What do you do, when the world as you know it ends, in a certain kind of way? A loved one dies. A relationship ends. You get an unwelcome diagnosis. Life as you have grown accustomed to living it suddenly changes, and you find yourself in the wilderness.
I must confess that I find myself deep in the wilderness, these days. My body-mind-soul-spirit are going through changes that no one, no one, warned me about but that, I have learned, most women begin to experience in their forties and sometimes earlier.
Every woman’s experience of this “journey” is unique and different; some last longer than others, some feature different challenges than others and to different extents. My particular version includes navigating through waves of unexpected anxiety that I have never had to navigate before; and enduring seemingly endless waves of prickly-painful-desert-like-heat all over my body, especially throughout the night and early morning, that make sleeping something of blessed memory from a “past life.”
I share this because I have discovered that too many women suffer in silence and isolation through this particular wilderness, and I do not wish to be part of whatever “club” that keeps these kinds of secrets, secret. (Imagine, if the pain of labor and bringing human life into the world were kept “secret” and not ever talked about! How would one ever prepare mentally-physically-emotionally? And enlist the help and support needed?!)
In addition to ice packs within reach at 3am and other women’s stories of their own experience of this formative-transformative time in their lives, what I have found most helpful and life-sustaining in this wilderness time is, simply, love: love-put-into-action. The love and patience of my faithful husband, rubbing my back when he desperately wants to be sleeping, himself. The love and understanding of colleagues, as I light candles and incense in my office to establish a calming, peaceful environment. The love and support of friends, dropping off herbal supplements, sending supportive texts and even gifting me with hand-held fans! Yes, there are doctors and homeopaths and hormone-therapy and countless other “remedies” to try and explore. But when it comes down to it, there is nothing quite as healing as human love and friendship, care and support, from those around you.
So whatever wilderness you may be going through, my “word” of advice today — don’t try and brave the wilderness by yourself. And if you know someone traveling through their own wilderness, as my friend Caroline says, “Whatever you do, don’t do nothin’ !”
“And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13