Unorthodox Idea #9
Assume this Illness has Shown Up in Your Life to Teach You Something
Perhaps you’ve been in a situation in which you have witnessed an injustice performed — say, you see an adult abusively screaming at a child in a public place. Your mind might convince you not to speak up or do anything, repeating phrases in your head such as, “it’s none of my business”; “that’s not my child”; “the authorities will do something about it.” Meanwhile, you walk away from the situation with a stomach ache, tears in your eyes, or a “sinking” feeling of guilt.
You’ve probably heard the expression, “the body never lies.” Indeed, we can talk ourselves into just about anything using the mind’s cunning ability to persuade because it wants what it wants in the moment (safety, security, and social acceptance!). Our bodies, thankfully, are more honest — they tell it to us straight. When we are tired, our eyelids sag. (When we start to get older…so does the rest of us.) When we are about to do some public speaking — forget about it — the physical symptoms show up everywhere! It’s not always the prettiest picture, but our bodies do send us all kinds of alerts. If you don’t believe me, look no further than the contents of your handkerchief when you have a cold, or consider what happens when you eat food that’s gone bad.
The same is true for diseases, even the deadly ones, when they show up in our lives. Like it or not, they might be trying to tell us something, and it behooves us to stop our complaining for a few moments and listen. One of my favorite writers, a Zen Buddhist named Charlotte Joko Beck, says this, “Everything in our life that disappoints us is a kind friend.” Though we might squirm to know the answers, we can be for ourselves like our kindest friends who offer truth when they see it, and more importantly, ask open, clear, judgment-free questions that let us know any response is welcome and valid.
Ask yourself these questions:
What might this hurdle be trying to tell you?
What is there to learn?
How could you be supporting yourself — mind, body, and spirit — more fully?
What unfinished business might you need to attend to?
How is this an opportunity to rebirth?
What does this disease want for you?
It took awhile of living with Lupus for me to see that I had not one disease to overcome, but two. I had, for several years, been suffering from a mild but very persistent eating disorder. Determined to look a certain way, I had spent my high school and college years silently obsessing about food and weight. The obsession was so pervasive, it hovered over me like a dark cloud rendering me nearly incapable of thinking about anything else. Not only did I miss out on a lot, in effect, I formed an addiction to the mentally-disabling yo-yo of self-approval and disapproval. The medications I took to control my Lupus made it even worse — the side effects adding considerable weight to my body and severe acne all over my face. To say the least, it was a low and lonely time of self-discovery, but slowly I began to consider that my body wanted more for me than a life of ego-driven, conditional self-acceptance. I saw that I could begin to accept myself in many forms, and that as I did that, others would too. As I started truly taking care of my body, my eating disorder, quite literally, started to lift away. Eventually, so did my Lupus symptoms.
Assume this illness has shown up in your life to teach you something. While you are at it, further assume it will only stay as long as it needs to. This isn’t about you having done something wrong — rather, it’s about the universe seeing that more is possible for you and offering you an opportunity to see it too. Like it or not, our bodies are constantly talking to us. Getting sick, if we are listening, forces us to do things we need to do — to rest, slow down, reexamine what’s important, start telling the truth, eat to live, see our lives and the people in them for what and who they are, know ourselves, and play this game as if our lives depended on it.
Thanks for being here. I’ll see you tomorrow for the final entry, Unorthodox Idea #10.