Thursday, December 18, 2008

Waiting Room

Last week I accompanied a friend to the hospital. She was to have surgery that day, and I'm a great believer in people having a loved one with them when they embark on this particular journey. All the pre-surgery agenda seemed to be handled smoothly, and she went off to the operating room 10 minutes ahead of schedule. I took myself out for some lunch and then joined a large, diverse group of 'the anxious' in the Family Waiting Room. I'm always so touched by the way we humans interact when sharing a common drama. Surgery's a biggie and the impact on everyone involved is enormous. I was acutely and gratefully aware of the communal compassion alive in the room that day.

It turns out that it was an extremely busy day at this major Manhattan facility, and, though my friend's surgery was completed in two and a half hours, all the recovery rooms were full. She had to wait in the operating room until a slot opened up in Recovery. Everyone on my side of these happenings was in the same boat. As all these patients remained stacked up somewhere in the vast labyrinth of this gigantic edifice, we were assigned to waiting mode for hours. The room was furnished with comfy sofas and chairs and coffee tables thoughtfully arranged in seating patterns to accommodate family groups or little niches where one could be more private. It was slightly overheated and airless, but everyone hung in quietly chatting or reading, with an occasional furtive dash to the restroom or Starbucks so as not to miss the surgeon's anxiously anticipated arrival. One by one they all came to inform us of the surgical outcome, though just when we could actually see our person was unknown. So we waited. There were lovely, dedicated volunteers attempting to keep us posted, but even they didn't know exactly where some of our people were. So we waited.

Through all this, I was greatly assisted by having inadvertently brought my very own support system. That morning I'd put on my iPod the Pre Surgery and Post Surgery Healing Support Programs from the Better & Better Series we'd produced a few years ago. I'd taken them to relax and inspire my friend as she waited for her procedure and subsequently to assist her in the healing process thereafter. She listened to most of the Pre before being whisked away, and seemed to be very touched by it. Then later, as I sat in this emotion-packed room, iPod in backpack, I was prompted to play the programs for myself. Since the post-production phase of the Better & Better project, I hadn't listened to them, and though my MO is to be highly critical of my own work, they really got to me. Despite all the upset in the air, I was able to succumb to the beach sounds, music and meditation (Pre) and the joyful, renewing ambiance of a waterfall in Spring, music and meditation (Post). It created my feeling so great that I found myself wanting to stand on my chair and proclaim to all the worry-wearied beings assembled before me that there's a better way. We can take a few moments, close our eyes and go to the beach in our minds. We can be comforted by soothing music, calming, inspiring words and the uplifting sounds of nature. We can take ourselves out of the tension and pain of this room. We can relax and de-stress ourselves. It's so wonderful and healing for us. This surgery thing is an arduous journey but taking care of ourselves in the process is mandatory and priceless. Clearly, we can't be the caregiver to anyone else if we're so exhausted and emotionally shot that we become ill ourselves.

Through my own health crisis (six surgeries in four year, then three years of chemotherapy), I was guided to, and subsequently gifted with, life transforming/saving insights. For the last twenty years it's been my joy to share these gifts with others. It's no news flash that stress creates most of our illnesses. Our bodies are simply not designed to be contracted and tight and harbor upset in them. Anything we can do then to get back to breathing and relaxing and connecting to the Peace within - and it is always within - always! - is our responsiblility to embrace. Life does not provide a wise counsellor at our side at all times, so it behooves us to awaken to the fact that there's boundless wise counselling to be had within. And there are myriad ways to guide us to this wisdom.

Having experienced this day, it's more clear to me than ever, that caregivers need healing tools as much as patients do. And they're ubiquitous. Of course, I'm partial to the Better & Better Series, which is for both patient and caregiver - but there are many others. Furthermore, even without crisis mode, do yourself a favor and discover the delights of your own inner self. It's the gift that keeps on giving. The Love, Joy and Peace of the ages are there for everyone. Day by day, let us become our own best caregiver and enjoy an ever-expanding experience of life lived from within-out. It's time!