Last week was an interesting week. I started to use the word challenging – but I don’t think that is really the right word. Challenging implies that somehow there was something that needed to be overcome. That wasn’t my experience. My experience of last week was that I was continually called on to be fully present, both for myself and others.
Going into last week I had one primary “task” on my mind. I was going to take the National Clinical Social Work test so that I could get full reciprocity for my licensed status in California here in Minnesota and Wisconsin. However going into the week I was pretty “studied out”. I had spent so much time memorizing, reviewing, taking test exams, etc… that my brain felt tired the moment I pulled out the materials. Nonetheless, I pulled the materials out every day to imbed the materials and thought processes required just a little bit more.
The Universe though had other plans for me. Throughout the week I was also taking my daughter to various medical appointments, at the same time my mother was also going to medical appointments; the main focus of the appointments in both cases was to assess heart health and to identify next steps.
In regards to my daughter, she was born with congenital heart defects. She has had three open heart surgeries previously, along with a number of other procedures. For my wife, daughter, and myself at times we can fall into the pattern of going through the steps – however each time we are informed that another major procedure is coming – it still requires us to step back and “get present” again to the decisions that need to be made and to how that impacts us emotionally. In my daughter’s case it was a relief to find out that this time we will be able to “go through the leg” and seal the valves by utilizing a “valve in valve” procedure.
While we were going through this process, my mother and father were also going to my mother’s appointments. There the assessment of congestive heart failure slowly moving through its course was one of less “relief” and more of calling on acceptance. There isn’t a lot to do with current medical technology for congestive heart failure. What is clear that my mother is still functional, yet it is also clear that the congestive heart failure continues to progress.
So as the week moved forward and I studied for my exam I also had some emotional choices to make for myself. The generation ahead of me and behind me both facing challenges with their hearts – I needed to look at mine.
I have spent years learning to listen to my heart and finding ways to stay present. As a result I could feel concern emerge at times – perhaps a desire to make things better for others – and yet I also know that at these times all I can really do is be present for others as they walk their paths and face their trials – in whatever form they may show up. I am choosing to stay focused in the present and to be present with both my daughter and mother, as well as my wife, father, and my sisters. Each of us has different responses – from passionate empathy and worry, to denial or anger, perhaps even a sense of existential hopelessness.
I myself simply strive to be present with each feeling as it emerges and to allow it to pass through me. When the feeling shows up in someone I am sitting with, I allow them to have their feelings with no need to fix them, take them away, or submerge them by having mine “take over”. As I write these words I realize I can’t “explain” this process.
Most people who take the time to read this will already have had their own moments where something occurred that evoked the challenge of staying present instead of being carried away on the wave of emotion, utilizing some defense to compartmentalize or intellectualize, or submerging their own feelings by taking care of others.
All I know is that for me, writing has always been one of the paths back to my own heart. Writing, Dancing, Painting… all of these are ways to bring myself back to presence…. and so I’m writing, and if the words bring someone else a sense of being present in whatever they may be facing, then the words have served a dual purpose. Yet in all of this, if all these words do, is bring me back to myself, then the words have done enough. If you have read them; then thank you simply for being present with me as I followed my thoughts back to my heart.