Thursday, May 29, 2014
Dispatches from the Bottom of the Well
Background: On March 3, 2014, I slipped and fell hard just inside the building at Unity Institute, which resulted in painful injuries to my left hip, knee, and leg. Nothing broken, but massive swelling and severe bruising. (Picture, left, shows my swollen knee about 5 hours after the injury; the bruising appeared the next few days and literally blackened my body from lower back to the tips of my toes.)
At this writing (May 29), the worst of the storm has passed, but I am waiting to see a specialist to work on lingering symptoms--from an accident three months ago. Immediately after sustaining the injuries, I spent at least a month in excruciating pain, so bad I could not sleep most nights. This phased into itching of the leg that defied all topical and systemic attempts to quell the fire. I don't tell you this to gather sympathy, but to set the stage for what happened to me spiritually during my months in the restless dark at the bottom of the well. Others have suffered far more than I.
The experience was both miserable and confirmational at the same time. I found myself struggling with multiple terrors. Fear of more pain, fear of sleepless nights without end, fear of spending my whole life in this condition without relief. Some of my fears were irrational. All of them were real.
Then one night, when I sank into the deepest part of the well, I remembered something important: You know that Unity stuff you're always talking and writing about? This would be a good time to practice what you teach. It was embarrassing. Did I really wait this long to go to affirmation prayer? What an idiot! And so I began affirming health in the middle of despair and pain, knowing the radiant spirit within me was not injured and never could be. I saw myself as God sees me--whole, healthy, free of pain. And I gave thanks to God, Whom I know as One Presence/One Power, for the happy cornerposts of my world that were holding up the sagging center.
Now, don't think this worked like magic. I had a lot of dark, painful, sleepless nights ahead. But since I started sending those dispatches to God from the bottom of the well, the gloom never again pulled me into despair. Life isn't a well, it's a roller-coaster ride. You can't get off until the end, and sometimes it will scare the hell out of you. But now I just open up and scream and let the terror become joy. Or, as Unity artist Jenny Hanh says, let the fear become curiosity.
Next time you're in a dark well, don't wait as long as I did to remember you're not down there forever, and you're never down there alone.