help. I love to help. Why wouldn’t I want to give someone that pleasure? My neighbor was happy to take out my garbage or get my mail. My family and friends ran errands, provided much-needed company. I have reached out a number of times, continue to do so, and have realized the mutual joy of such a simple thing.
For me this will always mean writing up a storm. These columns, journals, other projects. Writing is my expression, art, therapy, meditation, fulfillment of self. I thrive in it, feel best when I am doing it. And if writer is who I am, coach is what I do. Through all of the trials of this year, my coaching has become more sharply focused, more compassionate and empathetic. My listening is better, my understanding broader. How grateful I am to make a living that doesn’t feel like ‘work.’
When every person, situation, song, beeping horn, crack in the sidewalk is getting on my last nerve and I figure out I am the common denominator, it’s OK to be with it for a bit (see ‘feeling’ above), but ultimately I must realize I am most likely railing at the people I love the most. It is imperative to check in every so often and show them some appreciation or at least a glimmer that I know I’m off the rails. The ones worth their salt will weather it with me. That all by itself is worth pausing for a moment of gratitude.
Give the homeless man a piece of fruit. Years ago while working a “survival” job in New York post-layoff, I started realizing that each day when I bought myself a banana at a produce stand I could spend another 25 cents and buy one for the homeless guy on the same block. It became habit and contributed greatly to my healing. This week when I was walking in my door with groceries, I pulled out a nectarine and gave it to the homeless guy sitting on my porch. He lit up and devoured it. Giving is such a salve for the soul. I lit up, too.
Sometimes it really is medicinal to indulge in something. I can be awfully resistant to just going with the flow sometimes. But a light-hearted lunch with my siblings can do wonders. One too many margaritas with treasured friends can make me forget about my knee issues. Devoting time to finding just the right gift for a friend’s new baby can fill my heart with wondrous pleasure.
That means really believing that a year from now I’ll be looking back at this as a tremendous growth period.
My playground still awaits.
Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.