"Journey to Wholeness - Excerpt"
In "Journey to Wholeness", Barbara Brewster shares how disease spurred her to replace her old self with a new, untried self. In this excerpt she relates how every facet of her life became an opportunity to exchange constricting behaviors for expansive ones. Barbara's story eloquently illustrates that choice exits - even in crisis - and that true healing is not so much about recovering from disease as it is about recovering from misbeliefs, fears, and self-inflicted limitations.
EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER FIVE
In the evening, although I was tired and my legs felt stiff and weak, my spirits were high. Despite my difficulties, I had found meaning, fulfilment and pleasure in the day. I had walked. I was maintaining my muscle tone. I felt good, too, with my continuing practice of eating foods one at a time as I tried to establish safe and unsafe ones.
Throughout the day, as on other days, as I drove, walked, or prepared food, I enlisted even my singing as a form of inspiration. Banished were the mournful Irish lyrics with melodies so well suited to my soprano voice. I sang, instead, the bright, up, positive words that reinforced how I wanted to see myself:
Hey! Look me over! Lend me an ear, Fresh out of clover and mortgaged up to here, But don't pass the plate folks, Don't pass the buck, I figure whenever you're down and out, the only way is up! From the musical Wildcat
My reading of I Want To Change, But I Don't Know How brought up the question: WHAT NEED DOES ILLNESS SUPPLY FOR ME?
If I honestly answered, there were two big needs:
1. The need to learn to say "no."
Already I was using the illness as an excuse not to do certain things. It was an excuse not to write to a family member. On the phone one night, instead of honestly telling that person, "I don't care to write to you," I said, "My body's not up to it."
The illness gave me an excuse to stay away from work, to say "no" to the shop. As if I could close the doors and no one could say, "She failed." It would all be because of my health.
Obviously, I needed to learn how to say "no" without guilt to the events, people and pressures that dragged on my well-being.
2. The need to ask for what I needed.
Illness gave me a legitimate reason to ask people for help. I could see myself telling my landlord that I had MS and expected that maybe he'd give me a break on the rent, find me a smaller shop, and not reject my requests for help. Illness also made it okay to ask Mom and Dad for financial assistance. After all, a sick person wasn't expected to have to make it on their own. Now maybe Jack would mow the lawn or cut wood for me and I wouldn't feel like a pest for asking him.
On top of those payoffs was the fact that feeling bad physically diminished my interest and need for sex, so I didn't feel left out sexually. And, besides, if I were ill, maybe Tauni would decide not to look for another job and would agree to stay and work longer for me.
How true were those points? Surely the negatives of being ill outweighed the advantages!
I also asked myself:
WHAT AM I LEARNING FROM ILLNESS?
1. Being ill gives me purpose, a challenge, something to become, the goal of health to be strived for.
2. It forces me to take stock of myself, my life -- honestly.
So - I had needs! Such an idea had never before occurred to me. Clearly, my major needs had not been met during the last years. I needed love, but I had lacked love -- of self and from others. I needed purpose, self-respect, a sense of worth, fun. I needed security -- to know that my needs could be met.
When you're missing something, your hurting says, "Wake up!"
From I Want to Change, But I Don't Know How
My reading and self-scrutiny forced me to realize some important truths about how I'd chosen to behave throughout my life. I'd done things so that I'd receive approval -- with the result that I became a slave to other people's definitions. I always thought that I had courage -- emigrating to Australia when I was 22, teaching school there with no training, hitch-hiking across continents, building my own business, singing publicly -- but in many ways I hadn't. During my marriage I'd avoided speaking out to Jack fearing I'd hurt him. When I'd been involved with Peter, I wouldn't ask him outright what was the status of our relationship. I'd not had the courage to communicate honestly -- with my family, with customers, with friends, and with men in particular.
Although I hadn't been afraid to hitchhike around the world, I had other fears. I had been fearful of failing in other people's eyes (Dad's, Mom's, Jack's, customers', racquetball partners' ... ), fearful of not holding up my responsibilities to them or of not receiving their approval. And now I was fearful of not holding up my responsibility to myself, to my body and its healing. The words of Royal Robbins, the mountain climber, spoke to the place in which I found myself:
You will never know how much you can do until you extend yourself to your limit, and you don't know that until you fall trying.