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Feeling good is not the point – it’s being connected so that the highs and lows don’t matter. You spend less time at the mercy of all those heavy negative thoughts. – Krishna Das

My brothers were born four years apart and five years later I was born. They slept in a bedroom together and I slept alone. I don’t know when the terrors started, but I had a very hard time getting to sleep. In the new house where we moved when I was three, I was on the opposite side of the house from my parents. I would call to my mother, sometimes frantically, and she never came. I cried myself to sleep every night and sucked my thumb until I was eleven. I didn’t like being alone every night in that solitary room, where the lights from the traffic would shine across my wall and keep me awake.

One time my father came to my bed and asked me how I was feeling. I talked to him about how my legs hurt and he told me they were growing pains. I shared my deepest secrets about how afraid I was of the teachers and how I could not go to sleep at night. He taught me a self-meditation technique to help me sleep; I still use it to this day. Although he came to me only one time, I remember it like it was yesterday. I wonder if they consciously considered whether to talk to me or let me learn to self-soothe. I doubt the latter, because there was little conscious conversation in my home growing up. They just didn’t have the capacity. My fears escalated along with my anger.

I began to refuse to go to school; my teachers were too scary. My mother pretended to call the truant officer to report me, so I reluctantly went. Tough love. My mother was tough and distant, emotionally. It wasn’t until my 50s when she was dying that I actually realized she’d always loved me. Some people never know, so this is not a complaint or a tragedy, it’s just what often happened growing up in the 50s.

Being born in July had its advantages; we lived on a natural lake during the summer. It was a simple, intimate lake, before it became a resort area. I was happy there and so was my family. However, being born in July when the sun was in Cancer meant I had the potential to be hyper-sensitive, moody, and overly dependent/clingy. A clingy child and a touch-me-not mother created quite a challenge for compatibility and connection. The casual lifestyle at the lake nurtured my more positive traits: spontaneity, athleticism, in a community that loved nature. I didn’t fear being alone in my bedroom at the cottage, but when we moved back to city life each year my whole body contracted. The isolation, the inactivity, the stark school with the scary teachers were overwhelming.

My pillow was my transitional object and I kept it until well after I was married. During my early life, I avoided being alone at all costs, and the costs were dear. I clung to unhealthy relationships much too long. I did, however, experience a great deal of self-love when I finally had the courage to leave. Finding the courage to leave unhealthy situations seemed to be the edge I needed to meet what some call the Great Aloneness. There is an expression – we come into this world alone and we leave this world alone. That used to sound sad to me, but once I was able to hold grief long enough to fully feel it there was a shift and I was able to finally feel safe and to begin to love myself, deeply. I see that only by feeling everything, instead of feeling good, can self-love really be acquired. One must grow into it. I certainly had to.

It was only through experiencing the Great Aloneness that I began to understand that in our core we each want the same thing, to feel loved, and when we mature spiritually we begin to know that we are loved. If we follow this thought and are able to stay with it, our Awareness grows and we find that we are Love. When we internalize this, we open to the Knowing that we are all one. I was working at a community mental health center in Louisiana when this awareness began to take root. I remember the timing clearly, because my supervisor asked me to propose a password for the state computer system. I offered, “Allone,” imagining that in our area of the state of Louisiana, at that moment in time, everybody would be using Allone as their password to enter the mental health system! I love that irony/synchronicity. Don’t tell anybody, but this is still my password, or variations of the theme.

The moments I have felt most connected to my heart, connected to my Beloveds, connected to the Universe, have been the times that I Know that we are all inextricably linked, all one being, and that we are only separated by the belief, a mental construct, that we are separate. Many people fear loneliness, but loneliness is never about another person. It is and has been only through the felt-sensation of Oneness that I know this to be Truth.

I don’t for one minute believe that one has to be facing the end of their life to enter this Knowing that we are all one and we are all in this together. Crises can accelerate this awareness. They have a way of cracking open the defensive hardness that appears to separate us. By practicing empathy and forgiveness of the self, the boundaries of protection fall away.

Then, all that is left is Love. And, it is love, that we truly are all in together.

**This essay is dedicated to Kirsten Schreiber, my dear friend, sister of all ages, who nudged me to finish it.

“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.

“You wait a lifetime to meet someone who understands you, accepts you as you are. At the end, you find that someone, all along, has been you.” -Richard Bach

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Siegfried Zademack

I recently shared with my dear friend Alice, who is on a similar Journey as me, that with this illness I believe we are being brought into greater balance. The personal journeying she has shared with me recently has affirmed this Knowing. I wanted to share some of my deep, personal balancing.

I have been particularly touched by a couple I have known for some time, who has been journeying through MS together. One has the illness, but they are together in their commitment of seeing this curriculum through. After David left, I communicated with Stephen to ask what enables him to stay. His response was so profound and personal that I will not share it on a blog; suffice it to say that he expressed reverence and deep love in his serving. Hearing his perspective gave me so much hope for humankind and appreciation for these friends whose lives are unexplainably interconnected with mine.

From time to time, we check in with each other to share strategies and mutual respect. As I near the end of my ten week commitment to The Presence Process* with this week’s theme being, I FORGIVE MYSELF, what keeps coming up is that I need to forgive myself for having this illness. Everything else has been forgiven, but this last piece seems intransigent.

During our most recent communication, I must have shared my pain and disappointment about traversing this journey alone in contrast to their shared path. There have been so many similarities and synchronicities along our respective paths, it is surely not a coincidence.

But for me, David left. Stephen expressed something remarkable to me. “… dearest Aliyah, I have fallen for you in a way I cannot explain. Somehow there is a sisterhood of like souls on similar voyages and somehow the two of you have me on the same liferaft. You make it easier for me to care for [my wife]. I feel that I could be with you in your situation with perfect ease…” That last line was the clincher. I could not stop sobbing. He had struck a nerve. Pun intended.

I was able to see the part of me that is so balled up and black that I cannot possibly be lovable. After all, David adored me and he could not leave fast enough. As I sat with the pain in my being, and allowed myself to soften and expand around this pain, I realized that it was myself that I could not forgive. Somehow, this invitation allowed me to see the deepest judgment I held was for myself: I had been so cruel to my mother when she was sick for ten years of my young life. My mother has long since forgiven me, but I had not forgiven me! My healing with this illness has involved revisiting the primary relationship with my mother, as I have described in much detail in previous blogs.

It has taken Stephen’s kindness and devotion for me to access that place that we can perhaps call the missing piece. I also understand why I could never maintain a primary relationship and simultaneously do my deepest healing. I would fetishize and romanticize the love from others to protect myself from touching into this blackness. I had to hear love from another person, but also someone from the same liferaft. It is a wondrous process to unlock the depths of where we cannot love ourselves.

It is by entering our deepest wounds where illness can sometimes be just the medicine we need for bringing us into greater balance.

*a book by Michael Brown