The Wisdom of Setbacks

file000585494801February 24, 2014

Sometimes life takes us on detours when we long for a straight route to our destination. Thus begins a series of questions .  . . Is there really a destination? Are we planning to “arrive” some day completely well, completely put together, fully understanding everything we need to know?

Unfortunately, we do not have the privilege of the helicopter view. We are stuck in the middle of our own dramas, trying to thresh the fields and find our way when there are no sign posts. We trod through the dark forests looking for light and sometimes wonder if we will ever make it out again.

For the past few weeks a slow creeping sense of my illness has been resurfacing. It was like the tide. It slid in undetected, and then suddenly I noticed the waves lapping at my legs. I have to admit, feeling the old symptoms made me want to give up. I wanted to crash and burn and forget all of my optimism.

One of the sages in my life recently said “if we allow ourselves to simply feel the feelings in the moment, the most intense versions of the feelings last for about 90 seconds.

I can feel anything in 90 second intervals. So I tried it.

Instead of surpressing the disappointment and feeling of being a faded copy of a faded copy of myself, I let it all wash over me. I let myself be angry and see it as unfair until the feeling washed away. I stayed present with how hard it is to have a chronic illness and the constant struggle of finding a new normal when all you want to do is become “your old self.”

One of the sages in my life recently said “if we allow ourselves to simply feel the feelings in the moment, the most intense versions of the feelings last for about 90 seconds.

I can feel anything in ninety second increments – even if it’s disappointment, anger, and self-pity.

After sitting with my feelings I went for a walk. As I ambled through the woods, a great blue heron flew across the path. Her wings spread wide across the sky, flapping gracefully as if carrying a tremendous weight. Instead of falling, she soared.

I meditated on the wisdom of setbacks and began to ask myself this simple question that was given to me by a dear friend:

How is this illness helping you heal?

Right now I don’t have the answer. But settling into the question gives me peace.

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2 thoughts on “The Wisdom of Setbacks

  1. I know this has been a challenge for you for quite a while now. I admire your inner strength which will always surpass your physical strength. I admire your reflection through the process. As you said, it brings you peace for now, but it probably brings peace to many others who have suffered through illness. You have come so far; I know you will overcome this. I’m glad you are using nature and writing as a way to strengthen you through this time.

  2. Thanks for the wonderful comment. Setbacks are powerful teachers. They get you to slow down and reassess what you are doing. That is not always my strength. I have gratitude that there is always something to learn when life gets tough and that suffering is always temporary.

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