“The best way out is always through.” —Robert Frost
Each January for the past 4 years I have resolved that that year I would finally regain full health. In my head full health looks like: falling asleep easily each night and waking refreshed each morning, climbing mountains and taking dance classes, traveling to exotic locales without the fear of being felled by a tropical virus/bacteria/parasite, working a job outside of our home, having adventures with my husband, being present and available to my kids whenever they need me, making plans and having the confidence that I will be able to commit to them. I have yet to achieve my goal. It’s a lovely goal but not a particularly realistic one, and all that my striving has done is cause me to suffer. I suffer when I rail at how my illness keeps “getting in the way.” But the reality is that my illness doesn’t get in the way of my actual life; it just gets in the way of the life I often wish I had.
So no resolutions this year. I will simply practice accepting what comes with as much grace as possible. I know life is going to continue to throw me curveballs. Life is good at that. So the question is: How am I going to respond to what comes my way? I want to take care of myself and work towards better health without grasping for something that may be unattainable. I want to suffer less and live more. And by living, I simply mean allowing each day to unfold as it does, without too many expectations or too much misery if my expectations aren’t met and I end up in bed, miss out on things to which I was looking forward, or am generally less productive than I would like to be. I know it won’t be easy. I may need to resist before I can accept. Thankfully, I’m not aiming for perfection.
I need to acknowledge some emotions that I’ve kept partially buried. Though I have been ill for the better part of 5 years, I haven’t really let myself face the true depths of my feelings about the turn my life has taken. This might be because I assumed (over and over again) that my illness was temporary and my return to health was just around the corner.
Lately my life feels like a Greek Tragedy, with the major players being GRIEF and FEAR. They slink across the stage like grim reapers, cloaked and faceless.
GRIEF points out my losses: regular hilly walks and hikes, yoga classes and flying trapeze, singing with my chorus, traveling with ease, committing to plans, being the partner Harlan needs, giving my kids the attention they deserve, visits with friends, work outside the house, carefree enjoyment of food, the belief that I can pursue all of my dreams, energy, sleep, a sense of purpose.
FEAR whispers that I will be sick for the rest of my life, that I will miss out on amazing experiences, that my lifespan will be shortened or my poor health will make a long life unappealing, that my marriage will eventually be strained beyond its limits, that my health challenges will bankrupt my family, that I won’t be able to find a way to be truly content with my lot, that I won’t fulfill my life’s purpose, that my kids will miss out on experiences because of me, that my friendships will dwindle.
GRIEF keeps me in the past. FEAR pulls me into the future. Neither allows me to live in the present. And if I’m not careful GRIEF and FEAR might just invite HOPELESSNESS into the mix. I can’t let that happen.
So I will face my demons. I will do the work. And I will concentrate on manifesting the merciful moment when a chorus of ACCEPTANCE and GRACE takes center stage.