With this new year has come a strange calm. A feeling that the control I thought I didn’t have I’ve never really lost. That being a healthy, active wife, mother for years to suddenly a disabled shadow of a person wasn’t because an illness came and took over, taking my control with it and making me a useless burden. But rather I was never promised the perfect life without struggles, and that is a good thing. Because it’s honestly is through the struggles of illness I have grown to be a better wife, mother and now grandmother.
There are hundreds of books by inspiring writers who are soldiering through illnesses, situations, troubles. On any given day I can turn the television on and accidentally end up watching an inspiring interview of a person who is beating the odds and thriving during adversity or scroll down my Facebook Newsfeed to see more inspiring stories, situations that are far worse than mine could ever be. It’s during these moments I realize that had I not “gotten” Lupus or struggled with Achalasia I think I would have just turned the channel, or just kept scrolling down my Newsfeed until a funny video caught my eye or a new recipe looked like something I should copy down. That my illnesses have made me more in tune to others. Their stories inspire me, some break my heart, some anger me and push me to join the cause. My illnesses opened up a world, one of compassion, understanding and strength.
If you live long enough, chances are you’ll find yourself in a battle with your body or a battle for your body. I’m always amazed to see 102 year old women telling their stories of living a good life, drinking wine every night, dancing a lot, eating fried foods and drinking coffee since the age of 17. But they all have something in common, and that is in their life, at some point, they have had adversity. Whether it’s the loss of their loving spouse or child to beating cancer. They all have found themselves in a struggle. They made it through those times and it made them a better person, or at least a person with an interesting or inspiring story to tell and a view on life that can only come from pain, heartache and struggle. They laugh, they smile, they understand and I hear a lot of the same advice, “stop worrying, be kind to others, work hard, we are entitled to nothing, and most of all love the people in your life and love your life, it’s a beautiful thing.”
I understand though, that at my age and for younger people, struggle is tough and seems unfair. Along with any given situation comes anxiety, panic, pain, hateful people, loneliness, loss of hope. For me it’s been a process. I’ve had to process through my illnesses as if I am getting a divorce and going through the stages of denial, sadness, anger, acceptance, renewal. I’ve lost close loved ones and friends during my illnesses and I wasn’t thinking about how sick I felt, I was grieving their loss. Those same stages, denial; “their really gone? No no no,” sadness, anger; “why Lord, why now? Don’t you know how much I need them in my life?” to acceptance; “I miss you so much, but I know you’re in a better place and suffering no more” to a sense of a new life for me, one where I must learn to accept the things I cannot change and make the best of the life I have that is still very much alive and with people in it who love me.
In writing this post I notice I haven’t mentioned the doctor who was mean to me or misdiagnosed me, the medication I hate, the fear of another hospital visit. That’s a first for me. I control how I feel and whether I choose to use this day to remember good memories and move forward or sit in solitude waiting for night to come, playing over and over in my head just how crappy I feel, worrying what tomorrow will bring and just wasting a day. A day where I had enough energy to complain and worry but choosing to waste it doing that? Why not turn those thoughts to making some goals, letting a loved one know I love them by calling, talking to them laughing with them. By the way, laughing releases endorphins that help pain. So does music!
I’m not completely there yet. I mean, I still can get pretty down, or feel tinges if hopelessness. But the honest truth for me is, my illnesses are manageable. There are ways to live a full life, just a different life. I used to grieve the old me, the horse training, stunt woman judicial law clerk, bass guitar playing me. I’m taking the advice of the 102 year old woman who said, stop worrying and enjoy life, however it is for me. I’m still so viable, my grandsons look up to me, I soak that in!! Because soon there will come a day that the eyes start rolling and the “yeah whatever ” will be heard. I’ve found the control I never lost like a when I found the vacuum cleaner attachment for the hose to clean along the baseboards! There it is!!! Let’s use it as it’s intended, for good, the good of a clean floor. My control, get to using it, for good, to control how I will allow illness to affect me and how I will process through all the stages in life to come. Me, in full control.
A single day at a time, and most importantly giving myself the permission to feel sadness, anger, and sorry for myself. God gave us those emotions for a reason I feel. I just won’t take up residence there this year.