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Coexisting with a chronic illness that is both degenerative and progressive, I have had to acclimate to being with a continual loss of functioning. Almost like drinking water, mourning the losses has been an essential part of my process. In order to move forward in life, however, focusing on what is operative and functional has been crucial. When I was able bodied, I can remember riding my bicycle when a large rock would appear on the road in front of me. With my focus so intently on the rock, running over it was unavoidable. I had to train myself to see the rock and focus elsewhere in order to avoid the certain collision. With this chronic illness, I seem to have to execute the same practice; moving forward and not focusing exclusively on the seemingly intractable symptoms in my field.

Actually, we are all in a state of gradual decline once we reach our 20s. My process is simply more accelerated. It can provide excellent training for focusing on the vast field ahead of me and not the proverbial rocks in the road, if my head and heart are in the right place. It has taken much work to become confident that my attitude is positive and regenerative. I meet many people with chronic illnesses who have not done this work and it can be painful to watch the suffering. I can have compassion and remember my suffering in the beginning. As we age in our culture, acceptance of our limitations is unavoidable. As we live longer, the illnesses and accidents become issues to shape our character. We can see them as “helpers” along the way. I believe we are here to build character, develop our hearts, and learn to love better. This reminds me of an old Hasidic saying, “on our deathbed, one never says, I SHOULD HAVE WORKED MORE.” The measure seems to be–how well were you able to love.
It is springtime in the desert at 8000 feet. The streams are flowing abundantly with rainwater and the trees are pregnant with new buds. After the quiescence of winter, springtime enters with a certain euphoria in the Rockies. The paradox of the flaming red blossoms on the cacti and the tender, yet tenacious sprouts pushing through cracks in concrete, reminds me of the perseverance and persistence of life. The gradual renewal in the air offers me, both humbly and vociferously, yet another year on the planet. With much gratitude and mindfulness of what has been offered, I accept the generous proposition.
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