September 18, 2020

The call of disease

The call you will likely hear resound when illness comes is a battle cry. Fight. Beat. Kill or be killed. I heard this cry when disease came my way and I yelled back; “War.” I fought through. I muscled on. I battled. I steeled against. Put on a brave face. Held tight. Closed my hands into fists and held my breath. I shot, aimed to kill. Warrior, “you are so strong.” I allowed disease and the curveballs of chronic illness to harden me.

As I fought and battled to heal through the wild lands of hospitals and O.R’s, therapy and holistic medicine and what are they calling it now? Ah yes, “self development,” the song of self-love was often sung. I know, I would say. Yes. I would say. I will affirm ten times a day looking at my own eyes in the mirror that I love myself. Words, just words. An emptiness stared back. A sad confusion. I was at war, and I was losing. My body, if not an outright enemy, was certainly not a trusted friend and most of the time a dreaded sea I was doomed to tread water in. Forever. Until I sunk.  In my battle with Ulcerative Colitis I tried many many treatments to “beat” the disease ravaging me, but I hadn’t tried love. 

This experience of loving my body is new and novel and unsteady. I waver. I catch a glimpse and revert back to shame and disgust in an instant.  But I have been bitten. A tender nip of the elusive “self-love.” What finally made the switch go off? I have no concise explanation. More therapy? That likely played a role. Marriage? Yeah, that too. Another period of surgeries and uncertainty? How could that be…

Regardless, through the lens of love I have come to believe that hardening against isn’t the way of disease. The truer call is to love. Gentle. Soften. Open. unclench those iron fists. The way through disease is with, not against. To take the sticky hand of our illness and say, “oops sweetheart, no, go this way instead.”

So, I give in. I lay down my sword. But, I do not give up. I choose to go with, to love the most unlovable, to yield, to shift, to submit. To ease. To slow. I relent. I still have one more planned surgery staring at me. I continue going to doctors and alternative therapies, diet, supplements and meditation. I continue to do the daily work to offer my body whatever I can to heal. But I will no longer fight. Actually, I probably will. This stroke of inspiration that overcame me in the small hours of the night will leave me. I will steel again,  hold my breath, push back, I will forget.  But then, I will remember. I will come back. Then forget. Forget-remember-forget and remember again. Love’s first bite has been soft, quiet, a gentle suggestion. Yet it whispers that If I feed it, water it, let it blossom and grow, it will devour me whole.

We all get to choose whether illness will soften or harden us. Free will. One final plug for softness with a quote from Marianne Williamson; “We do not get rid of darkness by hitting it with a baseball bat. We only get rid of darkness by turning on the light.”

Yes, go ahead warriors. Turn. On. The. Light.

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