When You’re Okay and Everyone Else is Not

My healthy, athletic 60-year-old husband had a stroke four days ago. He collapsed while visiting his elderly parents in a a small town at least an eight hour drive from Vancouver–as the story goes, he stood up from the sofa to head toward the dining room for dinner and felt dizzy.

Next thing he knew he was regaining consciousness on the floor, bleeding from a head wound that would later require stitches. He soon realized he could not move his right arm and leg. Needless to say, his parents called an ambulance.

I got word of what was happening almost immediately–his mom called his son, who Facebook messaged me. (One of the blessings of FB, I suppose). A flurry of calls ensued: I spoke with his distraught mother. I called his daughter. I emailed a few of his closest friends. And I reached out to all the healers we know for long-distance healings.

During all of this I found myself in a state of calm.

I don’t mean post shock numbness. I have been in shock before–at the sudden death of my father, mother, near death of my son twice, sudden death of a dear friend. All of these events had a surreal quality — the gut wrenching adrenalin rush on receiving the news. The racing heart. The shallow breathing. The detachment that follows the first wave of angst.

No, this is and was simply a peaceful state of acceptance. That doesn’t mean I was not concerned for my husband’s well-being. But it does mean I was not suffering from emotional turmoil or mental anguish. I was just experiencing the what-is-happening without reaction but with measured and effective response–(I managed to contact all of my husbands family and close friends, including his ex wife).

Yet now, four days later, I am seeing how this state of equanimity does not fit people’s views of how a wife should be acting when her husband has been felled by what turned out to be a blueberry-sized node of brain death. (Thankfully, he has recovered 80 percent of his sensation and movement and continues to recover daily).

When it happened, it never occurred to me to reach out to my friends for “emotional support.”  When my husband posted from his hospital bed yesterday on FB that he’d had a stroke, my friends (I mean real life friends) saw this and soon a flurry of calls and emails hit me. Why hadn’t I called for support? How was I? Wasn’t I upset? What do you mean you’re ok?

It’s hard to explain to people (without sounding like a robot or alien) that there comes a time when you no longer find yourself tossed and churned in the storms of emotional distress. That there comes a time when the “peace that passeth all understanding” is a lived reality, not a transient state..

I mean, I’m okay. (Though I did manage to fold a whole lot of laundry as a Zen practice while I awaited new medical updates from afar–you should see how clean the house is too).

It’s not the first time I’ve noticed just how awakening can pull the plug on the habit of emotional reactivity. Just a day after my awakening in 2011, my husband wanted to call the relationship quits. He was upset. He wanted out. I remember I was simply at peace. If that is what he wanted, then that is what he wanted.

It’s hard to explain to people (without sounding like a robot or alien) that there comes a time when you no longer find yourself tossed and churned in the storms of emotional distress. That there comes a time when the “peace that passeth all understanding” is a lived reality, not a transient state.

And I am not talking about the “love and light” spiritual persona version of peaceful — I know that one all too well. I used to be it. It’s the mask of super-chill-all-is-well, while underneath a cauldron of upset seethes.

And this state of peace goes the other way too. The events in life that might have created a supercharged happiness, are met instead with a kind of serene contentment. It’s like when a friend of mine years ago read the Four Agreements book and understood the agreement to “take nothing personally” to mean to not get all bent out of shape by criticism…but I said to him: “It also means don’t get all euphoric over the compliment, none of it is personal.”

In this way, this deepening awakening has a quality about it of neutrality. But it’s not flat like soda without the fizz…rather it’s a different kind of fizz. It’s a fizz that’s there all the time, bubbling away no matter what the outer circumstances and events look like. You could say, it’s an effervescent well-being that just-is.

So, to all my lovely friends who worry that I must need support (or there might be something wrong with me), I say this: I do have support. It’s in the deep knowing that there is hidden perfection in the seeming chaos. It’s in the experience of expansive abiding peace that is always here when the noise of the contracted and fearful mind subsides. And that peace is available at all times for the simple reason that peace is an essential quality of who I am…and who you are.

On that note: Keep Calm, and Be the Peace that You Are.

~ Lori Ann

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37 thoughts on “When You’re Okay and Everyone Else is Not

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  5. brendamarroy

    Beautiful, timely message. I’m reading A Course in Miracles and am learning what you are talking about here. Thank you for sharing and blessings to you and your hubby.


  6. Shyam, Dark Horse

    all that wants to be offered is “yes” , I have not met a hu-man “in person”, yet, who feels a similar equanimity,,, it encouer-ages this be-ing to know of a hu-man who experiences similarly…
    just Yes, just is. the every-day ness of every-thing. animals and nature guide me there/here.
    all love, all da time,


  7. Mark

    For me the bubbles eventually take the form of laughter, imagine how that would go over with the death of family member. (of course I don’t do it around them) Then again, I laugh at the seriousness of spiritual people too but that’s another story.


  8. Dawn

    My Goodness, Lori Ann… I got here round-about, of course, but cannot believe my eyes. I was just having this kind of conversation yesterday with a friend I treasure deeply who is wondering if I’m even “in there”… because I am going through some “horrific & weird” events right now and have been since 12/29/12, but don’t feel the need to sit and work through or integrate what is going on. Instead I keep moving onward and I like to think, upward, using whatever little energy I have at the moment to create something useful for my clients or compete something undone. She is VERY worried about the potential consequences of my emotional non-reaction to it all. I have been looking for the story of the ancient Chinese son who had events that looked one way/played out another but I think I will send her this post instead… or too… She cares deeply so it keeps concerning me that she hurts and worries for me so badly when I would rather have her see a side similar to this one…Thanx for this… Dawn


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  10. Sue Engle

    Lori Ann, thank you for explaining this so well. For I found myself doing much the same thing around my parents’ deaths… didn’t put myself in an emotional stew, merely got quiet for a while as I processed what happened and how my family was changing. And nobody around me understood it. But it felt far more right and natural than any other way of being. They died at the end of long, productive lives… what’s so unnatural about that? Simple acceptance was the only way to go.

    Glad your husband is on the mend. Even gladder I discovered your blog. LOVE your header.


  11. Davidya

    Wow – thanks once again for your radical honesty. Having seen you that evening at Igor’s and not knowing this was underway, I can vouch there was no drama. Solid equanimity is certainly a good marker for being established. But I know what you mean about others expectations.

    There is another layer of this as well. As the clarity deepens, the bliss will kick in. Then to some degree or other, you’ll be happy all the time – even when difficult emotions are passing by. This is even more disconcerting to others, partly as there will be a tendency to laugh at (with) almost anything that arises.

    How this arises varies by person. For some, it comes quietly and one day you realize there is this background unshakable happiness that’s been there for awhile. For others, it may come with a bang and a rapture. Or somewhere within that range.

    My (good) thoughts will be with you two.


    1. Lori Ann Lothian

      Hi Davidya

      Yes…well. It felt to me too like mostly a state of rapturous wonderment in the months post awakening–not sure if that qualifies as bliss, probably not. I’ve more and more found that what i am calling “peace” is not so much an absence of upset as it is the Presence of ….this gets tricky…the presence of All-ness. I call it that because it’s not empty, it’s not nothingness, it’s not void-like…it’s so full it flows over, this Allness. And it has flavors–peace, delight, wonderment, sweetness and a sublime appreciation for the moment as it is. (By the same token, irritation and annoyance can still show up here and there…but long gone, it seems, is the suffering self that spirials into the quagmire of thoughts and feelings, that feeding frenzy of the finite self.)

      Great to hug give you a big hug that night at Igor’s…and see you next time.


      1. Davidya

        Hi Lori
        Adyashanti talks about how there is often a “honeymoon” for the first some months, then the mind attempting to reassert itself, a time to wind some other stuff down. I sounds like your shift was deep enough to have moved past a lot of that pretty quickly

        Often people do describe the initial shift as into an emptiness (depending on their history) but as it becomes more clear, it’s recognized as not nothing (not to confuse this with later descriptions of Brahman) but rather everything or fullness. And that becomes an aspect of growing toward oneness.

        Yes, and the emotions that arise no longer stick. They just come, are seen and resolve. This is a huge part of winding down the “wheel of karma”.

        There can certainly be bliss initially. The Upanishads describe it as being in 10 levels, each 100x the intensity of the prior. Basically we tend to build up to it in stages. Curiously, what is dumb-foundingly intense becomes normal in a few days. There’s a thing though that I’ve heard a few teachers joke about, that you hope the rapture doesn’t happen while you’re in public. (laughs) Tom T’s interview on batgap gives an example.

        See you soon, hugs a-ready! 😉


  12. Erica Jagger (@ohgoderica)

    I’m so sorry to hear about your husband and I hope he has a speedy recovery. I agree with you — emotional reactivity helps no one and nothing, although most of us sink into it. Letting go of the things we can’t control is a discipline — sounds like one you’ve learned to do well.


    1. Lori Ann Lothian

      HI Erica…actually, the truth is I have not “learned” to do anything. That would be more like a mindfulness practice. Rather, it’s just the way life flows through me these days–witthout resistance. I can’t make that happen…it’s just what happens mostly because I suppose the suffering self has taken a hike. big hugs, and thanks for reading.


  13. Dave

    To be assured that ‘God abides’ through all situations and circumstances of life is a gift of faith. Your calmness “under fire” is a testament of being in the Presence. My best to you and your husband as he recovers from the stroke.


    1. Lori Ann Lothian

      thanks Dave…I want to qualify here. I don’t think about things as they happen with a mantra such as “God’s got my back” or “everything is perfect in this moment.” I used to do that kind of self talk before awakening. But looking back, I see that was the mind looking for a pacifier…this is more like just the way things are….read above comments to others for more details. thanks for your comment!


  14. Göran Backlund

    After my own awakening I noticed the same okayness with everything that you’re describing. My dog later died, and everyone expected me to be devastated; and when I wasn’t, when I was grateful instead, I was looked upon with suspicion – like I was a cold-hearted bastard, although I was just happy.


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