2 weeks ago, I got a text from my Mom that said my Grandma was in the Intensive Care Unit for the flu. Over the next few days, the flu turned into pneumonia, which turned into an infection. She was being attacked from all sides.
When I texted her (yes, my Grandma texts), she said there was nothing I could do. She said don’t come.
My Mom told me not to worry too much. She’d been in the ICU before and gotten out pretty quickly. But this time, my Mom was away on a well-deserved vacation. Grandma was there all alone.
Grandma and I are very close. Before my husband and I moved to San Diego (after my big leap in 2013), we lived with her and my Grandpa for a whole month! She’s always been my hero, my mentor for standing up for what’s in your heart.
I decided to buy a plane ticket so I could be with her while she was stuck in this unfamiliar, scary place – ICU’s are not the most warm and fuzzy wards in the hospital. My Uncle flew up the day before I did so we could switch off with visitation.
She needed a positive, balanced voice like mine to support her. I would go up to be with her in the hospital, then stay until I could help her get settled back into her home in a couple days. I would be her voice of balance, of strength. Maybe I could relax a bit while I was up there…
When I got to the hospital, I was stunned. She was only slightly coherent, breathing heavily between words, on oxygen and thickened liquids. We had to wear masks and gloves in the room so we didn’t catch the flu that was ransacking her body.
I could only connect to her through latex; blow her filtered, sanitized kisses.
She wasn’t ok. This wasn’t something that she could just power through on her own. The weight of the situation floored me.
This woman who has always been a staple of strength in my life, was being forced into vulnerability, into rest. Much of my go-go-go-ness that I’ve been working so hard the last 2 years to release was inherited from Grandma. She is uncomfortable in stillness. “Taking a break” was a foreign concept.
My determination to be the warm, fuzzy voice of balance and Love shattered. I realized that to be warm would be to force it, and that was not what was needed here. What was needed was my presence, my realness so that she could have the permission to be real in this, too.
To be real in a situation when one of your dearest loved ones is struggling requires that you break. A little or a lot. And so I did.
For the next week, I broke open over and over again. I didn’t run from the hurt of seeing her in that state. I sat with it. I let it in, and with it, I let her in. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done.
It would have been so easy to put up an emotional wall, to “save” myself from the pain of it. But I don’t do that anymore. I choose strength instead.
I chose to courageously crumble until I was emptied of what was demanding to be felt. In doing so, I kept myself from sinking deeper, weighed down by the emotional burden I used to refuse to feel.
Grandma is now healing. She is surrounded by family again and so I returned home just a few days ago.
2 years ago me would be depressed right now, overwhelmed by the pressure of holding all that emotion inside for a whole week. I’d be overeating and isolating from my friends. Today, I am subdued but at peace. I am reaching out to others and letting them in when they reach out to me.
I am open. Vulnerable, and so I am strong.
I cannot be truly broken unless I hold onto what breaks me. [tweet it] Power lies in embracing the fluidity of what affects me. Welcoming it in, standing in it, and then releasing it back into the ether. Holding onto it or pushing it away deprive you of the experience you are meant to have. While it may not seem like it, what’s here to break you is a gift.
Whatever breaks you, let it. Learn from it. Then, release it. And you will know power.
Stay strong in your breaking,