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.