heal

I can’t start writing on the prompt “heal” without mentioning my dad. Three weeks ago he had a massive heart attack that easily could have taken his life. Four separate times he was spared, by the grace of God and the work of skillful doctors and nurses. He is still in the first 30 days of recovery, which is crucial in determining the extent of recovery possible. I keep praying for healing. Did you know that tiny new arteries can grow through damaged tissue, carrying new life, and helping it heal? Grow, arteries, grow!

Sometimes the need for healing is subtle. Especially if there is little or no pain. Yesterday I found that I have a bone bruise in my foot. Sounds painful but it isn’t. There is a small amount of swelling that causes some popping in the joint, which is at most annoying. Wearing athletic shoes prevents the popping, and so voila, nothing is “wrong” with my foot! Until the doctor massages deep into the tissue to touch the bone itself, and it smarts.

I had a phone call with my collaborator at another university yesterday. We talked shop until I realized she knew nothing about my advising professor deserting the lab, leaving my institution and trying to push me to finish my PhD in the next 1.5 years. With precisely zero guidance from him. Suddenly her tone changed and her message became “Take care of yourself” and “You deserve a good mentor” and more particularly “You can’t publish a paper or finish your PhD without a good mentor” and “You need to leave your lab now and get a good mentor even if it takes you years longer to finish and you have to abandon your project”.  She means well, and as a side note, I’m not totally sure that she is right. There are plenty of students who have finished their PhDs with less than great mentors. But that’s another discussion.

Despite my desire to deny the truth of her words, somewhere deep inside, there is pain. A hurt that few circumstances can finagle down deep enough to massage, a bone bruise of sorts. A fear that she is right. That I’ll never amount to anything without the right guidance – in my career or in my life. A pain of what i have not been given. Yet a retort that no one deserves anything. How can someone tell me I deserve a good mentor/advisor now, when by the same logic, doesn’t every child deserve to be raised by loving and healthy mother and father? Yet the world is full of devastated childhoods. I have certainly not experienced the worst of what many children do, but growing up with a mentally ill mother will leave a mark. Growing up with a father who denied said illness will leave a question. Am I worthy of being taken care of? Ever….by anyone? Could I really deserve a good mentor for my career, when I’ve mostly lacked that for my life? Can I truly choose what I want/need now, in a situation where I do have power, when I could not choose then and somehow God was still good and in control? These questions are too deep for my emotional capacity, so I support myself with whatever athletic shoes I can find so that I can forget about that down-deep bone bruise. But the absence of pain does not mean there is no need for healing.

(Five minutes are up but the thought isn’t quite finished)…

As I’ve grown up, healing has certainly come in this area of my life. Often new seasons, new circumstances that poke the hurt spots are God’s gentle way of bringing us to the next level in a long journey of deeper healing. I have learned that sometimes it’s all you can do to experience the pain for a short time. Today, I have bravely sat with these emotions for 5 minutes, aware of the pain, most importantly with God in the pain. Now it is up to the Healer to do his work.

Joining, as usual, with Five Minute Friday.

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10 thoughts on “heal

  1. I love how brave you are. To allow yourself to feel the pain, to allow yourself to think this through but at the same time never taking your eyes off of Papa. That is the true courage and when we place our hope in Him He will never disappoint us!

  2. Katy, I so admire your stalwart spirit! You’re an inspiration – and the thesis for this essay, the need for healing in the absence of pain, is a subject you handled beautifully.

    I’ll keep your father – and you – in my prayers. Yes, new arteries can grow, and nerves can regenerate as well. I may have mentioned Bella The Miracle Dog; her back was broken, and she was tossed into a flooded to die (she’s a 10-lb terrier mix).

    As time has gone on – even though her spine was completely broken and displaced – she began getting responses in her hind legs. Then she re-learned how to wag her tail. Now she can walk, with some lateral support (the muscles aren’t yet strong enough to prevent sidesway and a fall).

    Through it all she’s shown an indomitable spirit, and she regularly terrorize dogs up to fifteen times her weight. Perhaps ‘bellum’ would have been a better name, for war is truly in her blood.

    On the subject of mentors – when I got my doctorate I had probably the biggest name in the seismic engineering business, but it didn’t much help. He was a good mentor in that he pretty well stayed out of my way, with only occasional suggestions to keep me on course. He let me develop my own research style.

    But it didn’t help because his fame gave him more enemies than friends, and people didn’t want to hire one of his students for a faculty position – just to put a stick in his eye.

    But I liked working for him. When I rewrote my dissertation (he had asked for a number of changes, not too many) he said he wanted to see it before I submitted it officially. It was about 500 pages. When I brought it to him (on paper, in a box), he took it from my hands, opened the box, and then closed it again. “OK, I’ve seen it.”

    M.J.N. Priestley. He died in New Zealand, his homeland, in 2014. He is missed.

    • Thanks for the prayers, and for the inspiring story of your amazing Bella!

      And your mentor sounds a bit like the kind that mine has been, and it’s a style that I’m totally okay with. I had a strong sense of direction when I started in his lab. My interests didn’t quite line up with his, only with his equipment and the technical expertise of the lab, so I knew I was forging my own path from the get-go. Luckily a post-doc in my department has parallel interests so we can discuss ideas. Really what more can you ask for in the suffocating-ly narrow and lonely mines of academia?

      When people get all alarmed about the situation because my professor is not around, they don’t realize that his involvement actually impedes progress. It’s actually a relief to me to think that I can write a paper on my own after watching the painful process it was for labmate to write with him (sitting in the office each with a computer opened to the same google doc, both typing at the same time and arguing over every.single.word.)

      And haha! “OK I’ve seen it”. Today they just open the email it’s attached to (and then delete said email)…much less wasteful.

      • Katy, Bella blows you a kiss! She had a full day of scaring Pit Bulls and Rotties, and is resting on her laurels. Her bite is WAY worse than her bark, and a couple of the big bruisers have pierced noses to prove it.

        Post-docs are a tremendous resource. They’re the NCOs of academia, the real professionals. I was told by a disgusted Senior Academic A** that I should have stayed a post-doc, and could thus have kept my plebian ways out of the Faculty Lounge. I happily agreed, and I thought the dude’s head would explode. He hadn’t meant it as a compliment.

        Some people do need micro-managing, but it sounds like you don’t, and I’d encourage you to work the post-doc underground to find a mentor who fits those criteria. I lucked out; I might have wound up with a dude who was a hideous slave driver (though he became a great friend) had I not totally failed a class I took from him. There’s a long story behind my PhD; the upshot is that I had the lowest GPA to ever graduate the program, and they changed the rules to make sure it could NEVER happen again.

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