Crises or challenges enter our lives unannounced, sometimes in the midst of great happiness or peaceful contentment. A relative dies, a life partner loses a job, or you yourself receive a frightening health diagnosis. The latter happened to me a few weeks ago, and I am still regaining my equilibrium after the impact of it. In each of these scenarios, we are facing the unknown—life without a loved one, life without income, life without optimal health. In my case, the diagnosis was about my vision (inflammatory eye condition), which was shattering to me because I love the world through my eyes. I celebrate its beauty and wonder, its miracles. I am also a writer and a lifelong avid reader. What would I do if I lost my full range of vision, this deep connection to the world around me?
We take so much for granted in life. Our ability to walk, to hear, to see, to touch and taste—all such incredible blessings. If we lose any one of them, even temporarily or partially, it is shocking. We feel vulnerable, uncertain, fearful. And unfairly robbed of something so integral to human life—seemingly. Yet, so many individuals live without complete access to one or more of these abilities, and they live full rich lives grounded in gratitude. Yes, you may say, but I don’t want to face that kind of challenge. That is the kicker. We want, and expect, life to be a certain way, and we are devastated when it is not. We learn over time—if we are wise, if we are open—to accept “what is” as life unfolds before us, moment to moment, completely outside of our control. Because if we do not, we suffer, and we hang on to our suffering.
Loss is part of each of our lives here on Earth. We don’t escape a lifetime without being touched by some kind of sadness or pain. But extended suffering is optional. We can grieve without holding onto the sorrow tightly and tormenting ourselves with “what ifs.” We can allow the tears to flow through us and cleanse us of our grief. Every emotion we have, if experienced fully, can free us of suffering. If I can let life be whatever it is, my suffering softens and eventually dissolves. If I sit quietly in stillness, I get in touch with the calm peace that resides at my core. I often find this to be true yet learn it anew with each challenge that arises. In this case, my eyesight. The situation continues to be filled with unknowns, and each new doctor’s appointment brings more shifting realities—and more waiting (to see if any change occurs). I find I have to repeatedly dig deep for patience and acceptance. I move forward one step at a time, reminding myself to feel everything and still remain open.
Dear friends and family, and one particularly kind doctor, have also helped me tremendously.* Again and again, the empathy of friends and strangers alike brings me back to some sense of balance and relationship to everything. Because not all of life is loss or fear of loss. Life is also connection. There is so much beauty and love in the world everywhere, visible and invisible. Other people reached out with kindness and caring when I most needed it. Love guides us out of solitary sadness and isolation and shows us our commonality with all of humankind. The sweet tenderness of shared experience, of heartfelt understanding and compassion, makes life worth living. That is why we came into this lifetime—to feel that essential oneness in the midst of our separate life challenges, our fears and our sorrows. We are here to love one another into wholeness—one whole human family, living unpredictable, uncontrollable, but always deeply connected lives.
*My heart’s deepest gratitude especially to Panache, James, and my partner Anne for their love and support.