Wings of Courage

“Run my dear, From anything That may not strengthen Your precious budding wings.” ― Hāfez

This year has been full of great change for me. Over the winter, I moved from the east coast to west. Several factors influenced my decision to move: a desire for living in a warmer climate, for the adventure of living in a new place, and to be closer to family. While I had a home in Boston, a successful career, and a strong support support system, my heart desired a change. When I made the decision for myself, I felt free, ready for new opportunities, as though I had wings growing.

And then after 3 months in California, an overwhelming panic hit me. I developed pain in my right low back, radiating down my right leg, and traveling up between my shoulders to the top of my neck.

Working at a new hospital and learning a new computer system was exhausting. A multitude thoughts raced through my mind: Where will I practice acupuncture? Where is the post office? Where can I buy Indian spices?

Moving is considered one of the most stressful events that can occur in one's life. The mind creates doubt. And my body was a reflection of the mental anxiety - it was building armor, protection, unsure of what was to come, scared of any more change.

My cousin advised me: "It's a big change. You just have to find your own feet and you'll be fine. You have lots to look forward to."

"My feet," I thought. "I don't even feel my feet."

I needed to ground myself - grow my roots - and shed the armor.

And so I fell back on a few simple measures:

Touch: I went for massage. As they touched my back, I realized how stiff I was, how much tension I was holding. With touch and deep pressure, I was able to release. The protective armor began to fall away.

Move: I started going to yoga again. I found a studio with restorative yoga classes, and allowed myself to lay on a bolster for 15 minutes and simply focus on my breathing. In other flow classes, as I moved through the poses, I began to feel my toes again.

Simplify: I focused on what was important to me, and what I could handle in a day. Rather than putting too much pressure on myself to accomplish many projects, I simplified to a few tasks. With patience, it will all be completed in due time. One cannot do "everything." Rather, I will do a few things well.

Reframe: I allowed myself time to grieve the change - the loss of the familiar life I had. I allowed space to plant new beginnings, and for relationships to evolve. I may not be able to see my friends in Boston, but we can still call. I have new opportunities, such as living ten minute walk from hiking trails in Griffith park. I have learned how to cook Indian bread, paranthas, with my family. My new home has many positives, and I take time to note them with gratitude.

While making the transitions, I am reminded of my own parents and grandparents, who travelled much greater distances than I, to find new opportunities. They held an immense spirit of adventure and great courage. With entrepreneurial desires, they moved from India to East Africa under the British empire. My maternal grandfather moved from Punjab to Nairobi to build the British railroads, and then start a hotel in Dar Es Salaam. My paternal grandfather moved from Punjab to Kampala, Uganda, to start a furniture-making business. When the British empire fell, they were forced to leave, moving to the United Kingdom and back to India. And their children - my parents - kept that adventurous flame burning, moving across the ocean to America.

Without real certainty of their future, without any knowledge of the terrain, they still stepped forward into the unknown. And in those days, they traveled by boat and train. The roads were unbuilt. There was no internet or GPS to recalculate the route when lost. Phone calls were a luxury and rare. Hand-written letters were sent back home. They relied on faith; they trusted with a fearless courage that they would survive, that they would know how to succeed.

My grandparents and parents, my aunts and uncles, are an inspiration for me. I know there were struggles, failures and losses amidst all the change. But today, telling their story, I can say they succeeded. For here is a new generation, in new land, educated, working, keeping the spirit of adventure alive. Their stories rekindle hope and courage within me. I face each day, ready for opportunity, and rely on my inner strength. It is in my inner core, in my blood. I will.

In the last few weeks, the armor of protection has disappeared. My wings are growing strong again, safe in the wisdom that they can take flight in new land. And as doubt quiets down, now the voice I hear is: I am ready to soar.

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© 2014 Seetal Cheema, MD, PC; Seetal Cheema Wellness.   All rights reserved.