They say that a baby can melt our hearts. That certainly was true for me, especially during my first pregnancy. From his inception, my first born, my son - just his “becoming” - dissolved the block of ice that held my grief and sadness for so many years. This week, as I acknowledged the 34th anniversary of my accident, I remembered being in the hospital the night after surgery, emerging from the anesthetic, the memory of the accident flooding back, the pain in my legs consuming me. What struck me about that memory was the hardness that surrounded my heart.
That hardness stayed with me for 18 years after I lost my leg. Until I was pregnant, I had never completely lost it. Never did I crumple to the ground in despair. I was in control, I held my emotions in check. Yes, I cried and certainly I was angry. I went to therapist after therapist to try and get in touch with the grief, but it was shoved to the back of the freezer of my heart, as inaccessible as a credit card surrounded in a block of ice. I was so afraid that the grief would consume me, like a monster in a bad “B” movie from the 1950’s. I thought if I allowed myself to feel the sadness that I would never feel anything but the sadness.
And then I became pregnant. Was it the hormones? The quick loss of physical function due to the weight gain? For whatever reasons, when I was pregnant with my son, it was like my frozen feelings were laying on a black roadway in the desert with the sun beating down.
What I found was that I wasn’t consumed by the sadness at all. It was like the ice that surrounded the grief melted into a deep ocean. I took a long swim in that water. I dived deep into the sorrow and explored it. I finally uttered the words, “Why me?” I allowed myself to be weak. I dived so deep that all I could see was the darkness of despair.
And then I emerged again. I wasn’t consumed, as I had feared. Ironically, it was only in surrendering to my grief that I was free from the undercurrent of sadness that always threatened to suck me in.
So this year, I want to look at other ways that fear – of my emotions, of possibilities, of failure and of success – plays out in my life. I’d like to take a nice long swim in the ocean of peace this year. And while I’d like to pretend that fear can’t touch me, what seems more reasonable is to make peace with my fears, to befriend them instead of ostracize them to the freezer.
Perhaps I can swim with my fears in a playful way, the way people do with the dolphins.