Today is surgery eve…I decided to name the occasion as part of my day-long experiment on managing the internal chaos that accompanies each and every surgery. Today, I am also getting a haircut because I like the smell of the barbershop (for the soothing), eating lunch at my favorite spot (for the indulgence), and obsessively cleaning (for the control). This is the formula for my own personal self-care cocktail.
I don’t get nervous about the actual operation. I can’t even remember if I ever was anxious about hospitals and doctors and surgeries. For one surgery, the techs accidentally interpreted my calm for sedation, causing me to hear and witness more details than a patient wants to while lying on an OR table. I remember they were enthusiastically singing “I’m Too Sexy”…I really want to believe the OR is filled with classical music or Dalai Lama quotes read aloud or something. Right Said Fred should never be the last noise heard before being overcome by anesthesia.
I imagine I was anxiously impacted by medical stuff at some point in life, but that’s distant. Don’t get me wrong…I don’t like all that comes with living in a struggling body, but I think my brain now understands that the hospital piece is the easiest part for me.
What I hate is the recovery. I don’t like being dependent and needy and limited and weak. In short, I don’t like my humanity. This gets in the way of progress in many parts of my life. Somehow I made the mistaken connection early on that being capable means being distant, aloof, and independent at all cost. Not only is this completely fallacious, but I’m now working on rewiring my mind to see that strength actually comes from the ability to share burdens. I share my burdens with you and you with me. Then, like breadsticks at Olive Garden, there is a never-ending supply of nourishment from which to draw strength. Now, I’m off to practice living that out…
“We’re a long way from the farm…” is a phrase uttered many times between Dr. Mentor and me on recent trips. Although we grew up many states and some years apart from one another, we share a common rural upbringing that was far from exotic. I didn’t even know how to imagine things I’ve experienced on my last few trips. I’m grateful and humbled.
Our most recent trip was back to Lebanon and Jordan. I love these countries. The people. The beauty. The history. The FOOD. And when you teach, it feels like a rich conversation. I feel more like an extrovert that at any other time, but it is really just people relationally honoring my introversion so that I feel socially safe.
On a day-off excursion in Jordan, we were treated to a luxury camping experience in the middle of breathtakingly beautiful desert. Camels roaming about and more stars in the sky than I’ve ever seen, Dr. Mentor and I just sat in the quiet presence of our lovely hosts. My curiosity was skyrocketing as I imagined what ancient feet passed through this same patch of land and what thoughts had been wondered by the minds connected to those feet.
Then I rode a horse. Into Petra. I don’t ride horses. I believe horses are beautiful and to be feared….like the ocean and Helena Bonham Carter. However, the opportunity to experience a wonder of the world on horseback was temporarily bigger than the fear. My horse guide, Mohammed, led me into the ancient city while excitedly asking me about how many cowboy hats exist in Texas. I became relaxed and then even connected to the horse. I asked what the horse was called only to have Mohammed say there was nothing. So, now that I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name, I feel strangely settled.
Even with all the exotic beauty and unusual adventures, the people I’ve met are the source of joy on these trips. I’ve begun friendships that already feel lifelong. They are caring and committed to building community rooted in love. They are authentic and full of life. If I’m honest, the fear of horses was a playful distraction compared to other fears that almost prevented me from ever traveling to the region. However, as I have so quickly experienced the receiving and giving of sincere compassion from my new friends, I more understand the paradoxical reality of how fear displaces love. Thanks friends. See you soon.
Reflections on lessons learned from being a therapist and adoptive dad.