One of the hardest things for friends with debilitating illness is to accept its limitations. Inspirational writer Oriah Mountain Dreamer graciously allowed me to share this post from her blog, The Green Bough, about a day last year when she came face to face with her denial. And turned it into a lesson. More on Oriah after the post.
By Oriah Mountain Dreamer
Today, is the shortest day of the year. I think of the dark as a place for rest and dreaming, but it can also be the place where we confront or are clobbered by the shadow- those aspect of self and life we try to ignore or bury.
Last week I was confronted by my own denial. My insistence that I could do something beyond the physical capacity of a body with a chronic degenerative neurological disease resulted in a precipitous drop in blood pressure and an extended period of tachycardia with a heart rate around two hundred beats per minute.
Yeah. Not fun. And that was before I was informed that the situation that made my apartment uninhabitable would not be corrected for six full days.
I broke down. I knew I couldn’t do what others were telling me had to be done. I knew it was not physically possible.
I was conditioned from an early age to look and sound “fine” even when I am not. To do otherwise risked violence from my mother. My ex-husband once pointed out that I could be lying on the floor in pain, unable to walk to the bedroom, but if someone called and he put the phone in my hand, I would sound just “fine.” It’s my default setting, a survival strategy.
So, in some ways, not sounding fine- and really, it was a full tilt meltdown in the lobby of the building- was a breakthrough. In response, the kind couple who are the supers in my building went into action, offered support, and advocated on my behalf so my apartment would be habitable within one day.
Having seen my denial, the challenge is to accurately see and accept the changing limitations of my body, and still maintain my faith in the goodness of life. Sounds simple, but it’s not always easy when there is pain and immobility. Living in the present moment deepens our lives. But, people’s lives are busy and we are social animals, so we make plans- to meet for lunch, to share Christmas dinner, to take a trip. The truth is I cannot know what I will or will not be able to do tomorrow. This is simply what is.
We all have stuff to work with, and this- the disease, the unpredictability of what I will be able/unable to do, the periods of pain and prostration- this is what I have to work with.
Tomorrow the days start to get a little longer as the light returns. My prayer is to take what I have seen in the darkness with me into the growing light. And I offer that prayer for us all individually and collectively. May our eyes be open to see what is. May our hearts be open so we can hold what is with a fierce love that chooses life fully even as we refuse to look away from that which hard.
Oriah is a writer, a storyteller, and a brutally honest first person essayist. You may have encountered Oriah as I did in 1994 through her fierce (and famous) prose poem, The Invitation, that begins “It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living, I want to know what you ache for…” You can find it on her website, here, You can buy it or her other books on Amazon. Subscribe to the Green Bough, her blog, here.