From an email I wrote on 2 September 2014:
Thank you for your very kind words about my writing. Thank you also for calling me a healer for healers. You’re not the first person to say that to me, and that compliment got me thinking about why it is someone whose life dream was to be an artist (and was, for 35 years) has evolved into a healer for healers.
I don’t know if I told you I have had a partially paralyzed arm for the past 2.5 years. It’s been interesting to have the experience of going through life with a partially paralyzed arm. I have done normal things in a clumsy way that have opened me up to new insights.
Three months ago, I trimmed the azalea bush behind my house with hedge clippers that are too big for me to easily handle, especially with one strong arm and one not so strong arm. I thought I was doing a good job until I saw how I’d butchered the bush. Oy!
Although I faithfully watered it, the bush refused to grow back. I didn’t want to look at what I’d done to this bush. It was one more reminder of something I now struggled to do. We take so much for granted in our lives until we can no longer do them as before. I’d made it about me, not about the bush. I realized that had to change.
I apologized to the bush for what I’d done to it. I have studied and practiced Ho’oponopono. I know the power of saying, “I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you.” The bush remained as it was.
I knew I had to do something different. The bush was entrusted to my care, and I had failed the bush. I could no longer avoid looking at how I’d destroyed the beauty of the bush. As I had cared for my mother, as I had cared for my dog, as I had cared for myself, I had to care for the bush in a way that supported what the bush needed, not what I thought it needed.
I tuned into the bush and asked how I could help it heal. It said, “Spend time with me.” I knew how the bush felt. A series of severe shocks and traumas during 33 days in 2011, followed by three other deaths of loved ones and learning of my early childhood sexual abuse by a loved one within six months and the heart attack and disabling stroke I experienced 13 months later destroyed the me I was so I can become the healer of healers I am today.
I gave the bush everything I wanted to be given in 2011 and in 2012, everything I still want to be given today. I believe the bush wants to heal itself, I believe we have been created as self-healing organisms, but I have also learned that there are times when life shatters us, times when we frequently need to know we are loved and supported by others in order to heal. One of the lessons I’ve received during the past few years is the importance of being there for each other. I agree with you about the importance of loving ourselves. Self love is indeed an important part of healing. However, part of my work is to encourage people to do what I have done with my mother and with my dog.
I treated my mother during the final 50 months of her life with all the love and respect I could generate as an increasingly worn out primary caregiver, asking her each day what she needed and telling her each day I love her. The dementia diagnosis did nothing to change that. Until she went into the coma several days before her death, my mother was one of the highest functioning people in her memory care unit, and I know it’s because she knows I love and support her (I use the present tense deliberately).
I asked and continue to ask my dog each day what she needs. Some days she tells me she wants to walk around her favorite dog supply store, sniffing and getting fed a ridiculous amount of treats that are appropriate for a dog who’s had cancer. Some days she wants to go to Ocean Grove, NJ, the town that prayed her back to life. Some days she wants to just hang out at home and be a dog. On 15 September 2014, she will mark 15 months of life after the vet estimated she’d be gone from terminal cancer. I have learned how important it is for me and for others to ask someone what they need.
I know by helping the bush heal I am helping myself heal. I visit the bush frequently throughout the day. I always see how it looks today, and I visualize it as it will look: healthy, lush, and perfect. I’ve learned to love it for its imperfections. I love it more because it’s different from all the other bushes. It’s still lovable, even though it’s been hacked up. I’ve been hacked up by life, and I’m still lovable. I am it, and it is me. I tell it I love it each time I visit. I bought a new watering can to gently nourish it through these hot summer days.
I forget how long it took before I noticed the new growth. I’m thinking it wasn’t more than a day or two. I started seeing tiny green leaves sprouting from the long and thick barren branches. I started seeing full leaves appear at its base. I started seeing full branches magically appear. I remember visiting the bush in the morning and the afternoon and being shocked at how much fuller it looked. I know the bush was responding to what I was doing. I loved it as it was, and I love it as it is!
I amped up my efforts. I thanked the bush for inspiring me. I thanked the bush for showing me by growing that it accepted my apology. I thanked the bush for showing me I can heal, too. I can’t adequately express to you how moved I am to see this bush responding to what I am doing.
I noticed today that the petunias that were planted in front of the bush are much more abundant than at any other time this season. I’ve taken to counting the blossoms. I count more blossoms each day. And the magenta plant is suddenly thriving. I especially love the color magenta, I see it as the color of magic, and it makes my heart happy to see so much magenta. The other bushes and trees alongside the bush are also thriving.
UPDATE: As of late 2015, I have full movement in my left arm once more. Not having full movement in my left arm was an experience. Having full movement in my left arm once more is a different experience. Both experiences have been useful.
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