For the past 2 ½ months, I have been in NYC supporting my 81-year-old dad and mom as my dad recuperates from a major surgery this past January as part of his treatment for rectal cancer. Fortunately, he is in the healing and recovery phase. This week I will fly back to Rochester, but for the next month or so I intend to divide my time between Rochester and NYC. I am blessed that I live not too far away and that my work affords me this flexibility.
For those of you who have faced a chronic life-altering illness in yourself or a family member, I would imagine you can understand how incredibly stressful this can be. Yet the very same experience that threatens to unglue the very fabric of our lives can also serve to accelerate our growth, healing and expansion in ways that would not have been possible otherwise.
My experience has shown me that this “learning” is actually an “unlearning.” It is about being “clueless, cared for and carefree”- the best way I can describe my dad’s life these days!
From being the patriarch of the family, the one who always would worry about the well-being of others- my dad now spends most of his days resting, sleeping, watching Indian satellite TV, and listening to Bollywood music. In between all of this, we must help him somehow incorporate nursing visits, doctor visits and working with physical and occupational therapists as well as dressing changes for his surgical wounds. He protests taking his medications and the dressing changes much like a child would protest having to eat his veggies. My mom spends hours in the kitchen cooking him nutritious, vegetarian meals which he enjoys but his favorite snacks (hands down!) are Breyers vanilla ice cream and Cheese doodles. 😊
Often, my dad is unaware of the day of the week, or if a bill is due or that we are in tax season or that we need certain groceries. From being someone who prided himself in being early in taking care of bills and his taxes and assuring that the kitchen and pantry were well-stocked, now he simply cannot be bothered. He would much rather take a nap!
Since I am a doctor, I am aware that my dad’s mental state could be part of some sort of mild symptoms of dementia- and that this perhaps might warrant further medical investigation if it persists. Yet a quiet, still, wiser voice inside me simply reassures me that this too is part of my dad’s healing, that healing is much deeper than healing of wounds, tissues and organs. My dad through this experience of being “clueless, cared for and carefree”- is allowing himself to be nurtured, nourished and loved in a way that he never could accept before- because his upbringing was to work, provide and even sacrifice his own well-being for others, if necessary. For healing to be complete, it must touch our very core – so we emerge more connected, whole and integrated. For this to happen, we must be released from old patterns, habits and ways of showing up in the world that simply no longer serve. This is what is happening for my dad.
One of my dad’s desire when he was first diagnosed with cancer was to go deeper with his spiritual path. I have watched his faith, trust and belief in God strengthen by leaps and bounds- to the point where he simply lives in the now, clueless about any external demands or responsibilities, trusting that he and all of us are cared for and loved and so we can live completely carefree!
Questions for reflection
Watching my dad, I find myself asking these questions:
What areas in my life would actually benefit from me being clueless? Where in my life can I open to embrace the discomfort that comes from feeling confused or not knowing? Can I allow myself to see this “not knowing” as a fertile opportunity to step into a deeper knowing?
Are there situations that I feel I must handle alone? What would it feel like to feel cared for – by those around me? What would it feel like to access more deeply my inner resources? Am I allowing myself to ask for the inner and outer help I need? What would that look like if I allowed myself to ask for this help? What prevents me from doing this?
Finally, where and when do I feel carefree? Or, when was the last time I felt carefree? What would it feel like to feel carefree on a more consistent basis? Do I feel that this is outside of the realm of possibility for me? What would I need to let go of to feel carefree with respect to a situation that seems to weigh me down?
I am so happy to connect with you and share my experience and I would love to hear what you discover!