It’s after noon here. Until about an hour ago, I was in bed asleep. That’s been my life since October, when I fell and ruptured my Achilles tendon. Shortly after, I had surgery. Then, while in a cast, I lost my balance and hit my head, resulting in a concussion. Since then, I have graduated to an orthopedic boot and physical therapy. I am doing well and recovering, according to my medical team, a bit ahead of schedule. This is just a long recovery.
My physical therapist, a lovely, freckle-faced brunette who speaks with the accent of her native Zimbabwe, assures me that sleeping a lot is normal. After months of inactivity, I am starting to move my body again. My brain is rewiring itself, and that takes a lot of energy.
Before the day is over, I’ll probably have to nap again. I’ve always been a fan of naps, but that used to mean an hour mid-afternoon. Today there are days, like this one, when I sleep eight or ten hours between the time I get up in the morning and the time I retire for the night.
As someone who has always been a compulsive overachiever, I am finding this beyond challenging.
Once I got over the initial shock of learning I faced many months of rehab and recovery, I realized I would have to surrender and make peace with the experience. It wasn’t as though I had a choice, after all. I made a decision, as I try to with everything in my life, to treat it as an opportunity for spiritual expansion.
Easier said than done. I did recognize that I would benefit from being forced to cut back my time commitments. If a friend or family member needed anything, I was usually the “go to” person, and it was good for me to abdicate that role for a while so I could reassess exactly how much time and energy I really had to give.
The hardest thing for me has been work. I am almost finished a book, tentatively titled Help for Depression. The website for the book was almost ready to launch. My most pressing obligation was creating the courses I will be offering on the website. Writing and recording those is time-consuming, and requires a fair amount of mental energy. It is going slowly, and I have been frustrated.
Yesterday, I was on the phone with my friend, Tom Pauley, telling him all about it. Tom is one of two close friends who have recovered from a series of devastating strokes. Tom’s recovery was intense the first couple of years, and has been ongoing now for seven years. He recently finished his first book since the stroke, chronicling his near-death experiences and what he was told about why it was important for him to return to finish his life. I was his beta reader, and the book just blew me away. I’ve read thousands of books on all areas of spirituality, and this one impacted me perhaps more than any other.
Hazel, my physical therapist, referenced stroke recovery when she talked to me about the need for sleep, and I of course remembered how exhausted Tom was by every step of his progress. Tom reminded me yesterday that it is during sleep that the body can best heal. I told him I recognized that, but I really begrudged all those hours I could have been working.
“I keep thinking,” I told him, “I could be using this time to help people, and to make money.” I’m not getting any younger, and I might want to retire one day.
“You are helping people,” he said. “By healing yourself, you are participating in healing others.” He reminded me of a family situation I’ve been praying about, and he suggested that as I heal myself, I am helping to heal that situation. One of the things he feels sure of after his own near-death events, is that we are all connected – he says “entangled” – and what happens to one of us impacts all of us here on earth sharing this life experience.
That started me thinking about a main tenet I was taught in Catholic school: “offering up” the hard things in life. When we were having a hard time, if we were sad, or sick, the nuns would remind us to offer it up to God, who would use it for the greater good. If I had a scraped knee, I could extend my pain as an offering for someone I knew, or just ask God to take it and transform it into something positive.
Over the years, I have sort of put that concept to one side and forgotten about it. Maybe it no longer seemed true or relevant. Then, in my conversation yesterday with Tom – who knows little about Catholicism – it became real again. On the subject of money, he reminded me (as of course I know) my needs are always met and will continue to be in the future.
I am sharing this because I often find the things I experience have meaning for others, and their experiences for me. We are connected. We may not completely understand it. We often forget it. But it is true.