What if life weren't so precious?

The last few weeks have been hard, which I hate to even say out loud. No matter how much I study and share about compassion, honesty and speaking truth, I like it so much better when YOU do it than when I do it.

This truth thing never gets easy. Ever. And what’s even crazier about that is I don’t want anything less than the truth. No matter how tough it is to get outta my mouth.

And SO, life’s been feeling hard. After 3 years of “perfect health”, for the last month I’ve been waking up to the ulcerative colitis symptoms I told myself I’d healed forever. (I have an adorable habit of making definitive statements about ever-changing things like health, love, the weather, money. One day I’ll learn.)

Every morning I brace myself for what might happen during my quick walk to the bathroom, all while telling myself that I’m OK, I’m not dying, my body’s resilient and I can heal again.

Sometimes I believe myself. Sometimes I don’t. And it’s when I don’t believe, that worry, control and fear set in.

And I’m not the only one who’s been having a doozy of a month. A number of my clients, friends and family members are dealing with health concerns, some their own, some those of loved ones. And it’s really HARD.

The other day one of my clients said, in regard to a dear friend’s illness, “I want to be empathetic and I don’t know how to do that without taking it all on. And then I start thinking about how horrible this all is which then gets me thinking about my own mortality which then brings me to the fact that nothing is ever really in my control!”

I gave her the line I give myself every time I have that same exact thought. “You’re right, you don’t. And I know how much that feeling sucks. And that’s OK, as are you.”

It’s OK that we seek control and it’s OK that we have none. Creating rules and structure is what we humans do when we get scared and need to make sense out of the unexplainable sh*t storm that has just swept through our life and the lives of those we hold dear.

That said, the opposite of control is not throwing in the towel and saying, “F*ck it!” The soothing balm to the sting of knowing we have no control is finding the courage to let ourselves feel and face what hurts while releasing our need to fix or change anything.

Easier said than done, I know.

Here’s a brilliant passage from Eve Ensler’s In the Body of the World that I come back to every time I want to control the uncontrollable.

"What if our lives were precious only up to a point? What if we held them loosely and understood that there were no guarantees? So that when you got sick, you weren't a stage, but in a process. And cancer, just like having your heart broken or getting a new job or going to school or a teacher? What if rather than being cast out and defined by some terminal category you were identified as someone in the middle of a transformation that could deepen your soul, open your heart and all the while even if and particularly when you were dying, you would be supported by and be part of a community? And what if each of these things were what we are waiting for?”

We can get so wrapped up in the idea that our bodies are these precious things we must keep out of harm’s way. Yes, our bodies are precious but as Ensler writes, “only up to a point.” When we can hold our bodies “loosely”, seeing her as “in process” rather than terminally ill, our crazed desire to fix her eases. Illness no longer becomes something to battle or control but rather another one of life’s cycles to experience and learn from.

Nothing in my life continues to crack me open like my illness. It asks me to face my fear and reexamine my deeply grooved self-judgements. Every. Single. Day. It offers me the opportunity to deepen my capacity for tenderness and understanding and to remember to open my hands and hold my body, and life, lightly.

If you too have been going through a hard time know this: You’re not alone. I’m right there with you.

Second, it’s OK that it’s hard and it’s OK that we’re not OK with it being hard. When life’s a mess we can’t always jump to the positive and slap a silver lining on sh*t.

All we can do is take a breath and remember that this hardness does not require fixing or controlling. That the illness or pain or struggle will, like everything else, cycle through. And that though precious to a point, we cannot let ourselves become like fine china. We must let ourselves get a little dirty, get bumped and scraped and know that whatever lands on our plate has insights to share.

Lots of love and thank you for getting through the hard stuff with me,

Jamie

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