Approach life gently. Treat life kindly. Live life fully and with enthusiasm.
Respect life--always.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Lemons For Lemonade

This is in honor of Invisible Illness Week. Nearly half of us are affected by an invisible illness, and being invisible, most are unaware of our struggles. I had debated whether or not my blog was worthy of Invisible Illness Week, but then I thought, what better way to boost the morale of other chronically ill people than to show how I am living my life despite my illness.

I was watching the opening ceremony for this weekend’s NASCAR race. The Star Spangled Banner played, and I could only think of this one line: “Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.” How powerful, that one line in a poem from so long ago. Our flag still flies, no matter how many battles she has been through.

How often do we too easily give up, allowing our flags to fall? How often do we let life get the better of us? How often are we held hostage by the things we complain about, yet do nothing to change? We complain about the high cost of groceries, yet we don’t clip coupons and we certainly don’t plant a single tomato plant in our back yard, in an attempt to fend off those high costs. We complain about our houses being cluttered, yet we don’t lift a finger to rid ourselves of that unnecessary junk. We know we wronged a friend, no matter how inadvertently, but we don’t humble ourselves to mend that much needed relationship. Instead we tell ourselves that they should make the first move.

Forgiveness is a mighty powerful notion. Responsibility is another.

More personally, how often do we let our aches and pains keep us from what we enjoy? There are levels of pain, just as there are variations in the colors of the rainbow. When we are chronically ill, each day proves to be colorful, yet we must carry on. We must take charge of our lives and live each day to its fullest despite the pain. Each day with less pain is incredibly valuable. Notice that I did not say, “with no pain.”

For now, I can only manage to watch NASCAR from my recliner. The thrill of the race pounding within my veins. I’ve been known to be somewhat of a daredevil, back in the day. I fondly remember the days before becoming so ill when, late at night, I raced my Grand Prix down 205, just for the heck of it. My top of the line stereo system fascinated me, as the faster I sped, the louder it got. It is a wonder I never got caught, with my ‘80s rock blasting from my open windows and my blonde hair wildly flying. I miss those days, and I mourn the loss of my Grand Prix. It had to be sacrificed for my medical expenses, like so many of my other favorite possessions.

But it is a new day, even if I have the same old issues with pain and fatigue. My flag still flies.

There is a saying, if given lemons, make lemonade. I could mourn all my losses. My Pontiac. My home of 13 years. My sense of freedom granted me by having my own paycheck. My beautiful bedroom set, with the armoire which I coveted for years before acquiring. At least I can visit it, since I sold it to a friend. All the junk the materialistic me collected over the years. My truck, which is the next thing to go on the auction block. I could mourn all my losses, but in the long run, all these possessions mean nothing. Ten years from now, I may not even remember most of them, though my Pontiac still stings when I think of her.

Releasing all these things into the wind allows me to step forward into a life more fitting of my dreams. We cannot travel if overly encumbered. The house, though it broke my heart, I know we could not have maintained it during our travels, even if I didn’t have outrageous medical bills to contend with. We would have had to sell it one way or another. And we have eased ourselves into the sale of our very dependable truck. If we need one in the future, we can rent. Isn’t that why there’s a U-Haul industry?

So, if I can live without all these possessions, the things I just had to have at the time, is there not a way to live with my illness, and still accomplish my goals? Yes, with a shift in perception.

Those who do not suffer pain daily assume we do not have pain when they see us determinedly working towards our dreams and goals. We have a secret, and maybe that is part of the reason we become invisible. We learn to work through our pain. We learn to work through our fatigue. We learn to live despite our ailments, and we put on a good face. We are no different, really, than the marathon runner, who pushes through her pain to finish the race. We just have to push through more often than not.

I no longer envy the marathon runner. I was just not meant to be her, though I used to dream of running as I once had in my teens. I may be slow and no longer able to run, but God will still get me where I am going, one step at a time.

I no longer envy the mountain climber. Denali is just as beautiful to look upon as from. Just to stand in her glorious shadow, I know I will still feel the presence of God, as if I were at the summit. Besides, life is best lived in the valleys. That’s where Jesus walks with us. That is where Jesus carries us after we fall. We learn the lessons in life by getting to the summit (or our goal), rather than from the summit itself. Would you feel the same, having been dropped onto the summit by helicopter, as you would from climbing there yourself?

My adventuresome spirit will still be satisfied despite having Lyme disease. I can enjoy life from the passenger seat of the Raven, allowing my hubby the thrill of determining our course and speed. How I will get my necessary medical treatments while on the road has yet to be determined, but as with all other challenges, I know we will figure this one out, too.

My life may be different than what I had envisioned as a small child, dreaming of being a doctor or a teacher or a dancer. I could never make up my mind, anyway. But my life is mine. It is the only one I have. There must be a reason God gave me these challenges, and therefore, I must do the most I can with what I have been given.

Looking at the lemons, I have lost more than many could bear. Yet as I taste the lemonade, it is wonderfully sweet. I have a husband and a son who are my knights in shining armor when I need them. I have three Pugs and a cat who give me my daily dose of belly laughs and snuggles. I have the freedom to travel, given to me because of my illness rather than in spite of my illness. I have a circle of friends who are willing to rally around me even when I am at my worst. And I have all of you, and because of you, I know I am not alone in my hopes, dreams, and difficulties.

My flag still flies, though a little tattered from many battles. Does yours?
Our grandson with Tinker Belle, Suzie, and Max

Our grandson serenading Julius

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