“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Edward Everett Hale

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Permission To Be Vulnerable

A week ago, I had a minor operation, to remove a benign but occasionally painful fibroma from my left thigh. The operation went well, under local anaesthetic, and I was told to come back in  a week, to have the stitches taken out.

image: crowe-associates.co.uk
Well, yesterday I went back. The kind nurse took the dressing off, and I looked at the bruised but healing wound beneath. I'm a real wuss about these things - I don't like blood and guts & icky stuff - and I was dismayed at how yukky it looked. But I could see that the doctor had made a good job of it, and that in time I would be left with a small, neat scar.

Then the nurse dropped her bombshell. "I don't think it's healed quite enough to have the stitches out. Let's leave it for another few days. But leave the dressing off, if you can, and let it get some air, to speed the healing process." I explained that I would be doing a lot of driving over the weekend, so please could I cover it then - yes that would be fine.

So I went home, with the three dressings (one each for Friday, Saturday and Sunday) tucked in my bage. And intended to go about the rest of my daily business, as I had been doing for the last few days.

And was slightly (OK, quite) shocked to realise how vulnerable I was feeling, now that the dressing had been removed. What if I knock it? What if it splits? After a couple of hours of futile and pointless worrying, I phoned the practice number, and asked to speak to the nurse. Fortunately she was still there. I explained how vulnerable and worried I felt with the wound exposed, and her compassion was warm and instantaneous. She told me not to worry; to put a dressing straight back on; and that my leg would heal anyway.

I got off the phone bathed in relief, and so grateful for her kindness and understanding. And then a strange thing happened: the very fact that my vulnerability and worry had been met with compassion and kindness seemed to give me permission to carry on being vulnerable, to take that risk. And 24 hours later, I have still not re-applied that dressing, and the amount of healing overnight is reassuring.

But without that permission to be vulnerable, I would not have had the courage to leave the wound uncovered. And this was made possible by the compassion of the nurse. I thank God for the grace of the kindness, and for the gift of courage.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Blessings of Spring

It is another beautiful blue sky day, and Spring is well and truly here. On our walk today, the annual frenzy of growth was evident, at the sides of the path, in the hedgerows, and in the trees. Everywhere, there were buds and flowers and blossoms, and a thousand different shades of green. And it was beautiful. When I opened my ears, the air was full of bird-song. On such a day, it feels good to be alive.

I have a book of meditations for the months of the year, by Dorothea Breitzter-Kings. Part of the meditation for March fits perfectly with my feeling of well-being this morning:

"The wind is still cool, but when it brushes your face there is a freshness and sweetness in it that leaves you in no doubt that winter is turning at least. Open yourself to this stirring sensation ... let yourself tune into the arousing energy of approaching Spring, along with all of nature around you  ... Now the sun comes out from behind a passing cloud: it is surprisingly warm and strong. The first rays of Spring sunshine: remember how you have longed for them on dark, overcast Winter days ... They are heaven's kiss of life to the earth after the long Winter sleep. Enjoy how good they feel. Along with all the growing things around you, let yourself too, be kissed into a Spring awakening by the first warm sunshine."

Spring is a time of renewal and promise and hope.

How wonderful, how full of wonder. I am blessed, and grateful.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Your Last Shirt

My other half and I are currently on a tour of the south-west portion of Turkey. Our tour guide, Ahmed, is a delight. He not only informs us, he also admonishes and instructs us. Today our timetable included a boat trip on the Dalyan river delta to the famous Iztuzu Beach, where, in the Summer months, loggerhead turtles come in their thousands to lay their eggs.

On the way, we went past some spectacular rock tombs, which had been carved into the rock face by the ancients, to act as mausoleums. They varied in size and elaborateness, from simple holes to miniature temples. Ahmed was explaining that the size of the tomb varied according to the occupant's status in this life, and then exclaimed: "You know, it really doesn't matter. We have a saying in Turkey: 'Your last shirt has no pockets.' In other words, you cannot take anything with you."

I had been feeling a little sorry for myself, as, unlike the previous day, the weather was grey and overcast, and my back was aching from all the sitting. "Your last shirt has no pockets" reminded me to appreciate the moment, and enjoy what was happening as it happens.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Kicking My Heels

Today we are going on holiday. The journey is planned; the cases are packed; and all is ready to go.

But we're not due to leave until 2.30, and it's only half past ten. So now I am in the limbo of waiting: waiting for something to happen, waiting to leave. It's not really worth doing any work (and I am disinclined to anyway I'm On Holiday!). But I am reminded of the Abbot of the Black Friars, in Neil Gaiman's wonderful book Neverwhere:

"So the day became one of waiting, which was, he knew, a sin: moments were to be experienced; waiting was a sin against both the time that was still to come, and against the moments one was currently disregarding."

I've been reading a lot about living in the present lately, and have come to recognise that "now" is the only time that has any significance whatsoever. The past is over, and cannot be changed, and dwelling on it, either with nostalgia or regret, is a waste of time. And the future is something which is coming at a rate of 60 seconds a minute, 60 minutes an hour and 24 hours a day, whether we are looking forward to it, or worrying about it. I concede that it is important to at least do some planning for future events, but not to the extent that we spend all our time longing for some mythical future time, when everything will be wonderful, and we will have all that our hearts desire, or worrying about some other mythical future time, when we have lost all that gives our lives savour.

No, it is now that matters. It is the present that we should be concerned with. Only the present moment is sacred, and whether we are in grief or in joy or in gratitude or in despair, we need to pay attention. I also find comfort in the belief that CS Lewis explains in The Screwtape Letters - that we will be given the strength to deal with whatever joy or sorrow come our way in the present. But not the strength to cope with worrying about possible future alternatives, most of which will probably not happen.

May we all experience life, moment by moment, being like Rumi's Guesthouse "Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor." And may we truly appreciate what we have, today, now, this minute, for very little lasts forever. So I'm off out, for a walk, to get these waiting bats out of my belfry.