‘You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.’ ~ Alan Alda
I had chemo a week ago. This medication that I am on is relatively gentle but, when I have an infusion, it takes me a week to get back on my feet. This medicine is keeping me alive but it also means that I have one week out of three where I am out of commission. I apologize to you for this but it is the reality of my life.
During this downtime my thoughts have gone all over the place but mostly I have been turning over the rocks of my eventual demise. Both my husband and I have incurable diseases that will kill us in the end, so we have been forced to do loads of contingency planning such as who is going to manage our money when we are no longer able to, what is to happen to our home and our possessions, who will care for our pets, do we have a DNR order signed by our physician in our house so that if we have to call the ambulance the EMT will be able legally to withhold CPR, do we want to die at home if possible or would we rather be in a nursing home. I had a near brush with death about 18 months ago and my doctor told me that we had to get this work completed because when my end came it would be lightening quick and if it wasn’t done before then it would not be done at all. So thinking about if I predecease my husband or if he predeceases me and all of the various permutations has taken time and focus and a really good lawyer. But we are done now with the major parts. Neither of us could face shopping for nursing homes so we have relegated that chore to our physician for now.
Another rock that I have been turning over and over is about my travel. My doctor has said that I cannot take big trips any longer. No trips back to Scotland, the country of my heart, or to see dear friends in England or France, or even to the East Coast of the US where we lived for over 30 years and where our chosen family of dear friends still congregate for the most part. I am reduced to going no further than a nonstop flight from our local airport can carry me. While my body feels relieved no longer to be stressed in this way, my soul is in mourning. Tonight as I write this I am listening to Travelling Folk on the BBC and some of my favorite UK bands are featured. I cannot fathom that I will not be in Shetland for Up Helly Aa, or back in Orkney for the Folk Festival or to see what is new in the neolithic discoveries at Maes Howe. Yes, parts of Montana look like Scotland and that thrills my soul, but I miss the Scots themselves.
This feels like the wilderness to me. it certainly is a place of fierce landscapes even if they are internal. Are there lessons from the wilderness out there that might be useful while I am clanging around the wilderness in my spirit? This is the time when I would love to march right into the center of the ¨city of my comfort¨ and figure a way out of this, a way to control the situation so that it is not so painful, to hold on longer to things so there isn’t this dread sense of loss hanging over me.
But my intuition is telling me that this pulling back is the right thing to do. My body is telling me that it is tired of pretending to feel better than it does and that it would love to be able to express its vulnerability and know that help was forthcominng. I don’t have a history of paying my intuition sufficient attention but I know this is important. If Alan Alda is correct – when I come through to the other side of this I will have found myself more truly and that what I will have found will be wonderful. I know this is true based on past experience but I also know the the pain is going to be with me for a very long time. It is hard in our 21st c. mindset to see how a place wrapped up in multiple losses could be wonderful but I have to trust it. I may feel that I am losing myself but in the losing perhaps I will find something beautiful, powerful, meaningful, and rich.
The thing about wilderness is that it is implacable and when we are face to face with it, we are the ones who have to change or accommodate. There are truly wondrous things to experience once we are properly aligned with wilderness, but you have to do the work beforehand. So I am putting on my overalls, steel-toed boots, and hardhat and stepping into the job. I suspect it is going to be tiring and discouraging but I also expect that at the end there will be a new way of seeing that will serve me. I just wish it wasn’t so hard!