3 Truths About Relationships in the Belly of the Cave
June 15, 2017 | Posted in: chronic illness; support
If like me, you’ve known sickness of any kind, or even simply walked through a particularly difficult time in your life, you’ve most likely also experienced a myriad of responses from those close to you. Perhaps, the people you expected to love and support you best ghosted at the onset. Click To Tweet Maybe the people you least anticipated being the heroes in your story showed up on the scene and continue to show time and time again. More than likely you have your fair share of folks who are convinced they are stronger and more intelligent than you, capable of curing you if only you’d do everything exactly they way they’ve instructed you to, time and time again (you know, exactly like they would. Their way has to be the right way, right?)
What’s the root cause beneath these vastly different responses? Why are some friends capable of offering up a beautiful, selfless love while others simply cannot resist the urge to fix, meddle, or vanish? How do we find the support we need while our body’s fail, without opening ourselves up to further hurt and criticism?
Over the weekend, my husband and I went away together to celebrate our anniversary. I knew the area we were in was known for exciting cave adventures and also I knew I wanted to partake in these adventures. The only problem was, they all seemed to be “Stacey-proof” noting they required “physical endurance, a strong immune system, and no heart issues.” After much research I found a guided cave adventure lasting only forty-five minutes and requiring only a half-mile of walking, even inviting children to join in. Score! This was my kind of cave adventure.
While enjoying our adventure into the cave, I couldn’t help but notice the parallels between cave exploring and walking out a life with chronic illness.
- You don’t throw a party in the cave- Upon reaching the belly of the cave, our guide instructed us to turn our flashlights off. We stood in total darkness and silence for a moment. Then a flash of red danced on the ceiling where huddled families of bats tucked inside the cave ceiling became visible. Apparently, bats aren’t big fans of lights or noise. (Just like me!) They get a bit angry when lights and noise show up in their home. When the company took the cave over they became very protective over the wildlife living in the caves, including the bat population which had dwindled tremendously, it seems because of a great deal of partying that was occurring in the caves. The caves, the guide explained, are sacred ground and should be treated as such. You don’t throw parties here. We stood in the dark looking up at the bats, careful not to shine our lights on them and I fought the urge to cry. Why were people unable to understand this? You don’t throw a party in the dark places of life. They, after all, are sacred holy ground. You don’t show up with your flashlight shining a light on all the things you believe someone can and should be doing better. You walk on the holy ground with tenderness and respect to be invited in. Who can follow the cave rules? That’s who gets their entrance ticket stamped.
- Beware the narrow passageways- My husband and I assumed our position at the back of the group along with a Dad and his four-year-old daughter. I knew I’d move slowly and I didn’t want to hold anyone up. I watched this Dad lovingly hold his sweet girl’s hand, talking her through the various points of interest, soothing her when she was unsure, and then we reached a narrow passageway. We each had to crouch down, think skinny, and shimmy through the space one by one. I watched as Dad let go of his little girl’s hand and gently pushed her ahead of him while he talked her through the space where he could not go. Again, I saw the days of chronic illness. There are simply some places in our journey so narrow we must go alone. Click To TweetOthers may talk us through, but ultimately, we will walk those portions alone. It’s here; we learn we’re stronger, braver than we knew.
- There’s unexpected beauty on the other side- Those who are willing to travel with us to the belly of the cave also get to enjoy the unspeakable, unexpected pockets of beauty found on the other side. For my husband and I, this was a “window” hundreds of feet up overlooking a winding river, lush terrain, and a reminder that beauty can be found in the most unexpected places for those who are willing to persevere.
Who do you want with you in the belly of the cave? Who do you want to talk you through the narrow passageways? Who will discover those unexpected pockets of beauty with you? Whoever it is, may they be the ones who know they are standing on sacred ground.