The relentlessness of synchronicity, of the recurring pursuit of soul for deeper meaning and expression struck me this morning as I, once again, “accidentally” opened a book that seemed to be picking up on a conversation I’d left off only just moments before and days before and. The ongoing conversation of my soul and mind, inspecting the state of my health, asking why. Thomas Moore’s articulation in Dark Nights of the Soul chimed in:
“The religion scholar Mircea Eliade explores in his journals what he calls “the spiritual, ‘religious,’ functions of illness.” “Illness,” he writes, “is the point of departure for the process of personality integration and for a radical spiritual transformation.”
“Illness is also a kind of poetry. It expresses the course of life, but it doesn’t explain it. It invites you to reflect on your way of life, spotting the gaps where your soul is negected and complaining. You can think about where the disease came from and how it reflects the way you live or the ways of your society. Eventually, your sickness may cure you of your misconceptions, as it speaks its poetry on behalf of nature, guiding you deeper into union with the source of your own life. The more you are emptied of your physical abilities, the more you are filled with the strength of soul.”
Over a year ago I began to acknowledge the slam of chronic illness, the recurring fever and its effects, coming seemingly out of nowhere but not a stranger to my world. I couldn’t sustain that acknowledgement because, for one, I didn’t want it to dominate my expression or my perspective. How quickly does “disability” become identity? For fear of that very possibility, I retreated. But my body continued to struggle. I would shove, push, scramble into days that most folks can do without too much reprisal. The benefit of 50/50 parenting delayed my final crash, getting me through my last semester as I spent any “spare” time in stillness, lying around, trying not to feel guilty. But the summer and heat, lawn and life depleted me fully.
I found Dr. Myhill’s illuminating insights. This failure of the mitochondria is inherited from the maternal side, she says. Cracks me up in light of recurring divination screaming…”then one receives great blessing from the ancestress.” Such a tangle of potential meaning. Dr. Myhill? My grandmother, Sugar, gifting me with this curse? She’s the one who suffered and whose heart literally exploded. I was born with my heart murmuring. Truly, literally a heart murmur. Can we say I was born with my soul already needing healing? And my body therefore spoke or murmured? We can say and see anything, really. But I agree with Moore. I agree with the opportunity here.
My own struggles have legitimized my grandmother’s story. She was not taken seriously, had many tests for her health and when you read Myhill’s description of the total body shutdown caused by this failure in energy production on a molecular level you read her story, my grandmother’s. She was not believed. She was looked on with some contempt and seen as “weak.” I see a bit of redemption in this. Her spirit can rest with more ease. Who she was as a person, the perception of her soul, of her essence can be rid of that lack of credibility. She was, in fact, stronger than anyone knew, working to stay active in life while her respiratory system failed her, while her thyroid roiled and her heart – though tested without revealing it – worked with very little fuel.
What is the soul’s work in this chronic illness? What is the pattern? Activity and reprisal for such activity, rest required, punitive pause. Then rev up the engine a bit, ragged but rolling and out the door again. Second-guessing the fatigue every step of the way. Is it that I don’t believe I’m allowed to live without punishment? Is this the first time I’ve faced this possible cause? No. God, no. I’ve covered many a layer, incorporating new vision, new thinking, acceptance of myself on deeper and deeper levels and actions, life changes reflecting the inner work. And yet. My body continues to express itself through limitation. It’s possible I chose this for a specific learning process just as my soul entered this body. But I can never know with a certainty, can I?
What does this illness give me? It requires I rest in feltness supreme on levels deeper and steeper still. It requires I treasure my energy and use it more strategically and conduct my life in even more mindful ways, visionary energy becoming vision more cherishing of life itself. Life. Life beyond “productivity.” Life beyond “legitimacy” earned in our culture’s definition of “living.” Life beyond approval.
People seem to generally be more comfortable either giving extreme medical advice or assuming the illness is caused by a lack of effort to bring the life into fitness on every level. Why is that? Is it that humanity has yet to figure out how to just be with? Be with. Other. Self. Now. Here, let me tell you how I know you’re mismanaging your world ‘though I don’t know you well enough to begin to do so! This, this is what happens most often. Why? No matter…
“Hi. Yes. I have this chronic illness. And I’ve done more homework on my soul than most and I’ve altered my whole world in order to create an environment that honors my requirements. I’m still ill. Deal with it. There’s no one easy answer. And. This. Is. Life.”
When the proof of your “advancement” cannot be revealed in products, the soul brews a most potent stew of creative jive and appreciation for every slice of life. You are more present than ever. Especially when you quit condeming yourself for not appearing to be diligent, active, resilient.
What is this illness giving me? Because of the intense rest and supplement flood, my eyesight is improved, fever reduced. My heart rhythm is more steady, the pause, shudder, spasm, slam, almost-pass-out moments are practically non-existent. My energy is more potently available. My respiratory system is saying “thank you!” My stamina is not yet returned fully but I’m getting there. My respect for my body has increased even more. I’ve learned not to pretend this isn’t a real, valid issue needing measured regard and careful planning. I’ve promised myself that it will become a layer of my daily living I integrate without crashing again. And it will be so effectively managed there won’t be much use for the tag “chronic illness.” It’s going to be about even deeper even more unique perpetual regard in love, tailor-made for honoring my individuality as well as my clan-self. Hey, and one day, I’ll sprint again.