Sometimes in life’s journey, we find ourselves living between two chapters, struggling with not returning to the chapter behind us, yet unsure of how, or when, to move forward and step into the next chapter that lays head of us. This transitional place is often challenging as it is not our normal, and very often forces us out of our comfort zone.
For those of us who live with an illness – especially an illness that becomes a constant part of our daily lives such as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) – this transitional place can be a time of great challenge. Being determined is not always enough to help us weather a journey that suddenly thrusts us in between chapters; taking us out of routines that have enabled us to cope, yet, not allowing us to move forward to the next, fruitful chapter of our journey.
A perfect example of this in between chapters is my own journey that took a major detour at the beginning of this year when I suffered a severe relapse – one of the worst I have had to endure since 1992.
I now find myself living between my own two chapters. I am unable to return to the chapter of better health that lies in my past not even a year ago, while also unable to move forward to the new chapter that lies ahead of me, with a new doctor, a proper diagnosis, and the possibility of better management of my health.
Thus, I have found myself struggling these past few weeks as I desperately try to cope with the in between chapters I have unwittingly found myself in. I have had to deal with grieving – yet again – anger, loss, fear, frustration, while simultaneously trying to figure out how to move on to the next chapter of my journey.
For me at this moment, my in between chapters looks like this:
I now spend twenty plus house a day in bed.
I am not able to watch movies, television, or read (my absolute passion) because of the severe pain in I now endure whenever my eyes are exposed to light. The pain is akin to brain freeze in my eye balls, but is ten times worse. This ‘eye headache’ is often accompanied by a massive headache in which my whole head is so painful I can’t touch my head with my hands or lay on any particular side of my head.
In addition, I am dealing with days when talking becomes too difficult because my vocal chords become too weak. Thus, I’m trying to learn to whisper, or not talk for long periods, so I will have a voice when I need it.
I am also having problems with weakness in my legs and a pulse that dramatically increases upon the smallest exertion (even a pleasant conversation can send my pulse upward) while plummeting when I stand for more than ten minutes at a time.
I now use a wheelchair to help me avoid these wide surges in my pulse as well as the days where my legs or gait becomes problematic for me.
In addition, I am also – at this moment in time – unable to tolerate light, as I stated previously, so I now spend most of my days in a darkened environment.
Despite these challenges – and they are most definitely challenging! – I am learning that even here, there is much to learn.
When you are between the chapters of your life, there are three things that you can do to be at peace until the door opens for you to step into the next chapter. Therefore, the ability to live in between chapters requires each of us to learn how to: Be still, Develop a Routine, and Embrace Acceptance.
I am someone who is quite determined not to allow M.E. to define who I am. Thus, letting go completely of my to-do lists and surrendering to a place of stillness has been very challenging to say the least.
Even more troublesome – for me personally – is dealing with a mind that is forever thinking, planning, and formulating; making being still seem utterly impossible, and well … boring!
Despite my struggle, however, l’m learning that being still brings peace and calmness to a body that is struggling and to a mind that is often very busy creating new hopes, dreams, and ideas.
Perhaps even more important, I am learning that the art of stillness is very important to a body that is constantly struggling to regain health by reducing energy output, and thus, giving my body the needed energy to re-calibrate itself back to a more stable place.
Furthermore, being still has forced me to hear (and thus, see) the city around me even though I am unable to leave my apartment. It has helped me to appreciate the people in my life: their special-ness and importance. It has even helped me to stay connected with nature through the chirping of birds, the barking of dogs, the thunderous applause of frequent spring showers, etc.
These are all things that often seem trivial to me in an everyday context, thus, in the past, I have rarely taken a moment to just stop, listen, watch, or appreciate them.
More importantly, this forced stillness doesn’t only remind me that life is continuing to move outside my 4Walls and AView, but also serves to remind me if I can master the art of patience, that my life too, will one day soon move forward to the chapter that is before me.
In addition, stillness has also afforded me many hours to pray for, and send notes to, others – who like me – need encouragement as they face their own in between chapters.
Routine has to be one of the greatest tools for those who struggle with M.E., especially for those who have become home-bound or bed-bound, whether permanently or for lengthy periods.
Developing a routine gives you a way to face another, day of darkness, stillness and solitude. It gives you purpose – a reason to meet yet another day.
In addition, it also provides tangible markers throughout the day, helping you to complete one more day.
Furthermore, it serves to remind you that with the completion of each day, you are one step closer to stepping out of your in between chapters in to the next chapter in your journey.
Acceptance of the fact that you are currently in between chapters is also incredibly important. Acceptance is not surrender, despite what some in today’s society would have you believe.
Acceptance is an action word. It is a moment by moment embracing of reality – as it currently is – with the faith and belief that nothing in life is static or permanent, while still choosing not to give up and remaining determined to continue fighting.
Acceptance is an innate understanding that for this moment in time, this is where you are. But – and this is paramount – this is a moment in time.
Tomorrow always holds the possibility that the door will open and you will be able to step into the next chapter of your journey and life. That is something that those of us who suffer with M.E. must never lose sight of.
For those of us who find ourselves living in the in between chapters of our lives, remember first and foremost, that you are not alone.
Secondly, remember to embrace this temporary time of stillness, routine, and acceptance for all it’s worth. You won’t be here forever, and if you take the time to be still, there is much to learn and much to gain here.
Lastly, remember that this, in between chapters is just that … in between (the) chapters of the next stage of your life!
Determined to continue forward,
Note: “Dominique’s Corner, Dominique’s monthly column printed in Life Skill Magazine, is cross-posted here with permission of LSM. If you would like to receive a free copy of Life Skill Magazine, you can sign up here . Or you can check out Discovering Purposed, a blog about creating a purpose driven life, by going here .