Sunday, May 15, 2011

Day 468: Greater than through love and support: Journey with the Cape Fear Heart Walk and Adam Freeman

The last time I was on a rollercoaster it was 1996 and I was still at Carolina. I convinced my Area Director to let me take a bunch of international students to Carowinds for a "cultural" experience. So loaded up with a bunch of Brits, a Chinese med student, someone from Italy, France, and a few other Europeans, we piled into a campus van and off we went.

I will never forget getting on that coaster. It was the big one...the "scream your guts out and loose all sense of pride and self respect" ride. But, alas, I was their Resident Assistant and I was determined to suck it up and "take it" silently on that thing. I got in the car..thinking i knew what was coming..but frankly not sure. I got stuck in the little car with my resident from Italy. She was petite and spoke little English. I say stuck because she was scared to death and needed reassurance. Here I was scared out of my mind and I was giving an oscar winning performance to say the least. I needed to at least look like I was ok so I could be there for her..and off we went.

The car pulled out and we began this slow, lumbering incline. The climb was as terrifying as any part of journey because of the heights...and the slow pace completed the anxiety for setting up the ride to come. We creaked and lunged forward to the top and when we finally got was as if we were held in suspension for a moment. Everthing stood still and then, in a flash...we were off. My stomach lept into my mouth, my heart ceased to beat and if I breathed I was unaware. But i felt every turn, every new hill...and we kept moving forward..plunges that were pleasurable were met with sharp turns that knocked the breath out of my body and caused me to whimper. Every time i felt a sense of joy or a sensation of freedom it was followed with a shut down of pressure or a turn or what has to be described as pain. And I was riding with someone else. I was not alone and I could not let my own feelings go without communicating and reacting to her...

This was a journey we shared in all its intensity and at every turn, it actually was comforting that I was not alone, but there was something that I did not do well: I did not scream, laugh, cry or share..I held my breath and tried to look stoic during the experience and not let her know how afraid I was thinking that would be helpful to her. I was also prideful, thinking I should not let others see my emotions. I wonder to this day what she must of thought. I do know that my back was hurting so badly at the end of the ride from trying to stay so stiff during that ride and that I literally had a hard time walking when we do to the end. I was so pent up. I did, however, learn that I could get through such a ride, and that was pretty amazing, but i still had a lot to learn about connecting during intense times.

So, why this story about the coaster? Well...I blogged a little about this week...but that is how I felt this week and how I felt lately. I have been on a rollercoaster of experiences and emotions. Like that experience in 1996, I have not been alone, but unlike that experience, I have grown and have been able to share how I feel and while it has been happening feel it. As a result as I write my body is not sore, I am feeling a sense of ease, and I have not done some of those things that I used to do that would have stuffed or filled emotional voids along the way.  What an extraordinary gift. What blessings.

Wednesday I wrote just enough to release the valve of all that was going on. Yes, it is that time of year for me in my work where our students are finishing and there are so many bittersweet celebrations of graduations and rites of passage and success. It is such privilege to work in a profession where I get to watch these young men and women evolve and grow into such amazing contributors and they give me such hope.

One of the rushes of this week was the connections that were made with them as they were transitioning out this year. I can promise you that more valuable than money or any thing is a hand written note from a student that says how they feel about what you did or something to that affect. I sometimes feel like my Aunt Thelma who I believe when she passed had every card that anyone ever sent her over her life time stored in a box. I have every card from every student. They mean the world and like Thelma, there is just no way to let them go or not to hold them tight and be so very grateful. I literally treasure grateful. 

But when that rush was taking effect, I got the call...My friend and one of the men I have literally revered in this community for years succumb to cancer Thursday morning. Gary Shell was one of the biggest influences in my life over the last 10 years as I worked with him as a volunteer on his board for Parks and Rec...but he became such a good friend..someone I..well, treasure. Thankfully it was my mother who called me to say that she had heard. I was running errands and moving through the library office when she called..moving so fast through the day and all that had to be done.. and as she told me it stopped me dead in my tracks. As I got off the phone, my friend Jen saw the look on my face and grabbed me and I lost it. I hit that bank..that curve..that intensity...and I was not alone and becuase she was there...I was able to grieve. So grateful. I went into the staircase nearby and called his brother and connected and we even laughed and shared some time remembering. We will have time to do the memorial soon...but in the midst of all the craziness, there was time to feel, to connect, to grieve.

I will stop before this gets to be a litany of ups and downs, but to suffice to it to say, it has been a rollercoaster..and frankly..that has been ok for a lot of reasons. But the most important of which has been the connection to people and when that connection is made acknowledging those feelings and really showing them.  Not pretending or trying to be something someone else might want me to be (as I did on that coaster), or stuffing what I am feeling and hurting myself.

If you have read this journey you know the connectors: Windell, then Ashley and Kristi, to Adam then Kayleigh...and then from there as the journey began all the folks who have shared each day, have joined in, who have been inspirational and who continue to be "the gift" of a power much greater than myself.
These are the "true friends" expecations of ledger being kept of what he did or she did vs what I is us doing and out of that so much good can come...and no, there is no need to ever have to say thank you to each other..but becuase it is real, we do. And they are the most beautiful thank yous in the world.

What, if anything that I have learned over the years is to see the connections, see the perfection in how love works through events, people, situations and has the power to heal, power to transform, to create something so special..genuine..more than just personal gain, influence, or wealth, but real and transmutable, transmittable relationships of community and love! It is so perfect in its own way...well, it must be, becuase I see God in all of that, working through that, and living in all of that.

We have had, Michael and I, one of the best weekends we have had in a very long time. After all this rollercoaster, it was time just to be..and we did. We played  in a zoo..ate at the greek festival and created something special for each other and to share with our friends and family....I am breathing more happily than I have in a long time...and still just amazed.

I am ready for the coaster anytime...would prefer a lighter ride...but I am not the determiner...I will take it as it comes, but be I hit the highs and lows, I am gonna share it...and if that connects and transmits...well, thanks be to God.

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