“Love one another and help others to rise to the higher levels, simply by pouring out love. Love is infectious and the greatest healing energy.”—Sai Baba
“You enjoy the white writing because there is a black board behind it.”—Sri Swami Satchidananda
As a young girl, and later, as a newly minted educator, I savored the look, feel, and sound of printing neatly, and as precisely as possible, on a clean, black board. I wrote slowly and meticulously because I did not want to have to erase a mistake. Erasing meant a fine white cloud would not allow the writing to pristinely stand out against the dark background. However, the immaculate look of the black board never lasted long—not with students to teach. Eventually, the board became overcast, gray, and dull by day’s end, requiring a fresh shower of water to wipe the slate clean.
I have been reminded of chalkboard writing this past week as I have watched my vibrant, gregarious daughter, Madelyn, succumb to the darkness of the painful healing required of a tonsillectomy as an adult. She had been warned that the procedure came with a difficult recovery. However, she moved forward with her commitment to the procedure and the promise it offered of improved health. As is often the case in life though, knowing that an event will be grueling, and actually experiencing the pain in real time, are two different matters.
Without going into great detail, I have watched her suffer through what appears to be excruciating tenderness, gurgling/choking sounds during fits of sleep, fever spikes, chills, flashes of heat, and the rejection of most forms of liquids and food. She’s given up on Percocet, the prescribed, temporary form of pain management as it knocks her into a sleep-induced fog, but doesn’t seem to reduce the pain much. Instead, she relies on acetaminophen, which dulls the pain, but never fully allows it to abate. The usual offerings, recommended by well-intended people, such as popsicles, Gatorade, and ice cream are either too acidic—which sets her throat “on fire”; or, in the case of ice cream, offers too much milk fat—causing her to cough, which is not only painful, but can also cause her scabs to come off too soon. Even her favorite soft foods, such as pudding, mashed potatoes, and noodle soup are all irritating and difficult to swallow according to Maddie. Therefore, I am often coaxing her just to eat a small something in order to take the prescribed steroids.
Meanwhile, John and I do what we can to make her comfortable and distracted from the pain. Caring for sick adult child, however, is different than when she was little. Gone are the days of pulling her into my arms, cradling her closely, gently swaying back and forth, humming, and using a free hand to lovingly stroke her hair off her forehead as if the action was a sacred healing ritual. Instead, I now try to balance not hovering in an overprotective/reactive manner, with being an available and present source of compassion, concern, and consolation. Furthermore, I find myself imploring Divine Providence for the wisdom to know when to encourage her to push and persevere through the hurt versus when to back off and let her be. I want to make her feel better, but experience has also taught me there is growth in the anguish of the ache.
Like the classroom black board of years ago at the beginning of the day, Maddie’s life board has barely begun to be written upon. She will have to endure repeated erasings/do-overs, clouds of confusion, and experience the dullness of the drills demanded by her own education/training. The spring showers and the new blossoms of her budding career and new way of living will come, but not without the dust, dark, and dimness of the work and pain required to achieve her future adventure.
One of the tenants that my faith, my yoga practice, and life experience teaches me is that nothing is permanent. Nothing. Not my body, not my various life roles, not my home, not my job, not my circumstances, and certainly not the challenges and pain. Change, and the temporary nature of circumstances, whether perceived as good or not so good, is the one real constant. One cannot get the satisfying white writing on the chalkboard without the dark side; there is no real joy filled experience without sadness; and, of course, there is no healing without pain.
Two weekends ago, we stayed in Cincinnati for two nights celebrating Maddie’s 20th birthday. My brother, Scott, and his husband, Mywon, joined us for both days; whereas my mom, and Mywon’s mom, were only able to spend Saturday with us in order to see the production of Maddie’s childhood favorite, Cats. We gathered for meals, relished the joy of the theater, and shared numerous laughs. We immersed ourselves in the bliss of the moment—no work, no studying, and no real challenges. And yet, even with all of the happiness of the moment, life still managed to dose out a few challenges, difficulties, and discomforts. Ironically though, as I look back through the pictures, it appears to be a picture-perfect weekend.
This past week, as I attempted to offer comfort to Maddie by means of foot, neck, and/or back rubs, a song, “The Sweetness Follows,” by R.E.M., repeatedly echoed in my mind. The enigmatic lyrics and haunting cello music, I have read, are one of the most misinterpreted songs by fans. Regardless of the true meaning of the lyrics as intended by the songwriters, I believe there is a reason this song, and in particular, its title, became an earworm in my mind’s ear . . .
My dear, darling daughter, the sweetness will follow. No, you will never be able to avoid the pitfalls, pains, and problems of life, but there is always sweetness following, even within a seemingly unrelenting, difficult situation. Life requires perseverance, fortitude, and sometimes even, doggedness, especially as a woman, but there is a sweetness to savor. Messy—Neat; Stormy—Calm; Exhausted—Energetic; Black—White; and yes, Pain—Ease. You cannot have one without the other. Therefore, look for the sweetness—the sweetness in an unexpected gesture; a kind word; a stranger’s smile; a friend’s visit, call or text; and even in a caring caress and touch of a loved one . . .
While I cannot take away the painful events of life, may you always have the ability to find the sweetness . . . for it will eventually follow.
Maddie and my Mom having a little fun in honor of Maddie’s birthday!
I cannot recall photo-bombing a picture before, but in the frivolity of the moment, I hopped into view. Fortunately, there’s another photo of this beautiful moment of my brother and mom without me!
LOL In the age of selfies, I still haven’t mastered it, probably because I do not take selfies that often. Maddie laughs (and I am sure rolls her eyes) whenever I attempt to do a selfie with her when she is home, then she grabs my phone, and takes the picture for me as was the case here!