I had been trying to get to my parent’s house for the past two years. Trying to make it out there to see if it would be a tolerable environment for me to take safe haven in as my disease was clearly not letting up, in fact I endured many worsenings and new injuries from the medical system. I think I am in a space of acceptance. I have fought this illness with everything I had for 14 years now. I know down to my marrow that I did everything I could do to heal myself, and yet here I was, at 38 years young, declining and needing the assistance of a caregiver and many caring friends and family.
The stages of grief are never linear for anyone, regardless of what or who they are grieving. But typically the griever has the luxury of closure, conclusion, an end of some kind. This may take the form of their own death, or a death of a loved one, an end of a marriage or stage of life. With chronic illness you go through the stages of grief over and over again. Though, I had endured so many of the stages, depression, bargaining, and denial, I never ever came to a place of acceptance. For me, this was never an option. I just knew I would overcome what was eating away at my body. I never lost steam for that mission until about a year and a half ago. I finally, and for the first time, said to myself, “I might not actually get better, and maybe that is ok”.
Many people are not ok with me accepting that I am not well and may never be. If I had cancer or some other disease more easily processed by the intellects of my friends and family, this might be seen as a good thing, a place where my ailing body and soul could be at peace with what simly IS. I also find a lot of resistance from supposed positive and new age thinkers. “Well, if you don’t think you can get better, then you won’t”. I sort of chuckle when well meaning people say this to me, and yes there is an element of hurtfulness to these comments and concepts. Essentially they all indicate that I am choosing to be ill in some way or another, which essentially makes me a failure.
For many years I felt like I had failed because I had set out to cure myself, and I was not cured. I cleansed my body, my emotions, my very soul. I had literally travelled to the edges of the world to heal myself, yet the physical symptoms of this disease have not gone. Constantly fighting was not working, on any level for me any longer. I thought, what if I just let go of everything and just be with what is? This lifted a huge amount of internal stress that was living inside me. The giving over of my life to the Will of God, in every way, allowed me to finally let go of “I should be doing this” or “I could be doing that”. The fact was I spent most of my day in bed, I had very little energy to do anything with, and that this entire thing was not in my control. Therefore, how could I have failed myself? If you have tried, but not succeeded are you a failure?
One of the things that really got to me throughout this process has been the feeling of being a failure. I had made a singular mission, to which I dedicated every ounce of my being and focus for 12 years, as well as every extra cent of money. If I stopped everything and just looked honestly at where I stood, I clearly saw that I had failed my mission. That was just the truth of it. Our cultural focus on accomplishment was seared into my deep subconscious, and finally I saw how this brought me so much suffering. I never got to really go through the stages of applying my knowledge to a career. I was able to finish my degree in Social Work, but the stress of having pushed through to get that degree broke my body down, and as I entered my Master’s degree program, I nearly passed out in the first of my classes. I had to take a medical leave. That was in 2009.
So here I am in 2016, not really having moved much or accomplished anything by our world’s standards. Nor had I accomplished the feat of healing my body back to functionality so I could meet my survival needs, be a contributing member of society, and fulfill my lifelong dream of being of service to my fellow humans in the ways I had imagined. I instead became the burden that so many gripe about. I became the recipient of the welfare programs, I became the one who needed food stamps. I became a person in constant need. I became the person I was going to help. I was supposed to be the helper! This was not the natural order of things. Something had gone terribly wrong. Or had it?
When I began to dip my toe in the pool of acceptance, which has been an ongoing process for me, I was able to let some of the ideas about what my life should be go. I have always wondered what the difference between surrendering and giving up are when applied to illness. It seems like “Surrender” is a good word, we like that term, when you surrender something good is happening and you are in a space of allowing what is to emerge. But “giving up”, those are bad words, that is something we don’t do as Americans, and we certainly don’t do that as Spiritually awake and conscious beings. In my acceptance, I was able to surrender many thoughts and beliefs about myself. I was able to not be triggered by the judgments of others, if not just for moments at a time. The relief I felt permeated areas of my being I didn’t know were being hijacked by “my fight against Lyme.”
I suppose the difference is when you surrender, you still work to treat your body and symptoms for relief and comfort, but you are unattached to the outcome of those works. I have surrendered to what is. I have not given up, but I am beginning to surrender and accept what has happened to me and where I am at in life. This has brought in a fresh energy for me. It has made room for all kinds of new perspectives to come in that are life affirming, and self-affirming in the face of still being ill. Maybe I can still be valuable. Maybe I am contributing in ways that aren’t recognized with paychecks or accolades. In fact, perhaps there are some blessings here that have graced my life that would never have been had I not become so sick.
I realized that I have been able to be what I sometimes refer to in levity as a “free radical”, just getting to kind of float about in time and space and land wherever God willed me to be. I am available for the 2 hour phone calls with fellow Lymies, to be the shoulder to cry on. To be the one who understands. Yes, I get to do that, what a great honor! I have had the space to go deep into Spiritual study and practice, to meditate, to pray. I get to express my devotion to the Beloved at a pace that is natural, and allows me to gain a momentum in the direction of Spirit that takes time, often in a way I find comparable to the life of a monk or nun. Time that people working 9-5 simply don’t have. I have had the space and opportunity to explore dimensions of my deep Self, to see my ego, to work on my character. Illness has been a container for my personal and spiritual growth. They say that you can only meet people who are suffering to the depths that you yourself have suffered. Because of the depths I have gone to, I am able to truly be a place where other’s suffering can be heard and understood, or at least I hope to be.
When I finally got here to my parent’s house in August, I went from no outdoor space at all, to a practical sanctuary of nature my dad had created out of his backyard. As far as backyards go, being from Las Vegas you are used to a 5 x 10 concrete square for your “outdoor space”, not to mention it is 110 degrees out there with very little as far as trees and creatures, so being outside is not really that enjoyable there unless you can get out to somewhere like Red Rock (and don’t get me wrong, I love Vegas, it has all it’s own uniqueness). But here, in Southern California, the beautiful weather and the relatively large backyard space is just such a gift. It has been wonderful to spend hours of my day outside and enjoying the beauty and gifts of nature.
The one special spot in the backyard is my mother’s area where she goes to enjoy a smoke. It is a two-seater swing under this beautiful Weeping Willow Tree. It is technically a Pepper Tree, but for visual effect I will call it a weeping willow because it’s branches and leaves hang just like a willow. My mom has a special connection with Trees. She can feel their energy, and I believe she passed this gift onto me, it is a special thing we share together. It is just one aspect of our Empathic nature (another blog for this).
My first week here I would go to sit under it and would feel a drop of water fall on my arm or hand, and I would see little droplets of liquid coming from the leaves of the tree. I got up to look at the sky to see if there were any signs that it was raining, but sure enough the sky was clear as could be. I forgot about it, then a few days later, sitting under the Tree I felt more drops on my arm. My mom came out to sit with me and I asked her if she ever noticed that the Tree expressed little droplets of water?
She said “yes, this Tree cries.” I was taken aback. I said, “what do you mean it cries, why does it cry?” She replied, “well, this Tree is very old and knows what the Humans are doing to the Earth and to one another, and because of that it cries”. She believes that it protects her from some of the harshness of the world, just sitting under it’s wise old branches. That it carries some of the sadness of the world. This brought me to tears. I instantly felt a great love and connection with this Tree, The Crying Tree. That moment, my mother and I went to get some water as an offering to this beautiful being who creates a space of beauty and protection under which our sensitive souls can sit and just be. A soft place in a harsh world. I guess in many ways we are all grieving for something, even the trees. It is a time in our world where there is much to grieve for.
I often remember an article I read by Ram Dass that was about Trees. He said we look at trees and they are crooked and go in this and that direction, but we never question why it is the way it is. So why do we do that with people? Why can’t we look at people the same way we look at Trees, with an automatic acceptance?
Under the Crying Tree is a place where I can accept what is and be accepted. I sit under it everyday, and feel as though I am in a chrysalis of love. A place where my acceptance of myself, exactly the way I am, is being born. What, if not this, is healing?