On February 5th, we checked Alexis into a rehab program a few hours away from us.
This was our last grasp at something that could stop and hopefully redirect her behavior, because she was dangerously close to death by organ failure or overdose after all the drugs and self-inflicted broken meds schedule.
I was exhausted, painfully so. Alexa was exhausted. Keith and the younger two kids were by turns hopeful and disappointed, having to witness not just the promises their sister made over and over again, but also how she broke every promise without fail, sometimes in the worst way possible.
Around six weeks after she had been checked in — while we tried to recover our physical and emotional selves — Alexa and I both found out, within days of each other, that we have multiple chronic illnesses between the two of us.
There was at once a sense of intense relief, knowing that there was a name for the various sicknesses and physical complaints we each had; and a sense of intense grief, because there is no getting better from a chronic illness. It is with you for the rest of your natural life, and there is only adjusting to it and finding out how to have the best quality of life that you can.
In America, this is difficult if not impossible. We are fortunate that we are poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, and that most of our medications are covered by this insurance. There is still quite a bit of it that we need to pay for out of pocket, including three of the antihistamines that I need in order to function every day.
The emotional impact of these diagnoses for me — because I was weighted down not only by my own diagnosis, but also my spouse’s diagnosis and how those together would change our lives in significant ways — was that about a week later, I had a heart attack.
(One of my chronic illnesses gives me a complication with blood pressure and is something I’ll have to manage for the rest of my life.)
It has now been eleven weeks tomorrow since my heart attack, and I am still not the same as I was before.
I doubt that I will ever have the same amount of energy or the same ability to balance all those metaphorical plates. In fact, I am determined not to be the same kind of person because that behavior led to my cardiac event on March 31st.
In between and around all of these significant events, I have been working at my spiritual studies. The heart attack itself arrested my trajectory and then adjusted it. When I was able to recover enough energy and life force to begin my daily practices again, I reestablished them with a seriousness that I have never experienced before.
My thoughts turn often to my purpose, my Work in the world. My mind is continually and curiously turning this concept and its myriad ideas and insights and wisdom over and over, looking from many angles, discovering new facets and new ways of being. I spend time each day with my ancestors, quietly contemplating what I know and what I do not know; what I need to know and what I am still learning.
I will never be the same again and I am deeply grateful.
As my understanding of my physical limitations has solidified, my experience of myself as a whole being, not just physical but energetic, has expanded. My purpose for my life, the Work that I am meant to do, is coming into view and I have begun to grasp how to weave my abilities and skills into this Work so that what I do, for love or money or service, is right and just and in alignment with my reason to exist here in this place and time.
In many ways, I feel that this is not just the darkest timeline in our world; it is also my own darkest timeline. I was born into a female-identified body, subject to the cruelty and whim and broken understanding of a man who calls himself a Christian. I have been rejected and controlled and manipulated and beaten and abused. I am queer and I am poor and I am not able-bodied. My own child, whom I have loved more than I loved myself in many moments, has abused, rejected, and manipulated me. The wounds I carry in my heart will last my lifetime and perhaps further; the grief I bear is intrinsically linked to who I truly am.
And yet: it is my sworn oath to bring light into the world. To be part of what is good. To make a difference. And I can still do that. That will never be taken from me.
This week, Alexis was discharged from rehab. I did not have the energy or physical ability to go pick her up, so my brother and a family member brought her home. One of the new realities for me is that my chronic illnesses conspire when there is high stress, and I become sick and unable to do things I used to be able to push through and accomplish — like interacting with all the doctors and social workers and case managers and therapists that help manage Alexis’ care, and that need to be coordinated with and, more often than not, need to be instructed about how best to care for her.
She is home and has already been breaking the few rules she agreed to as part of her discharge plan. She says she wants to prove to all of us that she has gotten better, and that she understands if we don’t trust her, but unless and until she has the strength of character and will to do the work necessary to have a better life than the one she has right now — in and out of facilities, leaving a trail of disappointment and near-overdoses in her wake — the same thing will keep happening that has been happening over the past two and a half years.
I love her, and I have to minimize the damage she does to her siblings and to me and the rest of her family, as much as possible. I love her, and I cannot keep her safe from the consequences she has brought upon herself — and I believe that to do so would be an egregious irresponsibility on my part as a parent.
I love her, and it is not my job to save her.
In a very real way, realizing this and seeing it in context with all the underlying introspective work I have been doing, combined with the spiritual path that I am on, helps me understand my place in the cosmos better.
My training with the Path of Light is shaping me to be a priest. My desire is to do clergy work, to function as an oracle, a compassionate listener, an advocate, a death doula, a mediator. My calling toward restorative justice, my desire to work with the dying and the dead, my deep love of philosophy and theology and psychology, my willingness to sit with those who are crushed and disillusioned and broken and needy: these things are what I can offer to the world.
And with the skillset I already have: for truthfulness in marketing, for sustainability in business, for holding space for those who are working for themselves and need help and oversight and organization; these things meld beautifully with the work of a priest-in-training.
Logistically, these are concepts that belong on my Patreon page and the other places where I offer my work. As my energy allows, I will be making updates and writing new things. The support that I receive from so many of you already is going to the same things it always has — and the need for it is as important as it ever has been, and I need more support over the coming days and months and years, as I continue to train and continue to progress and continue to be part of the support network in my community.
If you are able to share with your own community when the time comes, I will be very grateful for the help. If what you can offer is love and appreciation for what I am working toward, I can always use those words of encouragement when they come.
In closing, please know that you can reach out to me when you need something. It is part of my joy and my duty to either do what I am qualified to do for you, or to send you to my elder to refer you to someone who can help you. I know that it is hard to ask for help, especially when you are aware that I have limitations, but my training allows me to know what my boundaries are and to respond only when it will not do harm to do so.
Walk in the Light,
Photo by Michael Liao on Unsplash