For about a year now, I have been developing, in both my mind and my heart, the introduction to this article/dialogue between Maribel Maseda Virosta and Malena Garrido García.

Malena suffers from an incurable and progressive disease; this is the belief of many, including those who practice traditional medicine. Nevertheless, despite her vulnerability, she has lived with it all of her life. This article/dialogue is about what she has learned about to tap her inner strength in order to overcome this situation.

Malena’s story has made me reflect on the fact that the majority of us have to confront challenges throughout our lives; normally these are of a personal, medical or professional nature. If for some reason it happens to be a medical problem, as in Malena’s case, she has scleroderma, without a doubt we could say that she lives in a state of permanent adversity. The causes of this disease are unknown and its effect on a person’s connective tissue brings about changes in the skin, blood vessels, muscles and internal organs.

To me this article seems to be a commendable example of overcoming adversity by always looking on the brighter side, the place in the brain where we are at peace. Since it is impossible to avoid the physical pain, it is possible that the strength of mental enjoyment (or suffering) surpasses physical feelings. The example that Malena gives is to change the mental attitude that we have towards suffering. When suffering is confronted by a clear and calm mind, instead of limiting ourselves to react negatively, the suffering will disappear. Her attitude towards suffering is one of distance and choice.

Another important point to emphasize is that adversity requires an appreciation of the present moment – live in the present in a positive way, with intensity. Worries about the past and future should be kept limited. Malena, in a very natural way, without dogmas, is thorough with her words, she is open minded – she doesn’t necessarily take things the way they have been taught or told to us. She does everything she can with the utmost sincere motivation. If she is prosperous in her efforts she feels fine, and if that is not the case, she does not regret her efforts.

I hope that Malena’s story, with the excellent comments from the author Maribel Maseda Virosta (writer and creator of Gym-Ki and The Life Meetings, among others), evokes from you comprehension that will let you recognize the adversity of others and respond to it with a deep awareness about the well being of people like Malena. The literary format used here is not a typical one. It is an article in a dialogue format. It resembles a round table discussion in a written form, accompanied by this introduction.

To make it easier for the reader to follow, both Maribel and Malena, use parenthesis at the end of each paragraph to sign their own reflections.

Jill Arcaro Gordon (November 2010)

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EMOTIONALLY… HEALTHY OR SICK?

 

Maribel

Malena is one of those people whom you often cross paths with in you life, you sneak a glance at them and suddenly you “understand” that they need help. In those fleeting seconds of an encounter, compassion, fear, …and other emotions, arise by surprise. The majority of these sudden feelings occur when the short lived crossing of paths comes to its end, when one thinks they know everything they need to know about that person. Malena, represents for others, limitations, obstacles, and an illness.

 

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Malena

In this life time I have felt sick more than healthy. If you add the diagnoses you get from the doctors every time you go for a check up, it becomes rather difficult to avoid the labels that people give you.

The fact is that ever since I was small, consciously and unconsciously, I have lived and learned from my illness, as you would from any experience, but from this one much more so. Now as an adult, I know that changes in our lives, the more we resist them, we do so focusing on our deficiencies. In my case the deficiency of my health has let my body suffer the most. As one tends to say, you appreciate and understand what you have once you have lost it.

 

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Maribel

We distance ourselves from an illness out of fear. This emotion dictates how we see those who suffer from the illness. Deep down, something tells us that it was pure chance why this person became ill. Call it genetics, or a hereditary factor, or an environmental factor …. call it whatever you like, it doesn’t matter. It exists and coexists with us…can anyone assure us that it won’t strike us? The certain thing is, when we come across this illness, for those not knowing of its existence, it creates emotions in us that we don’t normally feel. This is because, fortunately, we are in good health. We celebrate this briefly, when we compare ourselves to this handicap we have just come across. Afterwards, we go back to thinking of health as a normality, we are no longer grateful for we consider to be wellness, we stop celebrating it, we stop living it.

 

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Malena

Now the question is: ¿What have I gained from this illness? I can say way more, by far. I know who I am now thanks to all that I have experienced, I know the value of the most essential things in life, to be able to eat, breathe, walk, sleep, let alone mention to be able to enjoy being outside, see a sunset, to have company and be care for by my loved ones. For me, every new day is a gift.

What does it mean that I am healthy now? Well that depends; for the doctors I am not. When they perform analysis and tests on me, the results are varied. I let them care for the chemical aspect of my body, they always inform me in detail of the situation and we share a mutual respect and confidence in each other. Of course when I have to take medication, I always try to take the least amount as possible. I went 10 years without medication; then a doctor’s diagnosis stated that it was now impossible to not take the medication. I felt fine and I opted for softer forms of medication like homeopathy, herbs, therapeutic massages, psychotherapy and working with energies. Currently, I use all of these options because they all compliment each other. I believe that human beings are capable of overcoming illness and other unsuspected situations; saying this, When that does happen, there are types of opinion, like: “ it was a matter of luck”, “miracles do exist”, or “it can simply not be explained”.

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Maribel

Pain and love live in the same house as everyone else in each one of our houses. We frequently look for, often desperately, that idyllic state of well being, pure and maintained, immune from the unexpected avatars of life.

The first is rough, dense, strong. It intertwines with our life in such a way that its weight doesn’t let us avoid nor obviate it. It is so tangible and strong that we can not ignore it. When it enters our life, it barely leaves space to live in love. Once our pain is cured, we frequently celebrate the absence of the pain, not the presence of love among us. The difference seems subtle,but it is not. It is what decides the course of our existence.

 

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Malena

The important thing is when one begins to ask inside and outside themselves and begins to get answers…., beginning the long and spectacular trip that lasts a lifetime,”the getting to know oneself”, and to be who sees if one feels healthy or not,depends on one’s values. I say this because despite the fact that my body has limitations and sometimes pain and the results produce varied results, I indeed feel healthy emotionally and my mind is at ease. I have the sensation, the feeling of being healthy, I have been able to feel this after many years of fighting with what we call an illness and being a patient. This last word is also a good burden. I have always told myself; even though you feel desperate, and are not willing to experience this illness, you have to be patient: patient when you have to go to the medical professionals and understand what they have to say, patient with your loved ones because your state also has repercussions on them. This word has the connotation that depending on how you take it, it could help or hurt you. If it comes out of the desperation over “why did this happen to me, I don’t want this, maybe they can give me a medication to cure this”, it will destroy you; furthermore because nowadays supposedly there are such advanced medicines it is hard to accept that there are some illnesses that just don’t have a cure, like mine for example. Nevertheless, there are palliative medications, for those who don’t know this, these medications do not cure you, but they do help you feel better, of course they have their respective side effects. Instead, if you decide to be a patient patient, to be calm enough to clearly see best solutions you can offer to whatever may arise, this will help.

 

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Maribel

An ancient prayer of the American Indians says: “…show me to love beyond my fears…”

The fear of that which coexists with us makes us defend ourselves instead of living; instead of creating, we strive to fight and destroy; instead of offering what we are, to disguise and hide in order to achieve.

To live without it, makes us able to look at those who we cross paths with…look at their soul; lets us enjoy, without our defenses enabled, with a childlike smile, knowing that each one of us is a child; that we feel something exists that absolutely transcends our capacity of suffering, and that stays with us long after our body resists to stay with us.

When we transcend pain, we come in contact with our pure state, and that is where love resides.

 

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Malena

We can say that questioning oneself, is the best indicator that something good is happening to us. In fact, for children,their way of learning is to observe and ask questions. What a shame that over time, for believing that with age we will know everything, we loose that healthy habit! Then exist other healthy habits, that we have lost and should recuperate, and if we have lost them it from fear of the answers, we would not want to hear something we don’t want to or do not like; that fear paralyzes us and it is quite difficult to escape it, it makes us sick. Later, little by little, we begin to understand what makes us sick and what makes us healthy, at the same time we begin to understand ourselves. I think the most difficult thing in my life has been to take responsibility for it. I know that I interrelate everything, that how I am emotionally has an effect on my mind and body, but my body is effected, also depending on how my body feels has to do with my emotional and mental state, and all of this is connected directly with my spiritual world and conversely. Trying to be and feel the best I can is in my hands. And I am trying to do so, that is what matters, in these moments of my life.

 

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Maribel

We believe, evolve, learn, make mistakes….and whatever time passes, we will still be children in an old Universe, a very old one which gives us its air to breathe, its water to drink, its life to live. The time we can do so in an easy (healthy) way is never enough; it will always seem too short to us…Let’s share it then with the Universe, with this Life, fully, going beyond the fear of losing it or to the want to surpass it and make ourselves stronger from it. Let’s learn the best from it and learn how to transcend that which is not so good.

The body, the reality and earthly, tangible and material is of vital importance, and we should maintain it, care for it and preserve it. But this should not blind us to what lies behind, inside or on top of it, which is our own soul, now surely contaminated by the ghosts of fear.

Only this way we will discover, maybe, what we are and what we do not know.

 

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Malena

I know that I am vulnerable and that anything can make me become sick both internally and externally, but I can also recover as many times as necessary. To keep learning from this life, asking all kinds of questions, there are so many I want to ask and people want to ask me, I will finish just like I started ¿emotionally sick or healthy? At this moment I choose to feel and be healthy, to heal myself and recover.

 

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Maribel

…we are. We are vulnerable, because love is as well, and our essence is drawn from it. Every piece of the giant puzzle that life is,is full of contradiction: love-hate, wet-dry, happy-sad… We can not conscientiously choose to always be on the friendliest side of life; when the most novice side chooses us, we should hold on strongly to the opposite, which is also there, present, on our side, weakened by the strength of pain…but it has always been there, patient, quiet. Let us show itself, even if it is only to remember this,waiting nor making it happen is not the most convenient way for us. Love is in each place we look when we have faith in finding it.

…Malena is one of those people who when you cross paths with her you immediately understand that she has already arrived at that place.

Translated by Arturo Guillén.