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Where are you? Here. What time is it? Now. How are you? I’m okay. – Questions Ram Dass suggests during a time of crisis.

Our bodies are finely tuned instruments, whether they behave the way we would like, or whether they are following instructions beyond our ego’s desires. Someone who healed from multiple sclerosis once told me, “Our bodies are desperately trying to heal.” At that time, I wondered why the hell mine wouldn’t. I just knew that if I could heal I would, but something greater must be at work. Nevertheless, I felt betrayed. The feeling that my body was not in sync with my desires and understanding the trajectory of where this could go were more than I could bear at that time.

During my early years, my body was merely a means to an end. I had little communication or relationship with this sacred vehicle that would carry me through life. I had little understanding of how to care for, appreciate, and love this apparatus on which I relied so dearly. Not until my body showed symptoms, did I truly begin to listen.

I was born with an interesting paradox, astrologically. On one hand, I was born under the sign of Cancer. People born in July are often deeply loving, nurturing people, and often with a fear of rejection and, therefore, can have a tendency to sidestep issues, like a crab that walks sideways. I also was born with a fierce determination to meet things head-on and with the inclination of a revolutionary (Mars and Uranus conjunct the Cancer Sun). Learning to harness the latter energies and lean into the former were many of my struggles during my early years. Becoming a competitive athlete was natural to me; harnessing my will and dealing with my fears and oversensitivity were more of a challenge. Some people believe they are limited by their astrology, but I believe we  consciously choose these constellations to help us go beyond the limitations with which we entered this incarnation. Contrary to some beliefs, we are not born as a blank slate, we have Work to do and astrology can be a roadmap for that work.

In the late 80s, when subtle neurological symptoms began to occur I felt immobilized. Fear had taken over and I was afraid to move forward. I remember awaking one morning, still groggy from sleep, and hearing the words, With the symptoms come the Renaissance. I looked in the mirror attempting to ground myself, “What does Renaissance mean? Rebirth. With the symptoms come the rebirth.” I don’t know where this message came from, I just knew I couldn’t forget it. Still immobilized with fear, but with this new possibility, my very intuitive and direct 10-year-old daughter, sensing my trepidation, said to me, “Mom, you need to get a life!” With guidance from unlikely sources, I decided to do just that.

I began singing lessons with a well-known soprano from the St. Louis Cathedral choir. The crab in me wanted to hide, but another part wanted revolution, liberation. I had the intuitive knowing that singing would open my throat center, the area where self-expression can be blocked. To this day, I have a fear of speaking out, a fear that what I have to say will, somehow, hurt another. Causing others pain would inevitably lead to my primal fear of rejection. During the early days, I learned to temper my authentic power and developed an artificially sweet voice to compensate for the overwhelming anxiety. The blockage was clearly centered in my throat.

With this awareness, I gradually learned, ordeal after ordeal, that rejection from others was impossible when I could rely on my own resources; I could trust myself and my internal guidance. No longer being tethered to others elicited a freedom I had never known before this body journey. In my case, I was to learn over many years that illness was a course correction. Many people feel betrayed when their bodies behave incongruently with their wants, but the body has an intelligence that is following instructions beyond the ego. If we befriend our bodies and listen deeply with extraordinary courage, we can open to guidance that heals our souls. Renaissance is possible, if we trust a power greater than ourselves, with faith and gratitude.

This path has not been easy, but I don’t think we come here for easy, especially during this time in history. Recently, I woke up at 3 AM gasping for breath. This episode went on for three hours! I wondered if this was just another symptom I would have to accept, as I cried in desperation. After a few hours, I realized I had some difficult issues to discuss with someone close to me, that my primal fears were triggered and I remembered my voice lessons. (It was during my voice lessons that the symptoms began.) Our bodies know.

What if, instead of accommodating the symptom of breathlessness, I leaned into it, listening to the blockage in my throat and what it had to tell me? Perhaps, if I could do this, there would be no need for the symptom. Once I finally faced this fear head-on, I knew I would not have trouble breathing, again. It was miraculous how free of fear I felt, because I listened to my body’s wisdom.

Sometimes, listening to the body doesn’t tell us what our ego wants to hear. I’ve heard loud and clear that my body is manifesting a teaching much greater than a fear of speaking out and that this rigorous curriculum is not for me to understand fully while I am embodied. This can be particularly true when the curriculum involves a catastrophic illness or injury. It is during these times that we enter the Mystery, where Grace becomes a real possibility.

By opening to our body’s wisdom, we can begin to open to a sense of well-being that is beyond this earthly realm; it is on the level of the soul.

For my patients who have used this law, I was honored that I could be with them every step of the way, ensuring that they were cared for, and that they had control of the final days of their lives. That’s what death with dignity really means. – Nicholas Gideonse, MD 

When I was a child, I grew up on a natural lake. I was probably in the water eight hours a day. My family called me a fish. As I got older I learned to waterski– two skis, then one, or slalomming. I was on the swim team in elementary school, delegated to the 500-yard freestyle, because I was the one with the physical endurance to swim 5 laps, straight. During the summer I rode my horse, daily. In high school, I was in the snow ski club. And, in graduate school in New Orleans, I rode horses and ran road races in the scalding heat of the Louisiana summers. Needless to say, I was always physically active and athletic.

Running was the first ability I lost. I was 47 years old, with two children, a horse farm, and a psychotherapy practice. Within three years, I could no longer ride my horse and I started tripping and dragging my right foot. While carrying my computer, I fell on the wood floor and broke my patella in half, which led me to a walker. Although I dreaded using a walking aid, I was glad for the safety it provided. That was, until I fell on my walker and cracked my sternum.

With a cracked sternum, standing, sitting, any movement was excruciating. I’d bruised ribs in the past, but nothing like a sternum crack which required assistance for any movement. I was losing my autonomy. Around this time, I began having “accidents,” incontinence particularly disturbed my husband. This affected my dignity.

After failing to engage the brakes in my car quickly enough and finally stopping in the middle of a busy street, I realized that I would never drive another car and risk endangering a life. I was losing my independence. I was still able to drive the golf cart on the farm, which gave me  some sense of autonomy, but all of the chores were left to my husband, which was not our agreement when we purchased a labor-intensive horse farm.

My husband was becoming more and more irritable and resentful. Burdening loved ones is another huge fear to an active person becoming disabled. Each of these losses could lead to major depression, but having been a therapist or in therapy much of my life, I have the internal resources to deal with these stressors. Fortunately, I was not financially dependent on my husband or the government. I cannot imagine the level of suffering people encounter, when terminally ill, who are less resourced than I, either internally or externally.

After cracking my sternum, I was almost relieved to sit in a chair where I was safe from excruciating injuries. “You don’t get the small stuff,” exclaimed the doctor who read my patella x-ray. So, sit in the wheelchair, I did.

Probably the two worst symptoms of progressive multiple sclerosis are heat intolerance and intractable fatigue. I used to call it “crying fatigue,” because all I could imagine doing was to lay on the floor and cry. It was not grief or sadness that led to crying, but intense exasperation, with no emotion attached. Only someone with chronic or terminal illness can understand this level of pain and suffering.

After Katrina, when we had no air-conditioning for a month, in the heat of the Louisiana summer. I remember stumbling to my car with my walker, turning the engine on, sitting in the air-conditioning and crying. I knew I could no longer live in this state of Louisiana that I loved, that the heat and the hurricanes were more than I could bear. I no longer had the endurance of the 500-yard freestyler or the independence to care for myself with a partner who was beginning to resent me more each day. We would move to Colorado. I thought that would solve many problems, but little did I know my life was about to, once again, change forever.

On the way to Colorado, a wheelchair accident resulted in my femur being shattered, the largest bone in the body. It was shattered so badly, that the surgeon had to scrape the pieces together, to screw the stainless steel plate to something. This is where my book Meet Me By the River – A Women’s Healing Journey begins and chronicles my life from devastation to deep gratitude and joy. (Shameless plug.) From the hospital, I was discharged to our new home in Colorado. Six months later, my husband/partner of 11 years left and I, reluctantly and not very gracefully, was to learn how to live alone with this degenerative, neurological illness. Fortunately, I had the financial resources to not be a burden on my family for at least a decade.

Many people facing terminal illness embrace a spiritual life for the first time. Even if they were religious, their beliefs take on greater meaning, much like a spiritual initiation.

I began to see these physical limitations as directed by a higher power. I no longer saw them as punishment or some failing on my part; I saw the Universe as loving and I saw how my ability to impact myself and others was much more effective in this condition. The healing in myself and others was profound. I began to love this illness and see it as a course correction that was leading me to my highest purpose in life. The joy I experienced was infectious. The help I could provide to others was more than I’d ever imagined, with an able body.

As the illness progressed, I began to assess the level of suffering I was experiencing. At some point I knew that my suffering would no longer be a positive catalyst; the suffering would be needless. This pivotal point is different for everyone, depending on their capacity to process the pain and suffering, their level of development, and the Mystery beyond our limited knowing.

In November, the Aid-in-Dying law became legal in Colorado. The most common reasons people choose Aid-in-Dying are loss of autonomy, becoming a burden on one’s family, loss of independence, financial concerns, loss of control of bodily function, fear of uncontrollable pain, loss of ability to participate in pleasurable activities, and loss of dignity. (I highlighted some of the issues that cause me the most suffering in red.) This law is well-crafted to protect the vulnerable from abuse: one must be in the process of dying, be of sound mind, be able to self-administer, and no other person can benefit from this choice.

Opponents of this law often use the word suicide to incite people, emotionally, in my opinion. I have assessed suicidality for 30 years as a psychotherapist. When suicidal, a person wants to die. I have talked many a person “off the ledge.” It is an insult and a misnomer to ascribe suicidality to a person in the sacred dying process, who is finally able to surrender and let go. What a harmful imprint this could leave for the family to carry. Words have power.

All of this being said, my first choice would be to die naturally. Unfortunately, people never die from MS, they die from “complications from multiple sclerosis.” The complications can be: sepsis from pressure sores, choking to death which has to involve a beloved caregiver trying so hard to keep me alive, drowning in my own fluids from pneumonia, or some other horror I don’t yet know about. The best option I could hope for would be failing to thrive, or starving to death, slowly. Keep this in mind when considering choice.

Societies that rule with a more parental, autocratic style usurp one’s sovereignty for making choices for themselves and their bodies, which includes how they might want to leave this beautiful world. These regimes characteristically manifest a disregard for women’s rights, or a disrespect of the Feminine. (I use “the Feminine” as a term applicable to either gender: having more of a tendency toward vulnerability, empathy, and sensitivity. These are values that have been punished for nearly 5000 years.) Hopefully, we are integrating more feminine values moving toward a kinder, less violent world.

In the meantime, if I begin to feel complete with this lifetime and ready to let go and serve my loved ones from Spirit, do not conflate this sacred decision with suicide. This is not suicide. I do not want to die. My life has always been about service and learning to connect more deeply in Love, I know myself and I know this intimacy and animation will continue, and, most likely, express itself in a much deeper Way.

There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. – Leonard Cohen

Throughout this journey of chronic illness, I rarely speak of the nearly unbearable grief I’ve experienced, as my body slowly failed over many years, and progressed rapidly over the last decade. I almost exclusively describe the gifts I’ve received by facing the challenges with determination and courage, not so much, the heartbreak.

My children were three and nine when the symptoms began. I remember driving my son to elementary school and praying that I would be able to meet his and his sister’s needs through high school, while my children were completely dependent on me (and I, probably, on them). Who would drive them to school, accompany them to soccer games, dance performances, and Mardi Gras parades? Who would talk to the teachers when they had conferences in school or problems with their friends? How would I be able to go to therapy three times a week to heal myself emotionally to better meet their growing needs? My life had become totally unpredictable and everything was on the table for catastrophic change.

When the first symptom began during the late 80s, my first thought was for my children. What kind of legacy would this leave  them? The terror I felt about not living up to my greatest responsibility and privilege was more than I could bear, or so I thought at the time. I’m sure the specter of desperation followed me and shaded every choice I made during my 40s and 50s. Not all of my choices were well thought out and generous. After all, I was losing my physical strength that had carried me through many challenges – if I could count on anything, I could count on my body – and my body had been the vehicle for much reliability and joy in my life.

I began running road races with my daughter when she was three during the heat of New Orleans summers, I swam laps for miles and miles to restore some semblance of well-being and hope for the future. I believed if I could heal, it would be in the water. This does not describe the radical lifestyle changes I made or trips to India for stem cell treatment and many other alternative treatments.

When I see the look of shock and despair on people’s faces when they meet me, see my profound physical limitations, or hear my story, my common line is, “My life is not a tragedy.” Well, it isn’t, but it has been marked with many tears, regrets, and feelings of despair along the way.

My hospice workers tell me I am a legend around their office, my friends tell me I am a hero. Well, I’m here to tell you I have made desperate choices in my life that have deleteriously affected my children, I have lived with a great deal of fear, depression, and cowardice. I’ve cried an ocean of tears. No one facing catastrophic illness or injury should ever feel reticent about expressing their grief. It is through the cracks where the light gets in.

I have grown through this illness. I probably have grown some heroism. I am also human with human frailties. Human nature is an incredible thing. If I can do this, anybody can do this. About that, I have no doubt.

“When you look long enough into the abyss, the abyss looks into you.” Nietzsche

SpeechlessRecently, a caregiver asked me with a slightly horrified tone, “What if you can no longer speak?” Actually, there are times now, during the day when I cannot speak, like when I am on the stationary bike, when I am on the stander and late afternoon when speaking in groups, of which I am in ten per month. This particular disability has been happening gradually for the last four years, especially since I returned to high-altitude and It has become much more pronounced in the last six months.

I have learned to accommodate yet another disability, dysarthria– motor speech disorder caused by muscle weakness with neurological illness. I have learned that if I pause or whisper for a few sentences, I can often get my breath back and project a little more to make myself heard. Summer and the heat it brings exacerbates this symptom.

The potential for having this disability has been obvious to others, but being unable to speak and the ramifications had never occurred to me. I tend to not project into the future imagining what abilities I might lose next. This has probably been an effective strategy for lessening what is called “anticipatory dread” and, therefore, decreasing unnecessary emotional suffering. This represents another way my personality has evolved. I used to be accused of seeing the cup as half empty, as opposed to half full. Ironic that with this terminal neurodegenerative disease I’ve become more optimistic.

Actually, my first thought upon hearing this question was of recently having seen The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a film about a man with “locked in syndrome” who, after sustaining a severe stroke, could not communicate after having been a robust communicator all his life. Somehow, I trust I would get my point across, even if I need to blink my eyes three times as he did. Sometimes I practice that while laughing about the irony with my caregivers. Fortunately, I don’t take this ordeal very serious much of the time. I don’t tend to marinate in fears of the future, at least not these types of fears.

What I have learned in accepting this “curriculum” is that if I become unable to speak, there is a greater teaching in the symptom. I have no doubt that my focus would need to go beyond the cortically-based area of the left brain where speech arises, exploring areas much deeper than the fears of becoming speechless. I bow to this anomaly and will accept it as my next teacher.

In my humble opinion, nothing is arbitrary when I have accepted such a rigorous path and it becomes more clear that I have, in fact, entered the Holy ground.

“I ain’t afraid to love a man. I ain’t afraid to shoot him.” -Annie Oakley

Scuba buddies

Last night I dreamed I was in my beloved house on Military Road in Covington, Louisiana, a setting for a majority of my dreams, I’m guessing because it was my happiest, most fulfilling and beautiful home on a river where Sid (my second husband) and I moved after I realized we had been nomads for too long. Casey was eleven years old and she had moved eleven times in those short eleven years. This is where we settled and this is where the majority of my dreams take place, in this house.

A house built in 1910 with all of the amenities of high ceilings and hardwood floors, outbuildings, a greenhouse and small orchard and a large yard that ended at the river’s edge. Casey named my book for this river where she imagines meeting me after I leave my body.

A memorable segment of the dream involved Sid and me outside this home and someone had released toxic gas. Sid had an oxygen regulator with a mask that he would breathe into and then pass it to me to breathe. We did this for a few minutes and the dream ended.

The significance of this dream would be lost without some history:
I was married for two years when Eric (my first husband) and I separated. We were apart for almost that long when we reconciled. Neither of us wanted a divorce, but we had neither the skills nor providence on our side, but try we did. After so long a separation, we had both changed. During this separation, I was in intensive psychotherapy three days a week, raising our baby. During this time Eric had become an avid scuba diver and he was certain that if we had fun together that would erase our problems.

So, I found the most rigorous class at the Y at Lee Circle in New Orleans so I could become proficient. In order to complete this class, I had to swim underwater the full length of the Olympic size pool, reverse and continue underwater halfway back to the beginning. It was quite a feat and I did not know if I could accomplish this, but I could and I did. I learned a trick for holding my breath that long that when I was dangerously out of air, if I swallowed it would give me more time, because swallowing gives the pulmonary system the sensation of breathing. Still, to this day, I use this strategy when my breath is not available.

One of the skills scuba instructors teach is buddy breathing. To buddy breathe you would pair up with a buddy, take one tank and descend to the bottom of the pool using weight belts. Two people would alternate breathing, calmly and patiently. This was preparation for saving one’s life when underwater and one oxygen tank malfunctions. I completed this required skill in the swimming pool of the Y, but deep down I realized, “There is no freaking way I would go 20 feet down with Eric and have that level of trust. I realized there was nobody on this planet I would go 20 feet under and trust to buddy breed with. Nobody.

Over the years, this has become a metaphor for both assessing my trust in another person and assessing the level at which I could surrender in the moment. When I awoke from this dream, I was ironically unable to breathe due to the unexpected rise in temperature during the night. Heat weakens my already weakened pulmonary muscles and I felt congestion in my lungs. This must have replicated my scuba memory. I felt anxiety similar to when I was hospitalized with pneumonia three years ago. I know the main reason people die from neurological disease is from complications such as these. My difficulty breathing had bled into my dreamtime. I also noticed that I was buddy breathing!

Dreams can serve many purposes. They can help to release feelings, they can offer teachings from our guides and they can make us aware of something we need to know. Waking up at 3 AM, unable to breathe, yet with the knowing that my level of trust (in the elements) had finally surpassed my level of fear. I’m thankful for the reassurance that whatever I will need during this next passage, I will be able to meet. Reassurance comes in many ways. We just have to be able to recognize it and believe it.

“I admire that you are not willing to sacrifice life, for survival.” – Harald Kasper, physical therapistperson-sitting-on-cliff

When I was two years old, I was standing in the front bench seat of our 1955 automobile when we ran into another car. My mother broke her pelvis, walked around to be sure all the children were safe, sat down and could not stand up. There were no seatbelts those days and there wasn’t yet an awareness of the lethality of motor vehicle accidents. As we integrated automobiles into our culture, the need for safety came to the forefront. During my generation, car seats for children became a necessary commodity. Some people wore their seatbelts and others did not. It was a choice, until it was not. When people were sustaining injuries and dying, wearing a seatbelt became law. Some laws evolve with the technology and some laws become obsolete as the culture evolves.

Recently, I have been criticize for choosing a lifestyle that is unconventional for someone as disabled as I am. After all, I cannot move a muscle from the neck down. I am completely dependent on my care team for every bodily function, except breathing. And I live in a remote mountain town that is considered the frontier, not even rural, which would have more medical services.

I have always lived on the edge of this paradigm we call life, but it has never been as obvious as now when I am breaking all the rules of what one should do when one is critically ill. From pushing my limits as an adolescent to riding my motorcycle to Key West during college (yes, I wore a helmet with a visor!) I have always pushed people who love me to their edge of reasoning, past their comfort zone. I don’t mean to sound cavalier about this at all. A lot of me wants to stay safe in the old, familiar ways of living life. I have to trudge through a lot of difficult feelings to summon the courage of forging new ground.

First, I have to feel the uneasiness of moving forward from a place I could call familiar, but as I’ve become more sensitive, I notice and incongruence. When I think of taking an an alternate route that feels more authentic, I have to wade through the density of darkness. When I dissect this darkness, it not only includes my own remnants of self-hatred, but also ways I’ve absorbed other people’s fear of the unknown. For me, fear is always a catalyst for entering this level of blackness. Being able to bear the pain at this level of malignant, self-hatred and, instead of retracting, going one step further and creating expansiveness around it allows the blackness to begin to lighten. Peering into the light, I can see the anatomy of this old, familiar feelings of unworthiness. Memories of all the times I’ve betrayed myself from deferring to other people’s truth. In deeper exploration, I was able to see the many times I was  willing to sacrifice my life for mere survival, which translated into sacrificing my significant need for autonomy for either of two reasons: to avoid feeling my greatest fear – being alone and helpless or to alleviate other people’s pain. Although the former is more conscious, the latter might seem noble, but, believe me, it is more insidious.

So, yes, I am on the leading edge of the natural death movement, something I hope will lead to “a good death,” not unlike the natural childbirths so inspiring in our area. And yes, it does push the old boundaries of the medical model, making people fearful of the issues like liability . I followed the medical model with my childbirths and I had two cesareans and general anesthesia. As many of you know about me, I don’t want to be fearful in this new birth.

I have always taken myself to the edge and rallied the resources to push a little further, so it would make sense that I would do that with others, especially being in the capacity of psychotherapist. My astrological natal chart reflects one of a powerful revolutionary with heart. It is ironic that when I cannot move a finger, I am still projecting that energetic essence. My daughter once told me that I go to places that scare her and show her that it is safe. During this time when people are creating a new paradigm for living and dying, it’s important to illuminate and dismantle that which keeps us from our birthright, living life and death fully and authentically.

“One works on oneself as a gift to other people so one doesn’t create more suffering. I help people as I work on myself and I work on myself to help people.” -Ram Dass

1-brighworldI’ve written before about my intuition that this illness is an opportunity to heal a very specific developmental fracture in my life, one involving attachment. I also have cited four other cases where individuals with progressive multiple sclerosis incurred early trauma from provocative maternal relationships. This connection has always been of interest to me, but a superficial study of five individuals does not prove a hypothesis. Nevertheless, exploring this anomaly in my own life has been extremely compelling, especially since I spend so much time in my chair allowing such an inquiry to evolve, with little distraction.

I keep thinking that I am complete with this lifetime, that I am in the throes just prior to my transition. I have completed my will, had the talks with my family anyone would wish for, arranged for my celebration/cremation. I even selected a master of ceremony, family liaison, created a CD to leave for loved ones, distributed many of my material items, and much more. However, more emotional/spiritual material seems to be surfacing.

The other day while I was re-experiencing a level of grief that was so familiar and primal that it had to be primordial, I experienced a visual that maybe gave the grief some context. I realize that I may lose some people at this point in my reporting. Being a visual learner and having practiced a form of breathwork that traverses non-ordinary states of consciousness for over fifteen years, intuitions seem to come to me in visual form. I understand that others may not access the source of teachings in the same way. Please bear with me.

The vision was presented as if exploring a geographical location with Google Earth; it was like traveling through a wormhole from the macro to the micro of my physiology. It also traveled through my development, the point of destination being a tiny pinpoint spot on my neural tube. The understanding I received was that there had been a fracturing sustained, not only during my pre-verbal stage of development, but pre-birth, probably during the first month of pregnancy before my mother even knew she was pregnant.

I had been feeling for the last months that this condition of my body had reached a plateau of sorts. The goal-oriented part of me wanted to be done with it, done with this rigorous curriculum and the inability for any outward bodily movement to happen volitionally. Being completely dependent on others had become tiresome. This plateau was feeling like treading water. This vision completely left the illusion that healing was not happening in its tracks. I clearly saw this pinpoint place in my nervous system, this place where early fracturing did not allow for the necessary emotional attachment to occur. With this vision came the realization that though I feel nothing significant is happening, actually some of my deepest healing is, in fact, occurring in my nervous system.

Perhaps this illness provided the most expeditious way for this fracturing to heal so that wholeness could be attained. My mother had been both complicit and a central part of the healing. I was shown that this fracturing was an accumulation of unresolved traumas from previous lifetimes.

With this vision came much peace and gratitude, gratitude for the strength to see this illness through and to appreciate my helpers along the way, both embodied and disembodied. This vision further revealed that once this fracturing was healed, it transformed into a portal to the infinite, to other galaxies and to the multi-verse. Ironically, five weeks ago I asked my caregiver to draw a symbol that would be lovingly fabricated by a local artist onto a plaque for individuals cremated ceremonially in our beloved community. The symbol that came to me was of two ellipses intersecting. There was a small circle in the intersection that represented my present life. The horizontal ellipse represented my temporal life and the vertical ellipse represented my Spiritual life. I now understand much more about this circular pinpoint.

Two months ago my three-year-old grandson and his father constructed a spaceship out of recyclables. This is the text he dictated to his father to write on the spaceship:

August, 2015
Dear Gram, I love you so much, Gram. you are like a miracle. Model aircraft blasts off, it goes to fifteen galaxies. I’m giving this to you as a present. I love you so much, River

The greatest gift I could give in this lifetime has been to be of service to others. With the healing of each internal fracture comes more love and forgiveness for all sentient beings. Continuing this sacred healing journey for myself and others is my gift and my prayer.

“It’s the stuff God hits your ass with, when he doesn’t want to kill ya, he just wants to slow ya down.” -Richard Pryor on MS

Leanne_Spiritual_Heart.341200433_stdI believe that people take on catastrophic challenges for different reasons, because in our deepest Being, we want to wake up; we want to evolve and we want to effect the collective evolution of humanity. That is not small potatoes. Otherwise, the Universe would be seen as an uncompromising, sadistic force, which I do not, cannot and will not ever believe; that is too antithetical to what I feel in my heart. Without my cumulative felt-perceptions nurtured over many decades and perhaps many lifetimes, I might have the consciousness of a chickpea, not meaning to disparage a chickpea. Sorry Rumi.

My belief system has been nurtured by my evolving love for myself and humanity. How could this curriculum be for anything but my betterment? When I feel moved to look deeper into the etiology of the illness I feel like an investigator looking for clues. Either we volunteer for these rigorous curricula or they are arbitrary, the latter of which I don’t believe for a minute given the outcomes I have witnessed and experienced. I also believe that we set up reminders along the way when we might be deviating from our chosen course. At these points, like breadcrumbs along the path, we face crossroads where free choice can be exercised to alter the trajectory.

I can remember making choices during my life that, in retrospect, were not in my best interest. Rather than seeing these choices as failures or even tests that would imply right or wrong, I see these moments as opportunities for my Soul to catch my attention. Based on the curricula chosen by the Soul, these nudges are instructive and they become louder and louder when ignored.

Working on surrendering my egoic willfulness, I suspect that I created a failsafe plan to get my attention that would not allow for error. Early in the illness, I felt punished and ashamed. Now I understand that the opposite is really true. Because I am a courageous soul with fierce determination, I set out a curriculum where surrender was the only option.

I can remember example after example of times in my life when I deferred my own judgment to other people’s opinions. I can remember denying my own intuitions and desires to meet other people’s needs. The most representative example of this self injurious behavior was after a marital separation where I was left emotionally devastated. It took two days to get myself out of bed and back to work, after six weeks of singing Amazing Grace for an hour each day while driving over the causeway to New Orleans, I gradually brought my life back to a place of joyful homeostasis. I began to dream of finding a small house for myself and the children that was only mine.

When my husband sensed my joy he requested  a reconciliation, I pivoted away from my dream to reconcile. I began having anxiety attacks like I had never experienced. I remember being unable to leave the car, but still I ignored them. In retrospect, these felt like wake-up calls that I systematically ignored. What could my soul do, but make the alarms louder? That was when the symptoms were beginning. But it is never just one incident; there are often many unheeded calls. Remember, the illnesses or injuries are not punishments. They are sacred breadcrumbs to assist your return to your chosen path.

Around this time the symptoms had begun. Instead of abandoning my dream, I needed to turn toward my dream, to empower it, to empower myself. Only in retrospect do it realize the significance of ignoring the prompting from my soul. I gave my soul no choice but to intensify the constriction. This was a loving gesture, like a parent creating instructive containment to assure healthy development in their child. There is no judgment regarding the required curriculum on a Soul level. Challenges and resulting behaviors are met with neutrality. What is most important is the return to a deeper sense of self-love. “God does not want to kill ya, just slow ya down.”

People design specific karmic lessons during their pre-birth planning to focus on developing particular traits, i.e. self-esteem, generosity, compassion, becoming more self-referential during their mortal lifetimes. I believe that becoming self-referential was central to my learning and being willful was in the way of making better choices that would deepen self trust. Okay, enter progressive degenerative illness  to affirm to my ego that my soul is in charge. From the perspective of this singular life, it seems like a big deal, but from the scope of thousands of lifetimes it is a mere speck in the bigger picture.

The hope and promise of a life fully lived brings with it the perspective of seeing our lives from the bigger picture perspective. With this understanding, suffering can be greatly reduced and deep joy and satisfaction attained from the knowing that we have done our best. It is for this intended outcome that I continue to log my Journey.

“The mind-body connection is a strong one, but progressive multiple sclerosis can be a buzz saw intent on breaking that bond.”– Marc Stecker

 

food_piece_of_cake-0262Geez Louise, working for me is not for the faint of heart; especially around the changing of the seasons. If you are thinking of answering an ad and have some trepidation, listen to it. I have some helpers who had been with me the whole seven years I have been in Crestone. Maybe they deserve a medal. If you make it through the first three hours, it is not uncommon to be with me for multiple years. How they do it, I’m not sure. Before the illness, I could not have done it. And some of them are under thirty!

This month’s Care Circle, the meeting with my care team, will be the largest so far. I hope my kiva room can accommodate all the seating. I must be doing something right, drawing such a large crowd. And these people are the most amazing individuals I have ever known. They are completely committed to doing whatever it takes to keep me in my body. I literally owe my life to them, on a minute to minute basis. I have almost always had a lot of love in my life, but this is beyond what I ever imagined. In my early life there was a lack of nurturance to which I attribute the need for this extreme curriculum. There is a T-shirt that reads, “it’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” Well, it’s never too late to bring a wounded infancy to wholeness. I have made the connection between a profound lack of healthy mothering during childhood and a progressive form of multiple sclerosis in prior blog entries. I know of six anecdotal cases reflecting this theory, my own being one. This curriculum can offer hope for the deepest healing; bringing hope to a world in need is a worthy endeavor.

Yesterday, the dreaded occurrence happened: an injury. Fortunately, this is rare, but it is more likely to happen when training new people and they don’t understand my vulnerabilities. During a transfer, the plate and nine screws that held my femur together was torn. Don’t ask. Fortunately, my physical therapist was here and offered much reassurance. That was timely, because I had turned white as a sheet and was ready to pass out. See Shattered, the first chapter in my book, also in my blog if you don’t have a book. This describes my original femur accident from 2007.

I think what happened was, the emotional trauma from the original accident surfaced that had not been cleared. During the night, if I closed my eyes to let go into sleep, I would have an anxiety spike. I instantly made this connection to dying fears. Who gets to be this aware? And, of course, I experienced this in what appears to be slow-motion, so I feel everything, in a big way.

Without an injury, I could live for months, maybe years. The injury is the unknown variable. Perhaps it is the mysterious work of the sacred initiator waiting to midwife me into the next consciousness. That does not instill comfort to this mortal humanoid.

Okay, if I have sufficiently convinced you that working for me is difficult, now imagine being in my place. That would be a quick visit, because living with my circumstances is almost unimaginable to most people, even people with life-threatening illnesses or milder forms of MS. Most of the time it is not so difficult, living my ordeal, observing life from my perspective. It is really a rich, full life.

I know I am living parallel existences. My dreams are as real and as unreal as my waking life feels at times. Some Knowers say that our dreams are more real than this physical reality. I believe that, because I know this is merely a costume for the movie that is my life with this curriculum. Now I get to clear the trauma surrounding my femur injury, otherwise, it will continue postmortem. I have read about people having chronic body issues with memories of being mortally wounded in a parallel existence, or past life if you prefer a linear perspective. Since I sit nineteen hours a day, I have the time and opportunity to release the trauma. So release I will.

Although, my ego would never have chosen these circumstances, I recognize the wisdom in the selection on a soul level. I know that in a blink of an eye, this experience will be over. In the meantime, I prefer to spend my time increasing my consciousness and in service to others. Each moment is another opportunity toward this end, however, gluten or non-gluten, it is not a piece of cake.

Lynne Kaplan Artography

Lynne Kaplan Artography

“Love motivates service, and service gives form to love.”–Robert Schwartz

There is something that happens during a caregiving scenario, when the level of disability is so extreme, that the caregiver needs total focus for keeping the individual’s life from being in jeopardy. This is the quality that develops between myself and my caregivers. The level of disability I experience is profound. I cannot move a limb in order to avoid a potential catastrophe; my caregiver is vitally important for the most basic skills.

Fortunately, only a small percentage of people with multiple sclerosis ever experience my level of disability. I have come to believe that the degree of disability is not arbitrary, but it is commensurate with what is required for a necessary outcome, the evolution of one’s higher purpose. This understanding is not held by the majority of people, but I believe it is a necessary understanding when one accepts that the universe is perfectly safe. In order to accept this premise, one must subscribe to love over fear. In order to arrive at the state of Love, I needed to move through much fear. As they say, “the only way is through,” and this was surely true for me. Surrendering to this illness was a way for me to learn to accept being cared for on many levels.

Something magical can happen during caregiving when a certain level of oneness is achieved through this intense level of focus. The potential for this to occur became clear while I was being showered in my outdoor shower. Allison is my caregiver for this blissful endeavor, as we have been working together for over two years. The level of focus required to keep me safe is not a minimal feat. There is the full transfer to the shower chair, the slippery soap consideration, and the flying insects during the Colorado summer. Yes, we have an inundation of mosquitoes, gnats, noseeums, horseflies and any other bug you can imagine. Fortunately, my alkaline diet seems to provide a deterrent for the little ones, but not for the more aggressive types.

Contrary to popular understanding about multiple sclerosis, my body is not numb. When there is a fly walking across my skin I feel every sensation. When a mosquito stings me, I feel the intrusion. Actually, my bodily sensation is to a degree, heightened. When I felt the horsefly on my leg, without hesitation Allison swatted the bug full force. In the moment, the insect was as surprised as Allison when she didn’t feel the sting in her thigh. That is how heightened the caregiving symbiosis can become. It can be a curriculum in transcendence, or oneness. Once I was able to go beyond the profound fear of the illness, to understand the bigger picture rather than feeling victimized by the loss of body functioning, I was able to open to relationships where I could receive care on some of the deepest levels.

My ego would never have chosen this degree of vulnerability and from the ego’s perspective, these circumstances are a tragedy. From the bigger picture perspective, I am learning unitive consciousness, or Oneness on many levels. Loving interactions with my caregivers are some of the more significant teachings, for which I am tremendously grateful.