I recently listened to a podcast with modern day literary giant Ann Patchett interviewing fellow author royalty, Anne Lamott. Stay with me even if you happen to not resonate with a higher power. Anne Lamott, if you don’t know, has written several memoirs with perspective and insight around her personal relationship with religion. I won’t get this exactly right but what I heard her say was that every religion teaches us to re-open to the Spiritual/God/The Universe/Nature. You can be an atheist or agnostic and still feel a connection to the universal laws of human behavior and aging. A desire to re-open to feelings of innocence, joy, and authentic curiosity. How I interrupted her statement is, as adults, we tend to blanket ourselves in armor as we move through life and then later, we find ourselves working to re-open to the things that matter most. Re-open to the best of ourselves. And hopefully drop the armor and walls that block us from deep connection.
The poignant point Lamott made was that as we re-open, it tends to hurt a little. Isn’t that the truth for those of us who seek personal healing and growth? Change doesn’t typically come easy. It tends to hurt a little.
Pondering this, I’m taken back to the days after my dad’s accident. Three years ago this week, he was trampled by three 1500 lb cows. Re-opening was critical for my father hours after they were able to stabilize him. His lungs were collapsed and if that wasn’t enough, his broken and permanently altered rib cage was poking around the lungs. It was a dangerous and closely watched recovery which made it imperative that he immediately begin exercises to strengthen his lungs. He had to re-open his air flow and it was excruciatingly painful. Nurses came in with machines that provided lung treatments as well, it was all hands on-deck to support him in re-opening. Watching my father in sheer physical pain being pushed to more pain by these exercises was tough. To witness a human harness the mental strength to power through physical trauma is nothing less than holy. Talk about re-opening to what matters most in an instant.
Once dad accepted there was no way around the exercises being painful, he was able to keep with it. It wasn’t a complicated exercise. Breathe. Breathe into the tiny machine and push the plastic ball further and further up the tube. Re-open the lungs. Then, his body performed the miracles from there. His ribs found a way to heal around his lungs and not thru them which avoided a risky surgery. Once those lungs were fully re-opened, the rest of the healing accelerated.
Can you imagine learning to breathe again? The way my dad did. Isn’t our personal healing the same? What are the exercises you can do to re-open to your curiosity, innocence, childhood dreams, and joy? Will re-opening to what matters most hurt a little? Will you do it anyway? Accepting, that it will hurt a little and still move forward? Will that forward movement then accelerate a change for the better? Towards deeper connection?
Three years later, dad is doing what he loves most. Farming and crawling across his new combine like a teenager who just got their first car. Sure, the accident slowed him down a bit, but being re-opened to what matters most makes up for it and he just keeps moving forward.