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This blog is another opportunity to feel grateful and thank you dear Universe: You continue to bless me with recovery and overall health.
A story that my father recently recalled to my memory involves a penguin and an eagle. The penguin would watch the eagle soar overhead and wish that its flippers would allow it the same degree of flight. Meanwhile, the eagle used to see the penguin move effortlessly through the water and wonder if its wings would allow it that agility of movement. If only they could understand and accept their individual realities and contexts! Our human lives are likewise filled with numerous instances wherein we, however fleetingly, compare ourselves to others, without any understanding of each other’s circumstances.
Each of us may have experienced several crises in our lives, about which others may have little or no clue, let alone understanding. Speaking for myself, right when I might have expected to be in the proverbial pink of health, I was diagnosed with rare medical conditions – Isaacs’ Syndrome (a neuromuscular condition stemming from muscle hyperactivity. It is also called Neuromyotonia, Isaacs-Mertens syndrome, continuous muscle fiber activity syndrome, and Quantal squander syndrome) and membranous glomerulonephritis (a progressive kidney disease) apart from Lyme disease (a bacterial illness transmitted by ticks) and glaucoma (which damages the optic nerve). As you might surmise, these diagnoses altered the course of my life irrevocably.
Being entirely human myself, I found myself thinking of my life up to that moment, and struggled to come to terms with my present, which seemed to belong to an entirely different existence compared to my past. From being a long-distance runner and solo traveler to becoming bedridden for two years, being forced to quit working, catching up more often with doctors than with friends, following a strict diet and medication regimen… I couldn’t even imagine my future any longer, let alone plan it. Any comparison with my peers’ lives and lifestyles was no longer meaningful and only resulted in frustration.
I had been living alone since graduating from college, and I had held myself accountable to myself for every action and every step that affected my life. Even so, I had a tough time bringing myself to accept that my life had taken a huge diversion, gone into uncharted waters, and I would need to find my Ikigai all over again. For those unfamiliar with the concept, Ikigai refers to a sense of purpose that makes one’s life content. I wasn’t content merely with accepting my situation mechanically as I was zealous about my recovery.
But I did learn acceptance as a way of acknowledging that I had to work through my body’s inabilities and overcome them to define and find success for myself. I found a champion for myself in the protagonist of the 2006 film, The Pursuit of Happyness, Christopher Gardner, who goes from being on verge of poverty and homelessness to becoming a millionaire and inspires others with his transformation. In the film, one conversation suffices to lock in the trajectory of Gardner’s life, whereas my life would be shaped by the many interactions and disagreements within my own body.
My journey essentially became about understanding my limitations and rediscovering myself without giving in to despair and defeat; about finding the fortitude to unravel the layers of mystery surrounding my conditions without fear of what I might discover. I had to reconfigure the programming of my life, and I had to tune out a lot of the chatter inside my own head to do so. And I had to remind myself that I wasn’t undertaking some overlong joyride but was doing something purposeful. Again, and again, I had to make room for newer perceptions and further acceptance, without losing the zest to recover.
Along the way, I would learn to deal better with the uncertainties thrown up by life and appreciate the resulting changes in my attitude. I took what life gave me with the same zeal I had for recovery, and through this art of acceptance found what can only be called inner peace. My acceptance worked for me actively, making me immune to the peer pressure exerted by society and other such bullets in the form of life scenarios that I had to dodge. That my acceptance wasn’t some resigned surrender to my condition had to be proven through the practice of living in the moment, a most difficult task.
I may no longer have the same ambitions as I did in the past, nor are my targets the same, but I do hope that my years of darkness have made me wiser about myself and my life and that this wisdom may yet prove useful. As the idiom goes, only a golden vessel can contain the milk of a lioness. Likewise, I believe that God chooses special vessels or individuals to withstand crises in potentially inspirational ways. My experience has taught me that acceptance does not always signal defeat and that it can impact our emotions positively.
The views expressed above in this article are the author’s own and do not represent any kind of medical advice.