‘To surrender,’ is that moment you acknowledge what is. That moment you look around at the carnage of an accident and acknowledge it and the hard truth that you cannot put it back together again as it was.
The moments before surrendering are the hardest, because they are often the ‘darkest,’ focused on the ‘wrongness’ of what is not and the suffering that comes with being stuck in this pain. An overwhelming feeling of ‘this is too much.’ It’s a suffering that might be coated with a thick layer of self-protective denial or self-harming escapism, or the wild run away fire that is the ‘fear of the unknown,’ with your feverish mind jumping from one possible nightmare to another, the helplessness of being oppressed or bullied by someone you perceive as having a vindictive ‘power’ over you, the frustration of not being physically or mentally able to do what you can no longer do or maybe, you are a prisoner to the injustice of a situation and the destructive white rage that comes with it. It is these lonely moments, trapped in suffering – that will eventually snap the brittle bones that hold you up and bring you to your knees.
With your head on the floor and with the bloody aftermath all around you, you are faced with a decision: To ‘stay here’ and expect no change and for the suffering to continue. Or to look at it in the eye, and to see that what cannot be changed, must be accepted. Surrendering is not a defeat. It is first an ‘unravelling,’ or the act of ‘letting go’ of what has become too heavy to hold onto, or letting go of what is not yours. It is the moment that the ego and fear does not exist, only ‘what is.’ It is the first light after a long battle in the dark. It is a moment of calm and quiet with a deep sense of relief, the moment that you are able to avert your eyes from the mess all around you and look up. This is the moment of ‘surrendering’ to what is. It is the first step of adjusting your perspective so that you can find a way forward and empower yourself.
Jene lay there staring up at the ceiling. It was a big day for her, because it was the day that she’d be upright for the first time in 6 weeks and it would be the first time she’d be in a wheel chair. Tish sat beside her as she had done every day, feeling weak about what was still to come. The truth is that she had no idea what to expect and though she knew her daughter needed her support, sometimes she did not feel strong, sometimes she wanted to run away and be anywhere but there. She’d look at her daughter’s limp body, overwhelmed by the ‘strangeness’ of this new reality, not knowing enough about paralysis, not knowing what to expect and not knowing enough for her to comfort her daughter like she wanted to.
There would be days that Tish wanted to pretend that none of this had happened and she’d hide from it and immerse herself in another world. She’d go to the mall to ‘window shop,’ walking from one end to the other, over and over again until she knew every shop, every aisle and every sale of ‘everything’ she could not have. She’d look through the glass and would momentarily catch a glimpse of her own reflection. She’d see a ‘stranger’ staring back at her, someone who looked like they were going about their ‘everyday’ and doing some shopping on a Tuesday. But she knew this woman, how beneath the picture of normality, was the reality; gut wrenching heart break, loss, turmoil, helplessness, overwhelm and fear. That day she realised that beneath the surface, everyone is struggling with something and that most often we don’t get to see or know their pain. And how a simple act of kindness, might impact someone more than what you will ever know and be the reason that gets them through that day.
By now, hospital life had started to feel a bit like ‘home,’ for Jene. A place that felt familiar and safe, where she had support in the way of an excellent team of attentive and caring nurses, the best doctors and an endless stream of visitors from family, members of the community, high school friends, new friends and even strangers. Of course there was also the constant company of Donna, though subdued and quiet, and the company of other patients in the ward. Opposite Jene was an elderly lady who had been quietly observing her and her journey. One day she asked Jene, “So what are you going to do with your life?”
Jene answered with the truth, “Well I am going to get on with it.”
Tish sat there, silenced and in awe of her daughter’s strength and resilience and how beneath the little girl was a warrior woman, determined not to let this hold her back.
The doctor wheeled in the wheel chair, the new wheels that would help Jene ‘get on with it.’ One might think that sliding into a wheel chair is no big deal, but it is if you have been horizontal for the last 6 weeks. Imagine your worst case of ‘vertigo;’ of your body feeling completely disorientated, seeing the seat you are sitting on and not feeling it, floating in space, saliva building up, your head draining of blood, dizziness and nausea. Jene hung onto the wheel chair handles as if her life depended on it, with the chair being gently rocked from side to side, taking Jene on what felt like the rollercoaster ride of her life. At that point, Tish ran out. It was that moment of overwhelm, of seeing the new Jene and not wanting to accept it. Of still not understanding what was happening to her daughter and not fully comprehending exactly how different life would be from now, not only for Jene but for her too, her husband and her son. The wheel chair made that feel real, it represented a new way of life and once again, her heart broke for her daughter and for the life gone of the old Jene.
Tish flung the hospital door open and ran out, straight into the arms of an old friend Eileen. The timing was just right. Eileen had had a strong sense to go to the hospital that day to see Tish and Jene and when she did, her friend literally ran into her. Eileen took Tish in her arms and simply held her as she buckled. She held Tish up, when her knees could not and the grief and fear poured out of her like hot molten lava, with great big sobs and gasps of air. That day, Eileen was the pillar of strength that allowed Tish to let go, to feel weak while being supported and to accept what is, with the loving and strong support of a friend. That was the last time Tish would ever run away. It was the day Tish accepted the new Jene, the day she found her courage and the day she knew how she’d support her daughter from now onwards, how she’d be Jene’s pillar of strength when she did not feel it. How she accepted that she could never ‘take this away’ but how she could be right by her side as she went through it.
She walked back into the ward to be with her daughter. Jene was in the wheel chair at an angle, her knuckles white as she clutched the handles. The doctor bought her up into an upright position and then took her back down again, and up again and down again – being careful to move her slowly so that she would not faint. Tish realised that though it was hard for Jene, there was nothing ‘wrong’ and all the frightening thoughts she had had were only that, thoughts. Her thoughts and fear of the unknown had held her back from moving forward and from being the warrior ‘mom’ that Jene already felt she was, but that Tish had not.
Now the work could really begin. Jene would start her long lifetime journey of ‘adapting and moving on,’ with the unconditional love and strong support of her mother, her father, her brother and friends. This was never going to be a journey for Jene alone. Having the support Jene had would become the steady wheels that would carry her and rocket her forward on this journey. And of course, the power and necessity of surrendering to what is and the acceptance that follows is the starting point for starting again. Then focusing on what can be done and not on what can’t be done.
Rob and Tish stood in the hospital hallway. This day was done and Jene had taken huge ‘steps’ forward by getting into the wheel chair.
Rob looked at Tish and said, “We need to move the furniture around this weekend for when Jene comes back.” And Tish agreed. This was the new ‘normal.’
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