Epilogue: Change and Loss

“I wonder what the next 5 years will hold?”

So ends the first volume of Musing Along the Way, first published in 2002 “documenting” the tough years between 1997-2001.

Fourteen years have passed since my initial diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Between 1997 and 2001, I wrote about, and published, my musings coming to grips with that unwelcome arrival and accompanying symptoms. Publication of volume one didn’t stop the writing process. Hundreds of other pieces in poetry and prose were written between 2002 and 2008 acknowledging the ups and downs of a subsequent period of heavy life losses.  In retrospect, I can report that time does heal.  In 2008, I started acknowledging a new phase in my life–more accepting, less painful, and more peaceful.

However, not wanting to allow the 2002-2008 poems to languish unseen and the period of my life they represent to be unacknowledged, I recently extricated the collection resting in the back of the file cabinet and took another look.  Reading them and reviewing my “take” on those years from the perspective of 2011, I was reminded again that illness is only one of the invitations one receives in order to grapple with the process of growing, learning, and being at peace in one’s own skin. During those subsequent years, I had many other invitations to ‘wake up to life’s gifts,’ including an avalanche of losses, one after the other.

I do mean avalanche:   By 2001, I had made a certain amount of peace with what had occurred to me.  However, In 2002 more unanticipated “gifts” arrived .  My multiple sclerosis forced me to stop working at what I loved. My husband and I separated in 2003. My mother died in 2004. In 2005, my brother who lived down the street retired to his new home 3 hours away. Thus I even more rarely saw his children who now had no reason to return to the old stomping grounds.  In 2005, I also passed on the ownership of my 25-year coaching/training/ consulting business to my step children. Their father, my business partner, and I, finalized our divorce in 2006.

Understandably, the stress of these losses took a heavy toll on my condition. Many of the themes mentioned in the first edition, such as diet, exercise, slowing down, dealing with the loss of my health, the mention of a difficult marriage, the letting go process, maintain themselves throughout the subsequent period of years. The musings from 2002-2008 include the despair which accompanied coping with loss after loss, my continuing challenge to “be” as opposed to “do”, and my confusions about it all. My life as it had been had changed forever, my challenged health condition being the constant context for all the rest that life delivered to me.

Yes, despair was a frequent feeling.  Witnessing my pain and trying to rebuild my life was the goal.  Filling my time with nourishing healing practices and new activities became the priority. I sought interesting connections in the outside world.  My new temporary “families”  were deeply nourishing.  In 2006, still able to walk with two hiking poles, I took a very wonderfully slow placed trip with a group of healers to the Aesclepian sites of Greece, one of my long term dreams.  Our leader,  Dr. Ed Tick, author of War of the Soul, primarily works to heal veterans from combat trauma.  I clearly felt like I belonged in this group. Realizing how important a “family,”  was to this quintessential loner, upon return from Greece, I sought out other compatible “families”, however temporary.  I joined the Monte growth group of wonderful comrades for the year it existed.  I practiced medical Qi Gong in community for 3 years.  I spent 3 years chairing my 50th 2007 high school reunion which kept me sane and connected with people who cared about me. Some of those classmates continued to arrange for deeply nourishing connections in annual visits to Kentucky.  I experimented with sauna detox in Arkansas where I bonded with 6 new friends for 3 weeks in a very hot box, day after day after day. In addition, I got more active in my church community and volunteered to join a group initiating a master plan project for our town.

Selections of what to include as documentation of those next 6 years held for me was not been easy. I have to admit, gaining comfort slowing the pace of my life remains my biggest and most consistent challenge. For the workaholics in my reading audience, I really need to acknowledge that. I do not apologize for the fact that despair and discouragement and confusion are predominating themes during this period.   As a proud, life long, hard working woman, an active gal, who always thought my work was my play, and who had a life to rebuild, my recognition of the need to move into the slower lane significantly conflicted with my ability to do so. Those conflicts were painful.

My obsession to document by ‘musing along the way’ in poetry form continued for 11 years after my diagnosis. Yes, I ended the first edition, 1997-2001 with a real question,  “I wonder what the next 5 years will bring.”  In this second expanded volume, I answer my own question to myself in terms of the next 6 years, and once again, allow the parts of the journey unearthed from my files to be shared with the world.

In this second tome, you’ll still see me observing my feelings and thoughts. I still notice my challenges and delight in my progress. During 2002-2008, I watched deep despair eventually morph to hope, and angst turn into acceptance. Shifting from the way I was, to the way I am, felt like a rebirth. The places ‘in between’ were the most confusing and painful to witness.  But more and more I was able to glimpse ‘grace’  and even begin to live there. I’m thankful that time heals.

I became a woman with some new friends.  During some shift or other, I left behind my former constant companion–the To Do List.  I walk slowly with a cane. I learned to amble, saunter, linger and wander–mostly.  In retrospect, I appreciate that the periods of suffering represented a certain dismantling of the old.  A bit stubborn by personality, it’s been hard to let go of what really no longer serves.

In my experience as a teacher and coach over 25 years, I have both observed through the experiences of my clients,  and learned first hand myself, that a major or minor breakdown, a period of ‘craziness,’ necessarily precedes breakthrough. Theoretically that’s helpful to know–although it’s particularly hard to remember when in the middle of it. I‘m glad that suffering is only a temporary part of the process of growing up, and never needs to be permanent.  In retrospect, it occurs to me that this newly configured book, adds to my efforts to “write my way home” during a tough period in my life.

For me, that home is a  place of peace, joy and acceptance that awaits each one of us.

May my words encourage you to witness your own journey, the ups and the downs of it, and to know that you are not alone in this that we call life, our sojourn on this planet.  Enjoy…