Once in a blue moon, we encounter a situation that changes our state of being. Who I think I am won’t fit who I actually am now. The familiar labels ceases to describe what I am. It is disorienting.
Two versions of me are walking overlapping each other, with slight dissonance, which gradually becomes noticeable, as if we were a ghost of each other, trying to head to different direction, further and further apart from each other, while not being sure who is the past and who is the present. And most importantly, who is the future to be.
So I sit and stay still for a while to bring the present to the center. It’s not easy. My everyday routine is constructed based on who I was. My friends know me as a “powerhouse,” which I might not be anymore. The lifestyle I expected to pursue based on who I was might not be feasible.
I think of my friends who were forced to change their state of being. My once highly functional friend developed DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) and has become immensely dysfunctional. It was a drastic change to her state of being. However, I became friends with her long after she had developed DID and for me it is how she always is. I couldn’t fathom her sense of loss. Another highly active friend developed ALS and was immobilized. I don’t have a word to describe her loss. Everyday, she had to adjust her expectation according to the function she lost that day. Time and time again she had lost her grasp of the present state of being and believed she could dance again.
I developed Ménière’s disease and had multiple attacks while I was working out of state. Lying in fetal position in the cold bathtub alone, vomiting, gagging and shaking, not knowing if I could go to work in the morning, I was afraid. I was afraid to be on board to go home. Then I was afraid to leave home. Several of my options for the future course of life were eliminated in that bathtub in a motel room in a strange city.
The highly functional, reliable powerhouse is no more. If the attack comes, I will become a puddle of vomit on the random floor.
The friend with DID and I exchange the notes over lunch and mourned for who we were together. She said my story was very familiar. She looked like she was comforted by the fact that I finally got at least part of how she felt. “I am not a kind of person who cancels appointment at the last minute,” I said. “Now, I have to if I have an attack.” “Neither did I,” she said. After the illness stroke, she, afflicted with multiple disorders, has been a constant no-show. That’s always been who she was to me.
While ALS, DID, Ménière’s, etc. induce drastic changes, aren’t we always changing? Probably I need to adjust my idea of who I am to my state of being every moment.
Sometimes, I see men and women walking with their ghosts. Old women dressed up in teenager appropriate garbs. I don’t judge how they dress. It’s their frozen look trapped in the ghost of who they were that gets me.
Our state of being is fluid. Let it flow and dance with life.
P.S. My dog, Simon, loves to play fetch. One day he broke his toes and had to walk on three legs while the broken one was in splints. After a couple of days, he was running on three legs as happy as he had been. Dogs adjust to the present reality so fluidly without dwelling on the loss. Dogs are amazing. They are my Zen teachers.