“It looks like your daughter needs spinal surgery.” It was April 13th and my mind was unable to process these words from my daughter’s scoliosis doctor. The news was a complete departure from the message he shared six months prior, “She’s stopped growing, guys. You’re out of the woods.”
My first reaction was similar to the one I had when I heard my father had passed twenty-four years ago. “There must be something else we can do. This can’t be final.” I tend to jump into a let’s-fix-this mode when faced with a reality I don’t particularly like. Little did I know that my need to seek alternatives to this surgery for my daughter, would lead to healing some of my own wounds and to fortifying my ability to achieve balance.
My marriage ended almost eight years ago and my ex and I do a good job co-parenting our three amazing kids. Most of our co-decisions come easily as many of the common issues were accounted for in our divorce agreement. However, I didn’t foresee all those years ago that I would become a strong proponent of incorporating CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) into preventative and disease care. While in theory, holistic health is something my ex agrees with, when it comes to some healthcare issues for our children, we tend to find ourselves on opposite ends of the conversation.
My current views on health are a pretty major departure from my pre-divorce life where my mind, body and spirit balance was achieved with a combination of Xanax, antibiotics and my rabbi. As an entrepreneur in the integrative health industry, I certainly want my kids to benefit from my more recent knowledge and experience. But in this case, I began to realize it could be more important to my daughter’s health to take a step back and release my need to have things done my way.
Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t silenced my voice. Within five days of hearing the news, I compiled my list of good doctors and alternatives to explore as well as natural methods to help my daughter prepare for and recover from surgery if we go that route. I was well entrenched in my let’s-fix-this mode.
Not surprisingly, my ex and my daughter did not share my enthusiasm. In fact, in as many days as it took me to compile my list of options, they had both become excited about the idea of surgery and the resulting corrected spine. My research was just prolonging the inevitable. Additionally, my daughter wanted to recover at her father’s house instead of mine, which left me feeling heartbroken.
After some reflection, I realized that much of my pain was generated from my need for my daughter to want to heal my way. As much as my body and mind resisted initially, I knew on some level that I needed to open my heart to move through this with clarity and compassion.
Et voila! Here’s the part where I make breakthroughs for myself. Below the surface, questions of self-worth are tied up in whether my teenage and adult children find value in my work and adhere to my advice. The same exists in having a valued voice in my post-divorce relationship with their father. The scoliosis crisis brought these underlying challenges to the surface. So I sat, reviewed and re-imagined not only a more productive outcome for everyone, but a more powerful and compassionate vision of myself.
While this was not the most pleasant way to gain clarity about some things that were holding me back, the lessons learned were good ones.
1. Stress impedes healing. My daughter feels she will have an easier, less stressful time recovering at her father’s house. Hurt feelings aside, I agree and I support her and will be there to help however she needs.
2. Patience and space leads to reflection and self-healing. A breath (or ten) and a change in vantage point, mindset and perspective allowed me to see more clearly and step out of reaction mode.
3. Treat myself with compassion for better decision-making. The differing opinions on how to proceed here were not judgments about my beliefs. I created that. When I believed I was being judged, I closed my heart to the possibilities of healing for myself and for my daughter.
When you look back over the past seven or eight years of your life, do you see major changes, or departures? I bet you’ve seen a slew of new relationships, business opportunities, travels, losses, expansions, old flames rekindled and new talents discovered. We all know what “they” say about hindsight and lessons learned. Divorce attorneys do their best to predict the future so we avoid these tough parenting decisions, but as much as this one hurt, it also turned out to be an invitation to achieve a deeper level of health and awareness.