As I continue to tenderly caress the scars and wounds in my soul whilst continuing to learn to lovingly accept my (seemingly many) frailties and imperfections, I’ve reached a point of compassionate assertion within. It’s hard to describe ‘compassionate assertion’ and the phrase doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but it’s the best I could do given the somewhat limited nature of words.
For a long time, I wholeheartedly believed in the concept of ‘cause and effect’ when it came to illness and ill-health. The new age, modern spirituality world in which I lived for many years frequently reports of the notion that repressed emotions causes physical ill-health and imbalance. I’ve no doubt there’s truth in these words but it’s far too simplistic a perspective for me. There is undoubtedly a connection between body, mind and soul; imbalances can manifest physically, spiritually and emotionally. Yet, ‘cause and effect’ leaves little room for the grey and smudged edges of being human.
In my personal and professional experience, ‘cause and effect’ can create layers of guilt as it can create a sense of self-blame: ‘I did this to myself’, ‘Why did I do this?’, ‘Only I can fix this?’. As a result, the cycle can intensify as we buckle under the pressure of trying to fix what’s broken, after all, everyone wants to live well so we feel compelled to do all we can to achieve that.
I did this for years. I felt a huge burden of responsibility for everything that was wrong with me, but this perspective wasn’t helping nor was it instigating change; it was simply making me feel worse about myself. I’m the first to admit I’ve got plenty of repressed pain and emotion stuffed inside of me. I’ve soul-searched and dug deep, I’ve also healed on many levels, but, despite being spiritually robust, I’m still physically fragile. I still have repressed ‘stuff’ within, and I always will, but the ‘cause and effect’ belief cycle was more damaging than the repressed emotions themselves.
One day as I sat in a grief-induced and broken haze, feeling a sense of despair and immense guilt for still not being able to heal, I broke. My beliefs shattered. I’d reached a point of realisation that whilst any ‘inner work’ would always help bring equilibrium into my life, my strategy of focusing so hard on trying to untangle the knots within was causing me more suffering rather than alleviating it and I was the only one suffering as a result. I was getting worse and feeling further away from me, and I realised that it was the very nature of looking for a ‘why’ in order to be able to fix it, that was at the heart of the destructiveness. My desire to heal and to work through the concept of ‘cause and effect’ had stomped on me good and proper as I’d managed to tangle myself up in well-intentioned, but highly destructive, knots.
My realisation was simple and succinct:
‘Sometimes things are the way they are because that’s the way they are’.
Okay, I’m the first to admit that this isn’t a particularly revelatory statement but it was for me as it was a sign of a profound inner shift. I could spend the rest of my life trying to unpick and untangle the knots and trying to heal but the cost would be a life un-lived. By accepting my realisation, I wasn’t giving up but I was stopping the violent and bloody battle going on between me, myself and I. So I put down my armour, I sent my trusty steed off for a well-earned graze and I let go. I stopped trying to make sense of my ill-health and I instead chose to start living once again. Instead of trying to heal and fix, I embraced my ‘what is’ and chose to live anyway. It’s not pretty: my ill-health isn’t discrete or polite, but it’s present whether I acknowledge it or not.
I haven’t given up, I’ve simply stopped looking for a why all the time. Nietzsche once wrote: ‘He who has a why to live can bear almost any how’, but for me it was letting go of the need for a why that’s given me courage and strength, reconnecting me more wholeheartedly to life once again.
I’m not a puzzle to be solved, an imperfection to be fixed or a blemish to eradicate; I’m me. I’m not solely a result of my repressed pain and emotion (and I have lots), they’re an integral part of me and no matter how much work I do on myself, I will always have more inside of me as they are a part of being human. Trying to fix them in order to become whole suggests I’m not whole now and I no longer accept that’s the case. Shit happens all the time. A full stop just begins a new sentence, not always one full of challenges and ‘bad’ stuff of course, but we are never immune. Acceptance lifted an immense weight from my shoulders and my soul finally found some room to breathe.
Acceptance finally allowed me to turn to face all the pain, the un-cried tears and the grief within head on. I stopped trying to fix it, heal it, understand it or eradicate it and instead decided to love it as a part of me. I’m learning to wholeheartedly love myself exactly as I am. Compassionate assertion, or perhaps assertive compassion, is loving myself by being myself, warts and all.
These days when someone suggests my genetic condition is a result of repressed pain, emotions or trauma, I smile. Obviously I know the words come from a good heart but I’m in a very different space in myself these days. When I reply with my new mantra: ‘Sometimes things are the way they are because that’s the way they are’. I feel a deep sense of freedom within me. Living in the here and now leaves me nowhere to hide but isn’t that exactly how life should be? Our quest to fix and mend is a distraction from the here and now, sometimes graceful acceptance is the true key to freedom.
In this perfection-seeking world, it’s hard not to feel the pressure of trying to be perfectly perfect: to be one of those who appear to glide through life smiling, emanating a vibe of ‘Everything’s perfect in my world’, seemingly without a care in the world as they have mastered the art of denial. The smiley, happy, wholesome veneer of the new age is, on the whole, well-meaning, but it also presents a falseness that can lead to disempowerment and guilt when we can’t live up to the façade. We feel ‘less than’ because we are not one of those ‘shiny, happy, hold it all together’ people.
These days I’m keeping it real. I still work on my repressed emotions but I love them as they are a part of me. I don’t necessarily like having them in my life but we can’t always have what we want. I’m just me, but I am no longer trying to be the person I think I should be nor am I constantly chasing the horizon of ‘getting life right’ all the time, I’m just living it instead and I’m being myself. Achieving balance and equilibrium is a work in progress but I take each day as it comes and approach it with an open heart and mind.
Disability and illness (whether it be physical, emotional or spiritual) is a part of my ‘what is’ and I’m finally allowing it to bring me some joy and enrichment. I have met some incredible people on my journey through life and I have discovered so much about the human condition. I’m finding peace amongst the chaos and discovering tranquillity in the storms. I’m not a fan of so-called illness inspiration but I see no point in being angry or bitter about it. It is what it is, after all. Of course I have days (even very recently) when my resolve falters and I slip into those deep and painful emotions within and the strain of the daily struggle gets too much but I take a deep breath and it passes. I’m far from perfect! Yet I am no longer trying to eradicate these as they remind me I’m human.
Many still offer me condolences when they hear of my illness but I don’t want that. Maybe their response is more down to their own internal struggles than it is to do with me? I’m learning to live well as me and that includes my many conditions. I don’t want pity or sympathy, just love and compassion. I don’t want judgment, just acceptance. I’m finally learning what happiness truly is, don’t try to fix me…