88: No Longer Waiting for Godot

88: No Longer Waiting for Godot

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness

No Longer Waiting for Godot

The man who acquires the ability to take full possession of his own mind may take possession of anything else to which he is justly entitled.

~Andrew Carnegie

It was the morning after Boxing Day. The sounds and smells of my kitchen rose up to my bedroom where I lay, motionless, trying to will my body to shift and stir. I wanted to call out to my husband that I was unwell, but my voice barely reached the end of my bed. My entire body as well as my brain felt like they were filled with heaviness. I began to wonder if I was having a stroke. It was at that moment that my husband came into the room.

“Aren’t you getting up, hon? It’s almost 9 o’clock! Breakfast is ready.”

“I can’t.”

“What do you mean, you can’t?”

“I can’t move.”

It pained me to see the familiar look of concern and distress in my husband’s eyes as he processed the situation. My health had been on a progressive decline for many years, and although I had done test after test and had visited the ER as well as my doctor multiple times, no one was able to explain my symptoms, their causes, my progressive failure to improve, let alone provide me with any type of solution or treatment. The words “Mystery Lady” are not the ones you want to hear from the mouths of medical specialists! When I began the round of ER visits and medical specialists, I had lost thirty pounds, was basically bedridden and could not concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time without breaking into a sweat or uncontrollable shaking. I suffered from severe insomnia and had chronic pain. I was lost in a confused state of undiagnosed illness.

That particular December morning was worse than all the other mornings over the years. I was literally weighed down by a fatigue so extreme, I barely felt alive. My husband called an ambulance.

Ten hours later, I came back home from the hospital with a diagnosis. The doctor on call that day put all the pieces of my health puzzle together, pinpointed some of the chronic, overlapping symptoms and bluntly hit me with her conclusion. “You have chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). It is untreatable and incurable. We don’t know the cause of this illness but it could be from a virus. Based on your medical history of the last five years, you have probably had CFS for a while now, which explains why you’ve been waxing and waning. There isn’t anything that Western medicine can do for you. We can prescribe antidepressants to help you deal with the situation and sleep better but that’s about it. Sorry.”

Sorry? I cried for a few days, more of a whimper really, since my energy was so low. I didn’t know how I was going to travel on the road to recovery, but I felt that I was now at a crossroads. By telling me that Western medicine did not have the tools to help me improve, the ER doctor, unbeknownst to her, put me on a quest for health through an energizing path — that of mind, body and soul.

So began my exploration of Eastern philosophies, particularly Buddhist psychology. I learned that although life circumstances may disturb our happiness, joy itself is an internal state. This wisdom of the heart keeps us standing through storms of despair and winds of uncertainty. I taught myself to remember that no matter what my particular life or health challenges were at the moment, joy lived inside me. I also became more acutely aware of my responsibility to navigate through any barriers that could block me from experiencing a deeper sense of contentment and purpose. At first, it seemed impossible to feel joy when so much of my body was in pain and my energy unbearably low. But even when joy is sitting on the edge of our life, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t there! I simply needed to bring it off the edge, back into my heart. I found a meditation coach and slowly began to trust myself to think, sense, feel and behave my way into a path of light.

After a few months of practicing meditation on a daily basis, I realized that this ritual was giving my body and my soul room to breathe. These moments of silence became a way for me to cultivate present-mindedness and to widen my gratitude. Through the practice of meditating, I was making deposits in my spirit bank. As I broke out of old patterns and embraced new ways of being, I was reminded of the characters in the Samuel Beckett play, Waiting for Godot. In this play, Vladimir and Estragon wait endlessly and in vain for someone named Godot to arrive. They do not know who Godot is or what he can do, but still, they mindlessly wait for him every day. However, Godot never shows up and, at the end of the play, we are left with the impression that the two characters will wait forever for nothing. I realized that illness has a potential to become a leading character in our lives, and as such, can maintain a state of endless waiting — waiting for life to get better, waiting for energy to return, waiting for illness to leave our bodies, waiting for solutions.

The clarity of mind attained through daily meditation provided me with the confidence to stop waiting. I symbolically replaced one letter of the word “waiting” to transform it into “wanting.” Every day, I filled my mind with the energy of wanting. I named what I wanted: more stable health, a gentler life balance, a stronger spiritual self, a grateful heart, and joy. I wanted whole-hearted, deep-seated, far-reaching joy in every cell of my being. Meditation became one of the healing building blocks that allowed me to enter my peace of mind though the experience of connecting my breath to my life right here, right now. A quieter mind prepared my body for restoration. I deeply understood that illness could be a time of repair and reweaving of all the levels of self.

Illness is a teacher and meditation is a learning journey. To bring back balance to a disharmonious state of a mind, body or life is challenging but meditation nonetheless offers an immediate sense of comfort. Meditation is like cracking a window open to let in fresh air and sunlight. In that moment of living fully in the present, there is a sense of relief. We are no longer waiting for anything or anybody. We are simply enjoying, and sometimes, that is enough to be happy.

~Jeannine Ouellette

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