Fight and Flight…

Today is my wedding anniversary.  Well, it’s our legal wedding anniversary – we actually celebrate the wedding date that came before this one – the not legal one I guess you might call it.  We just call it “the real one.”  This one is important because it gave us some legal protections – not in our country mind you, that wouldn’t come for years, but it laid the groundwork, and it was nice to have legal recognition somewhere.  The “real one” as we call it, the one that counts in our hearts, minds, and souls (but still didn’t provide those necessary legal protections or convey the statement of equality and security under the law) is what we remember the most… but after feeling the sting of not having the legal protections, I am more keen to honor both dates.

Today Linda and I went out to lunch to celebrate our legal wedding anniversary, and had a great discussion about what life has brought us over the years.  We have been together now more than 18 years… legally married for 14.  It was 15 years ago that I had a seizure at a work conference out of town… several plane rides away… and she got her first dose of “oh shit, this can really be a thing in her life.”  The following year I was on tap to go back to the same conference, this time in Canada… and we were both kind of terrified at the thought.  I was still going to go, she wasn’t going to stop me and I wasn’t going to stop me, but we were both scared.  Then I asked her if she wanted to come with me.  She had proposed to me a while back and I had said Yes.  It was a proposal for “when it’s legal” (we were already married, but she asked me to legally marry her when we could), which looked like it was going to be happening soon-ish in places, and we just needed to find a place.  Well, gay marriage had recently been legalized in Canada, so we could get that done there – fun!  We already had our big party a few years prior, but this would make it legal, which was cool and validating… and also we could each be there with each other as I navigated this trip which was kind of scary for both us.  All in all, a pretty good way to start off the legal marriage.

Lots has happened over the years – shifts in family, jobs, careers, health, cities, you name it.  The biggest shifts that have happened though have been the ones we made internally — the journeys that we each have taken/are taking ourselves and the one that we are taking together.

It is no great secret that I have epilepsy, but my relationship with it has changed over the years.  We were talking about that day 15 years ago that I had the seizure at the work conference, and our reactions surrounding it.  Linda remembers calling my boss, terrified and willing to do anything to get me home.  I remember calling that same boss and just crying – not because I wanted to but because that is what my body does after a seizure.  She was kind, she listened as I bawled and through the tears explained to her that I didn’t want to cry but I really had no choice in the matter.  I remember seeing a colleague in hallway, being in pain on the van ride to the airport, and navigating the airports kind of in a daze… yet still somehow I made my way to a Snickers bar.  Where there is a will there is a way.  🙂

I also remember being worried about my privacy and the reactions of my co-workers, particularly the members of the team that I led.  An older, presumably wiser, me might have a different perspective, but the me of 15 years ago fretted about that.  Of course, an older me would also have known that my concern wasn’t really about my co-workers’ reactions, they are lovely people.  Sure I’d probably have to face some uncomfortable questions, maybe do some educating, maybe even get a few looks of pity, but there would also be some amazing love and support that would be available to me that would far outweigh the rest.  Whatever fret I was feeling wasn’t about them, it was about me.

As it turns out, years later I had the opportunity to experience my epilepsy in the workplace again… this time without the option of screening for privacy.  And there it was… just me and my ego, bare knuckle boxing.

A very smart man once asked me “What’s so horrible about having a seizure?”  I think he was genuinely asking me to share my feelings about the negative aspects of having a seizure, but in that moment I had this amazing clarity and said: “That’s a great point!  What IS so horrible about having a seizure?!” I’ve had a bunch of them and I keep coming back from them.  The impact sucks… and yeah, the limitations I face can be, well… quite limiting… but at least for me they exist within a specific timeframe.  3-6 months later and I can drive again.  It was in that moment that I realized that the thing that truly stinks about having a seizure – the thing that has always truly stunk about having seizures is my ego.  It isn’t the seizure – the seizure is manageable… my head hurts, the after effects are horrible, they just are, but they exist within a relatively small period of time.  The thing that is horrible about it is the blow to my ego.  Once I got out of my own way, once I set aside my need for control, then I was fine.

Now I see my epilepsy as a gift, and I’m so incredibly grateful for its presence in my life.  I have this internal barometer that only lets me get but so far off balance — stay in tune with it, with my inner wisdom, and I am doing alright.  Get too far off course and I’ll know pretty darn quickly — I’ll have a seizure.  That is a pretty good sign that something in my life needs tending to.  It also helps me remember to actively do contingency planning.  I have to think about what I truly want out of situations and relationships, and if I am contributing what I want to contribute.  If not, I will be sent a pretty clear signal that it is time to adjust.  I have this beautiful barometer built in… I just need to respect it.

The truly amazing thing that I have learned over the years though, is that everyone has an internal barometer.  I call it inner wisdom, some people might call it their inner voice or their gut wisdom.  Call it whatever you want – it’s that voice inside you that guides you towards your own authentic self.  When you sit in silence and clear your mind… when you pay attention to what your body is telling you… when you drop the justifications and open up to possibility, expected, unexpected, or otherwise.  That is it – we’ve all got it.  Just tune in, find your frequency, and pay attention to what you hear.  I love it when people find their frequency and go for it – it is the coolest thing in the world.  It’s like they go from carrying a bag full of bricks to sprouting wings and flying.  It’s not always a relief to set down that bag though – it can be hard work.  Sometimes those wings take you places you really didn’t think you were headed.  But flying is pretty cool… and it is a lot better than carrying a bag of bricks.

I feel very fortunate to have a partner who has encouraged me over the years to pursue new ways to fly… even and especially when my journey took us both to parts unknown.  Happy Anniversary My Love!

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