Yesterday I felt the familiar ‘aura’ as I turned my car into an alley down the street from my house. I have a habit of driving down the alleys of my neighborhood and feeling comfort in the tight single lanes, sandwiched between fences, dog barks, forgotten fruit trees, gang tags and crusted garage doors.
This time I wasn’t able to celebrate the special texture of the alley as my mind was focused on getting home, ‘don’t lose it, be strong Ethan’ I told myself, control could be lost at any moment. I considered parking once I escaped the alley but was only a block from my house and knew the walk would be brutal if not impossible.
No, I didn’t have explosive diarrhea, I was experiencing the ‘aura’ that comes before a focal seizure, a sudden loss of control in my lower right leg leading to muscle spasms and a tension that makes me look like a zombie when I try to walk. These seizures have generally tapered off and I hadn’t experienced one in many months, thus my comfort behind the wheel, but for some reason, unbeknownst to me, I was about to have one.
My focal seizures are normally about 1–2 minutes and seem controllable in that they often disappear when I don’t think about them. This one kept going. It started at 4:30pm and after 2 hours I was still feeling my calf, foot and knee muscles convulse, falling over a few times walking from my living room to the kitchen.
I texted my friend Will:
I put down the phone and immediately burst into tears. Tears of shame, of self-pity, of frustration, why is this still happening? After all the chemo, the radiation, the surgery, the diet, fasting, supplements, healing, therapies… Why am I still getting this physical response? I’m also not used to needing someone else to help me, despite the abundance of friends and family who have voiced their readiness to jump in a plane, train, car, bike or skateboard and head over any time I need, I don’t like relying on others to get around, especially when I thought I was in the next phase of my healing and this physical limitation was behind me.
Since July I’ve shifted my life to focus almost exclusively on healing. What I’ve realized in this shift is that my healing is a collective experience. I’m being stretched in ways that challenge me to be honest with my friends and family in ways I’ve never been before, and I’m diving deeper into my awareness and ability to heal others (and myself) with music and other forms of art.
I’m beginning to realize that when we commit to healing ourselves, we are committing to healing our little universe, which often means those around us catch some of that good health bug and it ripples out. Here’s some examples:
- When we are confronted with mortality, we have a choice to ignore our inevitable death or to face it head on. When we face it, we re-orient our lives around purpose, a life lived on purpose is often one that gives back to the world in some way. For me it’s about empowering and engaging others in their creativity with music and art. When we drop our ego and allow ourselves to be overtaken by the creative process, art becomes a path to love and universal healing. Lately I’ve been hosting euphoric collective song ceremonies in small groups.
- Simply in sharing the amazing practitioners who have been helping me heal, I help others find the support they need. I’ve referred friends to psychotherapists, energy healers, massage therapists, nutritionists and other types of body workers and they’ve all had profound experiences.
- Being honest that I needed Will to come by and support me when I was going through something strengthened our friendship. I was able to truly be in gratitude when he showed up, and I expressed my ability and desire to do the same for him when he needs it. It’s not shameful, it’s powerful!
- This type of honest communication about what’s really happening with me physically or emotionally is something I was never officially taught. It is a gift to learn how to be open, honest and vulnerable with the people I care about most and all our relationships get stronger as I move past the initial discomfort and share my truth.
- Beyond musical ceremony, I have embraced my inner artist and am sharing my work with the world. I make wearable and decorative flags and garments with textiles and paint, I create sacred spaces for collective experiences and I make songs for you to listen to. I made this one tonight:
The experience of being a ‘patient’ can be very debilitating physically, emotionally and mentally. Healing, however, is something to celebrate. It is a gift we can all receive and give readily. Holding space for a present conversation, listening, offering a hug or a hand hold, these are all healing gifts. Our presence heals even if it’s just a smile.
Don’t horde your health journey, share how you heal and find the gifts that come through so others can join you and heal themselves and their worlds too.