Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Haunting

Halloween. The veil between the worlds of spirit and body wavers and thins.  Knowledge and fear of knowledge, consciousness of The Unknown, are close at hand.  Ghosts walk, demons dance, all the skeletons in the closet rattle.  I am tense with horror at what I am about to call up, at my own deadly courage in facing the shade that hovers.   

A year ago, I was lying here in my bed, weeping again from exhaustion.  It was 7pm, the trick-or-treaters were in full parade.  One daughter was downstairs dispensing candy to the crowds and laughing with the neighbors; the other daughter pacing the floor, waiting for a ride to a party who never showed up. I was so tired, fatigued from my hysterical illness, the six weeks of continuous bleeding, the runaround in the health-care system.  I drove my daughter to her party, shaking like a palsied old woman.  Three hours from now, I was checking into the Emergency Hospital.

A year of doctors and tests that told no story, of healers and pills and therapies that dug new stories out of the depths of lost memory.  I lost forty pounds; it all found me again and brought extra.  I've been to a dozen doctors. I've consulted astrologers, psychics, and charlatans.  I've been hopeful and morose, resigned, and suicidal.  I spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in analysis, diagnosis, meditation--scouring my case history for clues, making peace with skeletons in my past, finding skeletons lurking that I never suspected.

Last Christmas I lay in my bed, wishing I were dead.  Lent came around to find me hopeful of a resurrection into new life, a renewed spirit.  I wondered what would grow from my broken body and bruised heart.  Grace had cracked open my life, deeper than I imagined possible.  The self I laid down is dead; the self that rises now, I still don't recognize.

Not two weeks after my Lenten post, I lay on my healer's table, confronting my long-dead mother.  More than one of my sensitive friends told me that I had an attachment, that the ghosts of uneasy souls lay in my spirit.  My mother appeared to me with remorse, anxiety and longing.  Death had given her a new perspective of our lives.  She begged my forgiveness for her sins.  She warned me of demons hiding in my psyche.  She gave me few words but what she said turned everything I remembered of my childhood upside down.

It felt like my memories, and the meanings I attached to them, were a kaleidoscope, a familiar pattern of sights and sounds and feelings.  But Mom came and shifted the lens just a quarter turn.  All those  pieces suddenly fell into a different pattern with all new meaning.  Everything I thought I understood about myself, my childhood, my family was new.  I had stepped into a parallel universe, a Twilight Zone.

But how could these implications of my mother's words be true?  I had no recollection of anything that supported what she suggested that day. I was haunted now as I'd never been when her spirit had lingered.  I'd watched her fade into the light of my healer's window but I was burdened now with a new, terrible truth I couldn't accept.

My lack of confirmation weighed heavy, though the scars of the truth were now clear.  I felt like a physicist who hadn't seen the unknown planet but knew it had to exist because of its effects on nearby space were obvious.  Suddenly, the many questions through the years from psychologists and psychics weren't so absurd.  Perhaps the wounds they suggested had happened.

Then the memories began to leak out.  In dreams.  And flashbacks.  Glimpses of sights and sensations that had no context but I could feel them in my body, gagging me, tearing my most sensitive places, burning my belly, the gall strong.The demon danced always just out of sight, daring me to call him by name.

My body is the battleground of this fight to own my memories.  I was struck with Bell's palsy; I lost part of the vision in one eye, and have been tortured with pain that threatened to blast my brain out through the sutures of my skull bones.  The medicines and therapies prescribed to lessen the pain, served also to weaken my defenses that blocked these memories to begin with.  The more I mediate the pain, the more the demon dances and, by force of long and well-ingrained habit, I try to repress him.  I am about to start my third round of remedy/therapy combinations that will safely exorcise this evil from me.

I long to name this demon with confidence.  Fetch him to dance to my tune.  Tame him to work for me in healing, not destroy me.  As I write, a muscle under my eye is twitching, my whole body aches in a permanent flinch, the frozen trauma caught in the muscle memory I can't yet allow fully into consciousness.  

Tonight I step into the circle, howling my terror, singing my strength, this demon is mine.  Bring to consciousness the fears and the memories that terrify. While the veil to the unconscious is thin and shifting, when the power of those saints who passed before us lingers close, I invoke Grace.  The demon Grace who dances, not to terrify but to save me from what I could not be permitted to see.  Grace, whose blindness now will be sight, I call you to transmute from fear to love, no longer Death but Life.  

Tomorrow, I go to a Franciscan labyrinth to honor All Saints Day/Dia de los Muertes.  I will walk into the path as to the grave, to bury my fears and traumas.  The dreams and knowings I call forth tonight will go with me tomorrow into the labyrinth. I will bring the demon fears with me, but in the holy center space where grace happens, he will be no demon to me. When I come out, it will be wisdom that walks with me.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

10 Things on Thursday

Ten Things I'm Afraid Of:

1. I'm afraid that I will be regarded as a dilettante blogger because I don't blog every day. But I'm afraid if I blog everyday, I will end up with mostly frivolous posts.

2. I am afraid of being Stoopid. My hysterical illness has mucked up so much of my executive functioning that I am just a dingbat all too often. I'm afraid that my hysterical illness has stolen so much of my brain that I won't ever be able to write consistently and reliably, that I won't be able to "just show up" to my writing.

3. I am afraid i will lose my mind altogether. I hate that I can't be counted on to organize the family's finances or even the grocery lists with any certainty.

4. I am afraid that I won't provide my kids with the social skills and education that they deserve. I am afraid that my own disabilities will create disabilities in them. I'm afraid that I did them a disservice by homeschooling.

5. I'm afraid I've wasted my intelligence on fundamentalist thinking and haven't got anything left now that I'm not a fundamentalist anymore.

6. I'm afraid that the best thing anyone will be able to say about me at my funeral is that "she loved her kids". But I hate that I can't see loving my kids as a valuable accomplishment.

7. I am afraid of dying before I'm fifty (like my mother). I am also afraid of being old before my time.

8. I am afraid that I will let the limitations of my hysterical illness hold me back as much as I let fundamentalist thinking and religious addiction limit me.

9. I am afraid that I make no difference in my world.

10. I am afraid of fear.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Vanity of Vanities

 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.  My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. Psalm 22:14-15
My soul is weary of my life; I will leave my complaint upon myself; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.  Job 10:1

It seems my whole life I have been finding myself in the Scriptures.  The psalmists, the prophets, they knew my aching fatigue, my soul-deep exhaustion. I have carried agony in my heart long before the pain in my body caught up to me in middle-age.  These poets and preachers felt the longings of my heart from my earliest years.  They gave consolation that I am not alone in crying out for relief.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. Matthew 11:28-29He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.  Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.  Isaiah 40:29-31
The same Scriptures gave me consolation that relief was possible, that God wanted to give me strength and rest.  If only I took his “yoke and learned of” him, then I too could run and fly and rejoice.  For at least thirty years, I have sought nothing more.  Yet, still I lie on my bed and sigh.  I am simply too tired to weep.

I have read the Bible and I have prayed.  I have “waited on the Lord”.  I have sought the wisdom of the medical industry and the healers.  I have taken pills; I have changed my diet and my habits.  I have analyzed my psyche and shamanically “released my attachments”.  I have begged for death.  I have begged for new life.  I have found neither.  I quit begging and tried to “screw my courage to the sticking-place” and “just do it”.

Everyone from the Old Testament prophets to the New Age healers, from Shakespeare to Nike ads, the pill-pushers to the diet-pushers to the snake-oil sellers, all promise salvation.

I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.  That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.  I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.  And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit.  Ecclesiastes 1:14-17

Monday, October 15, 2012

Longing for the One Who Denies Me

I have a question related to a comment you posted on [another blog]  I hope you don't mind.  You said:

"I grew up a third generation Christian. When new converts would come to our church or I'd help out my dad with his work with street people and addicts, I used to wish I hadn't grown up in a Christian home so that I could see God's grace as actually saving me from something. These people with their newly-converted zeal--which sometimes lasted for many years, at least as long as I knew them--had an experiential understanding of salvation that I could only glimpse intellectually. My Christianity was a mental exercise of theology--doctrinal statements, lists of rules, and worldviews--I longed for what those homeless drunks found in God. What had I been saved from after all? My big sins were arguing with my brother and having "an attitude" with my dad, and those certainly didn't go away with a conversion experience. I never saw that I had been "saved" from anything nor to something that was experientially different than my "former" life."
 I ask, have you ever found an answer for that longing and dissatisfaction?  I ask because that is my longing too.  I have been a Christian since I was 5ish.  I know I didn't fully understand it all at age five but I did have a heart for my parents God.  That faith matured until I though that he was my God too.  But that longing to truly have that fervor for the Lord, to be truly saved from and FOR something has never left me.  It ate at me thorough my childhood as I wrote stories and poems of a God who SAVES.
Now, I am tired of waiting for that salvation.  I long for the feelings of redemption but I fear that God has forever denied me this.  I grew up in a house allergic to Christian emotions and I am honestly about sick of Christianity.  I am sick of longing for something and loving the One who denies me it, then beating myself up for wanting it and telling myself to submit to an intellectual faith.
I know that you are a complete stranger, if this letter is just too personal I am sorry, please ignore it and know that in no way am I trying to be rude or to dump my problems on you.  I am simply approaching you because you wrote exactly what I was feeling and I hoped that perhaps you had found the answer.  Thank you for clarifying what had been simmering in my hear for a long time.

"I hoped that perhaps you had found the answer.”

I certainly haven’t found The Answer, but I have found An Answer, sometimes.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that I had to leave Christianity to find it.  In every flavor of Christianity that I experienced growing up—dozens of different denominations and teachers but all of the same basic fundamentalist Evangelical genre—God was always this distant, self-righteous, easily offended, jealous/possessive tyrant who used Jesus alternately (depending on the teacher) as bully-boy to enforce his Will or as whipping-boy on whom to take out his displeasure with me.  Of course, that was rarely the direct teaching I got, it was taught implicitly in “live right to please God”.  The cognitive dissonance between the explicit teaching of “for God so loved the World” and the implicit next phrase that he’d rather kill his own son than meet directly with humanity baffled me for years.

As a very young child, as I suspect most children do, I had some visceral understanding of unity with Love and Life and the indivisibility of Creator and Creation.  Over time (and through some traumatic experiences) that intrinsic awareness of Love Divine was co-opted into language of self-hatred and bigotry and performance.  Despite my best efforts to make sense of a god of love who has damned all people to eternal torment if they don’t live bounded restricted lives of martyred self-abnegation, which was called abundant life, I just couldn’t accept it.  Somehow, in that place where I knew things that my Evangelical worldview said couldn’t be known, I knew that God was more than some bipolar sky cop (as a commenter on my blog called him).  Somehow I knew that love and punishment could not be synonymous (though I still get that mixed up).  So in my mid-twenties, I began walking away from Christianity. 

It took me a good five years to completely leave the religion and begin living a thoroughly secular life.  Five years and the support of a contentedly skeptical agnostic husband whom I married during this period.  I tried to be an atheist, denying both the tyrannical god of Christianity and the Divine Love I had once known but I found myself drawn to people who had found other means to manifest their spirituality—Pagans, Witches, Buddhists, social justice and tree-hugging do-gooders—I just couldn’t leave the God Question alone.  Finally, in my mid-thirties, I found in yoga a place where I could quiet my brain and all its doctrinal doubts and declarations, where I could simply Be and let God meet me. 

In the quietness of meditation, my mental chatter finally shuts up, quits repeating to me all the noise of doctrinal “faith as intellectual exercise”, and lets God speak in silent fullness.  I developed a very ecumenical spirituality of Pagan earth-loving, Catholic saint-commemorating, Buddhist mindfulness, Hindu-originating yoga, and totally commercial Easter Bunny/Santa Claus rituals and family festivals.  I became a glutton of religious smorgasbord.  But it grew out of a healthy awareness that God was present in all these traditions in a way I hadn’t found him in Christianity.  But I kind of burnt out from all of it.  Largely, I suppose, because I still hadn’t let God be God—I hadn’t truly renounced the god of Christianity as I’d known him, I was just trying to drown him out with these other practices. 

Somewhere in the mix, I began reading the works of the mystics, mostly medieval, mostly Muslim/Sufi and Monastic Christian, and I was happily astonished to find that the God that they all wrote about having met was remarkably similar to the God I met in meditation.  Julian of Norwich, Hildegard of Bingen, Rumi, Hafiz, Meister Eckhart all seemed to know most intimately this same God of Love, of renewal, of creation, of compassion.  And they all were at odds with the conventional God of their religions.

It took developing a chronic hysterical illness in my mid-forties for me to begin re-examining Christianity from the perspectives I’d learned through my years as a heathen.  I realized that in rejecting Christianity so vehemently, I wasn’t embracing all traditions with tolerance and a willingness to learn, I had become an anti-Christian bigot.  Logically, I knew that Christianity couldn’t be any better or worse than any other religious tradition; they all have better and worse expressions. In order to become whole, I needed to exorcise the demons that still inhabited my soul, making me fearful, inspiring me to hatred.  I needed to find the God I knew within Christianity, as I’d found him in so many other places.  I’m still working on that.

So, yes, I have found a communion with the Divine that fulfills me and I find comfort in reading so many that have come before me who found that same communion.  But no, I have yet to find a community of fellow God-finders with whom to corporately commune. That is what I long for.  A group who comes together to meet God, each in our own way, perhaps, but together.  The internet has been marvelous for connecting me with people who seek the same God but often at great physical distance from me.

I don’t know if my experience will help you find God—or more realistically, help God find you—I hope so.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

It Is Well

Rivers seem so calm and relaxing nowadays in our automobile-centric society. But once upon forever before the interstates, those smooth and gentle rivers were the lifeblood of transportation and commerce. Traffic on the rivers WAS the traffic. The river supported humanity and nature alike.

When peace like a river

Flows through me with the stuff of life itself

When sorrow like sea billows roll

Those waves of destructive regeneration pour over me. When grief chokes my spirit

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me

After rushing winds and pouring rains, after still small voices,

To say, it is well with my soul.

My body may break and my mind my crumble but with my soul

It is well.

Oh, lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight!

When my commitment to the practice of wellness shall connect with sacred wholeness, holiness.

No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life, Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

Blessed hope, blessed rest for my soul.

Mahalia Jackson sings.

the usual backstory on this song

a fuller and more interesting back story on the songwriter than I've read before

Monday, October 8, 2012

Demons Guard the Door

The demons are duking it out in my head tonight. A migraine is squeezing my eyeballs and pounding the walls of my brain. I have felt a duel of some proportion coming on for a few days. At first I thought it was some kind of sinus infection resulting from that cold and small fever I was fighting. But then I realized the militant action was amping up every time I gave thought to the latest series of half-remembered dreams I've been having.

Some months ago, in an NAET session with my healing dude, I experienced the first awareness of a whole mess of memories being repressed. All progress on my recovery, physical and spiritual, came to a screeching halt. Minuscule glimpses have leaked through to my consciousness, always at great cost in emotional and physical pain. My psyche has gone to great lengths to lock these memories away so that I could survive and doesn't relinquish custody of them lightly.

I've been dreaming again of things I could never admit--to myself, much less to anyone else. The dreams are wrapped in the coded language of the unconscious and even so I only remember fleeting images upon awaking. But my body remembers.

All of me aches with the desire to acknowledge the memories. Yet my muscles clench tight in a permanent flinch that forces the horrors out of sight. The battle between being safe and being free rages in my very tissues. My brain throbs. My belly heaves. My innermost parts burn with exquisite agony of knowledge that cannot be spoken.

The skeletons in my closet rattle and writhe. I long to teach them to dance. But they do not respond to my direction for I know not their name. The demons at the door, charged with my survival, won't let me in. They fight me with all the ferocity of the cornered animal I once was.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Stop and Smell the Roses

Never quite got around to organizing my thoughts into a post yesterday. I'm trying not to feel guilty about that. Missing a day so soon in the post-every-day thing. I'm trying to remind myself that it isn't important, I haven't lost my class standing or grade point average, didn't miss my chance for promotion or a some great new job, nor will anyone whose respect matters care (or likely even notice) that I missed a day. And certainly life happens to the most dedicated of us.

Somehow I feel as though I am obligated to some higher standard. That if my dedication to my craft were legitimate, I would be more wholly committed. That Real Men step up to the plate no matter what the distraction. Pain, chronic disease, constant fatigue, snuggling in bed with a surly teen to laugh together over a movie, all be damned in adherence to the stated goal.

Yet, isn't that belief what got me into this condition in the first place? Wasn't I taught that giving my all, my very life itself, to an ideal was the definition of commitment? That God despised the lukewarm and committed-when-it's-convenient and would spit the apathetic out of his mouth? (Although I now believe that interpretation is not at all what that verse in Revelation is taking about and, besides, do we really want to hang out in the mouth of God? What a crazy metaphor.)

Once I left fundamentalist sold-out-to-Jesus Christianity, it was easy to transfer that all-or-nothing pattern of living to my new ideals. After all, even outside religion, I heard from many bosses that I'd never get ahead in business if I didn't cancel my plans at their whim. That it's the first one in and last one out that snags the commendations and rewards. Workaholism is a national addiction.

Work hard, play harder. Just do it. Give your all to God. Religious and secular culture both conspire to guilt trip a martyrdom for the goal--regardless of the goal. The expenditure of your vital force is more important than evaluating the worth of the cause. Because if we stopped to give any really critical thought to it, most of the causes to which we sacrifice our all are merely flag- or bible-covered dollar-grubbing ventures. And even the ones that aren't, are they worth the loss of health, relationships, community that comes from giving a 110% to an ideal?

I'm so tired, literally physically exhausted, of all the ways I get shamed and blamed for letting some work slide in favor of fostering relationship--whether the relationship is with family, friends, or my own Higher Self. I get bullied on Facebook for not reposting some ideological meme, harassed by my family for not making dinner, guilted by my healers into "seeing how this disease serves you". The very last thing I need is more pressure from myself to conform to some external standard--feeling guilty for not posting one day--I am my own harshest disciplinarian.

I am sure that if the voice in my head that berates me for every missed mark, so many sins, each less than exemplary action, could be silenced (or at least limited to actually worthy standards), the multitude of external voices would be much easier ignored.

That is just the trick, though, isn't it? Silencing that inner chatter, the white noise, the monkey mind? Be still, says the Psalmist, and know. Know that I AM. With all due respect to Stephen King, It isn't a matter of "get busy living or get busy dying". It is a matter of breathing. Noticing the breath, what allows the breath to flow easier and what causes it to catch and stick in the chest.

Breathing. Just breathing is a good thing. Be still. And breathe.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

10 Things on Thursday

Apparently 10 Things on Thursday is a popular item in these October blogathons.  I know I just posted a list but I think I used up my brain cells on yesterday's entry and feel like I'm coming down with something and just want to curl up with my cup of tea and turn out the lights.  So, here are

10 Things for Not Getting Sick
(or at least, for getting better faster.  Or at the very least, tolerating the bedrest)

1.              Chicken soup, preferably with lots of gelatinous stock for that beautiful, rich, healthy sheen across the surface.
2.              Hot herb tea, Throat Coat by Traditional Medicinals is the tea du jour.
3.              Vitamin C, lots and lots of it.
4.              Zinc lozenges, Zand Elderberry is my favorite throat soother but I picked up a new one tonight.
5.              Jakeman’s Anise Throat Lozenges, a mentholated cough suppressant for night time.
6.              Cold and Sinus Blaster, an herbal spray remedy that will fumigate the tonsils and waft upwards—full of things like horseradish, cayenne, garlic, and extreme peppermint.
7.              Magnesium Malate to relax those achy muscles—also recommended for all chronic pain as well.
8.              Those Kleenexes with lotion—hopefully things won’t progress far enough to need them this time.
9.              A big comfy pile of pillows and snuggly bedcovers for hunkering down in the bed.
10.           And a TiVO filled with hours of old cartoons—Looney Tunes, Flintstones, Yogi Bear, Secret Squirrel, Squiddly Diddly, Tom & Jerry.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


[comment] ...what I am seeing in facilitating of the [Sunday School] classes on Buddhism, as well as the ongoing study of Ephesians, is that they are both saying the same thing: life here hurts, but it is possible to some extent to transcend the pain (dukkha) of this life and find enlightenment and freedom, even while enduring the pain.  From what I see from the Buddha, the pain is intensified as we focus on ourselves (tanha), but it dissipates as we—to use Christ’s term—deny ourselves (anatta), a concept that is not easy to explain; I’m not sure what “no self” (the usual translation of anatta) means.
               We talked in the Ephesians class yesterday about the martyrs, who were burned at the stake, and sang hymns until they could no longer breathe.  Sure, they were in severe pain, but there was something else going on for these mystic martyrs. 
               Well, I did not mean to preach [about your ongoing chronic illness], and I don’t intend that you say, “Aha, that’s what it’s all about!”  These thoughts are nothing new to you; you undoubtedly know more about them than I do.  I relate them simply because I was reminded of the tie-in. 

Illness pulls one’s focus inward.  Anyone with a sick child, or the stereotypical sick husband, knows that there is nothing like illness to make a person self-centered, completely uncaring about anything other than the miserable experience in his own body.  One of the first signs of recovery in acute disease is when the patient’s attention turns again outward.  A minor illness makes people cranky, a more serious one takes them right past cranky into sullen and distant, turned so inward that all interventions are mere nuisance.  As healing happens and the patient returns to an outward enough consciousness to be a grouch, the nursing staff breathes a sigh of relief (at least initially).  And as recuperation continues, the child once again clamors out of bed to run and play, the husband heads back to work—both a return to the outer world.

We are at ease when our Selves are able to expand into community.  Dis-ease occurs when we are contracted too far into our individual existence.  Religions of all kinds tell us that spiritual health is when we can expand our self so far outward that we merge with the community—when we lose the self to gain Christ, or attain the No Self.  We all live on this continuum of individual ego, moving from points of solidified ego consciousness, selfishness, complete inward focus, to points of community, spiritual unity, dissolution of ego consciousness, and back.  It is a dynamic continuum and we are always shifting our position.

Like all continua, the endpoints are not opposites but meet up as in a circle.  One can lose ego boundaries in pathology, just as one can look inward beyond the Self to find a Higher Consciousness.  In an unexpected turn of the wheel, this hysterical illness of mine has served to bring me from a place of ignorant spiritual disease to a place of greater spiritual health.  Although I thought I was psychologically healthy, spiritual aware, before the onset of this illness, actually I was lost.  Lost in externals, my boundaries defined not by a healthy ego but by demands from society, ideology, family, I participated in the rat race of parenting, homeschooling, career planning, never realizing that my actions were dictated by influences outside my Self.  I lost myself in trying to be the best crunchy granola mom in the homeschool group.  I defined myself by how well I followed all the rules—eating the most organic, local foods, buying only natural hand-made toys, making my own medicines and condiments and cheese (okay, I really failed at cheese)—rather than by internal standards of compassion and grace.  Everything I did, no matter how well intentioned I had thought it, happened because I sacrificed myself to my family’s perfection.  My own boundaries were much too porous; I didn’t know where the external demands of family and culture stopped and I began.  I identified myself by my ability to exist for others. It was a pathological lack of ego structure.

And I burnt out.  My adrenals quit supporting all the demands I put on myself.  For two years, I was crazy, neurotic, more than a little psychotic at times.  I lost even the illusion that I had a Self.  In moments of lucidity, I found a name for this physiology—hypoadrenia, probably Addison’s disease if I’d found a doctor who took me seriously enough to test it back then—and worked very hard at recovery. 

I was pretty successful. I got healthy enough to think about employment, or maybe taking up my education again.  But I had only addressed the physiology of my disease.  I was still identifying myself by what I could do—become a doctor, homeschool my kids, cook a damn fine meal—rather than what I was.  My Self was still lost, dissolved in the expectations from family and culture.

Regaining a healthy Self required me to pull inward, define myself by internal standards, even develop those standards by which to define myself.  Illness demanded that I look inward.  Particularly illness that didn’t go away.  I couldn’t simply grit my way to the end, wait out the fever or the cough—though I tried to “just hang on”.  As month after month became year after year, and I could do less and less of the work that I took such enjoyment (and pride and identity) from, I have been forced to reconsider my boundaries.  As I have to tell my kids, myself, “no” again and again for even the most commonplace of demands—grocery shopping, staying functional through a whole play or swim meet, snuggling on the couch—I learned that my Self is not defined by these things.  My Self, I, am stronger and steadier, more secure, now in this chronic debilitation than I ever was in my “healthy” before-illness state. Even in my bitchy, bitter, weariness.

Is this the grace? The transformation of the mud into the flesh that holds Life?  The breath that gives life, that sings through death?