In India, I experience the gamut: giddy laughter, loving kindness from strangers, heart connection, unexpected friendships, communion with cows, encounters with monkeys, blaring horns, sublime sunsets.
What I don’t think I have conveyed is the journey within to deep stillness – the Gift of Presence – that has been my India.
Words really don’t do India justice, and I have a hard time putting some of my deepest emotions to words, so I have attached a short 90 second video of some very sacred moments that are forever dear to me.
The soundtrack is me “tuning in” with the Adi Mantra. Something we do at the beginning of every kundalini yoga class and meditation. I was chanting this mantra in the early hours of morning, when it’s still dark and the winds come roaring down the foothills of the Himalayas. I was tucked into a blanket and let the familiar chant ground me and connect me to the Golden Chain of my teachers, and connect me to my yoga mat. To my heart beat. If you listen carefully you can hear thumps and bumps in the background. They are monkeys having a morning romp before the warm midday sun makes them heavy lidded and lethargic.
I’ll be traveling back to this country, to this yoga hall, to one of my soul homes, in just a few short months. There are spots for 2 more people if you would like to join me.
We have curated a tour that delivers daily opportunities to connect deeply to your Self, to nurture and restore with yoga, meditation and Ayurveda. Time on the Ganges, swimming in waterfalls, hiking in the foothills of the Himalayas. Satsang with living saints. Stillness.
If you feel the call, contact me. I’m here to walk you through the details. Step by step.
Every day I wake up and read the New York Times on my phone. I read the California edition. Almost every day there are stories about the housing crisis in this state; the rising cost of homes and people living on the streets. Today the news has stories of fires burning and evacuations. And I am reading with a broken heart about the families that are separated at our border – the children in cages, the mom’s in jail, fleeing violence in their countries, hoping for a better life. Taking that chance. It is almost more than my brain and heart can process.
I see friends on Facebook imploring others not to go to sleep. Stay outraged! I agree. Let us not turn our backs on humanity and go numb. At the same time, let us not beat ourselves up if we cannot be on the front lines. Look into your heart and ask yourself what can you do right now? Are you able to write a check? Can you make phone calls to your senators? Are you able to sit in meditation and offer positive energy to those that suffer? Can you be extra loving and kind to the people in your life? Can you take impeccable care of yourself so that you have energy and resources when you get called to action? I donate. I pray. I sign petitions. I teach preschool. I try to facilitate and support concepts of love and kindness.
This conversation is taken verbatim from an interaction I witnessed last week. It happened between 2 boys, one age 4 and one age 5, after feelings were hurt and they were having a conversation using the “Peace Flower” which is kind of like a talking stick, only it’s a talking . It went like this:
Boy age 4: (while holding the peace flower) I wish I could wun as fast as you. (hands peace flower to other boy)
Boy age 5: Well, I run fast because I practice at home. Maybe if you practice you can get faster. (hands peace flower back to 4 year old)
Boy age 4: But, but, but…I wun and fall and you keep going. I want to be fast like you.
Me: Does it hurt your feelings when your friend runs fast and you can’t catch up?
Boy age 4: Yes. (hands peace flower to other boy)
Boy age 5: I bet you will get faster when you practice. I have a good idea! Let’s be on the same team and run together at the same time! (holds out peace flower and they both hold the stem and say in unison: Friends. And run off to play. Except Boy age 4 says “Fwends”) Peace on the playground has been restored.
I was relaying this story to a friend yesterday and we were laughing at how sweetly transparent children can be. They have all the emotions that adults have but the feelings move transparently across their faces like clouds blowing across a wide open sky. No place to hide. Every day there are tears, laughter, shouts of glee, angry scowls, hugs.
When I have hurt feelings, I do my best to hide it and stew for a few weeks – er…awhile and then become full of dread and eventually have a conversation with the person. Usually the conversation goes well and we are both relieved afterwards. Wouldn’t it be great if I could handle it immediately and we could both hold the peace flower for a few moments and then skip off happily?
Every day I go to work wondering what the day will bring. The work is so dynamic! There is no template for an “average” day. Working with children is a constant invitation to stay present – to keep my heart open, not look at my phone (which is tucked away in a cabinet for the entire day), literally get on my knees, make eye contact, speak kindly, be of service, be loving and gentle, hold boundaries, rub backs, give hugs. It’s like spiritual boot camp 😉 Truly. These little gurus are ninjas at testing limits/boundaries. If I take it personally, I’m a goner. They are also human love bombs who offer affection and acceptance freely and often. You’d think a rock star was arriving some days when I arrive – all the faces and arms waving at the window “Roxanna! Roxanna!” Sometimes I have to use the back door so I don’t start a riot and disrupt the class. Haha.
I am grateful to the Universe for bringing me to this present moment, this job, this life, these kids. Being a preschool teacher stretches me in myriad ways while simultaneously nourishing me and feeding my heart. As GuruGanesha Band sings in their song, Troubled Times:
In this troubled time we look to find the way. To heal our world, heal our hearts. In our confusion when we don’t know what to do, can we live for each other? Come Together For Each Other.
“I love your Welcome Packet, but what is the actual ‘Vibe’ of this trip?” the latest registrant of Enlightened India asked.
What a great opportunity for me to stop and think about how to answer this question. How to best describe this journey to India I’m co-leading this November? It isn’t just a yoga trip. It isn’t a typical “group” tour, rolling up to sacred sites in a giant bus. It’s not a self-help retreat… those are all the things this trip is NOT.
I had a great conversation with my business partner and co-lead Julia, talking about what this trip IS. Together, we came up with several words that we think speak to our trip’s vibe. Here are a few:
Spacious – To truly be present, so far away from everything familiar. To experience internal spaciousness. 10 days of self-exploration, with free time built into each day for deeper diving.
Loving – Julia and I are holding a loving container for our group. From the moment your feet touch Indian soil, you will be warmly welcomed and lovingly held. From the gentle morning meditation to the good night golden milk & cookies, each day has been thoughtfully planned with your sweetest Unfolding at heart.
Fun – So many special and wonderful things are being planned. Including Diwali in India – which is, in itself, a festive occasion filled with fireworks, treats and gifts. Many magical moments await you! Julia and I can hardly contain ourselves but we want to save some surprises!
Unique & Exclusive – Throughout our years of travel in India, we have been able to hand pick our favorite vendors, guides and experiences. This trip incorporates the very best of who and what we love the most in India, and mixes in our own special offerings for a very special experience you won’t get with anyone else!
Stretch – Not only will you be stretching your body and having that opportunity twice a day with gentle yoga and Hatha flow, but you the individual will be stretched personally and spiritually. Julia and I both remember what it was like to travel to India for the first time and we will be there holding that loving container to support you and make sure it doesn’t feel too overwhelming.
Flow – The Ganges River (Mata Ganga) reminds us to stay in the flow, stay present, and stay reverent to what IS. You will have plenty of reminders not to become overly attached to outcomes, but to stay in the flow and enjoy your journey. India is the perfect teacher for this. We will have many beautiful ceremonies on (and in!) this most sacred river.
Connection – A group of men and women come together for 10 days in India, and through a series of shared exercises and experiences, we form a Tribe. Together we co-create a supportive community that shares laughter and tears, personal triumphs and incredible adventures. Each one of you brings your own flavor to this group masala and we value your unique contribution to our community.
Self-Love Affair – India has a beautiful way of stripping away who we think we are and reminding ourselves what is actually at our core. Julia and I hold the intention that you will re-member aspects of yourself. There will be a special ceremony held for reflection and appreciation for each group member. We want you to return from this trip completely in love with yourself.
Something very special awaits you, I would love to have you join us!
Register HERE. “Take the adventure, heed the call, now ere the irrevocable moment passes! ‘Tis but a banging of the door behind you, a blithesome step forward, and you are out of your old life and into the new!” – Kenneth Grahame
On this day, March 8th, International Women’s Day, I give thanks for being a woman. For navigating this country, this culture, as a woman. I am a strong, independent, tall, intelligent woman and it isn’t always easy or pretty to navigate in a predominantly man’s world. In fact, it can be a DRAG sometimes. But what lifts me UP are the WOMEN in my life. I love you. I see you.
For my Grandmother I bow at your feet. You are softness and grace. For my Mother I lay my head on your belly. You are infinite and deep. For my Daughter, I hold my arms wide. You are sensitivity and grit – and so much more. You gave me the gift of experiencing unconditional love.
For my Sisters I give thanks. You are Shakti and Mountain. I am inspired and awed by you! You keep on keepin’ on 24/7. You are the ones, We are the ones, the Sisterhood. You are all so beautiful. Your reverence for beauty, for ceremony, for love, for children, for passion and sex, for life, for healing, for shining your lights and the commitment to be seen and heard. Reminding each other of our gifts when we lose the way or forget. Powerful.
For gluten free, dairy free, sugar free and STILL making it delicious and nutritious and nourishing. You SHINE with the undying light of your spirit. Your kindness humbles. Your wicked humor shocks and delights. Your energy is palpable.
For the artists, the writers, the students, the moms, the divorced and still married – navigating, negotiating the FREE wild horses of you. The solid rocks of you, the grieving of you. The busy of you, tending, caring, giving generously – carrying me, loving me. Claiming me. Re-membering me, saving my place. Crying with me, adorning me, laughing with me. Kissing my throat. I humbly say thank you.
My turn! 2017 has been quite a year and I wouldn’t be where I am today without all of you cheering me on (literally!) and sharing your love and kindness with me. When I didn’t know how I was going to pull off Road School 2017, family, friends and strangers donated money and offered support and love throughout our journey. When I needed to raise $2300 in order to walk in San Diego for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day breast cancer walk, you gave. When I was terrified to do my first Sprint Triathlon last month, your love and encouragement got me through! There are so many people who have lifted me up and shared their love and light with me. I am forever changed and I know I am blessed to have you in my life.
Now I would like to give something to you:
This December, I am showing my gratitude for my community of family, friends and generous supporters, and to everyone that could use some sweet reminders to slow down and stay present during the busy month of December. I want to help you bump up your Self Care, and encourage you to give yourself extra love and support during this holiday season.
My Gratitude Giveback is an invitation for you to turn inwards, to your soul sanctuary, and create a conscious, caring respite space for yourself during this often busy month.
Each week will focus on a different theme:
BODY BASICS (as in ‘duh’ I knew this already, but sometimes we forget!)
LETS GET PHYSICAL (I like to move it move it)
NOURISH THE SOUL (don’t forget your beautiful soul)
PRESENCE vs. PRESENTS (be here now)
You will be guided through each theme with weekly meditations, journal prompts, live Q & A conversations on Facebook, tips and tools for maximizing self care, and a resource list to support you if you would like to go deeper.
When all our reptilian instincts are telling us to stay in and hibernate, our culture is inviting us to “Eat, Drink & Be Merry.” When the days are getting shorter and it feels good to snuggle up to a fire and a good book, society is giving us the messages to go out every night and celebrate until sunrise, shop till you drop, and eat and drink all the things that you spend the rest of the year avoiding because they aren’t healthy. This can also be a lonely time for folks who watch the Hallmark holiday movies and compare themselves to the picture perfect lives on the screen.
I know things get busy at this time of year and the intention of this offering is to help make December more easeful, nurturing, and meaningful. You can join on the first of the month or the last day of the month, all the material is FREE and offered from the heart. It is my joy to share this with you all! The only thing I need from you to keep you in the loop is your email address.
All my life I’ve been traveling. I was born in Maine and at one and a half, moved to Beirut, Lebanon. Another country, another culture, another climate. At four, in the middle of winter, my mother and I left the Meditteranean and moved to Hanover, New Hampshire, newly divorced in the late 60’s. At eight, my mother re-married and we moved to Oberlin, OH where academia coexisted with rural poverty and racial tensions of the early 70’s. After two years, we moved to Lake Forest, IL, listed in the “Preppie Handbook” as one of the 10 preppiest towns in the United States. I moved from place to place feeling like an alien. This is a pattern that has repeated itself my entire life. Always moving, trying on the new customs, reinventing myself.
One of the things I have always loved about traveling to India is the feeling that I am so far from anything familiar that it forces me to let go of any outward identity my ego may cling to to define myself: parent, wife, hospice volunteer, runner, home owner, etc. The only thing I have in India is the over-arching requirement to stay present.
I read somewhere that gold fish grow to the size of their bowl. If they’re swimming around in a tiny glass, they will stay that size, if they’re put in an aquarium, they will grow larger. The Bay Area is a much bigger fish bowl than the the one I’ve been living in. And I feel…free. I feel anonymous. I feel alive with possibility.
The past several days have been jam-packed with moving and arriving and storing and unpacking. It’s been exhausting. Yesterday was the first day I had a glimpse of the ocean. I forced myself to drive in afternoon traffic and when I got out of the car, the wind whipped my hat off. I stood at the shore, turned off my music and consciously welcomed myself home. In that moment, I knew that this land isn’t home. I know it’s cliche, but still I want to share. I am home. I am my home. Wherever I choose to go, I will always be home.
That said, I also had the realization (for ME) that 16 years is too long to yearn to be somewhere else. I feel a peaceful joy to be back, this multi-cultured holy land where I am both completely unknown and deeply loved.
My kids are having some last adventures with family this month and in September we will all meet up and take my daughter to college and then Harlan and I will begin Road School 2017 for the fall semester. Just like a blank canvas can inspire the painter, the open road calls to my soul – it always has. To quote John O’Donohue, in his poem The Traveler, I look forward to “the invitations which wait along the way to transform” me, mile by mile.
I’m not sure if it was the rainy day today that made me even more dreamy than usual or just the seemingly random events that occurred this morning. I read a woman’s post on Facebook that said she remembered her birth, that there were bright lights flashing in her face as she entered the world. I thought about this (and her) for most of the morning. Marveling that somebody remembers her own birth. I believe her. It’s just that I don’t think there are many people that remember their own births.
I’ve been tripping out on that more and more. How special each one of us is…and how really getting to know somebody (for me anyway) is like learning a new language. Sometimes like becoming an expert in a whole new species, surrendering preconceived notions and judgements.
I am driving on the road, past where the body of a young raccoon has been decomposing for a couple of days. I can smell it. But today I see another raccoon, a big one, dead on the other side of the road. “Oh no!” I exclaim. I wonder if they’re related, was this the already decomposing one’s Mama? My heart sinks as I touch my heart.
I have a vivid memory of riding in the backseat of my grandparents car. We passed a dead dog on the side of the highway. I was shocked to see it. I didn’t realize that this could happen. That dogs could get hit by cars and their bodies could lie by the side of the road, cars whizzing by. I spent the rest of the ride in silence, deeply saddened. That was a gray day too.
Early this morning the phone rang and I didn’t recognize the number but I answered it anyway. I rarely do that. “Is this the Grief Support Network?” he asks. “Well…not exactly”, I answer. Yes and no. The hotline still transfers over to my cell phone even though I haven’t worked there in 6 months. They don’t know how to fix it.
I start to go into a rambling explanation but then stop myself and ask if he is looking for support (sometimes it’s a sales person.) He is. He tells me what’s going on and I listen. He explains to me that he has plummed the inky depths and also connected to his brightest divine nature. “I can tell you get it,” he says. And I do. I am sitting at my computer in the darkness, having an intimate conversation with a “stranger”.
The older I get, the more I feel that each one of us speaks our own language and to really listen to somebody, to really get somebody, takes a certain amount of amazement and awe in humanity in general. What delicate and finely-tuned creatures we all are; senstive, unique, miraculous energy bodies that communicate on so many deep and subtle levels. Right now, for me, this is the best show in town. Peace and Love.
I work with people with broken hearts. I am deeply touched by their stories, their tears, their longing. I am also touched by their resiliency and bravery; to seek support and be willing to share with strangers. I am heartened by the comfort these group members take from connecting with each other. It reminds me how much we humans are social creatures longing for connection.
What drives us to keep going? For me, it is the most basic and yet profound human experience I can describe: connecting from the heart with others. Love.
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. -Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
They say we have star particles inside of us. It’s true. Look it up. I think this is as magic as it gets. I like to imagine that I used to be a star, before I came into this body. In my fantasy, I peek down on planet earth and I see people living their lives. Tucking their babies close to their hearts, right under their chins, breathing them in. Getting licked by their dogs and succumbing to their joyful, unconditional expressions of love. I see lovers, breathing, bodies moving, sensual awareness and electricity. Watch friends sharing a smile, no need for words. I admire a body running fast along a trail, legs pumping and lungs bursting. I would want that, as a star. To experience humanness. To BE.
“Sign me up!” I shout. “I want to feel! I want to touch. I want to love!“
But…the Universe answers…’In this full tilt, multifaceted life, there are ups and downs. Not every day is filled with laughter and joy. There is hardship and strife. Do you still want this?’ “Yes I do!” I exclaim without a second thought. “See ya!” and off I go without a backward glance. That is so me.
But that is just a fairy tale. And here I am. Alive. On Earth. And some days life feels excrutiatingly painful. My dog dies. My lover betrays. My baby grows up and pulls away. My friendships end. A relative takes his life. There are bills to pay. My body hurts when I run.
What do I do when life feels unbearable? I Isolate. Cry. Pray. Reach out. In that order.
I reached a very low point several weeks ago. I felt alone and out of choices. I was scared. I cried and prayed. Then I got up off my knees and I made a couple phone calls. To some “lifeline” friends. I wrote to my community and asked for daily texts through the month of October and people started signing up. Every day I would get a message of love and support on my phone. Some people sent inspirational poems. In just a few short weeks, I started to feel better. Uplifted even. I felt the loving connection of human contact and was filled with gratitude for the people in my life.
They say there are no accidents in life. The ongoing grief support group I had agreed to facilitate started during that time. I got to sit with people who where struggling with their grief; to witness people who loved so deeply that their hearts were broken when their person died. Being of service added meaning and depth to my life and I felt on purpose again.I am humbled and amazed at both the tenderness and ferocity of love. And the tenacious courage we humans – made of skin, blood, water and bone – access again and again to continue loving. Even when it breaks us.
Since I started letting people know about the online suicide support group that begins next Monday, I have been contacted almost daily by people who are suffering, sometimes years after their loved one’s death. Each person has held their grief tenderly in their hands and I have held out my hands to hold it with them for awhile. Not wanting to move too quickly or speak suddenly, wanting to keep the reverence of this moment. Being allowed to hear these sacred stories has been my honor.
Humans have a deep need to belong – to each other, to someone, to a group, to a purpose. After a traumatic loss like suicide, people tend to lose their bearings for a time. Who am I? What’s next? How do I keep going? What’s the point? are all questions that can come up. Gratitude can feel impossibly elusive. The main focus of the Suicide Loss Support Group is to connect people to each other. To share our stories and to learn to bear the beams of love – together.
Please share this information with anyone you think could be served by having a supportive community to belong to:
Suicide Loss Support Group: Losing a loved one to suicide can be extremly shocking and sad. There can also be shame or societal stigma associated with this type of loss. In this group, you will be connected with others who have each experienced this particular type of loss and have the opportunity to share your story with each other. This is a six week support group that meets online once a week. The group is open to 8 participants who have lost a loved one to suicide. Each week we will begin with an exercise (breath work, guided relaxation) to open the group. Everyone will have an opportunity to check-in with the group and share. There will also be topics for discussion and materials emailed weekly. There is no “homework” for this group, only handouts that are optional and ideally helpful. Cost for this group is $180 and includes 6 weekly group sessions and weekly materials that will be emailed to each participant. A pre-group screening call is required. To arrange a phone call, please contact me.
Dates and time: Mondays; 11/21, 11/28, 12/5, 12/12, 12/19 & 12/26 6:00 – 7:30pm MST Time
Meditation dog. Never sat down to meditate without my sidekick showing up. Had her own sheepskin but she would usually crawl in to my lap midway through the set.
A little too full-figured for a lap dog. She didn’t care.
Silly dog – people would smile at the sight of her. Some would ask to take her picture. She made me laugh. Every day.
Drove to Texas with Lili to get her at 8 weeks old. She was the size of a baked potato. A baked potato with huge ears.
When she was happy she would roll on her back and make strange choking sounds.
Everyone thought she was a boy. “Don’t they see the pink harness?” I would ask myself out loud.
She loved me. My god the devotion. She would whine outside the bathroom door for me. When I traveled she would go on hunger strikes and suffer bouts of depression.
Had to stand on my lap in the driver’s side looking out the window on car rides.
Flew on the airplane like a champ. My “emotional support” dog. She would fall asleep as soon as the plane took off. Lying across my lap, occasionally farting. Nobody seemed to care.
Her breath was terrible. All her life.
She was unafraid. She would challenge the largest deer. Shrilly barking at the nonplused herd. I thought she would get brained one day by a sharp cloven hoof.
She was Mr. Magoo blind. Unaware one time that a large red fox was stalking her in our backyard. I had to run out in my socks and scare it away. Then she barked like a mother fucker.
Dare I say it, she could strike quite the elegant pose in her old(er) age.
I burn with shame to say that I don’t remember the last walk I took her on. I’ve been pretty busy the past several days. And it’s been snowing. Not her favorite weather condition.
The last two nights of her life she slept uncharacteristically close to me, up by my pillow. It was cold outside, I didn’t mind. Sweet comforting presence of her, snuffling and snorting.
Her last day, she ate a good breakfast – rotisserie chicken and kibble. She took a nap with me on the couch. I’m wracking my brain to think of what else she did. Barked at a puppy – as was her way. Not very friendly to other dogs, sorry to say. She skipped dinner – that should have been a huge red flag. She enjoyed her meals.
Last night, I came downstairs to turn off the lights. In hindsight, I do think it was strange that she hadn’t already made her way up to my bedroom. I saw her sleeping on the rug in the TV room. I called her name and she didn’t wake up. Not strange though as she’s become hard of hearing lately. I stretched my hand out. She was cold.
Linda called her “soulful” and that felt too deep to me at first. I found her subtlety dismaying. Never a licker or a tail wagger (she didn’t really have one) her face was a mystery. Poker face extraordinaire.
She was my heart companion. For ten years Ruby has been by my side. When I cried, she would charge her way to my side. Concerned. Present. A reassuring weight. Her favorite place was on me or right beside me. Always. So “soulful” it is. I can see that now.
I am chagrined to note that in all my “death” experiences of being and sitting with people and animals that are dying, I was a basket case when it came to this. I was afraid to touch Ruby and I felt totally freaked out, like I wanted to run or throw up or both, simultaneously.
Grateful to my kids for their compassion and kindness last night, to my sweet friend who stayed up until 1am with me on the phone and to my sister Linda who came over this morning and did what I couldn’t. She helped me get Ruby out of the cardboard box in the garage, set up an altar with sweet flowers, candles, oils and incense. And chanted Akals to my soulful heart companion, Ruby. Then she helped me wrap her in the same sheet we had wrapped her beloved mastiff, Juno, in just a few weeks ago and bundled me in her car, while I held Ruby in my arms, kissing her sweet nose, and drove me to the vet, where I left her to be cremated.
or… What I Learned Last Week Through Trial and Error
I spent a chunk of last week caring for my dear friend Barbara after she had surgery. I have never had surgery and really had no idea what to expect. I just knew that this is one of my best friends and I wanted to be there for her and so I volunteered to be her main person for the first few days. What I know in hindsight is that this is no small task nor should it be taken lightly. And…it’s not for everyone. So I’ve compiled a list of what I learned in the hope that it will help others – both caregivers and people about to have surgery – so that they can make the best decisions about who is in their space at this tender time.
1-Play to Your Strengths
For example if you don’t have the best bedside manner but you make a really mean chicken soup, volunteer to make meals, but don’t sign up to be the hand holder for your friend or family member when she’s getting prepped for surgery. If you decide to take on the “job” of caregiver, go for it wholeheartedly and no holds barred. Be on board. If rubbing somebody’s feet makes you squeamish, find someone who is great at giving massage to come sit with the patient while you have a little break.
2 – Take Your Job Seriously
Remember that you are the gatekeeper and that your job, to the best of your ability, is to filter all the personalities, energies and information that the patient is being bombarded with. You are an advocate for the patient. You’re another set of eyes and ears, don’t be afraid to take notes or even record the doctor when they are speaking. In my experience, nobody minded when I asked for clarification on certain things or had questions about the aftercare instructions. In general, I felt that the hospital preferred that I was there as a go-between for Barbara.
3 – Be Gentle with the Patient!
Even if you’ve never had surgery before, it’s important to note that the days leading up to surgery, immediately after the operation, and the days shortly after the procedure can be a very tender and vulnerable time for the patient and her family. My friend Barbara kept saying that the veils were thin. I think she was referring to the fact that all of her defenses were stripped away and this can be a time where fear and powerlessness are magnified. Be especially gentle and kind with your loved one. This is definitely where a nurturing and gentle caregiver will be preferred over somebody with very little bedside manner. Let that person run errands for you or help in other ways.
4 – Have Food in the House
Do have lots of yummy and nourishing snacks available in the house for the patient after surgery. Don’t assume that the patient only wants to eat soup or bland foods. In fact, I knew Barbara was feeling better on day two when she started fantasizing about lasagna!
5 – Rest
Encourage the patient to have many breaks and to rest quietly. It can get a little overwhelming with friends and family calling, texting, and stopping by. No matter how wonderful it is to be reminded how loved she is, my little Energizer Bunny needed quiet time so that she could recharge. One of my best memories was playing my Dragon Drum for Barbara while she napped. Also in this category, do encourage the patient to take her 3 AM pain pill and go right back to sleep. You do not want her to get chatty, nip that right in the bud. You need your sleep too!
6 – Show Some Emotion
Let yourself have feelings. Your friend will appreciate someone else expressing themselves; it’s not just the patient who is feeling an overwhelming amount of emotion. Once all the forms were signed and Barbara came out of the bathroom in her cloth gown and paper cap, s*** got real and I couldn’t help myself, the tears just flowed. Barbara held my hand and it was a very loving moment. Also, don’t be afraid to share a laugh – always good medicine (where appropriate, see below.)
A lot of these will seem like a giant “Duh!” to most of you but I assure you these were either learned the hard way or witnessed.
1 – Don’t Forget to Eat
Don’t eat the patient’s yummy nourishing snacks! And don’t underestimate how hungry you as the caregiver might get. It’s important to think ahead if you can and if you have that luxury, stock the refrigerator for you as well. When well-meaning friends text and ask what they can bring you can also say that the patient is very hungry and wants chocolate and almonds (even if they’re really for you!)
2 – Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive to Surgery
Do not, repeat do not, let the patient drive herself to the hospital on surgery day with you in the passenger seat. The patient has a lot on her mind and will be distracted. When she tries to back up into a very tiny space it will not go well. Avoid this scenario by insisting upon driving.
3. Laughter is Good Medicine Except When Patient is Nervous/Crabby
Don’t make too many jokes right before surgery. Usually the patient will not appreciate you making references to your giant pimple on your face and asking the surgeon if they have any medical recommendations for you. Once again, the patient will not think this is funny. Neither will the doctor.
4. Let It Roll
Don’t take anything the patient says prior, during, or after surgery personally. A lot of emotions can come up. It’s best to encourage the patient not to make any long-lasting, life-changing decisions in this general window of time. The patient’s mood could be perceived as erratic – something seemingly harmless like a little elderly man pushing a motorcycle up a hill could drive the patient into a murderous rant. Best to just soothingly reassure the patient that you hate that motorcyclist too…there, there. The patient will have almost zero recollection of what they said or asked for. For example when your friend/patient asks you to mince garlic in her lemon water she might actually mean ginger and will look at you like you have sprouted a second head when you ask her if she really wants you to put garlic in her tea. (Actually, as I write this, it occurs to me that this section could be written for perimenopause too…aaack.)
5. Don’t Be A Jerk
In her tender time post-surgery, do not give the patient any books regarding her medical condition or tell her stories about people who have died from the same medical condition. Right? Also in this category, do not judge any type of procedure or follow-up care the patient decides upon afterwards. This may take an attitude of trust on your part, but I assure you most people think long and hard and confer with their doctors and their loved ones before they decide on any follow-up treatments and it is OUR job as a supportive community to love our friends and family members through all of their decisions without judgment or opinion unless asked. And even then, people, use your heads. Remember…this is a tender time. Tread lightly! No bombarding the patient with statistics and medical data.
6. Don’t Forget What a Sacred Window of Time you are Sharing Together
Take as much opportunity as you possibly can in the surprisingly busy days post surgery to reassure your loved one what an absolute gift it is, and continues to be, to spend time with them. To hold their hand, to do their laundry, to steam there garlic tea, to warm up their soup, to stroke their hair, to give them a kiss, to cry with them, to laugh with them, to drive them around, and to just be in their presence. It is a rare gift to share so intimately with another and I am grateful to have had this bonding time with my sweet friend of 26 years.
Huge thank you to my family and friends for supporting me in making this trip happen, kids got shuffled, pet/house sitter bent backwards, drum carrier got fedexed so I could bring it with me on the plane, friends held space for me and said healing prayers for Barbara. I know it’s cliche but it truly takes a village.