I Had To Let Go Before I Gave Up
Lorna’s back surgery creates more than a scar in her lower lumbar region…
I had the good fortune to attend a lecture by Deepak Chopra, Endocrinologist, expert in mind-body medicine, spiritual scholar, and generally nice guy. His lecture was in Syracuse, NY and a local newspaper was giving away free tickets to anyone who emailed him a question that he chose to answer in an interview prior to the event. I’d read many of his books to cope with my health “issues” and was grappling with this question, which I emailed to Deepka (we’re on a first-name basis), “What’s the difference between giving up and letting go?” He chose my question and 6 others to answer, thus I attended his lecture for free.
Before I tell you his answer, you need some background.
My quest to stay “Healthy Lorna” was failing miserably. The back surgery put the kibosh to my illusion that I was “fine.” That left me with two options:
- Give up. I wasn’t experiencing a continual barrage of “temporary” set-backs,” so invest in a wheelchair and one of those Medic-Alert thingies that I hang around your neck and press if I fell.
I guess I just had one option.
I saw a counselor to deal with my depression and periodic thoughts of doing myself in should a fall down the stairs not kill me.
I recovered slowly from the back surgery, the staph infection only setting me back a few weeks. My left foot never regained full function, so my runway model days were over, given my tell-tale tha-thunk tha-thunk gait, especially when tired, which was just about always. Also, the muscles in my left leg began to disappear since the nerves from my spine stopped talking to them. My right leg, due to great genes and lots of exercise looked fit and trim; my left leg looked like it belonged to an anorexic flamingo. Since modern medicine hadn’t accomplished a successful full leg transplant yet, I had to get creative. I bought Sketcher Shape-Ups and hoped I could develop my leg muscles from the ground up. It worked! Only the most discerning leg-man could tell the difference between Former-Flamingo-Leg and
Sexy Healthy-Leg. My “foot-flop” (yes, that’s a technical term), was better, too, but I still avoided the runway unless a plane was involved.
Besides the counselor, I began reading different kind of self-help books than before. I was less interested in my inner Divine Self and more interested in finding inner peace. I realized that “issues” were just “problems” with different letters. I wasn’t the same Lorna I’d always been. I was different. But different didn’t have to mean defunct. I just thought it did and so did everyone around me, which only helped convince me I was as broken as my house.
Reading Deepak’s books and books by the Dalai Lama introduced me to Buddhism. They all spoke of “letting go” (and lots of other
cryptic esoteric things). I didn’t understand the difference between “letting go” and “giving up.” I was a lot of things, but “quitter” wasn’t one of them; but maybe”stubborn” was. Never great at getting hints, maybe all these health issues problems were my body’s way of conking me on the head. Maybe I should explore this “letting go” business. So I asked my buddy, Deepak.
He told me, via a newspaper article, that “giving up” implies you expect some outcome that you think you can control, it doesn’t happen, and you get frustrated. [Insert delightful India-Indian chuckle.] “Letting go” is a practice within Buddhism where you, moment-by-moment, drop all expectations of any particular outcome and just accept life and all its possibilities. [Insert nervous Lorna chuckle.] While it took me
eons quite a while to process the answer, I finally understood. I needed to make friends with my new self, dizziness and the whole ball of adventures. I had to drop any expectations of returning to my former self or of a vision of some new-and-improved self. I needed to embrace who I was at that moment and accept that anything was possible in the next moment and accept whatever that was too.
Christians speak of “finding God.” I found personal salvation in the simple instruction of “letting go.” I had the same symptoms, but felt so much more peaceful and calm. Everything I read about CFIDS and everything Dr. M told me was that if I still had symptoms 5 years after its onset, I was highly likely to have it for the rest of my life. I had reached the 5-year mark. I was fine with that, being that I was no longer enemies with myself.
Chuck was not fine with my new attitude. He thought I gave up and he couldn’t understand nor tolerate quitting. I didn’t want 5th and 6th opinions. He did. For the first time since I got sick and we shared the goal of fixing me, we lost our common ground. In my opinion, I didn’t need fixing any more; in his opinion, I needed fixing more than ever.
What happens to their relationship when Lorna befriends herself?