The year was 2003 and I had just returned from a knee operation in the hospital. Little did I know I was about to face the longest night of my life, what the Spanish poet and Roman Catholic mystic Saint John of the Cross called ‘The Dark Night of the Soul’.
It must have started close to midnight. Tired as I was, for the life of me I couldn’t sleep. Little thoughts about the operation started to creep into my mind; ‘I wonder how long the recovery will take’, ‘it sure is uncomfortable being in a cast’.
As the night wore on, I began to get more and more worried, first about my inability to sleep, then about the operation and my leg.
‘What if the doctors were wrong – and there really wasn’t any need to operate in the first place? What if I never get my leg back to the way it was, what would I do then? What if I remained injured forever – how would I do the things I love? How would I do my martial arts? Cycle? Walk?’
2am turned to 4am, and it didn’t help that I couldn’t move my body because of the cast; I couldn’t even flip or turn to relieve the discomfort caused by lying in the same position for hours. Even though I had the air-conditioning turned on, I began to feel the sweat running through my body as doubt turned to anxiety, and grew into a stark insistent fear that wouldn’t release its cold grip on my heart.
Alone in my room, in the dark, with no-one to call, and no ability to move, there was nothing I could do but confront my fears and come to a stark reality: I was alone.
Images of the past months raced through my head: through the various consultations, no one had forced this operation on me. People had advised me to and against it, but in the end, the person who made this decision and wrought me on this bed was myself.
And in the end, there was no one else who could help me recover but myself: I would have to take care of my leg, I would have to do the physiotherapy, I would have to stay positive and not let my fears overcome me.
It didn’t mean I was lonely, come morning my parents would be there to help me, my friends would be there to give me support and my girlfriend would be there to accompany me. Without their blessed help, I wouldn’t have been able to come through that difficult time with as much strength as I did, and I am forever grateful for their love.
I wasn’t lonely, but the path to recovery was up to me and my own efforts – alone. Like the old Zen saying goes; the master can only show you the door, you’re the one who has to walk through it.
Alone, but not lonely.
Thank You for Not Letting Me Be Lonely
I didn’t expect the amount of responses my last post ‘The Key to Being Happily Alone’ would generate. Instead of replying in the comments, I’d like to say a big ‘thank you’ to everyone who wrote in, called and messaged me about the post.
Some of you were spot on: yes, it was a series of difficult events that accumulated in an unexpected surprise which brought this lesson back into my life. Also, some of my better friends gave me the honest feedback that they felt it was a lesson I was talking but not walking. I thank you for that honesty and for the lesson; you’re right, loving myself has been one of the hardest lessons I’ve been learning these last few years.
I suppose that in this case, it’s a matter of teaching what you most need to learn. Love yourself, love others. Recognize that you are alone, but it doesn’t mean you have to be lonely. And I appreciated most what my anonymous commenter said, paraphrasing him or her; I wish you much joy in your lone but not lonesome journey.