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Unexpected Challenges Lead to Spiritual Insights at 80

Unexpected Challenges Lead to Spiritual Insights at 80

By Kay Vander Vort

Nine days after my 80th birthday as I climbed up a short stairway, my left leg crumbled.

I was returning from a wonderful birthday trip with my son and family.  The days following are a blur – getting on a plane in Boston back to Minneapolis in Sunday night in lots of pain.  I was eager to get medical help on Monday.

The x-ray showed a broken kneecap. This led to two procedures to repair it.  I went to a hospital, and while there, I developed an infection. This led to a seven-week stay at a rehabilitation center where I received anti-biotic therapy through a picc line to treat the infection, and I had to focus on keeping my leg straight.

This was not how I expected to start this new decade.  I had great support from family and friends and excellent care at the rehab.  For weeks after I left rehab, I was in physical therapy.  My outer recovery was slow, but my inner recovery was slower.  Two months after I was home, a friend asked me “what were your spiritual insights?”  I, a spiritual director for over 30 years, drew a complete blank.  She actually laughed in surprise.  I was chagrined.  No spiritual insight after months of recovery?  I had trouble doing serious reading in the rehab – TV was worse.  What was the matter with me?  I had little or no pain and was on minimal pain pills.

In my years at Loyola I discovered the gift of the Enneagram as a source of spiritual wisdom, I try to offer at least one basic Enneagram workshop each year. I identify as an Enneagram 3. For several years, I have received a daily online “EnneaThought for the Day.”  All I remember of what kept coming up on my iPhone screen while in rehab was some version of “as a 3 try doing nothing for a while.”  I wanted to throw my cell phone across the room.  I can’t do anything!!!  At the level of personality, a 3 is a performer, a worker-bee.  Yet I know that my personality is not my essence.  My essence – my true self – is HOPE.  Where was hope?

Now, a year and a half later I see spiritual gifts of this time.  I need to accept help and sometimes I have to wait for that help.  (PATIENCE).  I still have iffy physical balance and should use a cane. (HUMILITY).  Sometimes using my cane seems like having a sign on my back, PLEASE HELP ME!   People rush to open doors for me, help me carry things and pick up things I drop in my one-handedness.  My performer-efficient-Enneagram-3-personality is being transformed into ACCEPTANCE.  This is good, I know it.  Perhaps the greatest gift of all is my overwhelming sense of GRATITUDE for all the loving care and attention I have been given.

Finally, I will share some lines I have found helpful for meditation from a favorite book of mine by John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us.

You have been forced to enter empty time . . .

Become inclined to watch the way of rain

When it falls slow and free.

 

Imitate the habit of twilight.

Taking time to open the well of color

That fostered the brightness of day

 

Draw alongside the silence of stone

Until its calmness can claim you.

Be excessively gentle with yourself

Kay is still working at Loyola doing her beloved spiritual direction with more limited hours – Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:00 to 2:00.   She will again offer the Enneagram Basics Workshop on Saturday, October 21, 2017.

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