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Hidden Help

Friday night was spent at one of my favorite Southern Oregon locations, marked by gorgeous views, lovely music, countless familiar faces, delicious dinners from picnic baskets and local food trucks. The hours pass swiftly with the evening sunglow giving way to twinkle lights strung between the trees. As we pack up our blankets and chairs, we realize our children have played and danced collectively with not a single instance of refereeing required or complaint filed.

Walking back to the car I recalled a most spectacular evening celebrated one year and one week prior at this very same spot but underscored at that time by the eerie glow of a smoke-filled sky as wildfires crept ever closer to our town.

Two weeks after that fabulous Friday in 2018, I was navigating in a panic an earlier-than-expected departure for my family’s planned summer vacation back to our state of origin. As smoke poured through the vents of my office, I beseeched the airlines for mercy and was granted a penalty-free ticket change as our town was declared hazardous for children secondary to unbreathable air. We left in a rush, arrived in a tumult and would continue along a seemingly endless current of chaos.

The combination of smoke, stress and family responsibility found us re-transitioning to our state of origin seeking security in the world around us. There were many bright moments – new friends, professional opportunities, civic service, beloved lakes, smiling reunions and family gatherings – but our hearts were not whole. A return visit, ironically planned as a farewell moment, to our beloved hometown in Oregon highlighted further the connections in heart, unique community, shared values and priorities of this land that had called us west four years earlier. With a decision logistically inconceivable but emotionally indisputable to our quintet, we boomeranged back – structurally homeless but sheltered safely in the hearts and houses of the community that had so deeply become our family of choice.

On a spontaneous trip to the undeniably gorgeous Oregon Coast last weekend, getting the dose of open water I have learned is necessary for my well-being, I watched biggest and littlest run from the surf, relax in the breeze, swim in the river and hike endless trails. The return drive home was underscored by the movie Moana and as the driver, I could only listen to the words, presenting the message of the film in a whole new light. As Moana takes to the seas as an unseasoned, though genetically predisposed, voyager, she seeks help from the ocean…and gets a storm that capsizes her boat and renders her a castaway on a remote island. This does not align with the help she wanted, but it brings her precisely to the location where she will find the solutions she needs – within herself and in connection with external resources.

I sat with that for a long while (little choice on a long and winding drive through the mountains back home but I think I would have even if not captive in a vehicle). The help she needed WAS A STORM. The solution from nature BROKE HER BOAT. The greater wisdom MADE HER A CASTAWAY. In order to break through her preconceived ideas of what help might look like, the true and needed message had to be spoken loudly, in the form of tumult to be heard and expressed powerfully to overcome her resistance and take her where she needed to go.

I thought about this year and all the unexpected unfolding – personal and professional moments of deep and often painful reflection – barely coming up for air between waves of challenge and eventually sitting on the shore next to my own tattered sail. I surveyed my surroundings – at once familiar and uniquely beautiful in the new light of this experience.

I was both astonished and assured that a chaotic journey of 9000 miles had grounded me back the heartland of my family and, most importantly, in greater connection with myself.

In osteopathy we talk about ease and removing barriers – two important concepts in the pursuit, preservation and promotion of health. More often than not, the stories of my patients are filled not with stillness and calm but tsunamis of stress for the mind, body and spirit. Treatment sessions are often spent navigating a course through, to or within their health. We often discuss the last time they felt truly healthy or what a definition of health might be for them.

What if we did more to sit in the now, however it is, and listen for the beacon of health? What if we consider the storm as the most dynamic representation of health itself? What if we stop resisting and see where the tide takes us even in the most turbulent waters rather than forcing our opposing will on the situation? Where might we find ourselves? How might we find our health?

There is a fine line between surrender and defeat – the active acceptance that comes with the former, accompanied by a willingness to stay present and learn can make all the difference. In surrender to the tide with heart and mind wide open, we arrive at the same point on our life map, strengthened by new paths and trails blazed in tribulation. We reside in the place we have lived, now fully alive to all possibilities and potential. We face familiar challenges, free of the struggle and buoyed by the current. Nothing has changed but everything is different.

Fifty-three weeks later at the same location with the same music, same people, same scenery in a completely different atmosphere – no smoke to be found and a peace that could only be experienced relative to the pandemonium of the year that had ensued.

May we brave the storms that hold the help we need, carrying us to the shores of connection – to ourselves and the resources we need to realize our best health – finding resilience through vulnerability and home wherever we are.

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