Lindsey Shiflett Smith
It's been a few weeks since I have had the full use of my hands. I can't stop marveling at the ability to experience the little things like riding in the car and feeling the air flow between my fingers. For five months I sat in my house unable to drive, use a computer, open a jar, cook for my son, or most things that require the bending or moving of your hands. It is quite a humbling experience to be 30 years old in a restaurant and have your friend cutting up your food for you so you can eat. As you can imagine, I had to work very hard to stay in a positive place. The doctors and therapists were telling me to begin accepting that my hands would be paralyzed for the rest of my life and to simply get tools to assist me in my daily activities. I couldn't accept that. I wouldn't. I spent my days in meditation which allowed me to receive peace and move through my illness with a level of acceptance. Acceptance in the fact that in order to heal I had to give my body rest and know that was okay. There were phases where I would feel a sort of shame over the stagnation of my business and the overall helplessness of it all. I'm not one to sit on the sidelines and I felt like the universe was making me just stop...stop it all. Occasionally I would have friends come by and bring me coffee or pick me up for a date but, after 5 months it started to feel like the imprisonment was worse than the disease. And when you are in a situation like that, people don't know what to say or how to handle it which is understandable. You grow tired of the "you are strong and you will fight this," which is nice but seems so empty after a while. I finally just said, "the best thing that you can do for me is be here with me, where I am at. Say 'this sucks but I'll show up.'" There had to be an allowance for days of incredible strength and days of incredible sorrow. There were those who showed up in such beautiful ways- picking me up and giving me free sessions of Aromatouch therapy, gifting me Pranic healing sessions, sitting with me, fundraisers, reiki, paintings and just serving me in such loving ways. I learned quickly how much love was about receiving as much as anything else.
To give you an idea what my hands were like, imagine if your pinky, ring and middle fingers were glued together and stiff so that they could not even bend as a whole. That was my handicap.
So here I am spending all these days in my house and it really starts to challenge my ideas of home, love, friendship and what it all means. The place where I lived began to feel like just a building to me. My soul was so thirsty for wilderness. It became so clear the things that I was needing and what I was not. If you remove all of the interference from your experience, it is amazing what is revealed to you. Suddenly something changed and it all felt alright. I felt like I was given this gift of solitude. I began not only meditating for myself but dedicating time in thought and healing for others. I didn't know why I was experiencing what I was going through but I knew I had turn it into something good. I wouldn't make it through if I didn't. I didn't just want to be okay.
It was important to maintain a level of transparency through it all. I would not keep up an appearance for the sake of social media. So I wrote my stories of it's not alright. Letters began to flood in from men and women with stories of pain and disease. Whatever reach I had, it had to be used for truth and love and a way to gather our own sort of strength. Sadly, I watched as people began to unfollow me as I got more personal. I don't do well with pretending and accepting Makers Workshop's status was a very difficult road. In ways I felt like I was doing something really helpful to a lot of people but I was getting so far removed from what I had set out to do. Was that the point in it all? One of the greatest things we can learn as creatives is that it's okay to admit to and accept the journey and whatever it looks like. My heart broke as I turned down work because I was just physically unable to complete the tasks required. There is a tattoo on my arm that means 'to live a simple life and work with your hands.' I stared at it every day wondering how I could continue to live in that idea that was so important to me.
In August, I arrived at physical therapy and I was told it would be my last session. "We don't think we will see any improvement," they said. Of course I felt defeated, angry, sad, and everything else. That same night I decided to go to a talk by pranic healing Master Stephen Co. Afterwards two of the men who had given me healing before introduced me to Master Co. As everyone left the hall for the reception, Master Co. asked if I would wait so that he could work on me. My heart was beating so fast. I sat in the chair, removed my hat, my shoes and closed my eyes. For 15 minutes I sat as Master Co worked on the blocks in my brain and spine. I was dizzy with the massive amount of energy pouring into my body. He asked me to stand and turned his focus to my hands. If you can imagine someone pulling long strings out of the ends of the tips of my fingers, that is what it looked like. "Shake your hand." I shook, my hand turned white and my fingers began to wiggle with ease. I looked at him with tears rolling down my cheeks and said quite bluntly, "are you fucking kidding me?" Everyone who had stayed to watch was in tears. He finished my right hand with the same result and with a demeanor as if he changes the course of peoples lives on a daily basis saying, "they look alright to me." I drove home that night.
I had started to envision my life without hands and now suddenly I had them. To go back to life as it was before seemed like a waste. What was it all for? I still don't know exactly. And so here I am. It's not as if life can just pick right back up. There was and is still healing to do. People ask me all the time what I wanted to do most when I couldn't use my hands and what I thought about most was probably holding hands with someone. Suddenly that seemed like the most intimate and best thing there could be. That and rock climbing. So, this Sunday I'm meeting up with a friend for my first lesson on the wall. Work is slowly trickling back in and I'm eager to dive back in fully. I'm sitting at my favorite coffee shop right now and I drove myself here and that on it's own feels like a million bucks. I've learned a few things in these last months; I've learned that darkness is only dark as you let it be. That real community is one of the greatest things there is. That nothing is ever just as you plan but that doesn't mean you fail. And that I'm as strong as a mother f'r. This was the hardest year of my life and as my birthday nears, I cannot help but think of all of the things I have to celebrate....that this is only the beginning.
I'll never stop rallying for you as you have for me. We have so much to do. So much to be.