December 19 – Healing. What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011?
People, in general. This person, in particular.
*I know you’re intrigued by the little cardboard man in the photo, but you’ll have to ignore him as he is not the subject of this post. As it is, I am probably risking life and limb posting this picture here, but it’s a risk I shall take nonetheless.
2010 has been that fragile year just after the death of my father where people walk on eggshells and constantly ask you how you are doing. It’s like the rest of the world is on a surveillance mission to see if you’re going to go completely off the deep end during the grieving process. It also seemed that, in 2010, we were continually remembering my father but never really putting him to rest because of a series of events to honor him had been scheduled throughout the year, not to mention a grand portrait unveiling in November. Because I was perpetually busy during this time with classes and clinical rotations and a two-week vacation to Maine, I didn’t really consider myself in need of any healing. Afterall, I had plenty of support from mental health professionals as well to keep a tight reign on anything that might resemble a downward spiral towards depression. It’s only in retrospect that I realize that my friendship with J provided healing because she continually reminded me why life is worth living, why it can be exciting and beautiful, how the smallest acts can renew your spirit, how faith can remind you that you aren’t alone on the planet, and that taking time to be with other people is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and others.
J is a phenomenal person. In fact, she greatly reminds me of my father in that she is a carrier of that ever annoying trait that makes her seemingly immune to passing judgment on other human beings. I, on the other hand, seem incapable of forming snide opinions of people within seconds of meeting them. These opinions, no doubt, tend to drastically change over time as I get to know others. I am usually able to keep them in the confines of my own head, but sometimes they slip out and it’s like I hear my father’s voice come out of J’s mouth and I just want to ask “how can you like everybody!?”.
J is also one of those dependable people that are increasingly difficult to find in the world and that seemed to make all the difference in 2010. I wrote an earlier post about how much I appreciate my mother because of her dependability but, she is my mother afterall and part of that comes with the territory of bringing a wee one into the world. J, is beholden to me in no way whatsoever, yet I have been able to count on her for an inordinate amount of emotional support this year. And she has been supportive in exactly the way that I need: the strong, silent way. No loaded questions of “well, just how are you these days?” or “everything alright at home?” I didn’t have to lie about my emotional state and I didn’t get any of the overly-saccharine sympathy that I had come to detest. Every comment and question and suggest was always honest and genuine.
J and I took a lot of walks in 2010 as I, yet again, tried to recommit myself to some sort of fitness routine. It’s pretty difficult to get myself to commit to walking in the freezing cold at 9am let alone to convince someone else to do it with me. At one point, we were up to 5 miles round-trip which seemed to amaze others with whom I would share this information. Our walks provided a kind of self-renewal that I hadn’t even realized that I craved or needed. Even if I balked on some mornings, J would inevitably persuade me to lace up my sneakers and off we’d go. I always felt better at the end of the trail. It was great to accomplish something. 5 miles every week was a veritable Mount Everest for me in terms of conquering my inability to commit to any fitness routine. Beyond, the steps we logged, we engaged in lengthy chats about anything and everything of a personal, ridiculous, serious, or sad nature. It was free psychotherapy. I learned to become a better listener on these walks. I tried to learn to not get so worked up about stupid, small stuff. J tends to make me want to be a better person, so mostly, I did a lot of trying on these walks: try to not interrupt, try to not judge, try to listen for what isn’t being said.
Unfortunately, our walking schedule took a major nosedive with the fall as we geared up to finish nursing school and I struggled with two unhappy kidneys. Now, J is headed off to the wilds (or at least suburbs) of North Dakota to begin her nursing career while I remain in Philadelphia to start mine. In 2011, I will still take walks, though. If I’ve learned anything at all from my father’s death, it’s that you can still talk to someone even when they’re not next to you to hear you. I’ll just be sure to keep it in my head.