"And in the same moment that I finally allowed that feeling of sadness in, I slipped right through and out the other side: it came to me that I am still the same person behind all the things I did and made in my life, and that although I may not currently have the same abilities and capacity, I am still the courage who powered the rock climber through a fear of heights, I am still the water-baby who compelled the surfer, I am still the love of wild spaces that motivated the hiker and mountain guide, I am still the fortitude that propelled the mountain rescuer, I am still the tenacity that spurred the graphic designer to run her own business, I am still the awareness that watches the meditator, I am still the creativity that keeps the photographer seeing, I am still the inquisitiveness that spurs the writer to look for answers. And I am still the resilient bravery that ensured this eccentric nut survived and thrived through numerous adventures, misadventures and adversities. And I intend to continue being all this, with a willing awareness and receptive acceptance that, going forward, the expression is probably just going to look a bit different."
I am awake, my eyes staring into middlespace, not quite wanting to activate, and I realise my mind is a jumbled untidiness (not dissimilar to my hair), strewn with scads of purportedly interesting things that jiggle about and simply refuse to remain in any coherent order. The thoughts shuffle around and jostle for my attention, each one claiming that it's the most relevant, each clamouring to be attended to immediately before being nudged aside by the next, "extremely urgent" idea. When this happens as I'm speaking I call it the typewriter effect: you know, when a whole lot of keys are pushed all at once and they all jam together with not a single one managing to make a mark on the page, and it takes a moment to untangle them, carefully picking each one out and then beginning again, slowly, hitting keys — or speaking words — one by one, producing a neat, straight, and hopefully coherent, line of ideas.
The December solstice is the end and beginning marker of my personal years, and, as my forty-sixth circuit around the sun reaches completion perhaps my thoughts will behave enough to come out in a straight line, although they may just puff along like this line of little clouds...
Yuri, a friend from one of my past lives with whom I've continued to enjoy a sparse yet always appreciated correspondence, wrote to me saying:
"Your images and written thoughts are almost always about water, clouds, trees, seasons, reflections. And many fascinating ideas, abstract and not so abstract. But for the most part you choose to remain elusive with only the occasional hint dropped about who you are. Which had often left me wondering. It really is daunting to abandon the predictability of one-size-fits-all to live a life on the poorly mapped margins. And then there's pain. And endless self help articles telling you to suck it up Buttercup and it's OK to not be OK and life isn't meant to be fair. Fight or die. Or search endlessly for something gentler in between."
This was something I really needed to hear from someone outside my own mind. I had garnered this idea that on the whole people are more interested in ideas and details that pertain to themselves and so would not be much interested in my under-goings-on. And yes, in the past, at times when I have shared with some people that I was not at all OK, I was sometimes met with a sense of having disappointed, of having let down expectations, followed by a dearth of communication so that I felt I needed to stop mentioning I was struggling a bit before I completely ran out of people to disappoint.
As the Pic of the Week came to contain more 'thought of the week', it came naturally that on principle it would not contain negativity. Instead, when I was going through a difficulty and succumbing to the kind of grumbling misery that no-one is interested in, by wishing to share my experience without bringing others down this principle has often served to help me mop up my mental grime and locate the benefits that, in my experience at least, are inevitably present in everything no matter how dominant the dark and dire aspects are, and shift my mood into a more creative space. And of course I don't share everything. Some things are too personal to share publicly, some things too tiresome for any but the most patient, and others simply too far beyond regular experience to be comprehensively explained. (Even with the aid of articulate hand-flapping, arm-waving, face-pulling, and various un-spellable vocalisations that are nonetheless perfectly well understood when pronounced!)
And some things are just simply too unacceptable. As in, just simply too difficult for oneself to accept.
Part of my lack of acceptance of experiencing a debilitating decline in health stemmed from a lack of knowing why I was experiencing such frustrating symptoms despite living a pretty darn healthy lifestyle. There's a very good reason why "Why?" is just about the first — and certainly the most persistent — question asked by us as youngsters: understanding our world enables us to respond more desirably to what we encounter in it. And then there's a thrilling magic in finding out the why's of things that mystify us, which is probably the reason for the popularity of the thriller-mystery genre. My own reading matter has of necessity veered increasingly towards the genre of 'medical mystery', to which recent research into fields like psychoneuroimmunoendocrinology, epigenetics, metabolomics and the intrinsic role of fascia is finally providing intriguing clues, some via clever twists in the plot that no one saw coming and others that had become pretty obvious to everyone except the leading characters and we were just waiting for them to catch up.
Before I had an answer for what was happening with my body, it was extremely disconcerting experiencing something that was so poorly understood it wasn't even covered in most medical education until very recently. Under numerous misdiagnoses I tried every reasonable sounding remedy that was suggested for symptomatic relief, which, with few exceptions, were to little or no avail and sometimes to my detriment. It took a few people who keep up with the latest research to guide me in the right direction with more useful advice and treatments that are proving, thankfully, to be beneficial. Although sometimes attempting to explain to people why I still can't do everyday things every day is almost more challenging. Likening my experience to those that people are normally familiar with, such as saying it sort of feels like flu that hangs around for years instead of weeks, still doesn't convey the overwhelming intensity of the experience. I realised that the problem with comparing it to a familiar short-term condition is that with flu one knows that in a couple of weeks it will be a thing of the past, so the imagining includes the usual remedial action that is perfectly reasonable and actually sounds quite pleasant for the short-term: staying in bed, taking time off work, not socialising or exercising, and eventually feeling like you have enough energy to go out at last. (And if you feel completely finished within a few hours you know you will feel better in a day or two.). Now re-imagine having flu for years: spending most of one's day resting, unable to work much if at all, not having the energy to fully engage in social activities, and longing to go hiking and climbing in the mountains again while rarely being able to gather the energy just to go out of the house. For years.
Another part of my lack of acceptance is that chronic illness had never felt to me like it was particularly acceptable. I was mocked by classmates for having asthma and teachers expressed such exasperation at my missing so much school, the sick days when I'd been hospitalised marked in red on my report cards as if it were a shameful thing, as if I "must try harder to put in more effort". I felt so outcast, worthless and ashamed, that I changed the way I breathed and became expert at hiding the wheeze. When the asthma finally healed I became fitter than I'd ever been in my life, and I found that the same amount of all-out effort that had never been nearly enough to force my body to jog half way 'round the sports field at school was now more than enough to propel me and my rucksack up mountains — with plenty of breath to spare for my incessant jabber! (And plenty of gratitude for my friends who patiently listened to all that jabber!) I felt capable, competent, and confident.
And then yet another part of my lack of acceptance is the sense that while the prognosis for both fibromyalgia and myalgic encephamyelitis (FM and ME — thank goodness for acronyms!) is pretty dismal with many people's conditions devolving into a bedridden state, this is not the sense I have for myself. I don't consider myself chronically ill. I'm more comfortable with 'chronically convalescing' as being more acceptable, more accurate in terms of my aims, and probably the more mentally-healthy view. And I think it neatly dovetails into my no-negativity criteria while avoiding the negative effects of positive denialism yet still remaining realistically optimistic.
Although I always resisted being defined by what one does (and when asking others about themselves I am more interested to discover what they enjoy, what they dislike, what they admire, and what inspires them, rather than what they do to earn their living) to my dismay I've found that my own mind nevertheless has been judging me by what I produce rather than who I am, and that judging is by a narrow criteria limited to what I did before. Then the other day I was inspired by the prodigious and diverse creative endeavours of someone I was reading about. (And with whom I share a number of traits which I'd seen as unfavourable in myself but which were lauded in him. Hmm.) Thinking about it later in one of my favourite thought-floating locations (the ocean) I suddenly found myself slipping into the underlying sadness I hadn't fully acknowledged I have been feeling for ages: sadness at the loss of the 'amazing', capable, person I was years ago.
And in the same moment that I finally allowed that feeling of sadness in, I slipped right through and out the other side: it came to me that I am still the same person behind all the things I did and made in my life, and that although I may not currently have the same abilities and capacity, I am still the courage who powered the rock climber through a fear of heights, I am still the water-baby who compelled the surfer, I am still the love of wild spaces that motivated the hiker and mountain guide, I am still the fortitude that propelled the mountain rescuer, I am still the tenacity that spurred the graphic designer to run her own business, I am still the awareness that watches the meditator, I am still the creativity that keeps the photographer seeing, I am still the inquisitiveness that spurs the writer to look for answers. And I am still the resilient bravery that ensured this eccentric nut survived and thrived through numerous adventures, misadventures and adversities. And I intend to continue being all this, with a willing awareness and receptive acceptance that, going forward, the expression is probably just going to look a bit different.
I've come to realise that acceptability of another depends largely of their own acceptance of themselves. Because I found my decreased health and capacities totally unacceptable, I guess I interpreted other people's lack of awareness or understanding as a lack of acceptability. I found myself attempting to explain to others when in fact I was just desperately seeking my own validation, my own answers and my own path to acceptance within myself.
So "something gentler in between" may well be found in simple, albeit somewhat elusive, acceptance of how things are. I've always found that limitations spur creativity (once one has stopped sulking about all the options one does not have and has settled into that gentler space of looking around at what one does have) and I am feeling inspired, now, to discover in what form my creativity is next going to be expressed, and how it's going to be of benefit to more than just myself in this weird world we've all found ourselves thrust into this year... And a few more answers to my Why's, would be nice too, of course!
My you find your own gentle breathspace acceptance wherever, however, why ever you are...
With solstice blessings,
P.S. Here are just a few of the Why's I've found answers to, which I'm sharing for anyone who has these conditions or think they may have them, or knows someone with them, or are simply interested. This is very brief -- I intend to gather more of the information and research that has been most helpful for me into a more cohesive format, but for now, here you are...