hayley cagan kamis
As Above, So Below
Updated: May 4, 2021
This is the perfect ceiling: a blue of its own hue that has inspired artists for centuries, cotton-ball clouds fluffed up and stretched out 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 the collection of tears gently streaming down my cheeks with, nowhere to go but the cavern of my outer ear. 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 eight years ago is that of a ceiling’s iridescent lights above a CT scan table. Collectively the light 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 above 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. And the rooms upon rooms laying on therapeutic tables while receiving acupuncture, massage, Reiki, Jin Shin Jyutsu, Clinical Qi Gong, Kabbalistic Healing, Therapeutic Touch, and just about any other modality you can possibly name. These physical and metaphysical spaces have served my healing needs in a myriad of ways, recording my tears and release of sadness, fear and worry, replacing my container with hope and resilience, strength and self-love.
I feel no shame crying in public. I’ve learned that when given the opportunity to be with negative thoughts, feelings and experiences - when the lessons they carry have run their course and served their purpose - these feelings are best expelled when they’ve run their course. Everyone’s timeline is different from each other: there is not “right” or “wrong” way to move through sadness, anger, grief and loss. This is especially true when the leftover muck infiltrates 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’ve also become increasingly mindful in recognizing when it is time to release that which no longer serves me. This allows space for more productive, healthier energies that foster growth, acceptance, and peace with what is or was. That which cannot be contained within the boundaries of walls, floors and ceilings are best honored when expelled 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”. My wish for the world is that we can remember our capacity for healing, self-compassion, and connection with infinite possibilities. What a wonderful world that would, could and certainly can be.