Day 71 arrived packaged in pain: searing, twisting, zinging, electric pain…down my back, into my legs, out through my toes. Getting me out of bed was like an adult game of Operation; one false move and all the sensors went off screaming.
Ankylosing Spondylitis is fusing my spine, beginning with the sacroiliac joints and climbing its way, rung by rung, up my vertebrae. Though its only recently divulged its name, this ugly friend has been my close companion for 10 years.
The real hurt of Day 71 lay not in the pain of the body, but in pain of the soul, of my unmet expectations. Constant agony is no longer the clothing of my day. I’ve been working my way through Gerson Therapy (it’s a year long alternative treatment that has good results curing A.S., which traditional medicine considers to be incurable)
For months now, I’ve soared on heights of progress: pain free sitting, pain free walks, pain free sleep, pain free hope. And then Day 71 sprung from beside the bed and pinned my body in a cruel ambush.
It’s a funny thing about pain: it creates amnesia.
When pain twists our bodies or souls, it descends with a curtain stamped in large letters: “PERMANENT”. In the darkened world we look around and wonder if there ever was such a thing as Light at all. The same amnesiac beauty occurs in the other direction as a mother forgets the brutal pain of labor as she holds her child. Whatever our matrix is at the moment tends to feel like an unassailable norm. We do well to remember this tendency.
Day 71, and 72, and 73…and all of its brothers up to 85 buffeted like barbed waves. Gerson is costly in both time and money, and the stakes are high. Doubt fired volley after volley. “You’re stupid for doing this”, “It’s not working”, “You’ve wasted all your time and money for nothing”, “Quit now”, “You’re a failure”, “This is a failure”
I sat in my uncertainty and writhed, just as you have sat with yours. Hands wringing, and heart twisting like a washcloth wrung dry.
What breaks up the twisting? The Truth. Plain and simple. Truth strikes, flint on flint, to make a spark in the darkness. It rubs with substance so hard that it can make flame (and Light) against the stubborn surface of fear, doubt, unbelief, wavering. Strong on strong, iron on iron, sharp on sharp. If held together long enough, the Truth will triumph. It’s made of sterner stuff. The fear will flame and fold like the head of a match…until your doubt sneaks round back and you have to match them up all over again: Truth in this corner, Doubt in that: off they go to combat.
The golden truth that saved Day 71 was this: people don’t heal in a straight line. Instead, success arrives on a fiercely undulating current of progress and apparent “regress”, in which symptoms seem to return, pain throbs, and even the emotions are out of control. This, apparently, is “normal”.
The Gerson Institute calls these physical crises, “healing reactions”. And so they are. Before a great leap forward, there is a preceding moment of terror. You get worse before you get better.
Had I not been armed with the truth that my healing would rise and descend several times before reaching a place of stasis, I might have abandoned the fight. Truth be told, I nearly did.
At many points in my life, I have ridden this same wave of doubt and belief, certainty and struggle, pain and delight, success and “failure”, cowardice and courage. Every stage feels permanent: a wall and not a door.
When I taught high school art, I was forever subjected to the lamenting wail, “I can’t even draw a straight line”. There’s a good reason for that, and even our hands tell about it. Perfection and machine-like results belong to the realm of computers and technology, not to a breathing being, with unsteady hands and an unsteady heart.
We, like the earth we were cut from, are subject to the changing of seasons: of emotion, biology, spirituality, and even environment. We are malleable, organic beings; alive and astride a widely undulating current.
This means the path we tread will be full of surprises: both outside our skin and under it. It means that there are no unchanging motions, there is no meteoric and unbroken progress. And that we ourselves will not be the same from one day to the next, despite our best efforts at consistency.
If we believed that on the front end, would we be so panic-stricken and shame-filled when our lives, our loves, our interests, our work, our relationships and even our faith ebbed and flowed, brooked and receded? If we knew that the rhythm of day and night, winter and sun was normal, would we panic when the heat of the day began to cool?
In the dips and downturns, Fear whispers that we have left the Path, that we’re outside the Plan…we’ve failed. Perhaps we’re just lacking the critical piece (peace) of Truth that will arm us in the shallows, when the fight is long and ugly: No one draws a straight line with his life except Jesus. But fortunately, it’s His responsibility to get us home.
“Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen for he who calls you is faithful” 1 Thessalonians 5:23
God. will. make. this. happen.
Undulations and changing nature come. We’ll be ready.
photograph generously provided by Susan Hudson Photography