• hayley cagan kamis

As Above, So Below

Updated: Apr 7, 2019

This is the perfect ceiling: a blue of its own hue that has inspired artists for centuries, cotton-ball clouds thinned out and stretched gracefully against its background.

I’ve seen a lot of ceilings in my time. I was reminded of this earlier today as I lay staring above at the peach and taupe pipes juxtaposed against turquoise tile in the physical therapy gym. Movement surrounded me, young and old alike stretching and bending, icing and heating their sore bodies, although the sounds were muffled by a collection of tears in my ears with nowhere to go as they gently streamed down my cheeks. Ceaseless in their flow, they continued throughout my full 50-minute session. Countless hours of intermittent pain and dependence upon others poured out of me, releasing emotions, thoughts and fears built up over years of adventures in healthcare.

The first clear, in-focus visual memory I have after moving out of ICU six years ago is that of a ceiling’s iridescent lights above a CT scan table. Collectively the covers created the appearance of a crisp, autumn blue sky tinged with orange, yellow and burgundy leaves. Caregiver Zero was a compassionate radiology technician who recognized how frightened and confused I was, perplexed as to why I was there in the first place and unaware of the two week extended stay and return visits I’d make in the months to come. I’ve visited that same back-lit image (and my kind tech-friend) more times than I can count, and am still shocked by the fact that I don’t glow in the dark from cumulative radiological exposure.

Endless ceiling images have been imprinted upon my brain: the hundreds of white ceiling tiles counted in the many hospital rooms I’ve occupied. The vent covers and foam insulation hovering over the indoor pool in which I float my stress away. Dancing shadows that catch my undivided attention when I can’t sleep at night, imitating the circular motion of the wobbly walnut ceiling fan above my bed. The same old cartoons above my doctor’s exam table, the paper yellowed and the tape peeling, drawings and dialogue that still make me laugh.

I feel no shame crying in public. I’ve learned that pent up negative thoughts, feelings and experiences are best served expelled once the lessons they carry have run their course. This is especially true when the muck has infiltrated our cellular memory, triggering stress hormones and creating neurological messages recognized as pain of all forms, shapes and sizes. Although I often wrestle with this conundrum, I try to recognize the opportunity when it arises, releasing that which doesn’t serve me to make room for more productive, healthier energies that foster growth. That which cannot be contained within the boundaries of walls, floors and ceilings are best honored when dispelled from the biological vehicles we call self.

Even so, when I look to the sky, nature’s blue or gray or star-filled ceiling without limitation, I remember that I, too, can move beyond the threshold of “too much to bear”. I pray that each and everyday, we can all remember our capacity for healing, self-compassion, and connection with infinite possibilities.

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© 2018 by Hayley Cagan Kamis

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Hayley Cagan Kamis, MA, CCC-SLP, RM/T-IARP