When I was recently diagnosed with the flu, I was both upset but also glad to be validated that my pain was biologically based. Being who I am, I took this opportunity to make meaning of this illness.
When I got sick, I entered into Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ stages of grief, spiraling through denial, anger, despair/depression, bargaining and acceptance; along with my wondering: “How dare my body let me down? I feel betrayed!” By myself.
Then came poor, pitiful me. Finally, giving up and giving in to the fact that I could not control my having the flu or not, I accepted it and let myself rest and relax instead of beating myself up for being so damn human that even I can get sick - like everyone else.
Out of darkness comes light. We have often heard: out of sadness comes joy, out of pain and sorrow comes rebirth, and out of tragedy comes hope.
Perhaps we can begin to heal ourselves while focusing on bodily symptoms, wondering about them, not only exploring how we got sick but by asking these ailments what they are doing for us, even embracing them as part of us. Only then can we be with whatever is going on inside us and explore ourselves without judgment in order to release old negative energy or blocks, renew our vitality, and move through trauma toward transformation.
When I finally surrendered to the fact that I had little control over having the flu, I could get on with the business of what I could do to help myself heal.
Out of darkness comes light. Is that true then for such tragedies as war, poverty, the mass incarceration and killing of black and brown men and boys, rampant sexual abuse all over the world, and the fact that people destroy and kill each other physically or emotionally every day? What grace or good can come out of these dark facts?
If we can look at all of the world’s tragedies as parts of us, all of the images and issues that represent the pain and agony that we feel inside ourselves and dish out to others, then maybe there is a way to decrease our violence toward ourselves and others. I am the first to admit to my judgmental-ness, my privilege and my anger toward others with whom I strongly disagree. Some of us also struggle with harsh evaluations of ourselves. What matters is what we do with these understandings about life and health.
When we as a community get better at diagnosing our “illnesses” and providing the support we all need while “sick,” only then can we work toward healing within our communities and the world. Only when we admit to and work through our conflicts internally and externally, can we become our best selves, more loving and nurturing for the whole planet and all the beings within it.