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an open letter to rest



I have given you a bad name.  I have resented you and regarded you as a sign of weakness, defeat, doom, and punishment.  When in fact, you are a vast and beautiful creature.  Rest, you can be an experience as pure and as dense with life as summiting a mountain or makinglove.  You are a gift and I am privileged to have you in my life.  Going forward, I intend to embrace you and get to know you better.  I will enjoy you, Rest, and leave my negative attitudes behind for the luxury of your mystery.

Yours truly.

I’m home from 2 of 5 infusions.  Grateful for the ease of the procedure, so far.  No side-effects beyond a headache.  My goodness, the wind!  It is so windy right now!  The trees outside of my apartment are really going wild, flying in all directions, their branches bending, palms flapping, all in the rise and fall of this glorious white-noise.  Wow!  A storm is close-by!

And here’s another thing I want to get out.

One form of meditation I find powerful- Tonglen- involves breathing in suffering (yours, specific others, the world’s) and exhaling compassion and tenderness.  Tonglen is Tibetan for sending and taking. (Some basic Tonglen concepts: here& here& here too).This practice encourages going to the darkest places, instead of running from them, in order to cultivate compassion for all sentient beings.  So, my biggest terror now is this illness.  I know that CFS is real, which means I know there are endless people who are suffering, physically, with this and other illnesses, that don’t have the option of resting and medical care and unemployment.  There are people with debilitating illnesses who are not able to be debilitated or step off the treadmill of their lives.  Their responsibilities, needs of others, finances, conflicting relationships, access to education, mobility, mental health, etc. already hinder their chance at the already daunting process of recovery. And they have to keep going.  Pain.  Darkness.  Sit with it.

I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to Rest and Hope and Find A Way.  CFS may be calling (forcing?) me to truly empty my life and myself.  Not just cut-back or take time off, but truly purge who I am and the life I have lived.  Take it all away and just sit with it.  CFS is asking me to have patience, but not the kind of patience that it takes to wait a long long long time for a promise to be fulfilled, but the kind of patience that happens even under the knowledge that things may never change.  I may never be physically well again.  I might always be in pain.  I have to sit with this, one day at a time, and try to connect with the Now.

My shrink reminded me one day that none of us have a guarantee beyond the present, that tomorrow is anyone’s guess, with or without illness.  I resented her comment then for its simplicity and Hallmark Buddhism, still clinging to the notion that I need some sort of tool to plan ahead, some sort of path to envision for the future (like I want to know if I will be able to have a career, fall in love, travel, have a family, etc. ever).  But I think that, for right now at least, I am just supposed to Rest.  It is all I can do to keep up with my dog, my apartment, my family, my hygiene, my sanity.  Do less, but with more attention.  And maybe if my body begins to feel energetic again, or if some of the relentless pain yields, I can bring other things into my life.  But, for now, it is enough just to Be.  And to be grateful that I can simply rest.

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