Stop swimming upstream. It’s a theme I’m learning over and over. Have you ever felt like you wanted something so badly in your life, but try as you might, it’s just not coming?
For me it’s a healthy body. A strong, vibrant body that can move and function and allows me to wake up each morning and live, just live. Over the past 2 decades I’ve experienced a bevy of losses after a tick bite altered my life’s course in the summer of 2002.
The losses and changes were insidious at first, but by 2013 I found myself in a body that no longer allowed me to work as a nurse, socialize, travel, or participate in even the lightest of physical activities. The truth was that I was pretty much home-bound, spending most of my time in bed or on the couch. I tried repeatedly to make little runs to the grocery store, or do a little cooking, but each time I found myself weak and unable to complete these simple tasks.
Thankfully, by 2017 I had worked my way back to about 50% functionality, but in the past few years, my capacities have slowly come crashing down again, and frankly, I’m scared.
But there is hope. There is always hope. Last August I started a promising treatment for long-term neurological Lyme disease. I can see progress, albeit slow going and arduous. Intuitively I can feel boulders of pathogens lifting from my tissues and flushing out of my body. A lightness is coming in, a healing underway. Even in the midst of sludge-like symptoms that take me down throughout the day, and wake me frequently at night.
Last week in the thick of a particularly deep crevasse of brain and body symptoms – swimming in a stew of dizziness, concussion-like fogginess, and mono-like body weakness – I let myself get very quiet, very still, retreating to my inner space of equanimity, as best I could. Even if I could not fully feel the harmony or steadfast nature of my spirit, I knew she was there.
And one simple sentence bubbled up into my beleaguered mind, “I’ve got to make peace with this.” Yes, that is it, I thought. But for right now I’ve just got to hold through this moment, as I do every day throughout the day. Rest until this episode passes. They always do. My brain comes back online. My ability to get up and make a little food, or get dressed, call a friend, tend to my cats…whatever my “must dos” of the day….reemerge. Yet, this is the struggle. How did I get to this place again, like in 2013, where my capacities are so severely limited?
Make peace with what is, dear Gretchen. This is the work, the spiritual work, of the moment.
There she is again. My spirit. Churning with little messages and support to grow me through this time. This is the gift of a long, drawn out, formidable health journey. You must adapt, as best you can. You must try to listen to the whisperings of the soul, even if the situation feels untenable at times.
There have been innumerable lessons and whisperings along the way over the past 2 decades after that fateful, summer encounter with a tick….a little, bitty tick….that I never saw, nor observed any sort of rash, bullseye or otherwise. I simply awoke early one morning with high fever, excruciating body pain, tenderness on the soles of my feet making it difficult to walk, and my head pounding with pain.
For 3 days I tossed and turned in bed, only to get up for the bathroom, drinking from a camel back at my bedside, feeling as if I’d caught some sort of rare, tropical illness. I had no respiratory symptoms. A visit to my doctor came back with negative lab results and I was given Zithromax. No testing for Lyme disease was done back then (even in the midst of summer tick season), since I had no evidence of a bullseye rash. My initial symptoms resolved after a week or so, but I was left with a fatigue and dizziness that never left, and only worsened with added symptoms as the months progressed.
Finally in 2015 (13 years after the onset of illness), an astute infectious disease doctor in Boston accurately diagnosed me with post Lyme disease, Babesia, and Bartonella. But it was too late. Apparently the little corkscrew-shaped pathogens lodge persistently in tissues of the body, shape-shifting and evading antibiotics and treatments however possible. I did several rounds of treatments, allopathic and alternative, but none moved the needle of my health back to a modicum of the vitality I had before.
So here I am. Doing my best to flow with what is, and to listen, really listen, as best I can, to what I’m meant to be learning. Don’t get me wrong. I come kicking and screaming to some of the lessons. I’ve had enough, Universe! I want to go back to the kindergarten cirriuclum of this earth school. I want to learn through JOY, not distress! But no, not today. Today we’re revisiting the practice of accepting what is, just as it is. Finding peace. Finding comfort in the discomfort.
I took a deep breath. Exhaled slowly. Closed my eyes. Urged my mind and muscles to relax. While sitting in silence a little voice gently arose into my consciousness with the calming words of the serenity prayer. We’ve all heard it:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
This is easier said than done, right? But I asked my angry part to soften for a moment, that part that legitimately inwardly shrieks with disbelief of ongoing illness, so I could hear the whisperings coming through.
Move into faith. Deepen the faith. Let go, let go, let go of clinging. You are safe. We’ve got you.
That’s it. Right there. I realize that I’ve been holding on so tightly for wanting my body to be different, to be healed, that I’m causing more angst for myself, in every way. I’ve been swimming upstream. What would happen if I turned my raft around and flowed downstream? Sure, I’ve practiced this many times over the years. But once again, I need to anchor in this practice. The whispering is turning into a shouting match now. What is the worst that could happen? Am I fearful that my health will never be restored if I simply allow things to be as they are, in this moment, as unpleasant as I feel?
I need a more consistent sense of peace. Calm. I have peace, but it is too easily shredded by fierce daily symptoms. This is my cue to go deeper. To connect more frequently and readily with my soul, my center, my inner peaceful sanctuary.
We all have this place inside. It is a space that cannot be adequately expressed with words. But it is the most beautiful, loving space. It feels like home. True home. It’s your portal of wisdom. Sadly, it’s not so easy to access in our fast-paced, ever-connected world. Yet it is vitally important to find it, to stoke its flame and sink in whenever you can.
Some of my favorite ways to tap into this peacefulness – this tank of wisdom – are going outside, taking in nature, looking at the sky, petting an animal, hugging a loved one, mindfully savoring a meal, quieting the mind with meditation, yoga or meditative walks. What quiets you and moves you into a calm and balanced state? It’s different for each of us. But I’d urge you to tap in whenever you can. Make it a practice. Let it expand. Enlist a friend or family member to join in. Watch what shifts in your life. Notice how often you react less, but respond more wisely from a grounded and centered place.
Are you swimming upstream in your life in any way? Is there a situation that is keeping you from feeling peaceful? Do you feel a clinging or a struggle that’s unshiftable?
My hope and wish for you is that a loving and light-filled stream, a river of goodness and possibility, comes rushing through to direct you towards your own soul’s messages. Because truly, this is where the magic happens. And for me, I know that this is where the healing happens.
All my love, Gretchen
May 2, 2023