Seven days ago my life shattered.
My partner of 12 years had a stroke and didn’t know his own name, or mine. We sped from home to Acute Ward where I was told due to the nature of his blood clot, he may or may not survive. I couldn’t breathe as he was wired to heart monitors and intravenous blood thinners.
My partner is not a stroke candidate. He is fit. He is strong. He is healthy. And right now he cannot speak, walk or use his right arm. My beautiful man needs two nurses to get him from bed to wheelchair.
A couple of days before his stroke we’d had a massive fight. He said things that were way out line and I was hurt and hardened to him. Maybe he was already off balance. Maybe he was already losing control. When the stroke hit and the paramedics arrived, nothing mattered except that he survived.
Sitting by his hospital bed I retraced my actions, and the actions I didn’t take.
Was there something I could have done differently that would have changed the outcome?
If we hadn’t been fighting would I have seen the stroke signs earlier?
Would my partner have told me sooner he was unwell if things were not so frosty between us?
It’s human to ask these questions in times like this. It’s human to feel in some way responsible and therefore wonder again and again: Was there something else I could have done? Something different? Something better?
And when it all gets boiled down we have one choice: Forgiveness or self-recrimination?
We can beat ourselves up for what we did or didn’t do. What we should or shouldn’t have done. Or we can accept and allow ourselves the space to not always know what was right at the time, whatever that means in context.
I choose forgiveness.
I choose forgiveness because it helps nobody if I don’t. If I close my heart to myself how can I be open to where we are?
How can I be there for him with a half-shut heart?
Why is this happening?
Why is my man lying in bed with a catheter and unable to speak?
The answer? I don’t know. But I know we’re meant to be here. Here in this place of heart-broken-heart-open. I know one thing about disasters and it’s this: They often catalyse love. They crystalize what’s important, and make us drop what’s not.
Disaster levels us. It shows us what’s real. And it can heal.
They look ugly and twisted but the hidden beauty is their power to bring us back together. Already I can see my partner’s family showing up for him in ways he hasn’t felt or seen for years. People are mobilising. Relationships are being renewed. The outpouring of love, support and pumpkin soup has been incredible. I’m so deeply touched. The worst situations remind us we belong to each other. They ignite connection and empathy in families, communities and countries.
The confronting truth is we don’t know when disaster will hit in our own lives or in those we love. Life is uncertain and unpredictable no matter how tame it looks when we pass the same stops every day on the train to work.
My life as I knew it is now in free fall. I have no clue where any of it will land. Work, money, writing, my relationship, all in melt down. Mostly I recognise a wakeup call when I see it and here’s one the size of a supernova.
I’m stripped back to my bare bones and know more deeply than ever:
There is only the present moment. I cannot think or plan beyond it.
There is really only uncertainty.
There is only trust that whatever happens or doesn’t, it is perfectly designed for our deepest evolution.
While all of this ricochets through our lives and the people all around us, I’ve been watching the beauty of vulnerability. Everyone who holds my partner’s hand feels it in him, and themselves. What a gift. What a bombshell reminder of how fragile the structures are all around us, and how strong and powerful we are when defenseless.
It hurts, it does. To see my partner lying there as helpless as a baby bird. To not know if he will ever come home to me. To be so uncertain of…well…anything.
Every day we have a choice to fight the events in our lives, or not. To wrestle them with our judgments or accept. How much control we have over how life unfolds, is debatable. But whatever the answer, we can always choose our response.
S**t will happen, that’s a given. All I need to ask is:
Am I able to allow what is happening and really flow with it rather than fight it?
Am I able to put myself aside and let my life unravel so I can really be there for him?
When life dishes up the worst possible situations am I willing to let them strip me down and show me what I need to see?
Here is my heart song from the stroke ward in Australia. From the man who cannot speak and the woman sitting next to him:
When disaster hits please let it rip you open.
Let the pain lead us into our hearts, not out.
Let it show us how much we love.
Let the horror tear down our busy schedules and kick us out of safety.
In the end it’s all about choice.
Are we going to let life’s heartbreak bust us open, or shut us down?
Author: Dettra Rose
Image: Flickr/Jenny Hudson
Editor: Travis May