IX Personal Ruminations on the Hermit
As a child I spent an inordinate amount of time incapacitated by various illnesses. The walking variety of pneumonia a few times, mono in the fourth grade, strep throat at least once a year until the age of 17, at 7 a joint infection that kept me literally off my feet for several weeks (for fear it would go septic I assume). At 1, an intestinal parasite that certain evidence indicates may have persisted into adulthood. Or perhaps two bouts of the same parasite, one defeated at a young age, the other onset at 13. I have early, clearly amalgamated memories of dire illness, a feeling of wasting in bed, and of giving up hope for normalcy, sometimes life. I also have memories of playing outside and exploring the woods, forging friendships that persist to this very day. Somehow I managed to socialize well enough.
I spent much of my time in imaginative distraction. Solitude suited me. Sometimes. What began as another uncomfortable intractable illness would chain me to my bed and slowly close the shutters soothing me with fevered visions and dreams until I no longer knew the outside existed. My room was an 8' x 5' space crammed with a writing desk, a bed, a small cupboard and a television. A luxurious hermit's cell. I have several memories of laying in bed, looking out the shuttered windows and speaking to these bright yellow lights that talked back. Likely running a high fever. I went to catholic school for 9 years of my childhood, so it comes as no surprise that these lights identified themselves as angels.
At 13, I became so ill my death seemed certain. The onset was sudden and it became a long wasting illness that wouldn't be identified until much later. It wasn't as dire as cancer, but it hit pretty hard. I was unable to keep food down, then water, then a viscous dark green substance was coming up, then blood. A few weeks later I'd feel a little better, go to school for a couple days, then descend again. I dropped weight. By the middle of my eighth grade year I weighed 85 pounds and people in class would gasp and remark in a hushed whisper at how skinny I had become. Somehow I lived through months of this, praying for death constantly. I got close to that grim specter, lost my fear of it.
At 19 I developed pain so bad and so prevalent that everything burned like a great white light. The summation and culmination of all the evil spirits that attempted to destroy my body throughout the course of my life. I was prescribed heavy narcotics, and a cocktail of antidepressants. I went mad. I withdrew from life again. This time I fell deep into a dark abyss that threatened to consume me completely. And it did. One morning, a year later I began to spastically vomit and, after a couple days, landed in the hospital. I ran a very high fever, had wild visions and hallucinations, I refused all medication, except what they dripped into my arm. It was a lot like the movie Jacob's Ladder. I left, I think, a week later, reasonably recovered. The demon hiding, not slain.
At 23 the pain returned, but this time I was driven to defeat it squarely and root it out completely. I hung from a tree every day, practiced difficult and painful yoga practices and meditative visualizations. I directed all obsession (commonly encountered when confronting demons) to compulsively photographing everything and posting it on the internet every night. I worked by intuition. Somehow I got past the guardian of the door and into the abyss. For months I maintained very little contact with the outside world as my body and mind began to heal from not only this intensive bout and confrontation, but also from a lifetime's worth of illness, regret, depression, despair. By the beginning of my 24th year I only suffered the residual effects of such a terrible passage and began to build a life from the ashes. I maintained a strict, thrice daily, seated practice until the age of 25.
I still prefer to remain internal, and in solitude. I resemble the hermit in practice. Now I spend my days practicing the things that helped me gain life and vitality and banish nefarious internal processes.