My Defining Moment

written 1/29/09

I’ve spent quite a lot of time in my life working very hard for things- educational degrees, professional respect, social status, good hair- and then when everything fell apart (Thank God) two years ago, I had The Couch Moment.

I’ve talked about this with some of you and I’ve also talked about it to strangers, but it seems different to put it down here. But it’s an important part of who I am, so here goes: I was really sick. I had colon issues and complications involving bloody bathroom moments, MRSA, and depression. I’d been to treatment for substance issues, had to leave the job I loved and had been so scared and needy and irrational that most of my friends had understandably moved away from me- some for good (so far). I was in a lot of pain from the MRSA infection and was preparing for surgery to repair some of the damage that the infection had wreaked on my colon and certain parts of that area of my body.

In short, I was broken down. There really wasn’t much more than animal instinct for survival left. I was a mess.

So I was doing what I had done for two weeks- laying on my side on the couch in my dark, small apartment watching the TV that got three channels through the rabbit ears (I couldn’t afford cable). My cell phone didn’t work in my apartment, and I managed to get out once a day or so to the library or the store or the hospital and I made calls during those times- so I was never bothered by the phone. The times in my apartment were lonely times. So I watched movies and Oprah and Ellen and some horrible daytime soap thing involving a witch baby and felt very, very sorry for myself. It was during Oprah. I really don’t remember the topic of the show, and I’m pretty sure it was unrelated to my situation. I just remember Oprah wearing green.

So I’m on the couch, Oprah’s wearing green and then something shifted. It’s difficult to describe and it took me a long time to find the words (over a year, in fact) to summarize the shift. The cliche’ of time slowing down or stopping during peak moments applies here. I remember things getting fuzzy. No sensations of pain from my nether regions, no noise from Oprah, no thoughts buzzing in my head. Instead there was just this… knowing. That’s the only way to describe it. It wasn’t words in my head, like a voice or a memory, it was just something that I knew. There was a feeling of relaxing, a feeling of serenity and of lightness and then I noticed the weight of my body on the couch, the pain from my wounds and hearing Oprah on TV.

I was hurting again, but I wasn’t sad. I saw that this was good- because it was REAL. That life is Good simply because it is Real. Life is kind, life is generous and life is amazing. Even when life appears cruel or unnecessarily painful, I know that does not mean that it actually is. I can look at the good that has come out of my more stupid and even vindictive decisions. I know pain stops eventually. I’ve seen that lies can bring eventual healing. I’ve watched destructive behavior be an incredible teacher. I’ve noticed that most of what I think is simply untrue or unprovable- mostly memory, anticipation or worry. I’ve discovered that there really are no rules. I’ve come to see that no matter what I do, I can’t do it wrong. And that was the essence of the knowing: Nothing can go wrong.

Generally, things go one of two ways- the way I want (or think I want) or the way I don’t want (or think I don’t want). That’s it. It’s not a matter of right or wrong, it’s a matter of accepting Reality, and in my experience, Reality is always kind- it’s just my resistance to Reality that makes it seem unkind. Life changed for me. I got out more. I started working to repair relationships. I did kind things for myself and others. I meditated and did small amounts of exercise. I ate foods that were better for me. I worked at complete honesty with myself and others….

I didn’t change overnight (like some more dramatic stories I know), but I feel pretty good most of the time. I do struggle with my responses sometimes, and it may seem that I can be apathetic. But I’m pretty clear that in my core being, I want to respond in a kind way, and I have realized that a loving response is not an apathetic response. A loving response is an active response, be it to a thought, an action, an attitude or an event. So I’m not always doing things the way I truly want to, but my recovery time is shorter- I realize my need to apologize or change my response much more quickly. I get to choose how I want to live, and my choice is for Reality. And when I remember that nothing can go wrong, it’s a lot less work, and so much more rewarding. I can either fall apart or respond with kindness.

When I was diagnosed with HIV, I remember being very calm,very clear, and to this day, I’ve never been angry or felt despair. I felt that I should be kind to myself, because this is my Reality, and I have two choices: I can love it or I can hate it. If I hate it, I’ll be miserable (and so will most everyone I encounter).  So I love it- and the blessings that have followed I wouldn’t trade for the world.

Life is good.

11 comments on “My Defining Moment

  1. Roxanne says:

    This transparent writing is so human and raw, filled with inspiration and relief.
    I thank you for your sharing of the pain and the transformational process you now flow within…There is great love for you here.

    Like

    • Roxanne,Oh, thank you so much- What a pleasure to be complimented! I feel like I am empty and as such, contain everything. I’m sure you understand.Peace,G

      Whoever can see through fear will always be safe. -Tao te Ching

      Like

  2. Ann McGettigan says:

    Greg,
    Thank you for this. I had not known this story before. Bless your heart. ATM

    Like

  3. Kate Foster says:

    Your ideas that what is REAL is what really is,… resonates with me. I am lucky, in that I have learned this the easy way. Life has been good to me, but I know the value of stripping away expectation and getting to the soul of a matter. This isn’t easy to maintain in our world, and I appreciate the reminder.
    I am happy to be back in touch with you, and to know you on the other side of your journey to yourself. I will watch your blog.
    Inspired,
    Kate

    Like

  4. Rick Gaylor says:

    I am learning to finally see life as something worth seeking. Again, your insight is so rewarding and healing to me as I continue my search “off my couch.”
    Blessings,
    Rick

    Like

  5. Mary Waterbury says:

    Dear D…..G?

    Thanks very much for publishing the letter from Hans Kung. I hadn’t realized that he is still alive. My main comment, though, is: Are you aware that your “From Eternity to Here” is, inadvertently, I’m sure, plagiarized from Donna Reed’s acceptance speech for her role in “From Here to Eternity”? I remember it because it was, I thought, really sappy. Your use of the phrase isn’t sappy, but I thought you might want to know that it has a checkered past. :)

    Mary Waterbury

    Like

  6. Nunewesen says:

    I am so happy to have been pointed to your blog (my loved one has done so just tonight)band so pleased to “meet” you…

    Best wishes, and I hope you will allow me to write to you every now and then.

    Like

  7. frank maris says:

    Provocative for me. Good to read. A lot of good sense. A challenge for me would be to write my own: A Defining Moment. I’m 71 in Cleveland Ohio. A wife, 2 great children, and 2 very lovable grandchildren. I’m not gay but I am very thankful that’s more ‘okay’ to be gay-two of my cousins are gay-both partnered [ one male-male, one female female] with children. came to this site to see Hans Kung Open Letter To Bishops. My best to you. You’ve healed a lot-that’s very nice to see.

    Like

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