I am standing on the very beach that my dream of family backpacking had been fulfilled just two years before. The sun is hot on my face. Seals are yet again chirping in the distance. The boys have finally found the waves they have been pushing to see. Many points in the short 3 mile hike they would stop abruptly demanding silence to listen for the sound of the mighty Pacific Ocean.
My foot is aching and shooting with pain and yet my soul is well. I stand here after a surgery I had a few months ago that was to be a simple routine surgery. I had two screws that were causing fractures in my foot. Doc said that if I hadn’t gotten my foot checked I might have ended up with a snapped bone somewhere in the backcountry…No fun!
Unfortunately as a result of my surgery I developed a case of Neuritis, a condition that is described as inflammation of a nerve. It is painful and has a mind of its own. Each and every time I sat in a doctors office and heard the same thing, “there isn’t much I can do for you” I sunk a little further into a dark place.
I would bargain with reality often. Did I go in to surgery thinking something wrong? Did I manifest this some how? Did I not ask enough questions? Did I not ask the right ones? Am I being punished for being to bitter in my life some where? This is my fault some how some way and I’m never going to be the same. As Anne Lamont would describe this kind of processing in her amazing book “Bird by Bird” is my “Shitty First Draft”. I’m in the process of answering those questions. While on the path of seeking answers I am determined to seek peace of mind no matter what.
As the weeks went on I remember vividly sitting in my living room sloshing between i am never going to hike again and I could cut my foot off and use a prosthetic limb. People do it all the time I thought, (listen I never claimed to be an average catastrophe based thinker) just short of google searching which prosthetic foot would be best for me, a thought floats across my mind,
“Ashley you had better get your shit together
because this thinking has the potential to destroy you”
Acceptance is the answer to all my problems, the big book tells me. For the record I was not magically struck into the rainbow colored place of acceptance. In that moment I became willing, to be willing to consider, that the possibility of this foot pain might be around for a while and I may need to find a way to live with it.
I am living with it, on the beach…on a rare sunny weekend in March in Washington State because I believe that if I want to experience miracles I have to actually show up to places that are hard to get to, places I might fail miserably on my way to. Yet, show up I must.
I watch my boys, who both have Sensory Processing Disorder go to school every day. Have hard conversations when they don’t want to. I watch them every week in therapy push into the hard places in life where struggle exists and meet it with courage and willingness. I watch and I learn that i to must meet my hard places with courage and willingness too.
Often the courage and willingness isn’t just about pushing through the pain, its acceptance that life offers a new perspective to the same view.
My work is to not let my ego get so wrapped up in what I think it should look like and to allow experiences to take the form they were meant to take on their own and let my life’s adventures change me.
Back on the beach, the sun had just set and Nathan is at the oceans feet watching the light disappear on the horizon. All I can see is his dark silhouette against the fading orange and blue sky. Abram is sitting with David on his lap and I am in my chair, we have our cookies out and enjoying the warmth of our nice beach fire.
Abram calls Nathan up to the fire for his cookies as well. Nathan walks up grabs his treat and sits next to me on the ground, back leaned up against the log and with the glow of the orange fire we look at each other, a quiet sense of peace and ease washes in my soul. I haven’t felt this quiet place inside for months. It surprised me a little.
You see my life has been turned upside down not just because of my foot but also my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and had her cancer surgery right after my foot surgery. I have felt stuck and unable to offer anything more then phone calls, which I know is enough, however for me to not be able to shuffle where I want and when I want, is very challenging. This I believe is part of this lesson I am to be learning.
A quiet voice as soft and kind as the ocean breeze that night bathed my spirit in healing light. As if the light from the fire reflected the spirit inside me, left me with a few words
“If I never get any better then this,
I’m going to be ok”
I used to hear a guy every year pick up his sobriety coin and he would say “you guys always would say its going to get better, and I didn’t believe you because today it cant get any better. I have been sober long enough now to know your right, but truly I don’t think it can get any better then this moment right here”
Having spent long hours in therapy to try and untie my knots of “I have to hurry”, “I don’t have a right to be, where I am or who I am” and “I’m not enough” sometimes I just have to show up and walk one foot in front of the other to experience that every step of pain, every step of step work in recovery was worth that moment, that I wanted to be right there and no where else. I believe God gives us moments in our spirits to carry us through times of joy, struggle and distance from our creator or others.
A friend calls it “A Faith Bank” I have a few moments that I go to in my dark times, because if there is one thing guaranteed in life, the sun always sets and will rise again.
My only hope is that I and the people I
surround my self with can rise and fall
together without judgment,
with open arms and with curious hearts.