On Illness, Kidney Stones, and Awakening

I want to elaborate on that last statement: I’ve heard it said that people can’t change (or they won’t change), but doesn’t each brush with illness or grief or heart-stopping joy change us, after all?

It’s so easy to pontificate about inner peace. Everyone has a theory on how to acquire it. We all want that Zen master zone thing, yet we all live in dread of our own fearful reaction to fear. Winston, you were so right—but when something horrible or unthinkable is right in our faces, can we really say that we have nothing to fear but fear itself?

We’re only human, right? I have a wrenching fear of pain, mostly because I’m such a wuss. I feel everything, like the princess and the pea. Where most people take a glass of wine to relax, I need only a quarter of that. I never require the usual dose of anything, and I always react way more than most people do to chemical odors, threatening behavior, or thinly disguised contempt.

So when I was told that I had not just a kidney stone, but multiple stones in one kidney and an especially large stone (“too big to pass”) in my other kidney, I was aghast and ceased to function for a spell. Descriptions of what would happen left me cold and trembling inside. But what really scared me the most was not the planned procedure and its aftermath but the chance that one or several of these rogue interlopers in my system could choose to dislodge and descend to cause excruciating pain at any time.

At any time? As in, without warning?

This is where the rubber meets the road, where God meets us in our abject terror. All it took was hearing a few horror stories about “the worst pain in the world, worse than childbirth,” and I was on my knees begging for help. As much as I prayed for protection and healing, though, I found my prayers focused more and more on trust. What does it take for me to gain the strength I need to face down my fears?

Of course, it’s wonderful to be constantly rescued and restored—who wouldn’t want that? But the older I get, the more I desire to be rescued from my fears, not just my circumstances. Those events will keep popping up as long as I’m alive, challenge after unwelcome challenge. What I really need is to meet them without fear, and that is certainly not going to come naturally from my nature. I am no warrior maiden.

Now that I’m safely on the other side of the kidney stone episode, I understand that it could easily happen again, as could cancer, heart disease, stroke—you name it. We’re all sitting ducks left to ourselves. We clutch our armfuls of decent health and we don’t want to lose a bit of it, not one tiny bit. The key, it seems to me, is to let go, open our arms, and walk unencumbered and unafraid into the land of trust.

It’s just a tiny step through a veil into another universe, yet the hardest step of all to make from here. I feel my feet itching to begin but so far, I am hung up at the threshold.

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