Excuse me, Mr. Santorum, but it really does take a village. That has certainly been what it’s taken to keep me in the game since my first seizure on August 30, 2012. Although I am not yet out of the woods and seizure free, I am hopeful that I am on the right track and headed in that direction. If you don’t know what my mention of Mr. Santorum refers to here, in the Laser Provision, then I encourage you to read on. It will make you think and warm your heart.
In 1996, then First Lady and now Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote a famous book titled It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us. In 2005, then Senator Rick Santorum wrote a book in rebuttal titled It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good.As in most things, there’s an element of truth in both positions, but when I think back over the past four months • struggling my way through an unanticipated bout of seizures • I have to come down on the side of Secretary Clinton. It really does take a village.
My family has, of course, been crucial to my recovery. They have loved me beyond measure and have gone out of their way to care for me through the most troubled and troubling of conditions. Certainly, in earlier days, I would have been viewed as being demon possessed. But these are not earlier days and we know now how the body’s immune system can turn on the brain in destructive and visibly apparent ways. In my case, I just kind of lose consciousness while my face and or hand starts to twitch. Usually, in a matter of a minutes, it’s over. But early on, things got so out of control they had to put me into a coma for several weeks to stop the seizures. I’ve been coming around, gaining more and more consciousness and ability, for the past several months.
You can imagine how troubling this was for my family, starting first and foremost with my wife who was fortunately at home on August 30, 2013 when I had my first seizure at the top of a flight of stairs, lost consciousness, and slid down 14 stairs to the bottom. If she had not been home, I’m not sure what would have happened. I was injured but, miraculously, I did not break any bones. I don’t want to think the worst. Hopefully, I would have woken up eventually and managed to call 911. But I didn’t have to go there, because the first person in my village is my wife, Megan. She made sure I was taken care of.
That’s the context in which I would set the family. The family interfaces with the work and love of others. We can’t function well without strong family contexts, but we can’t have strong family contexts without strong villages.
Those villages begin with our extended families. My wife and I live alone, so it would be easy for something to happen in isolation. That does not provide the kind of support people need to make it through life successfully. Neighborhoods are one context of the modern village, but we do not spend time with and relate to our geographical neighbors such that they would think to care exceptionally for me through this immediate crisis. We just don’t have that kind of relationship. They’ll keep an eye out on the house, for example, but they will not sing songs to me as a lie sick and potentially dying in a hospital bed. That takes a different kind of village.
Fortunately, I have cultivated that kind of village through my own life and work. I was talking with my doctor daughter recently on the telephone about how thankful I was that she had been involved with my care and how fortunate it was that she knew so much about autoimmune limbic encephalitis. She chuckled and said, “I do now!” That’s what love will does. It not only “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7), love also “learns all things to help those we love.” My daughter’s joke makes the point well: love goes out of its way to do what it has to do for those we love.
My wife makes the same point whenever I apologize for how I have troubled her life. You haven’t troubled my life, she will respond in one fashion or another, this is my life. And so we go, seeking to learn what this time of wandering in the wilderness has to teach us. Maybe the secret is to stop wandering. One of my favorite poems comes from 1976 and the poet David Wagoner. Here were his reflections on life:
by David Wagoner •1976
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Where you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
How ironic that to get my seizures under control they had to make me completely still: they had to put me in a coma. Nothing moving. No thoughts. No feelings. At least not consciously. Completely still. Only then, as David writes, could I find myself and be found.
Since that time of finding, since waking up from my coma, I have been struggling to come back to life while listening to the stillness of life’s silences. And I could not be doing listening alone. Not even my family is sufficient to hear the forest breath. It takes a village including a wide public safety net with doctors, hospitals, and insurance. For those not so fortunate, public care, in my opinion, should be available at reduced or no cost.
As I write this Provision some guys are outside blowing the fall leaves off my yard and spreading mulch. Their company, Delightful Gardens, has donated numerous services around my yard while I have been down for the count, to help out my wife and me, and that is but one small example of how wide this village reaches. Friends and family from around the country have stepped up to the plate to keep me in the game. And I could not be more thankful.
So let that be a lesson to us all. The nuclear family cannot survive, let alone thrive, in isolation. It takes villages of all sorts to get through the ups and downs of life. And I encourage you to live accordingly.
Coaching Inquiries: How wide a net have you cast in life? How large is your village? What might enable you to reach even more people with the goodness of love? How could you be the kind of friend that others want to reach back to in love?
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Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.
Great to have you writing again. I’m just getting a chance to read your Provision, Crying Helps. My life has been way too busy. I have been following your progress from day one through my wife and updates sent. Looking forward to seeing you and your wife once time and health permits.
In retrospect to this Provision, my wife will tell you I’m very emotional. I cry watching happy and sad movies. I shed tears listening to songs on the radio. I cry when I hear good or bad things happening to others-anywhere. Sometimes it brings back memories of loved ones passed and sometimes of loved ones, how I feel about them and what they mean to me. Depending on the situation, it always makes me realize that things can be really good or really bad at any given moment.
I can’t dwell or worry about things I can’t control. It is only going to bother me IF I allow it to do so. I try to always to be positive, be forgiving, and look for the good, not try to pick at the trivial things. My wife asks me why I let very little worry or upset me. I tell her I’m not sure why, I just don’t, it is not worth the effort and lots of times it feeds into the mess someone else is creating.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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