“Sickness comes on horseback, but goes away on foot.” — William Carew Hazlitt
Seemingly out of nowhere, it hits– the devastating diagnosis, or the catastrophic accident, or the debilitating chronic pain– shattering the life of a loved one, or self. Life changes– sometimes forever. We feel blindsided, helpless, resentful, afraid. But somehow, we keep going.
The horse that arrived so suddenly may have been heading for us quite some time, although we did not know it. A sudden reversal of health carries with it the shock of surprise, but in most cases, it was building gradually to a tipping point where it became too obvious to ignore. Occasionally we can send it away with almost as much speed as it arrived; the quick, successful surgery or “miracle” drug that carries a swift cure. But even then, complete healing will take time.
Likely, the recovery will seem even slower than it is, because when we travel on foot, we notice almost everything. This may seem a curse at first, but in reality it’s also a blessing. Gradually we come to realize that the tiny details that fill our newly-slower days are the true substance of the life we crave. We recognize the value of this altered life, and resolve not to take for granted a single minute of enjoyment, laughter, or freedom from pain.
Even if we have never been sidelined with illness, our wellness has always traveled on foot. It cannot be rushed or wished into existence. It is made of clear, cool water, sipped serenely on a warm day; of morning breezes that visit us carrying birdsong; of real, unadulterated food eaten with joyful gratitude, of quiet moments spent reading or praying or meditating; of comforting words or companionable silence with someone we enjoy.
If the illness comes back, we will bear it patiently, knowing that we will return to our walk toward health again. Perhaps the pace will be slower, with longer breaks that must be taken more frequently, but we walk in the direction of well-being, whether mental, physical, or both, and we are surrounded with the solace of fellow travelers who know the way, and understand. It’s a lovely road, and the weather is often breathtakingly beautiful. If you should happen to meet us along the path, let’s walk awhile together.