tough transitions is a book written by dr.elizabeth neeld and it speaks to the tough times in life that are driven by circumstances, mostly unavoidable. these times come and go in life. this is undeniable. undoubtedly i have not met the challenges at my potential at every given turn. to reflect on a transition that worked me instead of working for me, i look back to 1996. i had been pushing myself to get through my community service hours to satisfy my probation requirements for my dui. at the time i worked about 50 hours a week and then put in 8 hours on saturdays shelving books at the public library and finished hours out shelving at the school of mines. with all the pressing on, i became weary and overtired. i went to the doctor and my doctor ran blood tests- it was confirmed that i was hiv positive. the wanted to start me on meds to address the onset of viral replication.
since i had been confirmed positive once before in 1995 and kept that truth in the dark corners of my mind, there was once again a process of acceptance that was required. and i agreed to start meds, even though for the 11 years prior i had renounced the medical field because of their naivete around hiv and their willingness to prescribe and over prescribe. yet, here i was in 1996 imbibing meds that were not self-prescribed and had a nervous breakdown. i didn’t sleep for a week, lost touch with good sense, and became paranoid and goofy. i finally slept after being diagnosed bi-polar and given more meds that helped bring me back into general focus(along with regular sleep).
funny thing was , after about a month on these new meds, i felt better physically and energetically than i had for as long as i could remember. and strangely, along with this renewed feeling, a very fearful sense that these past 11 years had been in vain as i had not really planned for any kind of future. yet there i sat with a bleak and black future in front of me. what followed was my usual practice in life- act on instinct. i quit my job of 11 years and started a new gig. i started partying heavily again, worked out a transfer with my new company to san francisco, and kept the party going. soon cocaine and meth were on the guest list, and i couldn’t keep up with my own version of a grimm fairy tale that was reflected in my life. buildings in new york toppled after swallowing planes, economies tumbled like stacks of jengo logs, and realities shape-shifted just as quickly as my waistline did with 2 full years of daily meth use.
this transition in my life, the onset of hiv meds and the conquering of my denial, was an opportunity that was missed, or at least very painfully delayed. instead of being open to moving forward with my life, i became intoxicated with not feeling the strangeness that acknowledgement and treatment delivered. i kicked away my stability and concentrated on trying to rebuild a foundation, in lieu of remodeling an already sturdy casement.
according to dr. neeld, transitions such as these happen in our lives. and they will continue to happen. we age, we lose jobs, we divorce, we lose friends, we become ill, etc, etc.. and her insight is finding the poise to recognize when we are in a transition and find a way to look to the outcome in lieu of becoming lost in the process drama. there are 3 questions she offers to guide us through highly troubled times. i believe that some of the power of change is in the asking of the questions, and some comes in our own answers.
How can there be any hope when we have already lost what we hold most dear? Where does hope live when we hear the words announced to us, “There is no hope”? We cannot bring the person back. We cannot return to life as it was.
For a long time people have been thinking about this dilemma. One of these individuals was Immanuel Kant who lived and wrote in the 1700s. Kant thought a lot about the kind of subjects we might label as “the eternal verities”: hope, ethics, God, morality, the meaning of life. Kant came up with three questions that he thought expressed the central human concerns. Here are his famous questions:
What can I know?
What can I do?
What can I hope?
this is an ongoing topic for me right now…. more to follow…