Rooms 136-161: Learn To Hit The Curveball
Facing Down The Pain And Struggle In Life
I’m just going to come right out and say it. I’ve been brought to my knees. The vertigo I had climbing up Mt. Whitney in August, the same vertigo I had over two years ago, has been joined by a constant ringing in my ear, a hearing loss and an equilibrium imbalance, which ultimately has led to a diagnosis of Meniere’s Disease, a dysfunction of the semi-circular canals in the inner ear.
Doctors will tell you there is no cure, or for that matter, any concrete reason you get it, only that the symptoms come and go as Meniere’s wishes and lasts however long it wants it to last. It can last two weeks and come back in a year. It can stay for six months straight, go away forever or continue on and off indefinitely. Who knows?
In the meantime, I’m told to quit coffee, lower sodium, reduce alcohol intake, cut out stress, then cross my fingers that I’m one of the lucky ones who isn’t kept on their knees. I was given a nice pamphlet on the way out the doctor’s office. There was a man on the cover holding his head and looking like he was going to fall down. Worst part of the photo was that I could swear his fly was down. Seriously. I saw an open zipper. Not exactly the image I wanted filling my head as I pictured myself moving into the second half of my life.
To say the least I walked out of the office feeling quite dejected, barely acknowledging the audiologist on the way out. The same audiologist who ten minutes earlier had told me that I might need hearing aids. And I kid you not, when she told me, she whispered it, like you do when you’re telling someone bad news and you want to soften the blow.
I told her “do you realize you’re telling me my hearing is shot and you’re whispering?” She smiled and said, “Well, the doctors don’t like me to talk too loud.”
Of course, the last thing we want to do is hurt their feelings.
As far as traditional medicine is concerned, that’s pretty much the black and white of it all. The room is pretty closed off and well defined. And, of course, the internet is happy to put an exclamation point on that sentiment with one depressing story after another. “Can’t drive…Can’t live…Can’t this…Can’t that.”
I suspect there are porn sites that have more value than some of these sites. And, don’t get me wrong, I would never dismiss someone else’s pain, truth, or reality. I get it. Despair is a process and we all move through it in our own way.
But, somewhere along the line, I bought into the pre-destiny of it all. I took a prognosis and turned it into a fixed, concrete, etched-in-stone sentence, as if I walked into a prison cell myself, locked the door, and threw away the key. Trapped in my one tiny room.
And if you don’t know by now, I don’t like closed doors, or shut windows, or predetermined anything. I like open, free, limitless. My life works best when it’s in my hands.
And I’m going to take my wife’s advice and be kind to myself here, like we all should. It makes sense to feel such despair. It’s easy to do. When life throws a challenging obstacle in our path, our first reaction is often to run for the hills, or find the nearest bomb shelter. Contrary to all our wisdom and common sense, we go to the dark instead of the light, knowing clear well that it’s the latter where the real answers patiently wait for us.
But, when we look at the facts—and nothing but the facts—it makes sense. One minute you’re running marathons and climbing mountains and the next you can’t walk down the street without the neighbors thinking you’ve turned into a stumbling drunk. You wonder how long it will last, will I be able to drive, will I be able to support my family? Will my life ever be the same?
You get tired, defeated and fearful. And all those tiny microscopic worries feed off of each other until they’re not only running on their own, but inviting friends. Come to Bill’s house. He’s hurting. He’s down. Let’s go feed of his fleshy, fearful bones.
If I were a baseball coach, I’d say life has thrown me a curveball. And just when I was getting good at hitting the fastball, too. In fact, I was getting really good at it. But, now here’s a pitch I can’t hit. Fact is, I’ve never even seen the pitch.
It’s a vicious cycle to fight.
And, whether we like to admit it or not, I’m not alone. No one comes out of this life unscathed. Hurt and pain, like struggle, conflict, and change, are a part of the life cycle of the universe.
You can substitute Meniere’s for any curveball you want. We lose our jobs. Our kids fall into drugs. A family member gets cancer. We lose a spouse. A relationship ends. Alzheimer’s. Arthritis. Blindness. The bumper sticker is right: Shit Happens.
And we don’t know when or where our curveballs are coming from. But, they come and we need to learn how to hit them, or we’re never going to want to step up to the plate and swing for the fences.
Yeah, I’m running with the baseball metaphor, which is why this week’s room is called Learn to Hit the Curveball.
Rooms 136-161: Learn To Hit The Curveball
Facing Down The Pain And Struggle In Life
First of all, I don’t want to presume to tell anyone how to face their challenges in life. It’s a process and no two processes are the same. And sometimes you have to drop to your knees and let them bruise until it hurts so much you have to stand up. And sometimes you stand up because you know that the alternative is rolling over.
That’s not exactly the way you reinvent your life.
Here’s what is working for me.
Realize every moment is a spiritual moment.
The moment we realize this simple reality is the moment that our lives will change forever. It’s the moment where our pain becomes our teacher and our struggles become pathways to new states of awareness. It’s a simple yet profound statement. It forces us to say, “Here I am, in my pain and struggles, now what do I need to know?” It immediately makes us a co-creator with the universe, not only in figuring out what brought us our struggles in the first place, but what our solutions will be in order to move forward.
Does it make your struggles disappear overnight? No. But, it makes them dissolve into the fabric of what your purpose here on earth happens to be. It makes the journey exciting. My Meniere’s, or whatever you want to call it, doesn’t exist in a medical book vacuum. It’s a part of my eternal journey. That’s a game-changer.
Don’t judge your pain.
Given every moment is a spiritual moment, the last thing we need to do is judge our struggles against what others are facing. And believe me, it’s easy to do. You lose a toe and your neighbor shows you the man who lost a foot. You lose your job, someone else shows you a man who’s lost his house. We get it. There are always going to be people worse off than us. And there is unmistakably a gratitude component to this. But, when you’re in a crisis mode, that doesn’t always help. We need to realize our pain is as valid as anyone else’s. Don’t judge it. Don’t deny it. Experience it. It’s our spiritual moment.
I’ll echo what saints and sages have said from the beginning of time. You can’t create anything out of fear. Only love. When we face down any serious issue, it’s easy for us to choose fear. But, if we let it, this fear can take us to dark places, which may take years to escape. Fortunately, there is a much wiser and kinder choice. It’s love. Yes, I know this might sound like something out of the mouth of a monk living in a cave. It’s easy to dismiss the simplicity of it it. Far easier to protest with cries that “this is the real world, buddy. Wake up and smell the coffee.”
Well, yes…and no. It is the real world. Health matters. Finances matter. Relationships matter. Careers matter. It’s how we get by in this world. We have to deal with the day-to-day of it. But, these are just the by products of the inner life we’ve created for ourselves. They do not power our world. What powers our world is love. It’s what fuels every creative act and every dream we’ll ever have. It always has and always will.
Of course, this begs the question: how do you bring love into your life when you’re surrounded by misery or heartache? How about one small contemplation at a time. One friend at a time. One walk in nature at a time. It begins with recognizing the light whenever and wherever we can see it, however small that light may be, then following it to wherever it leads. More than that, it begins by opening your heart and welcoming it into your life.
Of course, nothing opens the heart like being grateful. Again, not in comparison with other’s struggles, but in finding AND receiving the gifts the universe is offering to us every day. It’s our family. Our friends. The place we call home. The food we eat. The ocean, sky, mountains and stars. It’s your children laughing. Your spouse’s smile. It’s a million things. And we each need to find our own list. But, we should know that as we do, we are generating love, which is like a pin of light that grows, bringing hope and healing to our world. The more gratitude we have, the closer we are to our Source and all its magic.
And it’s that magic which heals, both the inner and the outer. I know it’s hard at first, especially when you’re on your knees. But, if you can look up and around for even a moment…and find one thing to be grateful for, tomorrow maybe you’ll find two. And the next day, even more. Keep adding to your list. Make gratitude, along with love your solemn mission. As Eckhart Tolle said, “Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”
Get help…then take action.
I realize many of us don’t like to ask for help. I know I don’t. We are a society who believes that we should be independent and tough enough to take care of ourselves. That we should be able to barge through our own doors. And to be anything less than is to be vulnerable, as if that were a bad thing, a sign of weakness or that we can’t pull our own weight.
That, my friends, is black magic. You might as well flog yourself while you’re at it.
First of all, we’re not asking for someone to carry our load or take away our experiences. Nobody can or should support us in this way. Ever. The help we are talking about is from a universe that wants us to become our true self, to become whole, complete and peaceful.
And, if we allow that help to come into our lives, it will show up in all kinds of different ways. The right conversation, a cooked meal at the right time, a thoughtful email from a friend, a suggestion to see this person or read that book. It may be a job, a referral to an acupuncturist, or an insight to look at something differently. We don’t know where it’s going to come from or how it will look, but we need to be looking. More than that, we need to ask for it. To deny such help is to deny a Universe that is trying to help us transform into who we should become.
And don’t confuse vulnerability with pity. Pity is where fear lives. It takes no responsibility. Just shut the doors, close the windows and let me wallow in my pain. And sometimes we have to go through that as well. We can’t judge that either. I’ve certainly been there. We just have to learn to move past it as quickly as possible, to a place of vulnerability, which is a place where we can be free to be human. To be alive is to be vulnerable. And to be vulnerable is to open your heart. As the novelist Haruki Murakami once said, “What happens when people open their hearts?…They get better.” Or as Paulo Coelho says, “The strongest love is the love that can demonstrate its fragility.”
You’d help someone else, right? Well, now it’s your turn.
Once you get help, now you can do the work. Not all at once. Step-by-step. Your initial actions might seem tiny and microscopic, but who cares. Keep making them, knowing that each one builds on the last one, helping you reach where you want to go. Do it enough times and solutions will start to appear. Trust me. It happens.
Listen To Your Inner Guidance
Okay, you’ve opened your heart, the gratitude is flowing, you’re accepting help, educating and empowering yourself with small steps that bring you closer to a place where you can breathe, cope, and deal. Now, it’s time to listen to your inner guidance. To know that you’re moving in the right direction. And don’t let anyone feed you with predetermined thoughts on what outcomes you can expect from any given solution or path you may take. Do not close the door on anything.
The one thing that nobody can bring to your struggles is your own awareness. That separates everything. It’s what creates possibilities, hope, and miracles. And not miracles in the sense of a one pill cures all. I don’t expect someone to pour me a cup of rhinoceros urine and I will instantly be cured. But, I do expect that with my eyes and heart wide open, anything is possible. In just the last two weeks, I’ve already seen doors open wider than I could have imagined. I have a long way to go, but I believe that health and greater awareness is in my future.
In other words, I believe I will create my own truth.
Curveballs can suck. But, learning to hit them is a part of living. Yes, it’s taken me out of my comfort zone. My safe place. But, in the process, I’m learning to adapt, change, trust, surrender, love, learn, grow and become. I’m learning to become a true co-creator in my health and my life. I am walking out of the room I’ve wanted to leave for so long and beginning to explore areas of awareness I never dreamed existed.
Is it easy? Absolutely not. In fact, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever faced in my life. But, I’ll tell you this, it’s exciting as hell to think where I will end up.
So, whatever curveball comes your way this week, this month, this year, this lifetime…just know in your heart that you can hit it. You can face it. Go ahead, swing for the fences. Your dreams are waiting for you.
If you enjoyed today's post, subscribe above. Receive your Weekly Room delivered right to your inbox. And, while you're at it, visit me on Facebook. Love to have you.