My healthy, athletic 60-year-old husband had a stroke four days ago. He collapsed while visiting his elderly parents in a a small town at least an eight hour drive from Vancouver–as the story goes, he stood up from the sofa to head toward the dining room for dinner and felt dizzy.
Next thing he knew he was regaining consciousness on the floor, bleeding from a head wound that would later require stitches. He soon realized he could not move his right arm and leg. Needless to say, his parents called an ambulance.
I got word of what was happening almost immediately–his mom called his son, who Facebook messaged me. (One of the blessings of FB, I suppose). A flurry of calls ensued: I spoke with his distraught mother. I called his daughter. I emailed a few of his closest friends. And I reached out to all the healers we know for long-distance healings.
During all of this I found myself in a state of calm.
I don’t mean post shock numbness. I have been in shock before–at the sudden death of my father, mother, near death of my son twice, sudden death of a dear friend. All of these events had a surreal quality — the gut wrenching adrenalin rush on receiving the news. The racing heart. The shallow breathing. The detachment that follows the first wave of angst.
No, this is and was simply a peaceful state of acceptance. That doesn’t mean I was not concerned for my husband’s well-being. But it does mean I was not suffering from emotional turmoil or mental anguish. I was just experiencing the what-is-happening without reaction but with measured and effective response–(I managed to contact all of my husbands family and close friends, including his ex wife).
Yet now, four days later, I am seeing how this state of equanimity does not fit people’s views of how a wife should be acting when her husband has been felled by what turned out to be a blueberry-sized node of brain death. (Thankfully, he has recovered 80 percent of his sensation and movement and continues to recover daily).
When it happened, it never occurred to me to reach out to my friends for “emotional support.” When my husband posted from his hospital bed yesterday on FB that he’d had a stroke, my friends (I mean real life friends) saw this and soon a flurry of calls and emails hit me. Why hadn’t I called for support? How was I? Wasn’t I upset? What do you mean you’re ok?
I mean, I’m okay. (Though I did manage to fold a whole lot of laundry as a Zen practice while I awaited new medical updates from afar–you should see how clean the house is too).
It’s not the first time I’ve noticed just how awakening can pull the plug on the habit of emotional reactivity. Just a day after my awakening in 2011, my husband wanted to call the relationship quits. He was upset. He wanted out. I remember I was simply at peace. If that is what he wanted, then that is what he wanted.
It’s hard to explain to people (without sounding like a robot or alien) that there comes a time when you no longer find yourself tossed and churned in the storms of emotional distress. That there comes a time when the “peace that passeth all understanding” is a lived reality, not a transient state.
And I am not talking about the “love and light” spiritual persona version of peaceful — I know that one all too well. I used to be it. It’s the mask of super-chill-all-is-well, while underneath a cauldron of upset seethes.
And this state of peace goes the other way too. The events in life that might have created a supercharged happiness, are met instead with a kind of serene contentment. It’s like when a friend of mine years ago read the Four Agreements book and understood the agreement to “take nothing personally” to mean to not get all bent out of shape by criticism…but I said to him: “It also means don’t get all euphoric over the compliment, none of it is personal.”
In this way, this deepening awakening has a quality about it of neutrality. But it’s not flat like soda without the fizz…rather it’s a different kind of fizz. It’s a fizz that’s there all the time, bubbling away no matter what the outer circumstances and events look like. You could say, it’s an effervescent well-being that just-is.
So, to all my lovely friends who worry that I must need support (or there might be something wrong with me), I say this: I do have support. It’s in the deep knowing that there is hidden perfection in the seeming chaos. It’s in the experience of expansive abiding peace that is always here when the noise of the contracted and fearful mind subsides. And that peace is available at all times for the simple reason that peace is an essential quality of who I am…and who you are.
On that note: Keep Calm, and Be the Peace that You Are.
~ Lori Ann
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