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Shadow Days


Today marks the ten week point since I underwent a liver transplant, and the two week home mark. The first week was a blissful blur of activity as I set out to conquer the eight lost weeks of my life in a single bound. This week? Well, it’s been less inspired. While I have never met anyone else who has had a transplant, the transplant coordinators at the hospital mentioned that I would have good days and bad days, and a ‘down period’ often follows the re-entry into the home environment. I had no idea what they were talking about at the time, but now I get it. After the miracle and great blessing to be alive, to be given a second chance at life, then what? Then I arrive home, not yet ready to work or participate fully in many mainstream activities, feeling a little isolated, a little conflicted about what to ‘do’. Even knowing that without suffering there is no joy, a place of darkness is never a place one wants to linger for too long.

I sympathize with those who question their purpose. I imagine the many people who are at home, feeling like the wind has been knocked out of their sails; friends who have lost a loved one or suffered a break up; those who have lost a job; even those who have consciously chosen to take some time for themselves. So many of us are searching for a little solidarity in circumstances that can seem lonely or extraordinary; circumstances that one might think no one else would understand.

Add to this shortened days accented only by subtle variations of greyness and the pressure to be full of holiday cheer, and, well, it’s easy to lose the plot. At a time of year when there is glitz and flash present on every street and reminders to celebrate littering every mailbox; at a time of year when people are frenzied to complete work and fulfill their social obligations; at a time of year when there is a giant punctuation mark looming over the ever-nearing end of a year, many people find themselves asking in some way or another, ‘Now what?’

Today it dawned on me that these questions about purpose, about why I am here, these feelings of inadequacy, of confusion, of conflict, are all signs that I am human, that I have a mind and a body. It is good to question one’s purpose at times; it can act as a reminder, as a re-alignment tool. I was reminded today that to be asking these questions means that my mind is well enough also to ask it to sit still; to be disciplined enough to close my eyes to the ever-changing, illusive world of the senses and go inside, moving past my skin and organs and blood and bone to go into what’s real. Arriving in that place, I found that my soul was still there exactly where I left it, it’s only the outer packaging that has changed a little. With the change, a new depth has been added to its shadows and light.

Experiences in life bring in new hues of colour, new emotions under our wings. With these, we sometimes get led astray. Only by being led off course, however, can we see the path from afar and remember why we are on it. It is the same with suffering and happiness. Only when we doubt ourselves, when we suffer and question our thoughts and actions, that we dare to venture to the root of who we are. It is there that we find the immensity of our potential for joy, existing beneath all the questions, insecurity and judgement. All of us are more powerful than we think, more than capable of doing whatever it is that we think will bring us contentment. The challenge is in having too much choice, too much power. Choices and power can sometimes defeat the very thing we are seeking, which is most often happiness and love. Sometimes rather than darkness, the shadows offer us a place of quiet, of refuge, where we can see things clearly, not in the dark, nor blinded by bright light. The shadows can offer us a glimpse of simply, what is.

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