You know those life lessons, the ones we really should grasp because they’d free us up to experience life more fully? Something to the effect of: slow down, savor the small things, be kinder to yourself, be more forgiving of your flaws and less judgmental of those you love. I can honestly say, these are all things I do on a daily basis. And I can also honestly say- there is no way I would have learned this way of living if illness hadn’t come into my life. Illness, that is where this story begins. It started when I was relatively young, twenty-three, it started when I was beginning to attain some of my biggest dreams and it came when I needed it the most.
Five years ago I became mysteriously ill. I was fatigued but not the kind that you can sleep off. Mine was a bone-deep gnawing that would not let up no matter what. I tried to push through and I tried to eat healthy – it only got worse. I went to doctors and holistic practitioners & I became the most proactive patient I possibly could. The obvious diagnosis was Chronic Fatigue Syndrome- what I’ve now come to understand as adrenal burnout. Everyone told me to slow down, rest, eat well and because I was young, I would recover rapidly. This sounded good to me – I wanted to get on with my life and with my grand and exciting dreams! But this did not end up being the case; rather I became the one patient who did not respond to any treatments, special diets or pills. All I could do was wait, rest and keep searching for answers.
Initially I resisted with all I had. I thought getting ill in my youth was a major slight, some sort of cruel joke and a betrayal of my body. In the midst of all this, my wonderful mother sent me to a therapist, a dear man who truly believed in me and spoke truth in my darkest hours, (and there were many dark hours). Through him I began to piece together some semblance of a life amidst the fatigue and the unanswered questions. I vacillated between depression and small glimmers of hope, mostly depression.
Then slowly, ever so slowly, in the third year, things began to shift. I found a practitioner who completely understood all that was going on in my body and who had an effective treatment for this condition. The healing did not happen overnight- it was slow and steady and continues to this day. Even with these answers to my physical problems I had yet to truly feel gratitude for what this experience was giving me. I still struggled with great regret over lost years and impatience that things were not moving as quickly as I wanted – that I was continuing to “lose” time.
In my 26th year I came across the work of Barry Neil Kaufman and Sue Monk Kidd. Both played a part in completely changing my perspective on life. I began to be transformed by the idea that there was something deeply holy in my waiting. I decided I wanted this waiting, yes I actually wanted it! I was going to stick with it for as long as need be and happily so.
So, this story begins with despair and ends in happiness. I now know I will look back on this season and on the years to come and see that I savored the small things, began to learn self love and truly started loving others without agenda or desperation. I think a lot of this comes, for many, later in life- lessons finally learned after lost relationships and a blur of hurried years. In this I feel tremendously blessed – for illness has allowed me to tap into some of life’s greatest lessons at a very young age. And when others worry or question how I can be at peace while my conventional life is turned upside down, I simply smile. Trust has become my ally, my key to happiness, to finding my tribe and my true home. How can I be led wrong? Good waits on the road ahead because good is with me here and now regardless of extenuating circumstances.
My confidence was shaken, only to find root in something deeper than tangible strength. I don’t have to rely on me or my ability to accomplish anymore. I am soul expressing my divinity in this one sacred life – this is the gift, this is real living.
“Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isa. 43:19
Have you had any experience with choosing happiness/peace or choosing a better perspective, even in the midst of a health crisis? It would be wonderful to hear your thoughts.