Just when you need a reason to hope, little miracles begin to show up, don’t you think? I was needing one the other day. My mother is facing down her diagnosis by taking chemotherapy and I’m proud of how she is coping. Having gone through it myself, I can only just imagine how she might be feeling (because everyone’s journey is different), and it is heartbreaking to know she must deal with this burden. And truth be told, adopting the role as care ”sharer” has had its own challenges, as well.
Honestly, I think my family is exhausted. In times like these, you push forward with love and support.
So the universe sent its own little sign of support to me the other day. My mom, sister and I were in the hospital room for yet another meeting. I had taken what I thought was Mom’s calendar journal along for the purpose. Opening it up, I found it wasn’t the schedule, but rather my own journal. And in that was a story of hope and miracles. Realizing the mistake, we all laughed and a few tears found their way through.
Here is the story:
Early in July 2007, my godson and I wandered off the beaten path looking for Mud Lake in Gatineau Park. It was a little before noon. The new growth in the forest disorientated Eric, my 12 year old guide, who mentioned after some further walking that he’d only been to Mud Lake once before, and now that the ice storm had ravaged the trees, nothing looking familiar. We walked in circles.
During five hours of walking we passed through the forest and into the swamp about three times. Massive blackflies buzzed in our faces. The rocks were slick with moss. All we had to support us were our walking sticks and one bottle of water.
We were lost and the sense of no control was flashing me back to my days in the hospital chemotherapy suite, when I was facing my own cancer crisis. I recalled that first round of chemotherapy after they removed the cancer from my breast.
In the forest, the sun was lowering in the sky. Could I make a fire for the night without matches? No. I had no idea how and it would soon be pitch dark.
The thick forest seemed endless and the weight of responsibility felt curiously like the overwhelming emotions my cancer had triggered. But out there in the forest, I was in charge, I was leading the way, not my doctors – I needed to be make the decision that would save us in that moment.
In both experiences, the cancer and the forest, much of me knew that all would be alright eventually, but what a strain of feeling lost! In the chemo room it had been the pressure of treatments and disease; in the forest it was a pressure of so much space, and making no headway.
So, settling myself as I had done for those treatments long ago, I took a moment to stop and reflect. Since that time, I had learned about strengthening self awareness, and I decided to tap into the four steps I had become familiar with.
I acknowledged the feelings arising from being lost. In my mind’s eye, I found the location of that emotion within my body.
Acknowledging the emotion, I looked for what was the deeper story – deeper than being lost – feelings of helplessness and fear.
I became aware of the impact of the emotion on not only myself, but on Eric, as well.
I turned my thoughts to God, and asked for support in finding a solution to this problem.
A feeling of energized resilience filled my body and I became aware of its location inside me. It was growing inside my heart and said to me, “Everything will be ok and you will be back home soon.” I had never felt such empowerment before.
Then, we encountered a large water snake in the waist high slimy swamp undergrowth. An overwhelming powerhouse of ‘FIGHT” response kicked in and I was ready to protect Eric, if need be. In that moment, my walking stick could easily have turned into a spear. (Well, at least in my mind!)
As I reflect today, our instincts of survival can immediately draw power from within. I’ve been told that my positive thinking was my powerhouse to heal my own cancer too.
I acknowledged the effect my emotions might have on Eric’s, and then, I explored those hidden beneath the emotion of empowerment. What were they?
Even though, to keep a positive outlook, I “future paced” (i.e. visualized) Eric and I back at the cottage that night enjoying a great meal (and even offering him a beer!), I still felt a sinking feeling of despair. I knew that our family and friends would now be looking for us as it had been so long since we had gone walking. Part of me shined with hope and the other part was terrified. Eric later shared that he had confidence in me and knew that I was going to find a way out for us.
If only a GPS could grow on trees, I thought to myself, but even if I know what direction I’m going in, how do I know it will take me to my sister’s cottage?
Slowly, that powerful feeling of calm and resilience grew in me, just like the branches bending gently with the surge of wind. Whatever we name this power, it’s a connection to more than ourselves. It may be your connection to community, spirituality, Mother Earth, Buddha, or God. Giving up the load for others to support you creates a sense of appreciation and peace.
With that faith, my internal GPS did work in that forest. Shortly after I called out for God, my personal Higher Power, to give me a guide or sign to find my way out, my cry for help was heard.
It arrived in the form of a bushy tail and dark beady eyes. Wandering along a cliff edge, I spotted a squirrel. At this point we’d only spotted birds (and one giant snake!). A squirrel felt promising. When it began to run away, I called to Eric and we chased it.
It darted to the right of me and I followed to the edge of a cliff. It ran to the left and to another cliff edge. I was losing all hope of a way out. The squirrel then moved in a new direction, and following, we found long tall grass that seemed lightly beaten down. It was a path! Within an hour, we were out of the forest and on a dirt road back to civilization.
Just when we needed that little miracle of hope and guidance, the squirrel showed up. And again, it showed up in between the pages of my journal when we needed it most in that hospital room.
It’s a challenge to share these kinds of stories. Business practice doesn’t suggest adding a squirrel to the board of directors, or praying when desperate, or stopping for a moment of self-awareness – but these are little miracles that happen all the time, in every setting. I trust that my faith in God has inspired me to share this story with confidence. Trust that WE all have resources inside of us. TRUST that we know when we are on the right track and that we are guided by a higher power to resolve our challenges.
When I read aloud that journal entry from 2007 to my mom and my sister, in that moment – if only for that moment – it melted away the tensions between us, around us, within us. My mom smiled, and that in itself was a huge gift.
It’s moments that like that that keep me going, and make me feel guided.
How can you tap into your own self-awareness? Here is an easy four-step process to become aware of how emotions reside in specific areas of your body or everywhere in your body, or you may not feel any location. That may be your first step closer to awareness that emotions reside in your body… somewhere!
Notice the feelings arising from a moment such as being lost. Imagine that you can locate in your body the emotions you feel.
Acknowledge the emotion and the others hidden deeper underneath. What emotion is bubbling up now?
Be aware of the impact of your emotion(s) on others.
Get feedback from others to gain further awareness about the situation.