What if Living Well with with Chronic Illness Means Letting Go of Health?

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I seem to have entered a new phase in my relationship with my chronic illness.

For the four or more years that I have been continually battling bad health, I have maintained an attitude of hopeful expectation. I have been looking for solutions and expecting my illnesses to be resolved and for my normal life to resume. And, in fact, one by one, many conditions have been brought under control. My asthma is now almost asymptomatic, my allergies well-managed and my migraines improved. But one condition after another has just popped up in the same way that carnival moles emerge suddenly demanding to be whacked before disappearing and reappearing again. The result is that for all my efforts, I am now as sick as I have ever been.

I am tired–tired of dragging my sick body around and making it act like a healthy body, and more than that–I am tired of the cognitive dissonance.

My "faith in ambiguity", the heart of my spiritual practice is about asking the hard questions, facing the facts and charting a path based on Reality and Choice. I have lately realized, with a mixture of horror and the relief that comes with distinguishing a problem, that I have been at the effect of my illnesses and the circumstances surrounding them. I have a commitment to be the author of my life, and I haven't felt that way of late.

So, I have had to ask myself–given the inescapable reality of my being chronically ill and needing more rest, more care and more help than I have ever wanted to admit that I would–what would I now choose for my life?

The labor of relinquishing this notion of who I was going to be, and what I thought I was going to have was painful. But in the moment of really letting go of my insistence on being a healthy person with all the things a healthy person can have, I felt free again. The unmet expectations of my former self burned up like ashes in a bonfire, simply and cleanly. Life became something I could invent again.

I am not saying maybe doctors won't find a way to fix me up, or that my body won't mend itself, my fibromyalgia won't become tolerable to me, or that my my attitude won't change. I'm not saying I am not keeping my doctor's appointments, or that I am not going to work tomorrow.

I am saying that right now, in this moment, sanity for me looks like letting go. Once, when I was seventeen, I first admitted that I was powerless over my alcoholism and powerless over my bulimia and the world changed on its axis and became a new place. Now I must admit that I am powerless over my health and my life has become unmanageable.

Every time before that I have ever had the faith to let go and fall into the arms of the Universe, something has caught me.

Let it be something beautiful.


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