There is an ancient Greek expression that says ‘We suffer our way to wisdom’. Any challenge in life brings with it the opportunity to change, to transform. This doesn’t necessarily mean it will make us better or wiser people, but it will make us different people. In the past 8 years I have had to deal with the suffering that came from the challenges of personally living with cancer and then sudden bereavement with the unexpected death of my husband of 40 years. I have had to cultivate a form of resilience to help me heal and go forward not just to survive but to try and thrive.
There were many occasions during my cancer treatment when I had to ‘self isolate׳ during periods of chemotherapy treatment, when I was at risk of catching any infection if my neutrophil blood counts were low. I could not have any physical contact with other people; no hand shaking, hugs or kisses and certainly no travelling on public transport, especially in the winter. If I caught any type of infection and my temperature rose above 38 degrees, I had to be given IV antibiotics within an hour or I was at risk of sepsis and possible death. Hence on several occasions I was rushed to hospital in a blue lit ambulance.
My periods of self-isolation over the years and the serious challenges I faced led me to try and find ways to understand myself and how I could heal. This form of self realisation brought me to a place of discovering wellness within my illness and taught me how to cope with the grief that followed the loss of so many of my future plans. I missed out on numerous family celebrations and community events due to my condition and had to learn to enjoy my own company and appreciate the small things in life. I learnt to live with uncertainty and fear but tried each day to bless God when I opened eyes for the life he had given me, even though I had no idea what that day would bring. I feel that my illness was a wake-up call that made me reassess everything I had taken for granted in my life. I had to acknowledge that I was vulnerable and needed courage to move forward and try to heal in the best way I could physically, mentally and emotionally. I had to focus on healing myself of the ‘dis’-ease that was in my body, by trying to find the positive and meaningful things in my life.
This past month the world has been reeling from the effects of the corona virus outbreak and people are having to ‘self isolate’ to prevent the spread of the disease. They are trying to cope with the loss of so many plans which have had to be unexpectedly and suddenly changed in the uncertain future we face. Perhaps now is a time for us to stand back and try and understand just how we can deal with this situation in a positive way by bringing ourselves to a deeper sense of self realisation, as we have to take care of ourselves and those around us through responsible actions and a certain introspection of our lives. Although I am a religious person I am not of the crime and punishment school of thought, with fire and brimstone atoning for the sins of the masses, but I feel that maybe we all need to look to the spiritual side of our natures to try and understand what the universal energies, that we are all a part of in this world, are trying to tell us.
We have had scares about climate change, pollution, extinction of species and now the threat of a new disease spreading uncontrollably around the world. All of these illustrate a ‘dis’-ease of some kind present in our world. Could it be that we have now reached a ‘tipping point’, a moment when the speed of change is so rapid, as we have seen in the past 50 years, that it just takes one small thing to tip it over the edge.
The corona virus could just be the wake-up call that society needs to stop and recalibrate. It is immediate and affects everyone in so many different ways, from being unable to travel for work or pleasure to having to find new ways to physically connect, and is unlike climate change or species extinction which is not experienced by most people in the here and now.
We need to heal ourselves and our world in ways that we don’t even realise. We need to stop and look at how we are living our lives now, and how we want to live our lives in the future. Do we want to continue rushing headlong into chaos or do we want and need to slow down and truly understand what brings meaning and purpose to our lives? We need to remember who we are.
Our advances in technology have brought huge benefits to society but the problems it has created, with our total reliance on everything from the internet to hospital computers has meant that we can no longer live without it and there lies the rub. Our incessant need to travel to the four corners of the earth to experience life has now had to be capped though the corona virus. We are forgetting that the journey to discovery is often made by turning inwards and not outwards. Maybe now through self isolation we can begin a new type of journey, a journey inward to our own souls, to find the self realisation we are seeking not from the external but from the internal, which will help us to build resilience for whatever lies ahead in the future. Those who are placed in self isolation have in one way been given a gift, the gift of time; time to take that journey as they cannot rush off to do a thousand other things. Seen from this perspective perhaps self isolation is not such a bad thing after all.