“Every problem is a gift – without problems we would not grow.” ― Tony Robbins
I’ve been in Paris for over a week now.
But instead of enjoying the sights in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, I’ve been mostly visiting the inside of the Georges Pompidou Hospital.
My plan was to hit the ground running here in the “City of Light” with tours and cooking classes and everything else but instead…
I got hit with a serious nail infection that resulted from a salon manicure I had in Atlanta a few weeks ago. The medical term for the infection is a paronychia and excuse my French, but that shit hurts!
Combine that with the worst jet lag ever and you have a pretty rocky beginning to what was supposed to be a wonderful trip.
It all started with swelling and gradually became worse over the next few days. Of course, my first instinct was to look up my symptoms on the internet and sure enough, it looked and sounded like I had a severe paronychia.
I got an appointment with the nearest “general” doctor, who instructed me to soak my finger in alcohol. That didn’t work AT ALL.
Then, I looked up some home remedies and started soaking my finger in lemon juice and hot water, which helped with the pain but didn’t do anything for the infection that was growing under my skin. I’ll spare you the actual visual but basically, the skin around my nail was starting to look like I had gangrene!
It was time to get myself to the nearest emergency room.
Once I got to the hospital, it took some patience and a divine sense of calm to communicate the care I needed when maybe 1 out of 10 medical personnel spoke any English whatsoever. Using my remedial French and lots of gestures, I finally got in to see a specialist.
The doctor confirmed my biggest fear – the only way to fix the issue was to have surgery on my finger to remove the infection.
The night before surgery, I go to dinner at Le Poincaré, an open air bistro/cafe on the corner near my hotel.
The wind is cool as the sun sets on the city like a blanket.
I order steak and frites and eat slowly, savoring every bite like it’s my last meal.
I relish my glass of vin rouge and fall in love with the restaurant’s famous Nutella & Speculoos tiramisu for dessert.
I sip my espresso, annoyed at the situation that’s messing up my travel plans, but I also notice a strange sense of relief.
It’s the feeling of letting go of my need for control. It’s giving myself permission to slow down and listen to what my body needs right now – rest and healing.
Needless to say, being stuck in a hospital in a foreign country gave me a chance to reflect on some important spiritual reminders.
1. You Always Have Something to Be Grateful For
I am here and I am breathing in.
I am here and I am breathing out.
This was my meditation as I lay on the operating table trying not to freak out.
Although the procedure was just for my finger, it involved me being completely naked with my whole body showered and sanitized before being taken into surgery.
What I got present to was the realization that it could have been so much worse. Not having the use of my left hand could be permanent, but thankfully it would only be a few weeks before I’m back to normal.
Plus, in all the stress of figuring out the healthcare system in Paris, I received an unexpected surprise!
Karen, one of my favorite happy black women, came to visit me with her daughter while I was in the hospital. They just happened to be visiting Paris and took the time to stop by, which was so sweet. (Thanks Karen!)
2. Angels Are All Around You
When I came out of surgery, my finger was still numb from the anesthesia, so I didn’t feel anything as blood suddenly began dripping through the bandage.
I began to panic.
Did the doctor accidentally cut off my damn finger???
That’s when a black nurse named Sophie came over quickly to get rid of the blood, wrap my finger again and get me into the resting area.
Sophie turned out to be one of my angels.
She spoke very little English but it didn’t take words for her to feel that I was scared and alone in a new city where I don’t know the language. What Sophie did for me was more than just doing her job.
I needed a human connection and right then, Sophie could have been my fussy African grandmother, comforting me with warm blankets and cookies and hot tea, reassuring me in French, that everything was going to be all right, mon cheri.
3. It’s Easier to Go With the Flow vs. Resisting the Process
Normally when I travel outside of the country, I create a work schedule adjusted to the local time zone that allows me to be productive for the projects and programs we have going on here at Happy Black Woman.
Needless to say, this surgery has been slowing me down quite a bit. Not to mention I am also slated to go on a week-long press trip to Israel in a few days! (More about that soon…)
Healing takes time. I am embracing the process and trusting that I will be given the strength and capacity to work through it, albeit at a slower pace than I would prefer.
4. There’s a Blessing in the Storm
My default these days is to have my crying session first so I can let myself really feel what I’m feeling without trying to force myself to feel happy. Then, I give myself space to look for the blessing in the storm, which is usually a lesson that the situation is trying to teach me.
What I have seen so far are opportunities to lean more on my team and trust them to get things done (even if it’s not necessarily the way that I would do it), to create better systems to support continuity of operations when I am sick and to be transparent with my business partners about when I can’t get things done as quickly as I would like.
This past week has forced me to slow all the way down so I can practice gratitude, surrender to the present moment and learn the lessons that life has to teach me through the process.
Ultimately, what I keep reminding myself is that everything is always working together for my good. Even if from the outside, it doesn’t look like it.
Hence, my new mantra:
“All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” ― Julian of Norwich