Recently, while remaining in the slow lane of recovery from a long string of illnesses, I was invited to relax into a poetry circle. The work began by reading Richard Siken’s poem, ‘Self-Portrait Against Red Wallpaper’.
Its lyrically rolling themes of surrender and recalibration hooked my tired attention. For the past eight weeks, every time I had come up for breath to recover from one gross infection, another would take hold, spectacularly culminating in a trip to Emergency for an appendectomy. Surrender? I was summoned. My regular hi-speed routine was gone and was still out the window far, far away.
Sheesh. What had gone so wrong that it was eight weeks and counting to recovery? Or, was I doing something wrong? A inner review said I dutifully went to doctor appointments and was proactive every time a new manifestation of infection and illness presented. Surely it was not possible to fabricate a sequence of illnesses like this!
My crew of inner cynics tried to persuade me that I had.
After all, they said, what else have you got to do with your time and imagination besides conjure up illnesses? All day long you just lie in bed dozing and reading, and serially watch TV while babying yourself with chicken soup. Why not find new excuses to bother the doctor? Hey, call an ambulance and vomit violently enough to disgust even the paramedics. Wouldn’t anyone want to try that?
Despite the self-taunting, I am am investing in healthcare to end this series of acute illnesses. As a spiritual health practitioner, I recognize the onset of personal review and accounting for all the losses and breakages caused by this time away from health. Our hi-speed modalities just don’t allow for slackers who take three months off from the fast track. Even as I step gingerly back onto the speedway, rejoining the hi-speed pace as it was, is unattainable. My new inner timepiece tells me that trying to do this is actually undesirable as well.
At first this new engagement was a lonely pit I’d fallen into, but as word got out, well wishes and blessings for a return to health came my way. Recovery took on an unexpected twist; I needed to regain my interpersonal skills after spending these weeks mostly with virtual personalities. My companions to laugh and cry with existed mostly on a TV flat screen. I felt apologetic to those whom I’ve let down while being laid up, by missing crucial meetings and deadlines. I needed to stay slow and recoup. Others have silently voiced their views by moving on to other partnerships and projects.
Success is indeed fragile. A detour away from perceived perfection creates disillusionment and fracture. Well, that has taught me another way of learning to discern whom the keepers are and whom to let go of. Friends remain while in need, indeed.
The call to the poet and the faithful to embrace surrender comes more easily. Not long ago I would only navigate the world on my own terms. I’ve learned now about the sweetness, serenity and magic that comes with letting go when the internal tug-of-war becomes futile. I know now that I am not really in charge: Something much greater than myself is. And that is okay. I get some good insights and answers this way. I talk to God and listen for the casual reply, as John Denver would say. It has been a comforting and a treasured time.
Returning to the world with the expectation of being the same has to be re-evaluated.
As the great myths, folklores, faiths tell us, when taking a great journey afar, one never returns the same. In fact, don’t even expect or try to. Come back draped in Golden Fleece, with Stone Tablets and horns of light, ruby slippers, perhaps bearing a Medusa or Jabberwock’s head. We who went away somewhere faced something, most likely of our inner selves, and cannot go back to whom we had been. Once you know something, an inner sight, you can’t unknown it.
I feel thoughtful and good about coming back to those who are waiting. Those folks who’ve moved on since I became ill? It’s because their memory of me that went away and didn’t come back. I’m a new version of myself, shifted not by all the TV watching, but really mostly by observing what feeds me and what does not, and choosing what makes me fed and strong. As Siken’s poem says, “Don’t try to make a stronger wind/ you’ll wear yourself out. Build a better sail.”
I’m sorry, I have to shift now to catch the wind I want to say to all. With grace and faith, many are still with me, taking my cues that a gentle entry is happening. We also collectively acknowledge that a few more beckoning sirens and rocky shoals lay enroute before coming into home harbor.
I’ve shed a great deal of baggage these past months, deleting extraneous, intrusive social media accounts and list-serves, and letting go of pet projects: most importantly I’ve faced that inner cynicism that slowly bleeds my attention and energy. Recalibrating with a refined cargo is part of the journey and takes time.
A friend brought me a recording of Michael Meade to listen to. About Fate and Destiny. I was losing interest in gunning up the energy to re-enter the speed chase, but this gift reminded me of the work I am here to do. In order to do it, I must learn to surrender, feel and let go of what drains me, and surrender to the goodness of the work that pulls me lovingly forward. I had created some fine relationships and laid tracks into the work of my destiny. No need to stop now, I’ve built a better sail.
I understand that the hi-speed tracks are here to stay. Please, though, Surrender from time to time, and don’t forget to Recalibrate and capture the wind in your new sail. It’s a blessed roadside stop on the fulfillment of your destiny.
…Susan J Katz© 2015