“…it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair”. *
This dreaded cancer arrived unwelcomed as the rudest visitor I’ve ever encountered. Nothing has gone according to plan. In fact, just as I start making even the smallest prediction, the status quo changes and life delivers yet another blow of disappointment. My hospital experience was so traumatic that I can never again utter words such as, “I nearly died” ,”It’s painful”, “I feel awful”, “It’s so bad…” with any iota of truth. I can surely never again experience the depth of pain, despair, helplessness, indignity of those few months. Chemo has stretched into 15 months from the initial 6. I’ve not been able to exercise properly or consistently for well over a year. I’ve been forced to rest more, stay at home more, internalise more and that has isolated me. My personality has morphed, shattered, re-birthed – sometimes over days, sometimes over months.
And yet, I’ve experienced the biggest blessings of my life. I’ve learned about my triggers, my body’s reactions, my limits, my past and current emotional states. I’m able to understand how things turn out when I’m stressed or when I’m joyful and feel intuitive. By learning about myself, I can understand others better and when I don’t understand, I can accept that. I’m more free, less controlling but without having lost the essence of who I am. I know what I want and what I won’t tolerate. I know how to nurture and protect myself. I know how to speak my truth. I know what I’d still like to learn.
My learning far outweighs all my suffering
The magical elusiveness of this notion (which is really more of a knowing) is like trying to hold onto a soap bubble. It’s always delicately moving, changing colours. Out of the expansive breadth of heavy suffering, have emerged sudden bursts of enlightened comprehension. I’ve learned to stop and watch these inspired bursts of bubbles as they rise instead of trying to hold onto them.
“Then tell Wind and Fire where to stop,” returned madame; “but don’t tell me.” *
People have said to me, “I wish I could take away your pain”. Of course I understand the sentiment and am grateful that they wish me happiness. I can now say with respect that taking away my pain would also be taking away life’s biggest gift to me. I don’t wish that this had never happened. I am utterly bored and frustrated with the literal situation. I’m not concerned, though, about how long it needs to be this way, figuratively. (Most days I have trouble saying the latter and believing it but on a good day, this belief breathes life into the ashes of my broken spirit that remembers how to soar and the restored belief overpowers all the limitations of daily life.) I’ve been given the time and space in which to learn and I’m grabbing the opportunity with both hands – unafraid and empowered in my fledgling-like weakness.
Can we grow from joy? I believe we can. I also believe crises yield the greatest opportunity for learning and growth. Most days I question fiercely, “Why?” Some days I wonder in awe, “Wow!” So don’t wish away my pain. Instead, wish me stamina and courage because only by walking through the suffering, will I reach the other side, stronger. I do the same for you, be your pain visible or not.
“I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long long to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out.” *
*A Tale of Two Cities ~ Charles Dickens