Once upon a time it was said that the French would join the Foreign Legion to escape the pain of a lost love or a broken heart.
Undoubtedly what they found in many cases was hardship and challenge far greater than they anticipated.
But perhaps this hardship and difficulty was something which was important, something critical even in getting them to pass through the pain of a love lost.
For our society is so well ordered and our lives so protected that when something really strikes at the heart, as only the loss of a dearly loved one can, that we seldom have anything truly challenging to make us get up off our arse and get going.
Its very difficult to make that motivation out of only will power alone.
So being in a situation where you find you are struggling for your life causes you to either be killed or struggle. Struggling to save your life, to get through the real and present danger that challenges you provides an urgency to do things that our instincts rise up to.
People have said to me that my own personal situation has been some kind of kick in the guts when I was already down.
It has taken me from the abstract notion of pondering my own death (at a time and manner of my choosing) to the real possibility of being killed by a bacteria (or perhaps from the treatments I am given to prevent that bacteria from killing me).
This time bomb in my chest (from the surgery in late 2011) has forced me to look deep into myself and see if I am made of the sort of stuff that can stand up and fight no matter what sort of shit is happening.
Despite wanting to lay down and cry (which I have of course been doing) I have stood up and researched this attacker and come to understand what is happening.This situation has essentially been my version of (without choosing to) joining the Foreign Legion.
I have often said that it is our responce to adversity that identifies our strength of character, that in adversity we often only become what we can truly become. Humans it seems to me do not show what they are really capable of in times of comfort and indulgence (though I assure you I do miss those gentle times together on the fouton or sitting on a mountain side looking at the beauty of nature).
I don't really know just yet if this bacteria will or won't kill me, but for sure it has forced me to do more than sit and examine my own losses.
Back in 1976 a mystery disease struck down some hundreds of people and killed 34 of them. This was the first time that the bacteria called Legionella was identified. It came from the Airconditioning systems of a hotel. My bacteria and the loss of my wife, reminded me of the struggle that romantic writers described that would drive a man to join the Foreign Legion and try to get over their losses
So I have decided to call this effect in my life the "Legionnaire Effect".
Perhaps others have had something similar influencing their path in grief. I can't say its helped me to get over my losses, but it has somehow made that pain stand out less by pouring more pain onto it. Sort of like hitting your thumb with a hammer to get rid of a headache I guess ...