Discovering that one has a serious illness is a shock. The “seriousness” of it is a very individual thing since dysfunctional knee can be a limiting condition for one person but a disaster that changes the whole course of life for another one. The perception of what has happened or is currently happening varies since each of us deals with different circumstances, emotions, resources, chances to live, chances to live relatively well etc. However, what is common for everybody is the sense of a loss. We are not only losing the possibility to do what we have always done but we are loosing something essential. The integrity. Suddenly when we look in the mirror there is somebody else. Or we see ourselves but with different eyes. Maybe our eyes become different – not clear as if covered with a veil of sadness. It is weird, painful, sad, unbelievable, not fair, confusing…No matter what our age is. We are never prepared enough for the truth if the truth is painful. It takes time to deal with emotions and fear that come with the “new me” until we accept.
Then comes the phase of adjustments, the period of discovering what works for us. What brings us relief, joy, what weakens us and what gives us the strength. What we intend to do in very near future (because we automatically stop planning in the long-term – which by the way is great.) What we cannot or will not do anymore. Once we accept our physical and psychological limits we are able to protect ourselves. What seemed to us egoistic or selfish before becomes simple self-care now. This process is not easy because it needs a lot of compromises and adjustments from ourselves and our beloved ones. If we are not physically impaired our body does not show the illness. We are not going to run with our diagnosis written on our forehead nor will we enjoy talking about it. Our appearance will be misleading. Nobody will feel our pain whether it is of physiological or psychological origin. Therefore it is crucial that we are clear with ourselves about what we can and cannot manage. It is essential to be honest with our relatives, friends, colleagues. I know it is hard to admit that some banal things can exhaust us at certain times. However, it is even worse to pretend and accept some duties, responsability, living prospects and consequently struggle with anger and disappointment-that we are incapable, that people around us lack compassion and understanding etc.
No matter how hard this may seem it is an opportunity to sort out our priorities, to rediscover our values, to find out what we are passionate about. Last but not least to find who are the “right” people for us. Who are our true friends. Maybe people closest to us will not always react as we wish. This is not because they do not care but because often they feel helpless and afraid to “lose us”. The very fear of loss affects everybody in tough situations. Remember that any change causes other change to take place. It often means that the comfort zone is destroyed quite fast leaving people concerned without a back-up plan. Again this is not purely negative experience it is an opportunity. Do not take me wrong. I am not advocating that illness (physical or mental) or pain have a meaning (as some religious concepts tend to present). I want to point out that neither a diagnosis nor a pain must create suffering. Suffering is created by our constant identification with the illness or undesirable state of things in life, by our constant preoccupation to find a remedy, the magical cure, by our striving to turn back the clock. To have what we had once when everything was fine.
We will not have it. We will have something else, though. Probably not the perfect life but a good life. During the period when we tend to contemplate the meaninglessness of life we can paradoxically begin to live a very meaningful life. How do we know it? We feel it once we start to appreciate every moment. In our little actions we realize that all we do matters. The way we talk and treat others. The way we experience a walk in nature – with all senses. The way we paint it afterwards or we capture it on photographs. The way we perceive pleasure in eating, singing, looking at things, making love, creating something…The topics we discuss with our kids or friends or grandchildren. The music we play or listen to. The way we laugh with people. All the little things that are offered to us everyday and cost nothing.
We all come eventually to the end of the road. What matters is not how far we walked but how carefully, compassionately,courageously, joyfully we put our each step forward. When we look back at our lives it is not the car we bought, nor the house we built, nor the destinations we visited that would come to our mind. It is the intensity of emotions we felt in those important moments – either alone or with people we loved. This is the one thing that keeps us in motion and at the same time stops us to realize that all we do with love matters. Forever.
Especially to all who are ill or suffer or fear. Love&Peace.