Updated: Jul 9, 2022
Have you ever inexplicably received a message, sign or nudge at a time that saved you? As if someone was secretly aware of your struggles, and knew what you needed in that moment to help you along somehow? This kind of synchronicity happens more than most of us realize. But, as we start to pay attention, we begin to see that the Universe is gently encouraging us forward in the most helpful ways. The most outstanding experience I have had of this nurturing guidance became a turning point that changed my life forever.
At the time, I was in the hospital recovering from Guillain-Barre, an “auto-immune” disease that attacks the nerves. This attack causes progressive paralysis beginning in the extremities, and, in some cases like mine, searing nerve pain accompanies it. If the condition is not treated on time, death naturally ensues when the lungs or heart are paralyzed. Fortunately for me, I was diagnosed and treated just before my lungs stopped functioning.
So there I was, paralyzed and half outside of my body due to the nerve pain. Helpless. Lying there behind my frozen, expressionless face, unable to do much but wait for the next dose of pain meds. My body had stopped me; I was being given the chance to consider how I got there, to this point of raw powerlessness.
My quick decline was a shock to everyone, despite years of illness with Lyme Disease. I could see it in the faces of the friends and family who visited me. And I felt an odd sense of detached compassion for their discomfort, knowing that there was nothing I could do to help them feel better about what they saw. I couldn’t even smile it away like I normally did. I had been blind-sided by the mighty hand of the Universe, and all I could do was “be.”
My friend who was a nurse at the hospital visited, toting a book for me to read. The name of it was “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed, and it is an account of the author’s solo treck on the Pacific Crest Trail. It was a thoughtful gift, and I thanked her for it, though admittedly I didn’t feel much like reading. Wasn’t I too busy considering how my body had quit on me? If there was an excuse not to read it, I thought of it. I didn’t really like adventure tales, anyway, I told myself. But the book sat there by my bed every day, waiting for me to get curious enough to open it.
After a week of looking at it, I finally picked the book up. And then I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t stop reading it. The writer Cheryl Strayed had clearly had a difficult life. Her reality was depressing and the tragedy she experienced was the opposite of uplifting. And isn’t that what I needed right now when my own body was broken— something uplifting? But I felt compelled to finish it. And, when I came to the words on the final pages, I understood why that book came to me in that moment. Cheryl Strayed offered me an unexpected gift. The gift of her honest and terrible and beautiful journey of self-healing, and her courage in committing herself wholeheartedly to the task. She motivated me to honestly acknowledge the deep powerlessness I felt regarding my health— that I had felt for years, despite working so hard at healing. It wasn’t just about “fixing” my body anymore; it became much bigger than that. She inspired me to focus inward on my own wounds, to open up and acknowledge the emotional pain that I had buried for years in order to understand what my body was desperately trying to tell me, and to finally begin to heal my life as a whole. The desire to finally truly know myself and the raw truth of my existence was fueled.
What had brought me here? What was my body and the Universe trying to tell me? I had to face the hard truth: that I no longer wanted to be in this body, to feel the pain of it. I loved my kids, my family. But I no longer wanted to be in my marriage, in my life. And I no longer had the energy for it.
It was the most glorious tearing-down of my life...this moment when I realized I could no longer survive the way I had up until then.
My body would not let me go back to that. And lying in that hospital bed for weeks was a sort of crucible where who I had been separated a bit from the soul essence that was really me. From this place of objectivity, I could see myself from a distance. I could begin to glimpse how unhappy my life had been up until that point. I could recognize that, despite the helpessness and powerlessness I felt lying in a hospital half paralyzed, and despite the burning nerve that pain filled me up, I had found a sense of deep peace within myself that was not familiar to me in normal daily life. And I didn’t want to go back to the old drama of that life again. I no longer cared to argue about things that didn’t matter. I simply wanted to live in that peace. It was more real to me than anything I had ever experienced before. It was a place of love and compassion where I could finally see myself clearly from a place of forgiveness. The desire to understand my innermost thoughts and feelings felt like the only way forward.
Reading “Wild” was like a handbook for self-excavation for me somehow, because over the years I had buried the truth of who I was, as many of us do. I wanted to go off alone and find myself in the wilderness like the author had. I wanted to be brave and fearless. To find forgiveness and redemption inside myself. I wanted to secure this peace, to become it, to embrace it as myself, and to share it with others. It felt like I had finally come into direct contact with my soul, the most authentic part of me that waited quietly in the silence, and I couldn’t bear to be parted from that peace again. I could see that Cheryl Strayed found her soul on that hike, and she discovered, through the healing of her own heart, a way to begin the transformation into that greater part of her self. And in reading her story, I found new energy to transform myself into mine.
We can all experience profound, life-changing moments if we open our minds and hearts to the Universal wisdom that we are part of and have access to as spiritual beings living a physical existence. If we begin to pay attention to the synchronicities that happen for us, trusting that there are no coincidences, and knowing that there is a guiding Intelligence communicating with us, life becomes less about forcing our way through it, surviving it, and more about actively participating in a process of growth opportunities. We can begin our own transformation beyond the limiting confines of who we thought we were into our more expansive spiritual natures, in wholeness and connection with our emotions, thoughts and bodies. And, as we expand our awareness of our soul selves, life becomes an interactive communication between the physical and the spiritual worlds, bringing a sense of wonder and excitement to the process of living.