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.
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