May The Fourth Be With You…

May-The-4th-Be-With-You-Star-Wars-Day-2011-2012-yoda-fluro-lightsaber-banner-May-The-Fourth-Be-With-you-2013May 4, 2015

I birthed a Star Wars Geek. He is almost 9 years old and Stars Wars is his SPARK. He is a sponge when it comes to anything Star Wars, so that means that his mama (me) has by default come to know more about Star Wars that she ever though possible. A bit of background…Star Wars came out long before the 24-hour news cycle, before TV shows like Entertainment Tonight or entire cable channels devoted to “entertainment.”

So when Star Wars premiered in the spring of 1977, it was advertised mostly by word of mouth. People of all ages saw it, loved it and spoke about it. Although there had been many Sci-Fi movies out, there was something very different about this new generation of Sci-Fi Films. The effects, the story, the visuals, the characters, the philosophy…they all spoke to even the non-geeks in the audience.

My boy didn’t really know about Star Wars until last September, that’s when his father and I decided to share the six-part movies series with him. It had been years since I had seen the original three and the follow up three movies. I was 9 years old when the first movie came out and I can’t even recall the last time I viewed it, so I decided to wipe my memory clean and viewed it as if I was my son, for the first time ever.

I attempted to watch the film through his eyes. His wide eyes took in every morsel of the film: the language, the visuals and the values in the first episode blew him away and subsequently, I was blown away. When young Luke first met Old Ben (Obi-Wan to you and me,) my son turned to me and said, “He’s the Master.” I was befuddled a bit, how did he know?

As we continued to watch during our family film festival, I was truly astounded by the gravity of understanding, valuable advice and wisdom that comes through the characters: Yoda, the Master, Obi-Wan the Samurai Warrior, Luke as the Chosen One. I’m not even going to get into the political repartee that is exchanged between the “Council” and the “Dark Side.” As a 40-something mother, I saw so much more in the films than I imagined I could. This movie has lots to teach us about life, especially life when you have a chronic, debilitating disease.

At one point, Obi-Wan states that, “Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our point of view.”

For sure! Obi, you are speaking directly to me! My POV has changed since diagnosis, since I learned that all these disparate symptoms actually add up to something called Ankylosing Spondylitis.

My ability to engage in empathy has deepened. I shift first into empathy rather than judgment (although prior to all this, I was never a very judgmental person,) when I encounter a new person, or situation. I find myself standing in another’s shoes so much easier these days. My truths have changed. I have become less rigid, I no longer expect that anyone’s truth or perspective is just like mine, which seems directly opposed to what I should feel now that I have found a community that has the same disease as I do. I have learned over that last few years that my fellow ASers and I are all suffering in our own ways. I like to imagine that if you lined all of up, we’d be painted with a brush of blue, but each of us would be a differing hue. My color blue is not the same as my neighbor and my truth is not the same as my neighbor.

The truth is that I must honor everyone’s truth when it comes to traveling through life with A.S.

Next we have our rebel majestic and uber handsome Han Solo…who reveals much about his character and surname, he is after all SOLO! Han proclaims, “There’s no mystical energy field that controls my destiny.

Han is a truly independent character and in being so, he takes care of himself. I know there are times when I must deal with A.S. solo, I must go my own way and take care of myself, as no one can ever really understand what is happening inside of my body than me.

You can tell me of your successes on chemo, or opiates or gluten free or full of essential oils and I will celebrate for you, but I need to find my own path through this journey with A.S.

Plus, Han’s words give me freedom to change my mindset, I am not owned by A.S., it does not have to control my life.

Next we have Master Yoda speaking these words, “Do or do not…there is no try.

I want to rebel against this, I want to yell at Yoda that he is wrong…I want to explain to anyone that might listen that the effort comes in the try, that the lesson is in how you try. That try is more important than outcome, but it seems I am merely experiencing a moment of delusion and that I have doubt in my own creed and personal ethics.

How can this quote stick with me when I feel it to be profoundly wrong? If I step away from my ego for a moment, I see this quote as stating that I should believe in my own abilities. That perhaps confidence can be found in going beyond “try” and accepting that if I erase hesitation or doubt than I am actually doing, not merely trying. Erasing doubt is a full time job.

I was asked the other day what was my “button” was. I had to think for a bit and when I was ready, the word DOUBT came out of my mouth. My companion at the time seemed shocked. She sees me as super strong and without doubt as I have jumped into the deep end of life over and over again.

But even though I am a mighty swimmer and I am often fearless, I do have doubt. Am I good enough? Have I done enough? Have I been a role-model? I doubt myself frequently and doubt is the button that still can be pushed. If I listen without doubt, I find that Yoda is impressing onto me that it is time for me to get over my doubt, and just do it.

I do truly maintain a positive attitude when it comes to A.S., but like anyone who is suffering daily, I have fear. Yoda implores that “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.

I could hate my A.S. I could hate my immune system for going bankrupt on me. I could hate the people in my life who show me more resentment than compassion. But where will this hate take me? It takes me into a dark, hopeless place. Fear is built into us from our caveman days, we are hard wired to react to situations that strike a chord in us; it is part of our survival system. It’s almost as if it lives in our limbic system…allowing us to create our deep memories only from the things we fear most.

Our deep memories are the things that develop into our personal life creeds. These memories allow us to categorize all the information that comes our way. If I live in fear, that all I will ever see in the world is danger. If I live without fear than I live in a fantasy world of lollipops and unicorns and my nickname is PollyAnna.

I could be angry with my situation or I could accept that a few of my thoracic vertebrae have joined forces. I could steep in my suffering, swim in a dark, strong pool of “Pity for Me Tea” or I can accept that my body reacts to inflammation in a unique manner and that I must actually care for my body and respect that it has actually done good for me.

This quote reminds me that I always have a choice. Shall I live in fear and always have the need to be defensive? Will I live in fear and attempt to protect myself from every possible thing that could go wrong? Might I spend my whole life worrying about things that will probably never happen?

I go back to the idea of NO TRY…I will do it, I will open myself to empathy, compassion, love and the goodness that surrounds me.

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Karen Fitch

Karen Swank-Fitch captains Team Fitch Feet in their second year participating in WYASO. Her family is based in Northern California. A former educator, she is now a dedicated stay-at-home-mother and community organizer and volunteer. Raising her 3rd grade son is one of the greatest joys she has ever known. She's been with her husband for 15 remarkable years. Karen was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis in mid-2013. Admittedly, it was not the summer she had planned for her family. Through education and support from her medical team and her family, friends and community, plus sheer will, she has become a vocal warrior in her battle against A.S. She is a genuinely upbeat woman and learning this new paradigm has slowed her down. She looks at the lessons she is learning about herself, her body, and how she fits into her world. Presently she's working on a manuscript of poems that deal with the grieving aspect of facing a life altering disease. When she's not enveloped in her role and wife/mother/warrior, she can be found volunteering her time.

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3 Comments

  1. Richard Howard

    on May 5, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    Reply

    Wonderful blog. Thank you for sharing all those Star Wars references, so much fun to read the quotes from Hans and Yoda and love how you applied them to your journey. Thank you, again.

  2. Adrienne Taren

    on May 5, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    Reply

    Great post. I really want to re-watch star wars now…

  3. Andy Martin

    on July 4, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    Reply

    Karen Swank-Fitch you inspire me on the 4th of July 2015. We done. You didn’t “try” you did it. The power and truth and force of the Star Wars stories comes from their integrative combination of all things into one shared life experience. It has found a way to suggest the oneness and the is-ness and interconnectedness of all things and experiences. It allows all people it connect all all levels and all perspectives that everyone or “every person” experiences a shared store of truth that is individual yet collective in nature and impact. And the only way we can complete our training with the force is to confront and face and embrace or fears and shadows and the dark side of our life journeys and recognize that those thoughts and feelings are not when we truly are…. the are powerful but only partial views or the total full force beings that we are intended and capable of being.

    Thank you for sharing your life force with me/us

    The Force runs strong in you family. Yoru parents had it. You child has it. And you have it.

    And yes may the 4th be with you always.

    Andy- Wan-Kenobi- Martin

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