Reading Both Sides of the Label

The giving season 1014
It is the “giving season,” wrapped gifts are tagged to identify who is receiving and who is giving. These labels tell us that we are thought of, sometimes in a way that surprises and, unwittingly, may separate us.

Labels do exclude as well as identify—they play a necessary part in our lives—sometimes, we come to rely on a label as finite when in reality, it is not.

This labeling of life as a known quantity is easy to do. Some labels last a lifetime.

If the doors of perception were cleansed
every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.
For man has closed himself up, till he sees
all things through narrow chinks of his cavern.

William Blake
(“The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”)

For most of my life, I did not appreciate there are two sides to any label, much like the dark and light wolves that live within us. Just as both wolves require feeding, both sides of any label balance the life experience.

Lone tree 1014It is not merely a matter of turning over the label—that is sleight of hand, yet another illusion—it is in the turning transformation occurs. The unknown emerges as the known fades.

Right now, my health is somewhere in-between what always has been and what has not been. I do not know what the other side of my chronic disease label may reveal.

It seems fair to say it is still a blank. It is also more than fair to say I am a bit befuddled but just as intensely curious. Amazingly, I seem rather patient, something I am not, usually.

Wear a label long enough, and it is how the mind wends its way. If the mind—the head–leads the heart long enough it will grow silent, aware it cannot be heard.

What matters lives,

Hidden or not,

Within us

So that when the right words come

We recognize them as something

We tried to say but did not know how.

Fanny Howe
(The Wedding Dress: Meditations on Word and Life, “White Lines,” P. 70)

Let me give you the right words that came to me as I began to peel back the label of chronic disease: I am no longer waiting to die; I am creating a life new to me.

The choice between no longer waiting to die and creating a life is not an obvious one. There is a chasm, decades deep, between the two sides of this life label. Grief is what bridges them.

I grieve for my life of chronic illness that consumed all of my middle age and most of my youth. I have to grieve soRock and Hard place 1014 I stop trying to regain health that was possible only in the years then but is not in the years I have now.

“People wait until nothing else works,” is what my acupuncture physician told me. Yes, it was only when I believed I had nothing to lose that I was able to lose the label of a lifetime.

Who knows what life will emerge. What I do know is that it has not been nor is it about what I might gain. There is no desire to wrap up this gift and slap a label on it. As it is given, so is it received.

15 thoughts on “Reading Both Sides of the Label

  1. I am so proud of you Karen! As you may know, I have been in the same boat as you. Although I have been working with Alternative medicine for many, many years. But when you have an auto immune disorder, it does label you in a way. So glad you’re getting the help you need my friend! What a difference it makes to move forward with renewed energy and attitude towards the future. Keep it up! ((Hugs!))


    1. I do think of you, Karen, knowing that your path is quite similar. You know the value of having energy not from a pill but from meditation, yoga, and alternative medicine. For me, these three are an incredibly powerful combination. My acupuncture physician agrees and has said this trio, along with diet, is helping me change my biology. Again, all this you know, my friend. Thanks so much, Karen.



    1. Thank you, Kay! I really appreciate your warm wishes. What is emerging is so different and the word beautiful is quite apt. Constantly, I am struck by how alive I feel, even on the low energy days. What is absent is no energy days. Again, thank you, Kay.


    1. I have often cited the story of the two wolves on this blog. My understanding is the Cherokee version of this story advises that we feed them both for both exist within. When neither one lacks, there is no struggle. I have found this quite useful in my healing, which is, essentially, moving from dis-ease to ease, from disharmony to harmony. Think Yin and Yang–the whole or oneness. Thanks, Craig.


    1. And so I am, Tim. As you might imagine, some days that is more acceptable than others. 😉 I will say that healing peels back layers and their labels. It is as if the world is new, again. Much, much appreciated, Tim.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Often the labels we wear and believe were gifted by an offhand, barely considered comment. My grandfather once said, “If I had to listen to your voice for any length of time I would fall asleep, it’s so boring.” When I began standing up and speaking about my books I tried to make it very brief because of my boring voice. It was a shock the first time someone told me they liked my speaking voice. The value of anything is in the eye–or ear–of the beholder. The message I take away is, keep on speaking. Boring or interesting, I have just this one voice. It does no good to evaluate its merit and slap a label on it.


    1. Slapping on of labels has never sat too well with me yet I was much more passive when it came to the chronic disease label. Too many voices and too many times given, I suspect–without consideration and even, offhand. It was simply easier to categorize me that way. On my part, it was easier–less effort–not to refuse the label. It has played a bigger role than I knew. However, now I do know and that makes all the difference. Thanks, Adrian.


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