Feature image from ITPANDME
In Bali, there is a daily practice of giving offerings to both good and bad spirits alike. There is no discrimination when the Balinese bless their homes. They anticipate ill fortune as eagerly as they hope for the good.
Every morning that my partner and I lived in Bali, a Balinese boy would come to the front of our house, light incense at our door and leave gifts of fruit and flowers for the kind and evil spirits. Sometimes he left a lolly, or an egg, other times a wedge of watermelon. Always, he left flowers, incense and a prayer.
The Balinese are resilient, patient and happy. They see the good in everything, and know how to take the evil spirits out to dinner and win them over with treats and candy.
I learnt a lot from this practice. Before I lived in Bali, I would dread going to the doctor. Before I lived in Bali I resented being ill. Since my time in Bali I have taken a different approach to my illness.
In the past, I would anxiously head to pathology too early. During the appointment, my palms would sweat with anticipation of the needle. I had started to attach so much emotion and anxiety onto the act of having a blood test that it would ruin my whole day. Afterwards, feeling sore and sorry for myself, I would grumble all the way home, poor me… blah blah blah – my life sucks, needles are painful and intrusive and they make me sad. Blah blah blah… My arm hurts, my count will probably be really low and I’ll have to have another one soon. Why do I have ITP and no one else does?
Now, I have a ritual on the days when I get a blood test. It is like a date I take myself on. I always buy myself a coffee and allow enough time to walk all the way to the doctors office.
I strut along listening to great music and I smile as much as I can, drinking coffee and feeling free. I take whatever I am reading (Tolstoy at the moment) and relax in the waiting room, remembering that there are not many people who are able to sit for 10, or 15 mins today reading a good book without feeling guilty.
I am kind towards my ITP. I give it treats sometimes and I take it out on a little date after we get a blood test even though it came to me in the guise of an evil spirit. I have realised that it is not going to go away, so I have decided to invite it in for dinner.
I make time so that there is no rush. As the needle goes through my skin, I remind myself how lucky I am to have access to clean, safe and affordable health care. On the way out I buy a small paper cup of hot chips before I walk home. My body is so accustomed to this treat and that I get a bit excited when I remember what day it is.
I remind myself that I have a condition that is being researched and studied. That it is treatable and manageable and that on its own, it is rarely fatal. I smile and get on with my day.