For the past decade, my life has been tumbling through the clothes dryer. Up and down, around and around. With chronic illness, the days, months, and years bleed together. You’re continually moving, yet keep ending up in the same place.

This year, the heavy cloud of illness finally took its leave. For the first time in years, I feel healthy. And yet, I’m still being thrown against rigid plastic cliffs while peering out a plastic window wondering what the hell happened.

Perhaps, I was subconsciously under impression that once the foundational block of Maslow’s Hierarchy was replaced, the perfectly polished blocks of my old life would effortlessly fall back into place. Now that I feel rested, I have the energy to worry about where we will live and how we will afford to start over. I am staring at a blank slate and have the opportunity to draft out a new plan for my life.

I’ve been reading through a poetry anthology and yesterday, a particular line struck me, and has stuck with me.

“Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?”

– Rumi

In considering the question, I’m not even sure what side I am most used to. I spent my early-twenties overachieving, exploring self-actualization, and generally thriving. Then, my mid-twenties through early-thirties were weighed down by chronic fatigue, where my sole concern was sleep. As a child, my basic needs were always met so I was able to move on to psychological needs. As a broke college student, I regressed back to a focus on feeding myself. Life is cyclic, it would seem.

Rumi asks me how I know that the side I am used to is better than the one to come. I must admit that I don’t know, and I find some comfort in that uncertainty. So, I’m going to embrace and dive deeper into the unknown and conduct a thought experiment with myself. Most of the transitions happening in my life are outside of my control so, rather than dwelling on worst-case scenarios, I plan to identify and focus my attention on the optimal outcome.

What might the other side of this reality look like?

What is the best possible outcome of the current set of circumstances I am currently facing?

What would this look like if it were easy?

How do you know–how do you really know–that the side you are used to is better than the one to come? We don’t. We can’t. It’s unknowable, and all part of the mystery of life. Up and down, around and around. We are continually moving, yet where we end up is all a matter of our perspective.

13 thoughts on “Topsy-Turvy

  1. I love this! After I got off of Fentanyl, I remember thinking the old way I’d felt , while unwanted, had become familiar. I was happy to be healthy again, but it felt strange. I had to figure out where I was in the “dryer.” So, I can relate to everything you’re saying. Also love the Rumi quote! In a general sense, it’s hard NOT to resist change, but you’re so right – perspective really is everything. Thank you for the great reminder!


    1. I’m so happy to hear this resonated with you, Kendra! I’ve admittedly been struggling a lot lately, but that line from Rumi really struck a chord and is helping me to reconsider my perspective.

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  2. I’m with Kendra — love the Rumi quote and I love how you’ve woven it into your thoughtful mapping of what comes next. So good! Happy Friday…and I’m sending big hugs, too! Group hug! 😘

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  3. I feel for you, having gone through Chronic Shingles that incapacitated me for years, the pain causing issues with sleep, and that in turn led to chronic fatigue. Through those 10 years, I had a child and worked on raising her.

    While life seemed to happen on the fringes of my abilities, life still happened, I still experienced things and in many ways, life moved on. After I regained my health, I simply lived a more expanded version of my life.

    I don’t believe there is a side unlived, for we still lived our lives, even if it was a lesser percentage of how we can live now. We still made our choices and our decisions, and all those have led us to the spot we stand in right now. Do I have regrets over relationships that were negatively affected by my illness? In some ways, yes, but I have also worked on accepting my illness and the circumstances it altered, for the stress of churning all the “what-ifs” and “could-haves” places a strain on physical and mental well-being, whereas acceptance allows life to move forward gracefully.

    It seems like you’re stuck in a zone of wistfully wishing for the life you were sidelined from, and are perhaps exploring the barriers to accepting what happened. Deep acceptance is possible when we realize that no matter where we find ourselves at this moment in time, we can choose the directions our lives go in henceforth.

    If we were supposed to learn some deep soul lessons from our illnesses, then we would have gone through those difficult days one way or another. It wasn’t meant as a punishment, but simply something we had to go through to get to where we are right now.


    1. Tamara, thank you for sharing your experience, empathy, and deep wisdom. I can only imagine the challenge of raising a child on top of debilitating pain and fatigue. It makes me heart happy to hear you’ve regained your health.

      I really appreciate, in particular, your final thought about how illness being an opportunity to learn and grow as opposed to a punishment. That’s something I’ve returned to again and again over the years. Thinking about acceptance, I feel as though I’ve fully accepted what I’ve been through, forgiven myself and others, and let go of old dreams. The hard part, which I’m currently working through, is that circumstances resultant from my illness may prohibit me from starting a family. You’re right, though–wherever we may find ourselves, we can choose which direction we head in next. 💕


      1. Years ago when I was struggling with those types of questions, looking at all the struggles and traumatic experiences I had been through, I was questioning “why”, why had it happened to me. I had 4 people approach me in a short span of time and each gave me the almost identical message, that I had chosen all my troubles before coming into this life. It didn’t make much sense to me, so I spent a lot of time analyzing the messages. When I spoke with the 4th person, I was voicing those questions, and I came to the understanding that if we each chose our troubles, it was to teach us deep soul lessons that we could only learn by going through those situations. That shook me to my core, for it upended everything I had learned in church, yet did answer questions I had.

        I had originally approached the whole topic with the thought that it was punishment for sins, but if it wasn’t punishment but was instead for growth? That rocked my thinking.

        Having come out the other side of that tunnel, I see now I’m not the same person I was going in, and the only way to become that person was to go through the whole process. Difficult yes. Regrets? I wish I could have learned those things without having to go through the process, but I probably wouldn’t have!

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      2. I truly appreciate this perspective, and I know that you’re absolutely right. I know several people who suffered a trauma, which led them towards a profession in which they help others facing similar challenges or, at least, deepened their capacity for empathy. At the end of the day, they look back on the hardship with gratitude, and I am sure that I will soon be able to look at my journey and feel the same.

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  4. We never know the ultimate purpose for our sufferings until one day we recognize it. At the very least, we’re forced to face things we never willingly would have, and to develop tools we never would have had an opportunity to otherwise. The people we were at the beginning get transformed through the whole process, and we become someone new. It is also up to us to direct ourselves, so whether we turn out positive and optimistic, or if we choose to be negative and bitter, is up to us.

    We get to choose our thoughts throughout this process, and our positive or negative thoughts will impact our physical outcomes too.

    I have been finding out about Quantum Physics and how our thoughts can affect our bodies and our environment. It’s fascinating to see science backing this up!

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    1. Yes, I believe you are right–all suffering is purposeful but sometimes it takes time to recognize that purpose. Like coal under pressure, our hardships can lead to growth, learning, and transformations that result in something more beautiful, like a diamond. The challenges are stepping stones on our path to becoming our best selves. And, yes, Quantum Physics is incredibly fascinating!

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      1. I never would have thought that I needed the information I learned from when I went through chronic illness but surprisingly it has helped me so many times. Mainly to help other people understand what some people go through, so they won’t be so judgmental of people with hidden illnesses. That’s being able to pay it forward when I myself was so misunderstood. I’d rather have my troubles serve to help others!

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