A couple weeks ago, clear as an audible voice I heard: “Karen, are you grateful for your body?”
Though the question caught me off guard, answers fill pages in my journal where “so help me God”, the truth hits the page. Thoughts and laments bear witness to how I’m coping with challenges, living life; a dance between questions, discouragement, uncertainty; and gratitude grounded to the day’s Scripture meditation, other inspired writers, email odds and sods, musical lyrics.
Added to this mix there is a measure of hope; as “imagination harnessed to faith1“.
My record-keeping has helped make sense of the journey through physically-stretching seasons, which I’ve shared in previous posts, the pain challenge and a turnaround week. Then last October, hiking in beautiful Fundy Park, New Brunswick, I fell, cutting my forehead on a rock. (I hate when that happens: I won’t repeat what I said while scrambling to my feet.)
I went to the nearest ER where a Doctor checked my vital signs and stitched me up. Thankfully, the scar above my left eye on the photo below is barely visible now amongst the other forehead wrinkles. My family Doc thinks I sustained a concussion: I interpreted her heads up that “concussions take a while to get better” meant it would take its jolly time to heal . Rightly so. I’m an Enneagram type 7 2 – a personality that “fantasizes about the future, with exciting possibilities and plans for my next great escapade”. I don’t do well sitting with physical or emotional pain – to be honest, unless I’m in the woods, by the ocean, or on a road trip to somewhere, sitting can be troublesome!
January 2, 2023: it’s in the journal. “Don’t waste time grieving about setbacks. Surrender to things you can’t change ” – a paraphrase from Melanie Vogel, thru-hiking the Trans-Canada Trail. I needed a mental kick in the butt. Ready for this challenge from a serious hiker, I determined to direct the strengths I’ve used for adventure and spontaneity – learning new skills, being flexible, energetic and optimistic – towards my goal for reaching a healthy, sustainable active life. Since then I’ve been on another adventure.
I’ve learned some things. Reducing brain stimulation, i.e., caffeine and alcohol, and extended periods of screen time – helps reduce the fuzzy brain (memory gaps) and the ‘numbskull’ sensation (for real). Knowledgable healers with supplements and physical therapy support can be amazing. Walking in the woods as much as I’m able continues to restore my body and soul. I’ve experienced – again and again – the comfort of my patient husband, prayers, many cups of herbal tea. I’ve discovered this body-kindness program has been restorative to my body’s general wear and tear from a journey of seventy years around the sun, a trek I hope to enjoy a couple more decades.
Universally, we suffer. The reality of pain and reversals is not a frivolous matter; many people in the world experience painful conditions and horrible circumstances far worse than mine, yet we all have stories. Looking back – through my twenty’s, thirty’s and forty’s – migraine headaches were my tormentor, showing up at will and messing with my life. Medication helped somewhat but the routine of my life danced to their tune. I couldn’t fix this; acknowledging that taught me grace to accept help; especially from my husband and young family who had to manage for themselves when “Mom’s in bed with a migraine.” Am I grateful for the pain? Hardly! I discovered that in spite of trying to eat and live right, the world is imperfect. I couldn’t be perfect then. And I can’t be now.
A helpful tool for me is reading other’s peoples stories walking through their hardships – especially when it’s connected to overcoming a physical challenge. One example is “I’ll Push You, a Journey of 500 Miles. Two Best Friends and One Wheelchair” by authors Patrick Gray and Justin Skeesuck. Two friends doing the Camino de Santiago– one of them needs to be pushed in his wheelchair. Comments like: “there is joy in receiving help from others -this is accepting grace; choosing pride over vulnerability makes us weak” – all I can say is Wow.
I enjoy the backward glances. Memories are wonderful, and I have adventures planned to add to that bank. There will be more life glitches, but as the two friends on the Camino trail said: “The only way to go through something, is to go through it.” By their example, I see how grace and gratitude can ‘pour the oil of appreciation into our lives’3 .
Today I say yes, I am grateful for my body, this tent that’s home for my mind, spirit and heart; the essence of who I am.
My journal gets the last word. April 9th. “When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end, Because I am God, your personal God, ….. ( Isaiah 43:2, 3a, The Message).
Thank you for reading. May you be blessed with gratitude and hope.
1. Apologies, I don’t know to whom I can acknowledge for this quote.
2. The Road Back to You – Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile – page 10
3. Gratitude Cures Perfectionism – from “Attitudes of Gratitude” by M.J Ryan