I have a doctor's appointment today to discuss my psych medication (along with this beastly sinus/chest/ear thing I've got going on), and having that ahead of me always makes the day difficult. Really difficult. Like let-your-tongue-grow-fuzzy-from-dehydration-just-to-avoid-getting-out-of-bed difficult.
I didn't want to do that today. I decided that hiding in bed or getting up to face the world were equally painful, but at least getting up meant that I would do something to take care of myself, so I went into the kitchen and made myself food. Everything felt symbolic this morning, so I went with the flow and chose to make only foods that felt complete: a baked potato, a boiled egg, and a chunk of cheese. I figure that if I can't be it, I'll eat it.
(Don't adopt that last sentence as your own life philosophy. It doesn't work. Imagine this: I once wanted to be a great philosopher, but that didn't happen, so I now go around eating great philosophers.* See? No good.)
After eating, I wandered around the apartment thinking about how truly sick of myself I am today. I feel tired and depressed and have a sinus cold on top of that, and yet I still beat myself up for not being a maven of the home business industry, and then I beat myself up for beating myself up. It's ludicrous. It such self-reflexive nonsense.
I decided to sit down on the can for a while, because there is something about the bathroom that makes you smarter. Don't laugh. You know it's true. We've all spent time sitting on the toilet just letting our minds wander, and then - huzzah! - a brilliant idea jumps in from out of nowhere. I like to think of it as the Bathroom Satori. (I don't mean to offend any Zen Buddhists out there by bastardizing the use of the word "satori", which roughly means "... individual Enlightenment, or a flash of sudden awareness". I just like the sound of it.)
So, I was sitting around on the toilet, reading snippets of The Areas of My Expertise, and then - Bathroom Satori! - I was suddenly struck with something I had failed to notice before.
The last seventeen months of my life have been stressful due to my bout with cervical cancer, the Palinode's broken back, my psychological issues coming to the forefront, etcetera, etcetera. I know, I've gone over this again and again, but I failed to notice all the opportunities that the last near year-and-half have given me. It is a simple idea that we've all heard about on talk shows and seen advertised on the covers of self-help books: there is opportunity in crisis.
I have been given so much opportunity for personal growth over the last many months, and when I look back at that time through this opportunity-focused lens, it flips my habitual self-chastisement on its head. I am not this fantastic example of loserhood I would have myself think. When I found out that I had cervical cancer, I took that as an opportunity to gather the people I love around me, when I normally isolate myself. When I grew frustrated over the Palinode's physical inability to even get a glass of water for himself, I took that as an opportunity to learn to breathe and stay focused on one thing at a time and to remember to make the space to love the man behind the pain that wracked his body. Rather than hide my cancer and depression, I chose to be public about it, and I was able to find and give back support and encouragement with so many people as a result. Despite all the difficulties over the last months, my life has become a richer, deeper, and more creative experience because of this time.
It's not that this idea of opportunity in crisis solves the personal difficulties that have arisen for me over the last while, and it doesn't make my life feel easier, but it definitely fleshes out my existence, broadens my experience, and gives me greater perspective. It gifts this complicated and soulful life with a more practical shape and reveals the emotional-psychological-physical toolbox I have at my disposal to get through just about anything.
There was cancer, and it is no more. There was physical pain in a loved one, and there is no more. There is joy, and it will be again.
* Note: I do not actually go around eating great philosophers. Most of them are way past their best-before dates, and I have a fear of contracting an E. coli infection. I don't even keep frozen meat that long, because who wants to die as a result of bad sausage? Not I.