~ I woke, in the ambulance, and there was only her. Her face above me, like a sun that eyes could stand, and she stroked my hand as she had once stroked my hand the first time I’d met her.
“I love you,” she said.
And I knew the point of love right then.
The point of love was to help you survive.
The point was also to forget meaning. To stop looking and start living. The meaning was to hold the hand of someone you cared about and to live inside the present … The ever-moving, ever-changing present. And the present was fickle. It could only be caught by letting go.
~ Peter A. Levine, one of the world’s sages of healing from trauma — a true artist of what I call traumorphosis — writes in his book, In An Unspoken Voice, of being hit by a car while he was crossing a street. In an instant, he went from strolling to a friend’s birthday celebration to being flattened on asphalt, paralyzed and unable to breathe. What was his first saving grace? A pedestrian who quietly sat down beside him and identified herself as a doctor, asking Peter (while paramedics were assessing his injuries) how she could help.
“Please just stay with me,” Peter told her … and she held his hand and his eyes with such tender composure that he began to tremble with tears and a first shudder of release from shock. Emotion set in … presence. “Her outreach and physical touch,” he writes, “provide a source of orientation.” Her softening gaze, and the scent of her perfume, further allowed a “sense of stabilization and relief.” Most of all, Peter knew that he was not alone.
~ Please just stay with me …This is so often all that we need. A few months ago, I was at a birthday party, sitting at a round table with seven friends, sharing a meal. Since my brain injury last summer, to be with more than one other person can overwhelm my capacity to track sensation with my eyes, ears, and skin. Seven folks, passing food and happily gabbing, was too much. I sensed a leave-taking: a numbing around my head and a blurring of sight. Panic, setting in. I stood up, left the table, and walked into my friend’s living room. Sat on the couch and wrapped myself in a blanket, laying a hand on my solar plexus, telling myself to breathe.
"Stay here … Stay now."
The host of our party, being a mother of a child who has autism, understands sensory overwhelm and how to soften it. She sat beside me, asked me what was happening, and with my permission, drew my head to her chest, right over her heart. My right ear lay over the rhythm of life; she covered my left with her hand. She tucked us both into the blanket and breathed deep. She stayed with me … and stayed until I could orient myself enough to look around, notice where I was, and begin to move again. I sat up, and two more friends joined us. Each friend held one of my hands, and one laid a presencing hand on my thigh. We shared gazes and quiet conversation — checking-in questions and simple, soothing talk. Eventually we all returned to the table, and dessert was served …
We hold to sustain … to soothe and to soften … to guide one another home.
(Photo: “Hands of Love” … artist unknown. My thanks to you.)