I call this entry and the entry that follows a framework because I see in my mind’s eye a series of steps leading to a beach; each of these images contains the idea that we take a step at a time, and, over time, all those steps add up to a destination; in this case, healing. I always come back to thinking of this illness as a path, as a journey: so much discarded along the way (my illusions), so many new things embraced (acceptance of death), so many questions (should I take this treatment), so many pauses to rest (thank God for the beach). During those first days after my tumor was declared gone, I wrote about what I thought had changed the trajectory of the illness. Since then I have read several different books and articles on the same subject. It turns out that there are a lot of similarities among those who have healed. So in the next post (Framework for Healing Two), I’m will lay out the steps that others have observed that lead to healing/wellness/wholeness. I recognize myself in their frameworks, but this post is about two things no one else seems to talk about that are basic to my healing;I think they saved my life.
I’m alive and according to standard medicine, I should be dead. Did I do something to change the trajectory of my illness? Yes, I changed my diet, yes I changed what I let into my house and onto my body, yes I took supplements and herbs, yes I meditated, contemplated and prayed. Yes, I reached out to friends and found support and love, yes I practiced forgiveness and gratitude. Yes, I laughed more, loved more, saw the bright side more. Yes, I did all the things I talk about in this blog. Yes. I changed my life. But I keep coming back to what happened first: before anything else
I faced my death
I believe facing death freed me, opened up a quiet space inside me and allowed healing in. Certainly accepting death was fundamental to my ability to function, to think clearly, to accept what I could not change, to surrender, to appreciate each day. But there’s something beyond the reasonable, beyond all these positive things, something profoundly important about accepting your own death. I think – in a perverse way – it connects you to life, to the vitality of the life force. It wakes you up, it grounds you strongly in a way that had never happened to me before. As I look back, I realize that so much of the day-to-day that I did, of the stuff we all do, was a dance to avoid looking at the darkness. I have met so many people who think even talking about death is crazy, who as much as stuff their ears with their fingers and say “stop talking about this.” I feel profound compassion for them because I know they’re scared but I also know what’s on the other side of acceptance: an amazing bubble of calm and a wondrous freedom that I never knew was there. I wish I could take them there, but it seems this journey is one you take alone.
I know how hard it is to get there. I do understand. It is tremendously scary to look at your own death. Reading Stephen King is nothing once you’ve had a look at your own mortality. Physically it made me sweat, feel dizzy, be nauseous, shake and walk the hall in my home, back and forth, forth and back. Some people think speaking in public is the worst feeling in the world, but I can tell you, it ain’t. However…once done, there is calmness and clearness, and most of all, a lack of fear. It is fear that depletes our bodies and minds, it is fear that focuses us away from the present, it is fear that underlies many bad decisions. It’s like passing through a storm, all turmoil and spray in the face, fear and howling, up and down, down and up. But once out of the storm, it’s peaceful, the sun is shining and the water’s calm. You throw your arms wide and give grateful thanks that you are alive. You breathe more deeply, you see the beauty around you, you smile great cheshire cat smiles. You know how precious this moment is and you value what you have. That is one of the gifts of facing your own death. It allowed me to
Being desperate is like running away from monsters in a bad dream, unable to run fast enough, agony coming closer every minute, dread with every breath. When I feel desperate, a pressure builds in my chest and travels up to my throat, tightening it, tightening my whole body. My breath becomes shallow, my hands and teeth clinch. I do not think very well. I do not concentrate very well. I don’t think anybody does. I have written about this elsewhere in the blog but I want to stress again how important I think it is and how pivotal it was to my healing. Desperation does not allow you clear vision or clear decisions. It takes away your judgement, your faith, your hope. The opposite of desperation is not forced cheerfulness or a positive outlook. My experience is that most people talk positivity as wallpaper over a yawning pit of fear and desperation. You can’t get rid of desperation by positive affirmations or smiley faces or reading uplifting stories of healing.I deeply believe the only way you can rid yourself of desperation is to face the reality of your personal death. It doesn’t mean you’ll never be afraid again. You probably will. I am on and off, and sometimes it’s about death. Does this sound like a contradiction? It isn’t, it’s just life. We face the same thing, over and over. I’m sure you’ve noticed that. But facing death does help with the fear, does calm you down and allows space. It’s like that storm at sea I mentioned. You’ll get through it, but they’ll be another storm. This time you’ll have more experience, and you’ll get through it more easily. The storms will probably never go away but you’ll be a better navigator each time you survive.
Maybe none of us can ever be completely free of the fear of death, fear of the unknown, fear of ending. What I do know if that facing death was the cornerstone of my healing. I’m sure of it.
What follows in Framework for Healing Two is a summary of some of the work that has come out lately on spontaneous healing and remissions and the steps the authors suggest.