Love cures people- both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.
-Karl A. Menninger
I intended to write about teaching school today, but (as usual) life had other plans for me. This was a rough week. My job is almost never easy. I am multi-tasking all day and dealing with dysfunction on a level that is hard to explain. The onslaught feels relentless. I try not only to not complain, but to celebrate the good moments. I try to show up for my students as best as I can and then go home where I can be alone because deep down I believe people are exhausting and its up to me to take care of myself.
This week was especially hard because we had parent-teacher conferences which means 12 hour days and dealing with even more people than usual. It was also Valentine's Day which means the kids are hyperactive. I was at my wit's end by Thursday at lunch when I checked my phone and saw a call from my doctor's office. After some phone tag, I was finally able to get through to the nurse with my only free time in the entire day. I've had abnormal paps in the past so I was trying to quickly tell her that I knew my results were abnormal. The nurse interrupted me. Her voice sounded serious. "Your pap is normal. Your cells are highly abnormal. On a scale from low to severe, we are seeing some very severe changes with you. You need to come in so we can rule out cancer."
I immediately felt anxious. My heart rate increased, my appetite disappeared, and I wanted to crawl out of my skin. I stayed at work to finish conferences and then came home where I lay awake for much of the night. By Friday morning I was an exhausted wreck. I decided to post something on Facebook because I sincerely needed some help. My hope was that a couple of people might say a prayer for me.
What happened instead was that many, many friends reached out to me with kindness, prayers, well-wishes, and offers of support. I felt so embarrassed. I only wanted a little bit of support so that I could keep taking care of everything myself. I didn't feel like I deserved that much good will. I didn't want to intrude on people's lives or take up more attention than I deserved. I couldn't even read the comments. I just wanted to make sure that I "liked" them so my friends would know I appreciated them.
It wasn't until I went hiking with a good friend today that I actually stopped and let in the love. I started telling her the story and about how I had received so many calls and messages. I told her how embarrassed I was for using up more than my share of love. And then the tears came as I actually allowed myself to take stock of the great community around me. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude and humility. It actually turns out that I am not on my own.
I find it very fitting that this came about on valentines weekend. I consider myself to be very independent. I am single and proud of it. I can do hard things. On Valentine's Day I usually buy flowers for friends and make dinner for other people. I celebrate the opportunity to let my loved ones know they matter. This year I have been too stressed out to do that. Instead I am the one receiving the love. I am the one receiving the flowers and the dinner. It is really hard for me to do. But I am reminded of something my friend said on our hike: "how great that you could give people the opportunity to share their love." Woah. What?! When I let go of my need to be the "strong one," I actually allow my friends and family to step up and give what they have to offer. And when they are in the seat of feeling vulnerable or weak I get to give back to them. That is how we all remain alive.
It is through the giving and receiving of love that we get through this crazy, messy, and heart-breaking thing called life. I still feel embarrassed, but I am trying to let go of my ego and allow myself to be supported by the love. I am broken open by the outpouring of support I have received this week. Happy Valentines Day to the beautiful souls I get to share this experience with. Celeste loves you.