I find myself strained, Dear Reader. Lost at sea now for almost a week.

The stresses of last year finally hit me after a short jog on Saturday. Elated for a moment, my dysfunctional brain interpreted the adrenaline as a fight or flight situation.

And my immune system decided that my body was the threat, so I’ve been plagued by respiratory and dermatological allergies since then. This did little to ease my persistent panic. Now, every physical oddity is a death sentence. I’ve diagnosed myself with everything from diabetes to throat cancer over the last week.

Benadryl helps with the anxiety and allergies, but that’s an unsustainable solution. Simultaneously, I’ve developed another abscess on my chest—I’ve had them on and off since I was in high school. Without medical insurance (thanks Trump), I can’t go to a doctor for any of these issues unless they become a dire emergency. The anxiety is fear of the unknown. If I could just receive a confident, “You’re not dying,” from a professional, I’d be fine.

I’m off work now, I’m too blind to drive so I quit so as to not risk my ride’s life on the nightly winter back roads. I was full of gusto and optimism at first. Now, a month later, I just find myself without distractions. My fears and shadows have my full attention and I’m only able to look away when I’m outside with sky.

I’m unable to determine what’s real and what isn’t, beset by doubt and fear on all sides. What good spirits I do find, are swiftly shattered by the arrival of a new phantom.

As I sit here, I’m faced with a classic crisis of faith. Comforted solely by bitterness, I wonder if my latent pessimism and nihilism are my true salvation. In a dark, rotting world, is it more skillful to guard the light or learn to see in the dark?

“It’s all mind,” is of little use here. “It’s all empty,” a gleaming beacon.

This is not important in itself, for my peace is irrelevant to me. But the peace and endurance of my friends and family is dear. The last thing I want is for others to suffer my loss. But I have no say in my departure date. With all of the stress and maladies in this life, I don’t anticipate old age. So they have to be prepared, as prepared as I am.

Should I comfort them with light or shadows? Should I help strengthen them with warmth or cold? Am I powerless against their grief either way? Must we all find our own way from suffering?

I have no answers. I can only offer a particularly Zen quote from the Bible:

“Why are you anxious about clothing?Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They don’t toil, neither do they spin.”

To live happily, life can’t be seen to be all that important. Anyone who’s seen buzzards picking at roadkill should know this. Anyone who’s stood in a hospital room for hours with the coldening corpse of a family member should know this. Anyone who’s gone to war, or watched the news for an hour should know this.

Nothing is sacred, nor is anything unholy. To live happily is to say no to all of our comparisons, judgments, and opinions. Saying no to gain and thus negating loss. Then we might finally find something worth having, something enduring. Maybe then we’ll know the wisdom of the lily.

Start where you are, and use what’s available. Whether you’re up or down, there’s no point in wishing things to be otherwise. If you wait to practice until the waters clear, you’re going to be waiting for the rest of your life. Use the mud, use the turbulence, use both light and shadows, cold and warmth. Breakthrough without hesitation and see through your transient, shape shifting illusions to what’s real: the lilies of the field. The spring rain in the valleys.

What do these things have in common? They are not aware of themselves. They accord with their nature. They do not cling. They do not suffer.

<Update: Feeling Better>

5 Comments

  1. Our therapist gave us a post-it note yesterday, a quote she heard from an adolescent that made her think of us: Life finds a way.

    Maybe start by inventorying what among your burdens is not yours so that you can put those down or offer up compassion. Empaths can get bogged down.

    If you die, your family will seek the light because life finds a way.

    You are suffering. We offer you compassion fellow sufferer. You practiced while not panicked so that you can practice while panicked. Trust that you know the way already. Mistakes don’t matter. Fix em later. Only intent matters. You got this

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi John. I dearly wish I was the professional who could say, “you’ll be fine”, but I’m just a guy who reads you’re posts and very much enjoys them, chews them over and is occasionally able to put some ideas I’ve read here into practice. One of many I’m sure. I’m sorry to read you’re having a tough time, I know it’ll pass – I’m sure of that – but I know that in some frames of mind, waiting for it to do so doesn’t appear to be an option. On many occasions it didn’t appear to be an option for my husband, the guy I lived with for 22 years. Some of the things in your post could’ve been him talking, so that’s why I wanted to say something and I very much hope it’s not the wrong thing, I’m not a professional. Many times over the years I’d spend the night sitting in A&E, so full of adrenalin I wouldn’t be a bit tired, while he was zonked out in a bed next to me, purged, re-set one way or another, dosed up or dialled down until he got discharged into the morning sunshine. You know about all that stuff. He’d be exhausted in the car on the way home but would always say something like, “Let’s not do this again, shall we?”. So, that’s why I’m sure that what you are going through will pass and you’ll be OK again. And more than likely the wheels will come off once again at some stage before you feel better again, let’s not kid ourselves, because that’s how it goes. Last February 24th he sent me a text message to say that he loved me and then drowned himself, I arrived as the lifeboat was bringing him back to shore and I helped pull his body out on to the quay. I was a few minutes too late, he was only 8 minutes in the water but the Irish sea is very cold in February. After 20 minutes they got his heart started again but he was irreparably brain damaged and we turned off the life support machines 4 days later. So, that time, I never got to hear his, “Let’s not do this again, shall we?”. I’m not going to say “… and me, his family friends were so upset” (we were) “that you should never think of doing anything similar” – I think you have to find your own reason for living from inside you, and not because you don’t want to inconvenience anyone else. I just want to say, always give yourself more time and the scenery will change somehow and you’ll respond to it differently. Sorry for saying too much, like I said, some things in your post sounded too familiar for me not to want to try and stick my oar into the gears. If it’s not helpful, ignore it, just accept a metaphorical shoulder grip and a slap on the back.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, thank you so much for your earnest, and heartfelt comment. I can’t even imagine how traumatic of a loss that was. Tragedy beyond words. I’m grateful and honored that you shared with me. And I think you’re right, we have to find our reasons for living from within.

      Life can certainly be a dismal pit at times, and even blazing love can struggle to brighten it. But I’m gonna keep on going for as long as this body allows. Because along side all this sensitivity and intensity, there’s a stubborn, feisty heart of piss and vinegar that almost balances everything out.

      This bout was especially difficult because fear was the basis of it. Depression I can roll with, but fear is a different kind of monster, ya know? One I hadn’t known for quite some time.

      I’m still shaky, but moving through it now. The practice started to help again after awhile. Also a good primal scream in the crisp morning air and do wonders it seems.

      Again, thank you for sharing. And for chewing on my posts.

      Like

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