On Tuesday I drove out to Maplewood, through the trees, to see my acupuncturist, Geri Ota, a healer. When she felt my pulses, she said, “Hmmm…. well, the underlying kidney chi (or energy) is fragile and weak. But the pulse above that is strong. This is a very tricky place for you.”
Yup. It is indeed. Here’s why.
Both these energy streams exist in me at the same time. It’s a little like having one foot in the realm of death, and another foot in the river of life. It’s not that I live in one and then the other, shifting from foot to foot, but rather that it is I’m living in both realms at the same time, in very real ways. This is not a theoretical situation, this is a physical reality.
My awareness does seem to shift from foot to foot, however. Whole days go by, a week or two, when I feel myself edging towards death. I don’t feel death itself, just a slippage in that direction, a lessening of the “give-a-shit” energy that Stephen Jenkinson talks about in his book Die Wise. For example, I see that I’m eating more sugar than I should be, and inside I hear voices saying “Who cares? You’re dying anyway – enjoy!” That’s just a small example, but there are ramifications everywhere – feeling too sick to go to fitness class or yoga class, too sick to take a walk, too sick to go outside and look at flowers, too sick to remember how to find joy in life itself. Too sick. Just too sick. That’s the realm of my death, and it’s very real. I think that’s the weak kidney chi that Geri identified on Tuesday.
But running concurrently is the river of life, which recently is beginning to look more interesting to me. After my diagnosis, moving to Rose Villa, reorienting myself to life in community and adjusting my life to living with cancer, I am just now pulling my head up above water and taking a look around. What does life look like from here? I have volunteered to be a “Comfort Companion” here at Rose Villa, agreeing to take an evening shift if needed to sit with a resident who may then be dying alone at the Health Center. I volunteered to help support a local candidate running for Congress who identifies with Bernie Sanders and pledges to support Bernie if they get elected. I am eyeing our back yard and find myself planning a garden there for the first time since we moved here, with fruit trees, berries, grapes and vegetables as well. I can hardly wait to tackle that. I want to attend to some papers and a book that I have written that needs to be published in some form.
So, which realm am I in?
I am in both at the same time. And it’s tricky. She really nailed that one. I cannot survive if I am only in the realm of death, it’s an oxymoron. But I am not well enough to step fully into the river of life that is brimming with ideas and options. I can see the river now at least; I couldn’t even see it a month ago. But I can’t quite reach it, either.
It’s tricky. I can’t reach out too far, and fall. Nor can I live too small, and not grow stronger. Reminds me of a time, years ago, when I was learning how to run long distance. I’d just keep running, daily, and very gradually I could run a little longer, until finally I could run 5 miles with power.
Maybe what I can do is just take one small step a day towards the river of life. Maybe I’ll walk down, quite literally, to the river. And say hello. And see how strong I am now.
And therein lies the problem. The energy above says “Wow, what a great idea! Let’s do that!”, and the weak energy below says “Are you kidding? What happens if you get down there and you collapse? Or fall? ” And because both voices have complete integrity, reliable experience, and my well being in hand, I have no fucking idea what to do.
It’s tricky. And another stop on this journey. I’m just taking a look around, reporting back to all of you who read this. I want to say that all will be well, not to worry, but the truth is I have no idea.
I actually think that this is, in the long haul, a hopeful sign that I am getting better. My job now is to be respectful of the process and to listen carefully every step of the way. And to keep both of these energies communicating with each other, creating equanimity.
As Eric, my husband says, “It will be what it will be. And we’ll face it together.”