“The meaning of forgiveness is . . . accepting that you’re not going to go back and change the past.” —Cheryl Strayed
I thought I would feel whole when I became healthier, but what I really wanted was never to have been sick in the first place. I wanted to go back to the way my life was before I became sick; back to seemingly limitless energy, freedom and adventure, the flying trapeze, traveling with ease and eating whatever I wanted. And this seems to be quite a common experience. In his book The Wild Edge of Sorrow, psychotherapist Francis Weller writes:
“When we are in the grips of illness, a major focus in our mind is the hope of getting back to where we were before this sickness began. But we are not meant to go back. . . . [W]e must recognize that we have been uprooted by our cancer, our heart attack, our depression, and we have been set down on some new shore. Like any true ritual process, we are meant to come out of the experience deeply changed.”
I am reminded that my experiences are here to help me evolve. Wishing I could go back will only keep me stuck in old patterns. And even though I would sometimes like to forget that I was ever ill at all, to do so would be to deny pieces of my life’s puzzle. Embracing the ups, downs and in-betweens, what Zorba the Greek called “the full catastrophe”, and integrating my experience of illness into my present life can only add to the richness of my story. And should improve my chances of rediscovering that wholeness that I seek.
Over the past 20 months, in an attempt to understand the lessons of my illness, I have meditated and taken workshops at a Buddhist retreat center. I’ve read Eckhardt Tollé and books on ancestral grief. I’ve listened to Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations podcast (don’t knock it til you try it). I’ve had Jin Shin Jiutsu sessions (a form of Japanese acupressure) and other types of therapeutic bodywork. I’ve done work to heal my inner child. But often when I’ve gotten to a place of deep awareness and started to feel something shift within me, I’ve been overcome by the urge to move onto something else, anything else. Evolving is hard work, and sometimes I have needed a break. But I keep getting pulled back to the path. And I am realizing that this is a path that I will be on (and off…and on…and off) for the rest of my life.