history

history

A few years ago, I decided to allow my physical therapy license to lapse. There were many factors that led to this decision but at the core was feeling I had lost my edge as a physical therapist (PT). 

A few years before this decision was made, I remember sitting in a hospital with my family, days before my grandfather’s passing and confessing as much to myself as to  my mother, 

“There’s a problem when you no longer want to get patients out of bed, to cause them any more pain.”

I added this realization to chronic pain from years of lifting patients and it wasn’t a winning combination.

When the license renewal date approached, I was securely in a different line of work nor would I meet the required continuing education hours, I decided it made perfect sense to let my license lapse.

It was as simple as letting the date pass without any action.

*****

Fast forward to the first Friday in March, I drove to my son’s high school to volunteer with a parent I did not know. We arrived, set up for the task at hand, and chatted as we waited for students to stop by our window. We were both somewhere in our 50’s and she happened to mention she was a physical therapist. 

At that moment, I felt a crushing weight attached to my lapsed license. There seemed to be a voice shouting in my head to not mention a word about my past life as a PT so I obeyed and simply responded appropriately while she shared. 

As students began to meander past us and engage with what we were doing, we vacillated between talking and helping students. She mentioned physical therapy a second time and I was silent. 

The third time she made this reference, I summoned the courage to admit I had been a PT. She picked up on my past tense phrasing and inquired. I assumed a stance of explanation in an attempt to cover my embarrassment, bracing myself for a scolding from a stranger. Instead, she gently said, “It makes perfect sense why you made that decision. But you know, Oregon is pretty loosey-goosey about these things, you should really look into getting your license back.”  

The last of the students left the building and my volunteer partner uttered these parting words, 

“Think about it.”

I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe this was an ordained, a divine encounter. I have not seen this parent again because the school year ended the subsequent week due to COVID-19. But this conversation stirred something inside me and revealed unprocessed emotions stemming from this lapse. 

I took to my laptop, contacted my state’s licensing board to determine if I was eligible, and the necessary steps.  Life came to a standstill and I feared silence as the renewal deadline of March 31st approached. However, a few days later an email reply arrived with the requirements as well as confirmation that had I waited much longer, renewing my license would not be possible. Due to the Coronavirus restrictions, the renewal process was extended by two months giving me additional time to complete online continuing education and other examinations.

Last week, I received news that my license was approved and renewed. I knew the relief I felt when submitting all the files and documents to the licensing board. 
I surprised myself by throwing my arms in the air when I saw the congratulations email.

I don’t know if I will ever practice physical therapy again. This may sound suspect.

I didn’t go through the effort of regaining my license to start a new job. I went through the process because the title of a physical therapist is a part of my history. It’s a history I hadn’t realized was still important to me. 

I renewed my license not to rewrite or correct history but to rewire it. To rewrite my history would be to pretend the reasons for the lapse didn’t matter or exist. My history has been full of stops and starts, highs and lows, gaps and a lot of glue. By rewiring my history I am honoring every part of it, even when I may have been wrong or hasty. It’s creating a new pathway from one that no longer wholly functioned.

It’s never too late to change your mind.

It’s never too late to rewire your history.

The post I wrote two weeks ago struck a chord with many readers. I think it provided a perspective of the myth of all Americans experiencing life in the same way.  

Writing the words also stirred up pieces of my history I don’t often share and have been resistant at times to reflect upon. 

Over the last weeks, I have allowed myself to remember painful moments during my life. Some are stories I never told my parents until I was deep into adulthood. They are the accounts that wounded but I won’t allow being the definition of my life, only a section not the full extent of my history. 

As I begin to reflect on each of these shards of glass, whether young or older, I am allowing God to comfort all the Helens I have been as far as my history has been written. 

It’s never too late to flip through the pages of our histories and decide what to leave behind and what to pick up and carry. To wrestle with what places need to be healed and grieved as well as the parts to be molded and curated. 

It’s fascinating how our individual histories become merged with collective history shaping us in wonderful and horrific ways. If we are to be truth-tellers we cannot tear from our history books the parchment pages we are afraid to look at but laminate chapters that bring comfort.

Over the last few weeks, a stronger light has been cast on racial injustices and has undoubtedly created complex conversations and may have unearthed new information about our country’s history. There might be a multitude of emotions starting to simmer as you process. There may be sadness about the realities of oppression. There could be anger about why vast portions of history were not taught in school. I am wading through these emotions with you.

It takes courage to take a longer look from a different vantage point, using a telescope or magnifying glass as needed. We are actively making and hopefully rewiring history at this moment. 

Think about it. 

Don’t let this moment in time pass by without any action.

Will you rise from your bed, take steps that may feel shaky but help stop the pain of others?

The crushing weight you may feel is a call to action within your sphere of influence- your family, workplace, neighborhood, church, and community. You will not be scolded for walking towards unity and justice only if you ignore the shouting voice in your head to not help fix what has ceased to function for the whole of humanity.

We can rewire history.

*****

Rewiring history is going to take time and effort. There is a huge groundswell of action right this moment. But this is work for the long haul. One way to help keep some momentum is through history lessons. 

I have followed Marcie Walker’s Instagram account @blackcoffeewithwhitefriends for quite some time. However, it was only recently I became fully aware of the weekly history lessons she creates for Patreon subscribers called Mockingbird.

 When you become a paid subscriber, you receive a weekly history lesson and additional content. She allows subscribers complete access to every previously released history lesson, about a year’s worth of material. As she builds her Patreon support, she is able to fund the creation of a curriculum for students. Marcie is very generous as she offers the same amount of content no matter the giving level starting at as little as $1/month.

A 4-minute video sharing the heart of Mockingbird

A sample lesson

Mockingbird has been a worthy investment for me at this time. During the month of June, Marcie has been providing bonus mini-lessons inspired by the advice that Mr. Roger’s mom gave him when he was just a little boy and fretful of all that was wrong in the world, to look for the helpers.  Throughout the month of June, she is pointing out the helpers during one of our country’s most turbulent times in history: the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. 

*****

May we bravely look at history and endeavor to not repeat its mistakes.

May we push past quick-fixes and commit to a long haul pursuit.

May we recognize our voices carry as much weight in our homes, workplaces, communities, friendships as those rising from the streets.

May we think and rise from our slumber.

May we look forward to the day when we raise our arms in the air celebrating a rewired history.

Photo credit: Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

seeds of hope

seeds of hope

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Note: This is not the post I wrote earlier last week for today. Who knows, I might post that particular post sometime during the week. These are some of the words that began to percolate when my head hit my pillow last Friday night/early Saturday morning depending on how you look at the time after midnight. It seems audacious to write a pep talk when we are perhaps on the precipice of some very dark days in our history. It also feels hard as those of the Christian faith begin to mark Holy Week leading up to Easter. But my heart began to race as laid on my pillow and then rose to scribble some words in the dark before I returned to my covers. 

*****

A few posts ago, I mentioned my intention to plant nasturtiums along our fence line.

Later on, I realized I hadn’t explained the significance.

There are have been markers in my life, you could call them signposts in nature which have been instructive as well as given me hope, especially during times of trial.

Ladybugs have been one, dragonflies are another and of the flowering variety, nasturtiums.

Nasturtiums seeds are hard and wrinkly, I think they resemble little brains.
The seeds can be large or small, in various hues of brown. A seed packet might suggest nicking or sanding the seeds with a file or even soaking them in water for quicker germination.  They can be planted in full sun or part shade. They grow best in poor soil, in fact, if heavily fertilized, the seeds will produce mainly leaves and few flowers. They can endure outside attacks as I can attest as one summer, an animal developed the habit of digging up the plants during the night. Each morning after plenty of sighing,  I would pat the roots back into their patches of the earth. In spite of this harsh treatment, the plants flourished and continued to bloom into the winter. They are a species that welcomes neglect to bring forth beauty to the eye as well as a peppery taste to the tongue.

We come in all shapes and sizes, beliefs and ideals, hopes and dreams, burdens and concerns yet we are united by this time of crisis.

I don’t know what each one of you has already faced or will in the days and weeks to come. 

What I do know is that each one of us is resilient. 

We are resilient people.

We can be like the nasturtium seed.

We can thrive in the midst of the worst possible conditions.

We can let our only hardness be that we are not easily crushed by the weight of trials but continue to retain the softness of our hearts.

May this time of isolation refine us by sanding off our rough exteriors and exposing our empathy and generosity. 

Burying a seed into the ground is an act of faith coupled with hope. It’s easy to feel buried behind our windows and doors and masks and gloves. 

We can feel hidden and alone.

We lose track of days and wonder if anything is happening for the better.

It is the same when visiting a planted plot of land, there is a longing for signs and evidence of growth. It requires hope to believe there is movement when it can’t be witnessed by the eyes.

Sometimes the only visible signs are weeds. And just when growth is seen, creatures tread upon the earth desiring to tear at the fragile leaves or unearth and destroy the roots

Be resilient.

You were made for this time, some days the sun will shine brightly and other days are full-on shady.

You can endure, no matter the weather.

Bury your seed, your life, as a hope,  your offering in solidarity with the world.

Get cozy in your home soil.

Look to the right and the left and see the other seeds dug down deep beside you. Seeds are always meant to be spaced apart for maximum yield. 

We are waiting in shielded sight together.

No matter what threatens your peace, keep clinging to the earth.

Keep assuming the position.

Let’s wait for the day together when our roots are made strong, reaching deeper than we believed and our blooms erupt in glorious color at the appointed time.

I am waiting and watching with you.

 
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Image

welcoming back words

For years, I had buried words deeply into the earth

and I feared they were beyond hope of emerging.

If you picture an avalanche, the initial sliding snow

is relatively small, like frozen skidding pebbles, seemingly innocent.

As the speed increases, more snow becomes entangled with force

and anything in the path of an avalanche is obliterated.

I felt an unparalleled ambush of words, illustrations and images.

Notebooks were scattered all over the house for

quick retrieval to scribble down ideas.

I am sure I possessed a glazed expression as I

tried to upload the words coursing through my mind.

I am also sure it wasn’t always a joy to live with me.

After taking a few writing courses,

I started to gather scraps of courage

to share my writing beyond my journals.

What was I to do about physical therapy?

How does one who entered the field to help people

announce the need to exit?

It felt so counter and harsh to admit this reality.

However I could barely care for my family

much less physically shoulder the needs of patients.

I feared I would disappoint the people in my life by saying

I was abandoning the profession.

Undoubtedly I had put a lot of effort into becoming a P.T. but

others had been a tremendous help and support.

Was I going to let them down in the process of following my heart?

I recently heard author Sue Monk Kidd  explain her decision to no longer

be a nurse. She knew nursing was one of the noblest of professions

and she had chosen it because it was traditional and safe.

She recalls that she was a pretty good nurse, she cared,

did her best but she never felt as if it were her true

place of belonging.

She felt homesick for home.

When she began to write, it was a homecoming.

She believes it takes courage to find out what lies

at the bottom of our hearts.

I could have expressed the same sentiments.

I was a pretty good physical therapist.

I worked hard, I cared deeply about my patients but I

never felt exhilaration in the way I did holding a pen.

I did not work outside the home in any capacity until Caleb was 8 years old.

I decided to give physical therapy another try.

Perhaps after this long absence, the old feelings wouldn’t resurface.

My first day of holding a list of patients to treat, I felt nervous and rusty.

As I was working with my second patient, her two sons anxiously hovered

as I positioned a walker before her wheelchair.

She had emphatically told me she was not going to walk today.

Perhaps this is why I loved working with children, it doesn’t

occur to them to answer no to your requests.

I gently told this sweet lady, I was there to help and

all she needed to do was make an attempt.

She amazed herself and her sons by raising to stand and taking

some slow shuffled steps.

I placed just the right amount of contact on her back to keep her

moving forward, out of the corner of my eye,

I saw one of the sons writing something and putting a piece of

paper on my clipboard.

At the end of the session, I gave my final instructions and issued

a good-bye to this precious family.

As I walked back to the office to tackle the computer

charting system, I glanced down at my clipboard and

saw this note:

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I set my clipboard down and I touched the words written by one of the

equally concerned sons.

I had extended simple kindness and expertise and considered it the natural

course of my work day.

To this dear son, it was everything.

I worked another 6 months and it became apparent

a shift in my heart had not occurred as well as aspects

of the practice had flown past me in my absence.

I also needed physical therapy myself for a neck injury.

At this juncture, I don’t know if I will work again in this field.

On the first day back in the trenches, what others

saw in me, despite feeling awkward and out of

practice was Christ in me, the hope of glory.

This was the visible reality of what others had

always seen leaning against each hospital bedside and kneeling

before wheelchairs.

There is no other way I can describe how

God worked through me repeatedly in spite of my weakness.

Two letters following my name allowed me to present an offering

to each patient on the hallowed ground of need.

Physical therapy had been a vehicle for His glory.

Writing was just a different make and model purchased

by the same God.

**********

To be continued…

The last post (I promise) tomorrow.
This post is from a series called A Work of Heart History.
Feel free to read the other posts here, here and here.