I have been more sick than usual this week, limping from room to room and inwardly whimpering when every step is like barbed wire twisting into my feet. I itch all over; when I scratch the touch of my nails feels like a second-degree burn. It’s decidedly unpleasant.
But I tell you, nothing makes you more grateful than spending five minutes on the internet. Because as bad as I have it with this pain-wracked body I love a good man who loves me. According to about 40% of what my friends post on Facebook, that’s a rarity. I have a home–several are losing theirs. I have kids who don’t make me crazy, who don’t send me to Facebook to complain about how awful they are.
It’s good to have reminders of the ways in which you have good things. Especially when so much of your life is driven by the necessary self-centeredness that severe chronic illness brings. Everything a person like me does is dictated by the parameters of pain and exhaustion. After a few years of this you forget what things are like for Regular People. I’ve been reading so much fantasy lately that when I dipped into a Christmas novella the other night I was struck by how much the book’s characters could do. I forgot what it was like to be able to work a job, fix a meal, go to church and then visit with friends afterward. By the end of the book I was in a self-pity funk. Here were characters in their fifties and sixties who were working, cooking, volunteering and loving. I stopped living such an active life in my early thirties. Now, in my early forties I wonder if there will ever be a time when I can both fix a meal AND have the energy to eat it afterward.
Really, though, I do know how lucky I am. That’s why I’m taking the time to write this post. I’ve got to go on record reminding myself that there are more than enough blessings to counteract the lesser blessings. And, truly, illness and pain aren’t curses as much as they ARE lesser blessings–blessings whose meanings aren’t immediately clear, blessings that seem like something you could do without. But any close examination of a lesser blessing shows the wing-strengthening potential of the situation. Do I have a better empathy with all sorts of people? Do I get the privilege of enjoying my dogs’ company all day? Am I able to hone my craft as a writer? Am I able to help people all around the world as the internet puts me in touch with recently-diagnosed people who are scared and unsure of what the road ahead will look like? Things like these diseases are less a derailment and more a change in trains.
I say though, that love is the thing that makes the difference for me. Love makes the pain bearable and shapes my outlook. Love I receive and love I give. Love turns the clanging cymbals of discord into the lovely music I march along to.