Healing is its own process, not controlled, but guided -like tending to a garden. Healing needs a lot of good things and not too much of any of it; nutrition, exercise, happiness, water, sleep, good company and relaxation. It is organic, non-linear with great days and not so good days while new limits and abilities are discovered. It isn’t a one-way proposition like building with legos or molding with play dough. It is a partnership and dance with the body even when the body feels like a traitor. But this traitor desperately needs love. It is difficult to love a traitor. Traitors make things personal. Traitors make you want to turn your back too. Traitors can make you feel bitter.
I had high expectations for healing when I left on this vacation. I expected this vacation to force my healing into submission. I expected to return a different person than the one that arrived two weeks earlier.
Fall has been difficult. Recovery from my herniated disc has been good, but slow. And as my leg got stronger, my allergies went out of control. My eczema on my hands and face started to spread. My eye even swelled up and broke out and for weeks it wouldn’t go away. I suspect the combination of the cortisone shot, less exercise, sudden change in weather and stress. I was uncomfortable to sit in any room in the house. My face hurt, my hands hurt, I didn’t like sleeping for fear I’d wake up and my eye would be swollen shut. Creams didn’t work. Drugs didn’t work much. It felt like a downward spiral and I could not bounce back.
I needed sun and fresh air. I needed to get away from dust, pollen, harsh cold air. I needed to rebalance my immune system. I needed a vacation. The vacation would fix everything.
I arrived and the rash on my hands were burning so badly I soaked them with a wash cloth. It hurt to be in the pool and my face stung from the chlorine. My leg went numb as an aftershock to long hours of sitting on an airplane. It seemed it all got worse instead of better.
But then it got even worse. I got sick; a killer sore throat and fatigue. My husband included a fever in his version. Our son a hacking, croaking cough. This was followed by a brief bout with Montezuma’s revenge on day 5. Then some other irritants; ingrown hairs, break outs, cracked lips and chafed, bleeding skin. Coupled with the ever present expectation that this vacation was supposed to be about healing, I felt like I was being torn down completely.
It reminded me of remodeling our house. It always got worse before the project got better. Walls are knocked down, drywall explodes, dust flies, beams are exposed, wires everywhere and the mess spreads from the room to the streets. And then the rebuilding begins, and a turning point as it all comes back together, lighter, composed, beautified and a new home from the old.
And slowly, it did turn. My hands completely healed and the eczema receded. The numbness in my foot disappeared. My first run on the beach felt like heaven. By the end of the second week, I realized that my leg felt strong (not just pain-free) though occasionally numb still. My back felt stable to the point that lifting some light weights, including by kids, didn’t feel risky. My husband and I salsa danced! Progress emerged and it surprised me.
I’m not a perfectly done project. 2 weeks isn’t long enough to heal my back, I’ve got another 6 months to go they tell me. And I’ve got a lingering rash on my eye that is actually getting better at home. My comfort level as I write is so much healthier than when I left.
And here is something new for me; vacations are about healing. I love to travel and have many vacations and adventures under my belt. And upon reflection, there was always an element of healing in each one. I return and I feel stronger.
Which means, away or at home, we are always in some state of healing? I’m thinking a lot about this and how much of my art work reflects on healing, even in the prayers we cast.