How well prepared are we, as we age, to deal with an unexpected turn of events? Are accidents always only a bad-news story or is there personal growth on offer in an event that initially feels unfortunate? These are the questions I’ve been asking myself. Over the past few months, I’ve realised that the opportunity to accept, surrender and evolve may be missed if I don’t surrender to the change brought on by the ‘unfortunate’ turn of events.
The previous months, I was relatively healthy and fit enough to travel around the world, hiking up to castles in the French Pyrenees and climbing into the inner chambers of pyramids in Egypt. I just had not contemplated the fact that one day, after a gentle rainstorm, I may quite routinely go out into the garden at home and fall over a garden wall, breaking my arm.
Immediately following the accident, I hardly missed a beat. After a day in the hospital and having the arm set, I was back on the computer using one finger on my left hand trying to keep up with incoming emails. I worked from home, doing admin work for a friend’s small business, I offered on-line esoteric yoga classes and was involved in many global projects, all held together by time spent on the computer. I had to keep going, or so I thought. Much to my embarrassment, it took me several weeks to realise that I could NOT, in fact, keep up with my old lifestyle. I could no longer even pretend to keep up with emails, spreadsheets or my on-line classes and projects. I was exhausted from the pain, the pain medication and from trying to keep up as if everything was normal. It was far from normal and I wasn’t giving myself the space to make the required adjustments.
Besides the realisation that I couldn’t keep up with my computer life, it also quickly came to light that I had to pull back from many physical activities such as my exercise classes, morning walks with friends, babysitting for friends, cooking and going to shared dinners with friends. Yes, my friends would have understood that I couldn’t chop vegetables or cook with one hand but when I finally stopped, I also discovered that I didn’t have the energy to sit and socialise. I just had to cease almost everything except the basic self-care and even that required a great deal of help. Instead of pretending like a broken arm was no big deal and resisting the changes I needed to make, I created the space to deepen and see what was being offered to me. I had to stop in order to go deeper within.
It was easy to see (once I quit fighting it) that this situation had a lot to offer me in terms of personal growth. I was forced to address my overdeveloped sense of self-sufficiency. I have always been a very independent person. A few years ago, I had a shoulder accident in which I was unable to use my arm in the way I was used to and I learned to ask for help. But still I only asked for help when I absolutely had to. Following that shoulder accident, I ‘thought’ I had learned to be less independent. But with the broken arm, I could see I hadn’t really learned my lesson. Now I was in a position to go deeper.
There was no doubt that I had to have people help me. No more ‘Ms Independent’ now. I had to really let people into my life, I had to let them right into the shower with me!! I learned to accept every assistance that was offered.
As it naturally happens, a couple of weeks in, the offers of assistance aren’t quite as abundant. People do have their own lives to get on with. So, I then had to learn to ask for help. I found this difficult. I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone. I had a couple of friends, perhaps further along the evolutionary path than me, who would be standing nearby watching me struggle to put on a jacket (or whatever), and finally I would ask for their help. They would smile at me and say, “I didn’t want to impose.” This may sound ‘uncaring’ but they actually knew me well enough to be aware that learning to ask for help was one of the lessons on offer in this unfortunate turn of events.
So, several weeks into the healing but still in a cast, I realised how much energy I was expending feeling bad about having people help me. What a miserable waste of energy! Who does it serve for me to feel bad about them helping me? I was reasonably sure that God would not expect me to feel bad about receiving help from my friends. I took this into a counselling session, and it quickly became obvious that the problem was that I wasn’t valuing myself as worthy of taking up their time and energy. I rejected this diagnosis at first, insisting that this wasn’t the case. I had worked a lot on self-esteem and self-love in recent years and didn’t ‘believe’ this was the root cause. But in the end, I had to accept the merit of this insight into why I was feeling bad about needing and accepting help. I still didn’t truly value myself in a way that allowed others to care for me.
Amazingly, I finally embraced all the lessons above and was feeling like I was really finding the silver lining in the black cloud of the unexpected turn of events. But then, again by a more evolved friend, it was offered to me, that perhaps I could deepen even more and find that place where I could see that who I am (who we all are in our divine origins – not the ‘doing’ or list of accomplishments) was enough to be ‘cared for by another’.
Well, I understood the concept, but could I really embrace living with that? He must have seen the scepticism on my face and offered this example. He said, “Say my 5- year-old son came into the room, and I said to him ‘you are a precious Son of God, you are worthy of being cared for by the people around you’, would you tell him he was not?”
Oh my! Never would I say that to a child! And yet, that is what I was saying to myself. So here I am…still coming to terms with the discomfort and lack of strength in my right arm from my accident and now both hands (from overuse)! However, I am much more accepting of the deeper learning that has been given to me. I have discovered that ageing does not preclude personal growth.
Gayle C, Australia
If you enjoyed this article you may like to read Gayle’s other article:
There is no Brotherhood in Self-Sufficiency.
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