“Even if our efforts of attention seem for years to be producing no result, one day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood the soul.
Today it is 5 years since my journey with Valley Fever began. I can still hear the first Pulmonary Doctor say to me that it might be three months or more before I begin to feel better. At the time those three months sounded like forever. Who would have ever thought it would be 5 years?!?!!
I have been an instant results kind of girl for most of my life. It worked for me for a while, but I’m learning that it also took it’s toll on my body and soul. I don’t recommend it, and I’m still surprised how often I catch myself setting impossible standards for myself, and, unfortunately, others. I’ve learned it is not sustainable, or even really all that fun. Needing and requiring instant results feeds perfectionism, judgement, and harshness. Yeah, REALLY not fun!
This journey has forced me to grow in ways I didn’t even know were possible. It has been humbling, incredibly challenging, enlightening, surprising, freeing and downright joy-filled many times. I have felt more loved, creative, grateful and empowered than ever before. Yes, this sacred illness has changed my life for the better.
By early November I was feeling the best I have felt since I got sick. Oh jOy!! I even felt up to playing 18 holes of golf on Ladies’ Day, which includes golf, lunch, socializing, and seeing friends I hadn’t seen in a very long time. Being on a golf course is truly one of my happy places, and I have missed it dearly. So, again, Oh jOy!!
My game was rusty, and I was a bit anxious, but I loved every minute of it. Unfortunately, it was all just a bit much for me. It took 3 days to recover, but the following week I was back out there. My inner dialogue went something like this – “You can do this. It is time to be out there. People are expecting you to finally show up and be a part of things again. And remember, you love golf!” Yes, my inner critic and her high expectations are really hard to shake. By the end of the month my energy had bottomed out and I finally, and sadly, had to admit that I wasn’t up to the whole thing. Again?! Really!?
One day I wandered into my art studio, rearranged a few paintings and came upon this sign. Sometimes the “signs” from the Universe are actually signs!!
I chuckled, and smiled, and was flooded by memories of two of the most amazing women I have known. This sign first hung in Sharon K.’s house and was the mantra she lived by everyday. Even as she battled multiple myeloma for several years, I never once saw her give up. Even during her final days, there was no throwing in the towel for her. This sign was then passed to her life long friend, Sharon L., and was a beacon for her as she open-heartedly walked through her own battle with cancer. So many reasons to give up, and no “I can’t” was heard. And now that neither one of them are on the planet, it has been passed to me.
To be honest, the first time I saw this sign I really thought it was a bit harsh. I mean, some days, don’t we all just get to throw in the towel and cry uncle? As I watched both my dear friends courageously battle cancer and intense loss, I began to see more clearly the depth of their spirits. There was no “give up” there. No “I’m done” there. No “I can’t” there. It humbles me and still brings me to tears to have experienced their unbeatable, beautiful, brilliant spirits.
As I lay on my yoga mat this morning, I finally realized what I had witnessed in my two amazing Sharon’s. This sign doesn’t mean to keep pushing and gutting my way through life. It doesn’t mean to just suck it up. It doesn’t mean to see how much I can suffer through. What it DOES mean is to:
Never, Never, Never give up On yOurself.
As I lay sobbing on my yoga mat, I was flooded with feelings of relief and gratitude. I get it now. They were showing me their light, so I could see mine. It felt like for the first time I could feel the true and real energy and light of my spirit. My spirit really is there. Always has been. She has my back and I have hers. And so do my two Sharon’s.
So dear friends, I am encouraging you to not quit on yOurself. To not quit on the spirit of who you really are. You have no idea what wonderful things might happen. I sure didn’t!
shine On dear Ones!
“The lotus flower blooms most beautifully from the deepest and thickest mud.”
Twelve years ago, over a romantic dinner with my husband, feeling more confident and happier than I had in years, I found myself saying, “I think I’ll have a glass of wine”. I had been sober for 18 years.
I had, over the years, made a mess of my life more than once, almost destroyed our marriage several times, and made some really (really) bad decisions. But I still didn’t consider myself an alcoholic. I was just someone who was better off not drinking.
In a span of six months, I found out that this is one of the most dangerous things an alcoholic can think. I also learned that, yes, in fact, I am an alcoholic, and I can no longer, under any circumstances, play with fire. As gut-wrenching and “sobering” as it was to permanently close the drug and alcohol “escape hatch”, I chose to say goodbye to unconsciousness, self-deceit, and death, and said hellO to hitting bOttOm, again.
Bottoms bring us face-to-face with the things we are hiding from, the impact we are having on those we love, and who we are in this moment. Sometimes it’s a pretty painful and ugly picture. But the best thing to do at this point, no matter how scary, is to just keep looking.
In the looking, and all the hard work that comes with it, bottoms also have the potential to change the trajectory of our lives. They help us hear the wisdom of our hearts, support us to make choices that are life-sustaining, and put us in touch with the yearnings of our soul. In truth, hitting bottom is where real magic can happen.
During the last 4+ years of navigating this chronic illness, I have found myself on my knees many times. It is only recently that I’ve been able to relish the richness of these ‘hitting bottom’ places. I have fought like hell to keep my head above water, but I’m realizing that sometimes being in the murk and mire is the best place to be. Really.
The bottom is not comfortable, pleasant or fun, but there is real wisdom to be found there. We don’t choose to hit bottom. In it’s wisdom, it chooses us. And I’m finding myself more and more grateful for each one. How else would I have begun to find my artist self, my natural pace, my deep desires, or the things that really light me up?
The truth is I feel happier, more alive, more authentic, and stronger than ever before. It’s the kind of strength I’ve wanted my whole life. Strength that comes from the inside out. I never would have guessed it would take being at my weakest, to find true strength.
My dear friend Sharon taught me that life happens in moments. I’m really just beginning to learn what she really meant.
Keep listening, dear friends, to the wisdom of your beautiful hearts. And if you happen to find yourself hitting bottom, in whatever form it may come, know it is a place of rich possibility and great love. Dive in if you dare, and find what is waiting for you there.
P.S. I’ve recently completed 2 orders of my Bottle Bling art. Yes, ironically, I make art for wine bottles. Making them always brings me much jOy, and puts me in touch with what is good and right and true. (Insert eye roll here.)
I’ve realized that is what I have wanted from alcohol all this time. To feel good and right and true (and calm, smart, comfortable, strong.) And this morning, along came these words:
It’s not what’s in the bottle,
it’s what’s in your heart.
Yup, that works for me.