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Friday, January 4, 2013
Guilt and Love
As a Catholic, as an Italian, and as a Physician, I have a certain predisposition toward guilt. It worked on me as a child to get me to behave within certain expectations. Physicians in training are taught to put the needs of the patient before their own as a matter of course. Those that dare to question this are mocked as being 'unprofessional'. The last two weeks have landed me into a funk that was guilt-filled and very distressing.
As an anesthesiologist who is working full-time, my guilt-meter is off the charts when I or my children are not well. I spent a week sicker than a dog at work, because unless I am in the hospital as a patient, I better show up or there shall be cases cancelling with my absence. I feel guilty because as a health-care worker I am 'selling' health and clearly by being at work when I am ill I am at conflict with my 'product'. I spent one week, three weeks ago, caring for the son with the sinusitis that has not cleared since October. I was doing asthma nebulizer treatments around the clock, and generally exhausted from making sure that everything was going right for him while I kept the household running.
Then the Holidays came up, and it was my turn to host the family gathering. My house was a mess, total CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome) and I spent the first four days of vacation cleaning like mad around the house. Right up to company's arrival, the children and I were vacuuming and cleaning some more. Everything went beautifully. I wanted my sister who has been taking care of grandmother's new long-term care planning to have a break and relax.
The very next day, Mother got sick. All of our plans were scratched as everyone rallied to her bedside, never leaving her alone by taking shifts. The hospital is an hour-long drive from where I live. And after a while, the children started to show tell-tale signs of distress at not being with their mother--I had to make a choice. I was feeling drained beyond exhausted, and the family was starting to show signs of wear from the vigil. Meanwhile, Mother was telling me to shut up in front of her nurses, and her progress was stalling out because of her emotions (fear, not wanting change, not wanting procedures, not wanting to eat).
All the while, my dear friend Hope Johnson (The Way to the Way) has been posting things on her Facebook Account that were total Life Lines to me. I am talking, spiritual Live Saver on a Rope being thrown to a Drowning Person. For indeed, I was drowning in the Dis-Ease of expectations from my Family. Hope was posting things like, 'If you really Love somebody you will not accept their Dis-Ease and enable them.' and 'Real Love empowers you to take care of yourself first.' I don't paraphrase her with the justice she deserves, but she should know I really took her advice to heart at this time.
Last night, after paying the bills, changing a broken toilet seat, building modular wire storage shelving, and making meals/cleaning the kitchen, I took the family to a local amusement park where we have annual passes. Once there, in line for the roller coaster I love, I started to get panic texts from my sisters about mom. It was her first night alone in the Hospital, and I felt tremendous guilt and pressure to leave and go to her sickroom.
It struck me that my children were not as emotionally affected as I was, for I know they are especially close to their grandmother. 'It is time for Fun, mom' they said. I realized that their response was natural, and not conditioned like mine, with a hair-trigger reaction to guilt that had been programmed into me through my childhood. I saw the honest, child-like response to stress, to step back, regroup, and recharge.
It was my dream all day, to see the show with lights and fountains and colors. I had only seen it one time about a year ago. We had fought tremendous traffic to get there by five p.m. I let go. I enjoyed the roller coaster. I had tears in my eyes at the new Ghirardelli chocolate and ice cream store, as it was just like the one in San Francisco I had loved so much when I was in college and went to with my friends. We rode rides. I got my hat with the blinking ears. I saw my color show. I even bought a monorail 'train' set for the children, because Winter Break had been a big disappointment for all of us. Walking through the land of Cars with holiday decorations was magical. And even though the wait was more than two hours to ride Springs-Radi-8-tor ride (again, spelled that way to go under the radar of the internet corporate people), my heart was full.
While wearing my Mick-ey shoes, Tink-R-belle jacket, and blinky ears, carrying a huge bag with the monorail toy, a couple approached us, and asked, 'Do you have quickie passes for the Springy-Radi-8-tors?' Of course not! They run out at eight a.m.! They had enough for the entire family, and gave them to us, just like that! I screamed with the delight of the game show winner, with total surprise and glee. The kids jumped up and down. We made a bee-line for the ride.
I bought the picture of us on the ride. That is what a miracle looks like, I thought to myself.
And also, when the cup inside your heart is full of Joy and Life and Love, you are better able to take care of your loved ones. That is how it works, the Universe, and the Way of Light, Life, and Joy.
Sometimes Reiki Masters need to learn about Love all over again.