“No Mud, No Lotus” -Thich Nhat Hanh
I am still in disbelief as I look back over the last 11 or so years. I didn’t think I’d survive. Only very recently have I grown strong enough to embark on the deliberate path of wiping off the mud. I’m smiling, beyond grateful for the fortitude and support that carried me through what felt like perpetual drowning and chaos. The load weighed just beyond what I could carry on my own. I’m lucky that I didn’t have to do it alone.
Writing seems to emulsify the mud, turning it into turquoise and gold that I can paint across my canvas of a day. It can take something thick and dark, seemingly unworkable, and then re-arrange it into something more attractive, even welcoming. Looking more closely at the mud, I see countless flecks of gold.
In the realm of chronic (and mishandled) Lyme disease, I won’t pretend to be out of the woods. I still wake up panicked, my belly engorged with gas, my clothes drenched in sweat, frantic, seemingly possessed, wondering what my next step to safety could be. I still have mornings where I hide in the cocoon of my bed, hesitant to face another day in my body. I rapidly list off what I'm grateful for to convince myself I'm safe, finally getting out of bed when I've put on enough armor. I still have moments that swirl with dizziness, where my muscles feel gooey and the stories in my mind scare me. I still don't know what's going on inside my gut, yet I continue to practice the delicate art of managing it. In spite of all this, I remind myself that I’ve always preferred greener landscapes. That green is in my cells. So, I welcome the trees to stick around, to grow denser, inviting my own roots to tangle and twist, thickening as they strengthen. I’ve started listening as the trees offer whispers of guidance. I take the smallest step, then the next smallest step, often pausing to look around, to breathe, to recalibrate, before the next.
The story continues, spiraling as it will, offering new perspectives, an abundance of gifts, and always: silver-linings in the darkest crevices.
The healing continues, but now it floats on a bed of acceptance, some joy, and surprisingly, trust, unlocked by time, patience, and the wisdom that naturally blossoms after enduring unexpected suffering.
As I crawl out of the mud and look ahead, I feel like a squirming tadpole: eager yet wildly uncertain. My body is transforming more rapidly than I thought possible. I’m putting on muscle and fat so rapidly it makes me giggle (as I jiggle!). The relationships that carried me through stand sturdier than ever, while old friends continue to resurface in unexpected ways. My cells buzz, eager to heal and transform, ready to lift heavier weights now that some of the burden has transformed. I’m seeing the world with a new pair of eyes that are appropriately tinted with rose, allowing the quality of love to infuse everything much more palpably than before. Even the heaping pile of laundry on the floor, gently waiting to be folded, seems gentle, patient, worthy of time, worthy of adoration: a small mountain of comforting gifts.
I’ve written about befriending and working with chronic fatigue, using it as a teacher and even an opportunity to choose a slower pace in life.
I’ve written about being nearly bed ridden, losing 25% of my body weight while managing the complete shut-down of my GI system, simultaneously losing a sense of connection to the activity of the world beyond my apartment walls.
I’ve written about my two weeks in the hospital, surviving off of liquid formula, tormented by my thoughts, ready and wanting to die.
I’ve written about love. Acceptance. Shifting my stories. The unexpected beauty that seeped out of the cracks. I’ve written about community, creativity, and movement, and their ability to dissolve even the heaviest loads.
Here I am today, writing about writing.
And now, I write about rebirth, in a way, of remembering what it feels like to want to live, remembering what it feels like to notice the richness and texture of the world that surrounds. I’m remembering what it feels like to readily touch joy without having to dig for it. I’m remembering what it feels like to connect and feel connected, and how that alone leads to a feeling of satisfaction and safety in this often overwhelming experience.
As I look back to the darkness, it has lost some of its intensity. I am much less afraid. I have entered a state of acceptance, even toughness, feeling more confident that I can handle whatever snaggle-toothed demons come my way next (I know they will!)
Knowing that I’ve made it through what felt unspeakable, I wish to thank my past-self for not giving up, to smile at my invisible battle scars with a sense of pride. If I could go back to moments I wanted it all to end and offer some advice, I would encourage myself to stop resisting, to lean on my support even more, knowing that time would take care of the rest. I'd remind myself to embrace everything, as if I had chosen it, and to let the pain be there without twisting it deeper with stories that only served to increase suffering. I would gently remind my past-self that even the most unimaginable suffering transforms, that I was safe. The body is stronger than we know.
This journey has been a celebration of life for exactly how it appears, especially for the people that, somewhat magically, show up to hold my hand and cheer me on along the way.
It’s been a process of tuning into what feels right and following that butterfly as it playfully glides down the street.
It’s a non-linear, continual process of deliberately and gently pausing to notice the support, love, and strength that was there all along. I can now dance in the layers of mud, enjoying the sensation of its coolness between my toes as I smile at lotus after lotus with each and every step.