You Don’t Look Sick, But You Do Look Old – Aging

Me with new grandson, Kade Robert 12-14-14
Me with new grandson, Kade Robert 12-14-14

With the New Year always comes new promises to myself. If I keep them…. wonderful! If I don’t…. awww that was a bit out there, I’ll re-evaluate that one next year if I’m fortunate enough to see 2016 which my chance of seeing it is as likely as the next person.  I don’t feel that Lupus SLE or pancreatitis or living near an active volcano, Mt. St. Helens, puts me in the “danger to not see the next year” club more so than the next person. I am not, unfortunately, the type of person who can make myself a nice, warm cup of green tea and sit at my kitchen table staring out at the grandeur of the breath taking, snow covered mountains I’m blessed to live near. To relax and go deep in thought of life, loves, future. I truly wish I could slow down and do so. But I am the type of person who tramples through each day I’m able to on fast forward as my Lupus allows, at high speed, breaking things as I go and missing out on so much. That is why I tell myself I’m not a marathon runner like my daughter, because I can’t pace myself. I would start out in a sprint as fast as I could go and you would find me at the 3 mile mark, passed out and done, not even making it far enough to get the T-Shirt or a medal for that matter. Slow and steady wins the race and benefits from the beauty that surrounds us all.  But I was able these last several weeks to slow down and take it all in which started me on the process of looking at my life and what things I’d change if I wanted to and could, and what things I might want to change but have to realize, I can’t.

I ended 2014 at the bedside of my brother-in-law passing away of heart failure and two days later, sitting in the waiting room awaiting the arrival of my third grandson. All of 2014 I’ve been living with my other sister and brother-in-law who is suffering from pulmonary fibrosis. My sister (his wife) is a breast cancer survivor for the last 15 years and recently it came back and she finished up 2014 with her second mastectomy and a smile on her face. Both of my sisters are older than I am and are like parents/best friends to me.  I was an accident they say, born to my parents late in life and spoiled rotten.

Braeden and little brother Kade
Braeden and little brother Kade

As if God wanted me to see that nothing is set in stone here on earth. That doctors can predict, “you are terminal and have 6 months to live, get your affairs in order” (as in the case of my brother-in-law with pulmonary fibrosis) but you’ve passed the 6 month mark and have lived on for another 12 months and still going strong, a bit less active but living life. That the person who seemed healthy as a horse suddenly passes away of heart failure. That you may have breast cancer AGAIN but are now titled, “breast cancer survivor” for the second time.  All these events made me think that God wanted me to see that LUPUS SLE is not a death sentence, a “my life as I know it is OVER and I will be bed ridden and NEVER enjoy another outing or activity again.” way of thinking was really wasting some valuable time. That worrying about the worst case scenarios in a situation only takes away from the blessings you really do have. The obvious pain and limitations persist, but I’m learning to live with it and say it’s OK to retreat to my bed and take care of my body and my soul.

This past year I did find myself admitted into the hospital several times for digestive, and pancreas issues but for the most part, my SLE symptoms are the same…..annoying. And that is how I think I should view my illness, as “annoying” and not allow it to define the person God made me to be. Since my diagnosis in 2002 or 2004, see I’ve even forgot how long I’ve been fighting it, I’ve moved through life slowly dragging my feet, downcast head, what’s next, why me?  Which I feel was the worst part of the illness, how it changed my optimistic attitude. Took away my spunk.

My new grandson, Kade Robert!
My new grandson, Kade Robert!

This has become tiring and in 2014 I began to take each day at a time because life doesn’t quit giving you issues, problems, situations both good and bad just because you are ill with a chronic illness. SO, I looked in the mirror, ready to declare, “SUSIE! Get a smile on that face and go take out your garbage and make a pie! You can do it!” but to my horror, the person looking back at me had aged. The dark circles and wrinkles had arrived full on. So what?! I’m alive, but I couldn’t help but think, goodness me how can I begin my new outlook on life looking like this? How shallow.

How do you age gracefully when you are fighting an illness that affects your self-esteem? I don’t agree with the “But you don’t LOOK sick” adage of Lupus. After my first “flare” which, by the way, is a terrible word to use to identify your illness is in full attack mode. I’m straying off course here, what I’m saying is FLARE? REALLY? But then I looked up the definition of FLARE, I realized I had it confused with FLAIR. I thought using “FLARE” to describe our illness meant we were stating we suddenly had a “smartness of style, a keen ability to stand out beautifully in a crowd…” Now with that cleared up, I’ll continue.

We are waiting patiently in waiting room
We are waiting patiently in waiting room

Before my diagnosis, I joined a friend  into having some “work” done.  Lasers, injections, a bit of this a bit of that. Now that I look at myself, since the “work” has ran it’s course and SLE brought me back to my age appropriate self. I feel foolish for doing all that.  Had I not gotten SLE I wouldn’t feel foolish because I wouldn’t have understood what it means to live daily fighting for the life given you. But I don’t beat myself up for my former, shallow self. That was then, this is now. Things change and I’ve certainly changed, with new priorities. That’s the beauty of aging! The old things fall away, and the new things take their place.

I realized that what none of these procedures, injections, creams can do is change your soul, your heart, your wisdom which would all, sooner or later, let you know how empty worrying about and wasting years on staying young would be. We are all growing older, and like they say, “Growing Old is a Privilege Denied to Many.” I missed the days on the ranch when my hours were spent working with the horses, feeding, irrigating, ranching. The only time I looked in the mirror was when I brushed my teeth and got dressed for work. But, I replaced my regular mirror with a 5 times MAGNIFIED mirror. So I could really look at my face and examine any imperfections during the “let’s get rid of the wrinkles and try to stop aging” years.  Who knows? Maybe all the injections, creams and procedures could have jump started my illness? Doesn’t really matter at this point.

Braeden, Me holding Kade and Hunter
Braeden, Me holding Kade and Hunter

Aging is an illness in itself for many I believe. Because when I became increasingly ill, with no diagnosis, the aging process became secondary to the living process. I had something that made me very ill and I didn’t care about wrinkles, I was worried that I wasn’t going to make it to old age, or older age. So Lupus, SLE, in a way saved me from my profound obsession with aging. But SLE DID undo all I’d had done. The botox, the skin resurfacing, the injections, the surgeries. I now had rashes, sores, bags under my dry skin wrinkled eyes.

So, with these new revelations I’ve made, I have to say I’m glad I’m me. I’ve seen life slip away from someone suddenly, I’ve seen life come into this world. I’ve realized that feeling sorry for myself is a huge waste of time because I am more than blessed. My grandsons make me feel young, looking at my daughter grown up and a mom of three makes me feel old. Not a bad thing, I just know that life doesn’t go on forever and I best start out 2015 with a more positive outlook on my life, illness, but most of all, the multitude of BLESSINGS the Lord gives to me each day. I shall start 2015 giving those people who treat me with disrespect a piece of the Old Susie. I shall find activities I can do where I give back. And finally, I shall be the person I’ve always wanted to be since my diagnosis, Susie, the same Susie as before, not “Susie who has Lupus” or “Poor Susie, she’s sick” or “I think I’ll take advantage of Susie’s good nature because she’s just too weak to notice or care.”  Then I will check in with this posting on January 1, 2016 hopefully and see how I did.

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