Out of the Fast Lane

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Just recently, I went on a 3 week resting vacation with the hope that much of that time would be available to work on my new book coming out in 2018 entitled, “The Message”. This time away would allow me to be ensconced in a cozy cottage, directly on the beach, tide rolling in and out day and night, hour by mesmerizing hour. What could be better to create and to think? Dream and invent. Feet in the sand, sunrise on the left, sunset on the right. Wow, count me in!

Within hours of arriving and unpacking, I checked out all the nooks and crannies of the cabin, the deck, the porch; then I took in my surroundings and said, “Ok, now what??”

What was a busy, New England extrovert thinking when she booked 21 days in one fairly isolated place? Was I really going to sit at a table, albeit on a lovely screened-in porch overlooking the ocean, and do the author-thing??? I had to move! Walk. I had to see stuff. I had to get in my rental car and drive somewhere, grocery shop, check the sheets for cleanliness, put on make-up, wash the salt out of my hair, vacuum the sand out of the carpet that was continuously clinging to my bare feet, plan dinner, plan lunch, plan breakfast, find a really really good breakfast place to eat the day’s first meal that I might not have properly planned for yesterday.

Next, I unpacked my laptop, plugged it into the wall, found my way into the Wi-Fi network with password provided and, and, and …..?

Uh-oh, I was already in trouble. This required patience and stillness, and clearly, I was not in a patient and still place. I know that I was supposed to be, but instead, I was restless, expectant, feeling totally out of my normal environment. What was happening here? I seemed to have prepared for the escape, and I had all the props, but my head and body were doing something else.

I stood flabbergasted. Why wasn’t I teeming with thoughts and concepts, inspiration and pounding the keyboard? The clock was ticking! Ticking. TICKING!

It finally occurred to me; the answer came in a stunning question to myself:  Exactly where was this magic creativity going to come from with nearly all of my adrenaline pumped into hyper-drive from being in 3 different airports, a significant amount of air turbulence, a car rental station with waiting line and walking with tons of luggage to another parking lot, completely unfamiliar highways and roads in an unfamiliar car and a GPS not conducive to supporting my travels to some sleepy little island town in North Carolina?

I was now cut off; my knees had been clipped from beneath me, and I was left to my own devices. I had nose-dived from the fast lane of a large New England metropolis to the 2-tire track of quiet civilization in a completely different part of the country. I was unprepared for the speed bump, that was in reality a full-bore stone wall.

Example: I needed provisions, so into my trusty rental to the “bustling” grocery store with 3 check-out lanes. With my cart of “12 items or less” I moved into what should have been a quick-out, where everyone put their potential purchases onto the belt and moved like lightning to the finish line. Ahead of me was a woman with 2 things and ahead of her, capturing the soul of the cash register person, was a gentleman of about 80 plus years with absolutely nothing else on his mind but smiling and thinking of what he needed at that moment, but was not yet on the conveyor belt. Ah, a bag of ice…..over by the cooler next to the exit door. “Do you think someone could go over there and get one of those for me?” AND, cigarettes, special brand located 2 registers over. And let’s not forget to find exactly where on his person was the cash to pay for all of this. Left pocket? Um, no, not there. Shirt sleeve hidden pouch…wrong again. “By the way”, he asked the cashier, “did you happen to give me a pack of matches with those cigarettes?” “I know I left my loose cash here somewhere, just give me a minute”. Big smile.

By this time, the only other two regular check-out lanes were moving faster than we were. The woman in front of me, appeared totally unaffected by the whole scenario, since she quickly included herself into the conversation with the elderly gentleman and the cashier, and everyone was having a grand time being in the same space. My eyelids were starting to twitch.

What in the world was wrong with me? Was I the only one not seeing how long, long, long this was taking? Did I have all day??

Ok, the crazy thing is…I DID have all day. I had no-where I had to go, no-one that I had to meet, no life or death situation that required my experienced skill set. I was not negotiating paralyzing traffic or late for some meeting somewhere. I sincerely needed to rethink what was going on in my brain and body. This gentle pace I was observing was exactly what I had asked for, prayed for and specifically begged for on my journey as an author. I was bucking the system at this very moment in my first encounter with the slow-lane. I needed to remove myself from my man-made fast lane immediately, because it was obvious I was missing a major point on my personal compass. I was facing a life-lesson.

Message: I needed to S – L – O – W    D – O – W – N.  It was now my opportunity and my duty to listen to my mind (in overdrive), my body (heart and blood racing), and my emotional status (impatient, anxious and unobserving).

Wherever you are and wherever you reside, the “fast lane” can follow you in your thoughts, actions and environment. How often do we create our own busy-ness, critical activities, deadlines, worry, criticisms and fretting? We rush through the “12-or-less”, jump in our vehicle, look at our phone calls, check the time, scream into the fast lane – and hit the traffic stall. The Universe conspires to hold us back one way or another, and direct us toward a healthier pathway, but first we must listen and observe.

Some time constraints do exist in our daily routines, but how we manage through them can mean the difference between fast-lane anxiety and slow-lane relaxation and healing. When we encounter the slower pace, it is our chance to embrace it’s contribution to mindfulness. We all know about mindfulness – being in the now moment. Fast-lane solutions can frequently derail us into missing the slower-paced ideas that will enlighten, inspire and heal. We must ask ourselves, is the fast-lane process the only guidance I am following? When and where will I take the time to bring mindful thought into my day? How can I capture an observation and turn it into a healthy solution?

I left the grocery mart, smiling at my elderly gentleman friend from the cashier line, and embraced a new thought. I will start each day on my vacation with mindfulness. Then I will give gratitude for the creativity that flows from the time spent in observation and see what that delivers to my writing. Honestly, it was an eureka moment that I needed to recognize myself and share with others. One that reminds me that we needn’t be on holiday to slow the pace, be quiet and mindful. The results are irrefutable and significant. I was content to sit on the porch, laptop in front of me, waves crashing the shore and a tasty beverage by my side. No clocks for me, no ticking heard somewhere in the background or in my mind.

After three weeks on the beach, I accomplished more that I could have imaged, and still found unlimited time to explore.

What an amazing vacation!

Who is The Most Important Person in the World?

Cape Beach SunsetWhen I am talking to a group of people having anything to do with my passion – Survivor Healing after (Suicide) Loss – I will eventually ask the question: “Who is the most important person in the world?” I just wish you could see the looks of my audience as they stare back at me, for what seems like a full minute. Perhaps they don’t really know where I am going with this question, OR, they are not sure what answer I am looking for. Honestly, it isn’t a trick inquiry. I really want to know who that person is, from their perspective. Maybe, since I am making a big deal of it here you are already guessing the answer. YOU are. YOU are the most important person in the world. But then that would mean that My answer is ME – I am the most important person in the world. I am indeed.

In the realm of rankles and irritations, following this question, this is where you will give me every reason why a hundred (or hundreds) of others outrank you when you measure your importance. I will however, stick to what I believe are the facts. If “we” are not the most important person in our world, if we are not placing ourselves first in every category of life, we are probably treading down a long and arduous path that skirts the achievement or healing of anything having to do with us. Let me tell you a true story to prove my point.

Many years ago, my husband was diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis) and was slowly losing the battle of muscular control over everything in his body; bladder, speech, movement of limbs, vision, swallowing and more. We took each day at its face value, but continually lost ground with the simple tasks of daily living or managing the impact of this disease. Because I was the primary caregiver, I willingly took on gigantic tasks that pushed my body to the limit. All this took place while carrying on a full-time profession and maintaining a home. This was no-one’s fault – none of us wanted or expected this – it just was. I watched My Healthy Self systematically deteriorate as the months and years went by. By virtue of the need for safety, care and nurturing of my loved one, I became last. I was not the most important person in the world – my husband was. And like him, I had a mountainous loss of my independence, health, mental stability and joy. I began to lose something even more vital to survival – my independence and my self-worth. When any friends or family called or spoke with me, the first question out of their mouth was, “How is he?” Never, “how are you?” I don’t blame them, it’s just that I became a means to an end.

On one of the evenings that the visiting nurses were preparing my husband for bed, the RN in charge took me aside to a quiet part of my house, saying, “I want to tell you a true story of one of my other patients. An elderly couple was living with disease such as the one you are familiar with. The wife, who was 70 years of age, did everything for her husband who was unable to care for himself. She moved him from bed to chair, fed him, washed and bathed him in the tub, prepared him for bed and made sure he received all of his medications. One night, they were suddenly faced with a crisis. Her husband had taken a terrible turn for the worse with high fever and decreased ability to respond. An ambulance was called and he was rushed to their local hospital emergency department. His wife followed the ambulance in her car and met them there, along with the physicians and nurses that would care for him. After a short while, it was determined that her husband would be admitted and he was taken to a room on the medical floor. As she joined him in his room, and found him to be resting comfortably, she stood next to him and took his hand in hers. At that very moment, she collapsed and died at his bedside.”

I looked at this nurse, completely perplexed, and asked her honestly – why would you tell me such a horrible story? I can see no happy ending here, anywhere. The nurse replied, “if you don’t make yourself the most important person in the world, this might be you dropping at his bedside as well. I see your needs going unmet and the estimate of your self-worth being pushed aside”.

This became my moment of truth. I wasn’t eating properly, lost sleep every night, I had physically exhausted my muscles and bones by lifting and moving objects far too heavy for me and worried about everything. My personal loss factor was at an all-time high, the future seemed bleak and yet I pushed on moment to moment without stopping to see the damage I was doing to me. I was fast becoming useless to both my husband’s care and myself as a human body with needs of its own. The losses were onerous to both of us.

Loss. There was plenty of it to go around.

He had lost his muscles, ability to walk, ability to apply his professional training, independence, self-esteem, opportunity to help his family in simple daily ways, well-being, sense of happiness and even bathroom privileges. Yet every day he woke up with a smile. I had lost my opportunity to be taken care of, evade moving 2 tons of snow by hand, have a conversation without discussing MS or physical symptoms, park my car in a convenient location, have dinner waiting for me when I came home from work, get a hug in a standing position, do an errand without a day’s planning, have someone bring me a simple glass of water, and ultimately a great chunk of my identity.

So right up until that moment that the visiting nurse took the rug out from under me, I did what many, (or most) of us who experience severe loss would do; I inadvertently embraced yet one more loss – my right to choice. Somewhere along the way I forgot that I was the most important person in the world. I pretty much give away my options, rather than clinging to them and giving them the precious, righteous   acknowledgment that they are.  However, through confrontation and examination of my current state of mind, I finally realized that choices never can be taken away; I could restore my ability to select the abundant pathway, re-discover that good health, happiness and freedom is right in front of me through choices that are right there with me all the time. This didn’t mean that I loved someone else less. It means that I loved myself enough to take care of my mind, body and spirit as it was meant to be cared for.

Restoring our use of options. How do we do that?

We awake each day and ask our glorious self the following question: “What do I need today?” Be honest about the answer. Then – set about meeting that need, whatever it may be. Ask for help, utilize whatever resources you have acquired, find new ones that get you where you need to go or be. Claim it, demand it for yourself by any means possible. You are the most important person in the world and this is your birthright. I am not suggesting your forgo your responsibilities to others, I am stating outright that you will be healthier, more at peace, and feeding the mind-body-spirit of your personal temple if you go the distance for and with YOU in the front of everything. What is good for you today? What will perfectly meet your goals today? What do you want today? Then, and only then, can you truly meet the needs of someone, anyone else!

Excerpt from Let GO and Let LOVE: Survivors of Suicide Loss Healing Handbook, CreateSpace Publishing, $12.87, paperback and ebook available September 2015.

CONTACT: Gabrielle Doucet

gabrielle@survivorhealing.com