What Does it Mean to Be Whole? / by Hayden Michelle

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The morning after my family witnessed the eclipse, a second shadow came into view.  I heard words spoken by my neurologist that I was not expecting— a diagnosis of MS.  It is not that I thought I was immune to this or any other life-changing diagnosis.  I know many, one who is near and dear to me, that live with this condition with grace and courage and deep strength.  I know from personal and professional experience in hospice, that change and loss can strike at any time, ready or not.  And I am very aware that there are far worse conditions.  And still, it has stopped me in my tracks.

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I have been sitting with this for weeks, trying to let it settle into place in the awareness of my being.  I am not wondering, “why”… more, it is that I am contemplating.  “How”—how I am going to incorporate this new aspect of living into the daily flow of raising and homeschooling our children and helping them cope, being strong and balanced in our marriage, available and supportive of my friends, family, and community, and yes, make art. 

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And what I keep coming back to, amidst the feelings of bewilderment, sadness, anger, fatigue and especially fear, is that I will just do it like I do any other not-so-easy thing that crosses my path.  That is what we all do-- we use what we know, and apply it to the new reality.  It is not mysterious, even though it feels daunting.  We just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other, with the self-talk/reminder that we can do more than we think we can do.

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I chuckle to myself, aware that although I have several rote phrases I rely on inwardly when feeling challenged by life, that this challenge is not one that will be going away.   I will have to walk the walk, and pull upon inner and outer resources in new ways.  And relying on others or asking for help is not my forte.  Not so much.  That is why being a social worker was natural for me… I am quite at ease in offering support to others.  Now I must meet myself with the same loving-kindness that is easy to offer outwardly,  and remain open to the gift that comes from this vulnerability, yet again.

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The visual and emotional memory of seeing the eclipse in totality was unlike anything I have ever experienced.  As the moon made its’ way across the path of the sun and aligned completely, intensely radiant white light erupted around the entire periphery of the moon’s silhouette.  It was a brilliance which could not even be fully transmitted through photography, yet, thankfully, is forever etched into my mind.  It made me cry, as I felt such profound purity, hope, beauty, and awe that this symbolism was put into form we could record with our own eyes and memory.

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The eclipse being so closely paired with the MS diagnosis, has made me ponder how to use this as a symbol for healing and transformation as I begin treatment and management of this disease.  Just as I work with fragmented parts to create entirely new entities with my art, so must I apply these principles to living with this disease.  I am deepening my awareness and gratitude for the ability to move, speak, maintain independence, and receive help and support.  I am deeply grateful for the work and dedication of all of the scientists, doctors, and patients who underwent clinical trials in order for medicines to be available for me now.  I know I must take this gratitude and channel it into actively transforming my daily challenges, and hope I can do so in the same way I approach my art… as remaining open to new possibilities of being, new ways of expressing, and courage to share the journey, hopeful that perhaps it may help someone else navigate a difficult part of their trek. 

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  And as much as I have slipped into feelings of brokenness and fear of my brain/ body/ mind not returning to its healthiest state, I realize I must focus on trust and on the concept of wholeness, just as moon is whole, no matter its phase.  Despite being changed by what we experience, whether it be trauma, illness, loss or any challenge on life’s path, we are all still whole inside.   Thank goodness for that, and for the inner wisdom and vocal loved ones who remind us of that when we need it.  As the light brilliantly surrounded the moon, so am I aware of a fullness of love and compassion in the circle in which I am blessed to be encompassed.   

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