Friday, December 18, 2015

Not exactly uplifting, that Buddha...

With the exception perhaps of the death of a loved one, nothing will divide your life into "pre" and "post" more prolifically than chronic illness.

Since becoming sick, everything in my life has become "pre"dysautonomia and "post"dysautonomia.

I was a three-mile-a-day walker predysautonomia.

I was a world traveler predysautonomia.

I was an award-winning journalist predysautonomia.



Ummm...I bathed this morning?


Now, postdysautonomia, I often make it through the day by telling myself the usual platitudes - that I just have to make it to the right doctor and then things will get better - that I just have to have the right test for the eureka moment - that any day now I'll wake to find, in Dorothy Gale-fashion, that this was all a dream...

But despite getting by mostly on denial, I have actually come across some thought processes that help me.

The mind is a powerful thing, and, when I can get mine right, I manage to transcend my circumstances and gain some deeper understanding of the universe and my place in it. It's one helluva price to pay for presence of mind - knowing you're likely gonna be sick every day of your life for the rest of your life - but I will say it's been an unexpected (dare I say it?) gift of my illness that it has allowed me to see life in an entirely new way.

And I will share that way with you today.

Buddhism holds, among many things, that life is suffering.

"Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you something."

I know. Uplifting, right?

But bear with me here.

Thing is, I had suffering predysautonomia. Lots of it, in fact. It seemed my mind was always on some form of my suffering and how to fix or overcome it.

Whether it was trouble-shooting my wedding or coping with the frustrations of my job or facing my own inadequacies in areas in which I desired to thrive, I had suffering.

And while that suffering pales in comparison to my suffering now, at the time it was sufficient suffering for predysautonomia Erin.

So, in short, life pre? Wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Sure, knowing what I know now, I'd love to go back to pre, but even if I did, there's no way that pre me would or could have understood... Because there are some things only experience can bring.

So - first thing is - there was suffering pre and there will be suffering post. It's true for me, and it's true for everyone. And it's good to keep that in mind.

Second uncomfortable but earth-shattering truth: we were born to die.

Each and every one of us, from the moment of our birth, began to die.

Like our birth date, time, and location, the details for each of us are different, but the end result is the same.

I will die. You will die. We're all gonna die.

So if my dysautonomia gets me to that final destination faster, well, what's the damned difference in the end?

Sure, we'd all prefer to die well-into our twilight years, peaceful, in our sleep, having lived a long, healthy life.

But since being sick I've come to realize that that's the end we all want - nay, it's the one we all expect and the one we're all banking on - and yet so few people meet their end in such a way... it makes "banking on" such an ending a bad investment really.

So live how you can the best you can, because tomorrow isn't promised to anyone.

Which brings me to point three. Also a Buddhist principle: The glass was already broken.

This one has moved mental mountains for me.

To be blunt, we all die, and each of us dies because our body breaks.

Every human being who has ever lived and died has died because their body has broken.


End of story.

Universal truth.

Because this is true, and each of us knows it on some level, we therefore think of our bodies and our lives as I have been - "pre" break and "post" break.

We were complete, healthy and whole...then we're broken, dead and buried.

But friends, this is not so.

Just as we were born dying, we were also born broken.

Wrongly, we view our lives as some sort of beautiful, priceless vase and, when sickness or death comes a-calling, that vase is then shattered, irreparable.

I'm here to tell you - your beautiful Life Vase? Is already broken.

You. have. been. dying. since. the. day. you. were. born.

Your vase, if it ever was pristine, had a fault line in it since birth.

You were not destined for a life of health that was suddenly interrupted.


Your fault line - my fault line - all of our fault lines have always been there.

When I broke to the world (July 2015) - and whenever you break to the world - the fact remains that the glass was already broken.

It just takes the loud noise and the flying of the pieces for most of us to see it.


Two seconds, one second, mere milliseconds before my sister died in a car accident, she was what any of us would call completely healthy.

Young, vibrant, 16-years-old. "She had her whole life ahead of her."

Friends, she didn't.

I don't know why or how or to what purpose, but her glass was always broken, and her time to shatter in a way where we could all bear witness was 7-26-07.

I take no pleasure in saying that.

I do not say it coldly, or even with distance.

When her glass shattered in a way that I could actually see it, I, too, was shattered.

My Life Vase fault line deepened that day.

But the fault line - hers and mine - was already there.


I know that some will not be able to accept this.

I know some will not understand.

I know some will think me cold, or bitter, or spiteful.

But knowing what I now know - seeing what I now see - about the inevitability of the fracturing of this life is actually helping me to cope.

My body broke for the world to see in July 2015.

But it was broken before that.

And that's nobody's fault.

There's no one to blame.

There's no one to curse.

The glass was always broken... and, in accepting that, I can accept me - I can accept me "post." At least for a little while.

Tomorrow - or maybe even in 5 seconds - I will return to my "pre" way of thinking: that this was done to me, that I have been set upon, that my life, which was meant to be X, was cruelly interrupted by Y... but such thinking only builds resentment, frustration, woe.

The glass was always broken. I have not veered from my path.

And though my path is different than yours, the destination is nevertheless the same.

I will meet you there, dear friend, when our predetermined points collide.

1 comment:

  1. yes! I wholeheartedly subscribe to this epiphany Erin. The shift in perspective is so freeing. It's such a shame that our minds actively work against it, isn't it? Always broken.
    I am sorry about your sister. So sorry. It doesn't make it easier to bear, but it is a healthier perspective. It's embracing what IS. And that, especially when you are dealing with chronic illness, is so vitally important. Keep writing, keep putting it all together. Your insights are so important for all of us.