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.
(“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.
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,
So that when the right words come
We recognize them as something
We tried to say but did not know how.
(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 so 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.