Turns out, it wasn’t some weird spiritual experience. It was the onset of illness. I got really, really sick.
I slept all the time. I didn’t feel like eating and I could barely get myself to drink water. I felt like my body was shutting down. I wasn’t really in pain, and I wasn’t even really all that uncomfortable. It was a weirdly pleasant sensation, like rising up through flames and floating on ash. I guess I was sort of delirious.
I started thinking about what a pleasant experience it would be to die. Leaving my body. My body felt so tired. I could circle my thighs with my hands. I was disappearing. I wasn’t sure I minded. In fact, I think I liked it.
At one point, I woke up and got a glass of orange juice. It really, really hurt to drink it.
But I drank it anyway.
And then I poured myself another glass.
And I drank it.
My throat was raging.
My muscles ached.
I was so uncomfortable.
But I wasn’t dying, and that pleasant seduction had left me, and I felt like I was going to be OK, if I could only drink another glass of orange juice, a glass of water, and maybe a cup of tea. I was alive.
Then Ted came home.
He wrapped me in a hug and tucked me back into bed.
“You don’t look so great, Starshine,” he said.
I slept some more, and when I woke, I found a glass of water and herbal tea on the nightstand.
Ted was in the kitchen.
“I think you’ll live!” he said.
I told him I had no idea what had been wrong with me.
He asked me how the year had been. I told him about training and racing and studying and doing everything to get a verbal, and then how the coach at USM gave me my verbal commitment and how now I knew I could go to college year after next, provided I stayed fit and kept up my grades.
And then, I realized that I’d lost so much strength during my illness.
“But I guess it won’t happen now,” I said. “I’m pretty well shattered.”
“You may be broken,” he said, “but you’re not shattered.”
“I don’t have any strength left,” I said.
“You’ve been pushing yourself too hard. Anybody would get ill if they pushed themselves like you did. It’s a breakdown, but it’s not the end.”
And then he told me a story.
“Have you ever heard of Akhilandeshvari?”
Of course I hadn’t.
“The name ‘Akhilan’ means ‘never not broken,’ and ‘deshvari’ means goddess. Akhilandeshvari is the goddess who is never not broken.”
“And truthfully,” he said, “if you look at any of us, is there ever a time when any of us are not broken, are truly, completely whole?”
“I’m always striving for wholeness,” I said.
“What if you didn’t strive?” he asked.
“Then I’d remain broken,” I replied.
“Exactly.” He continued with his story. “Now time was when Akhilandeshvari was a very angry god. You know, she was the type that if you didn’t come ‘just so’ she would curse you! And so people were afraid to worship her. All except the really driven people. They came in droves, for it was said that a blessing from Akhilandeshvari, whose name also means ‘Goddess who Rules the Universe,’ was sure to guarantee success.”
“What kind of success?”
“Any success. It’s Akhilandeshvari who I worshiped when I worked on Wall Street, though I didn’t realize it at the time. Oh, she was an angry goddess, and nothing anyone could ever do was ever good enough for her!
“But then one day, her beloved Shiva came in the form of a worshiper and gave her a pair of earrings. They were like multifaceted crystals. And it’s said that then all her anger blasted through the earrings and blasted through her and blasted her into a million pieces! And that’s when the light shone through her so brightly. She became the brightest Starshine on the planet.”
The next day, I felt well enough to go outside. But I didn’t feel like training.
I hung out in the garden with Ted, and the sun shone.
I carved another dragon.
“I’ll go running after this,” I told Ted.
“What for?” he asked. “Aren’t you wearing your crystal earrings? Slow down. Shine. That’s all you need to do.”
I didn’t train once for the rest of the summer. I spent the days in the sun. I slept. I let my mind daydream. I stood cupped in the palm of the meadow, with the fingers of mountains gently open all around me, and the sunshine streaming down. Oh, I was broken, all right! I was broken into a million pieces, and the light inside and the light outside were one.