Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dark Gift

 It’s a little after 4:00 Am and, as is becoming my new “norm,” I’ve been up for almost an hour. And quiet hours quickly get filled with thoughts…

 As I sat here this morning sifting through the mountain of stuff in the various and sundry in-boxes of my “social networking” it dawned on me just how much has changed in the last year. How much and, honestly, how quickly…

 My mind keeps wandering back to a passage from “Dancing At The River’s Edge” by Alida Brill and Michael D. Lockshin, M.D. In the book, Ms. Brill talks repeatedly about the fact that we (those living with chronic illness) move in different Worlds from those inhabited by the “healthy people.” She writes of how we speak our own language, keep time differently, and gauge our accomplishments differently. I remember reading this and thinking it made perfect sense. But I don’t think I fully understood what she meant until the all-too-early hours of this morning.

 In the last month, I have noticed fewer and fewer comments, messages, and “likes” from my friends from my “former” life. There have been fewer announcements about “get togethers” and whose band is playing where…These announcements have been replaced by news bits about “Awareness Days” or “Tips For Beating Fibro Fog.” There are new “friend requests” involving tag-lines of “Spoonie” or “Chronic Illness.”

 My inbox is still filled with the normal joys of a daughter’s first softball game, the excitement of attending a first Formal Dance, and a husband competing in a “mud crawl.” But these “normal” announcements are in a new context…The joy of not only watching her daughter play in her first game, but BEING ABLE to be there and watch! The excitement of attending her first Formal becomes something more when you realize this is a 13 year old battling Juvenile Arthritis and the pictures are interspersed with pictures of her infusion treatment. The laughter at trying to figure out exactly what a mud crawl is also brings a smile of pride, since he’ll be competing wearing a Fibromyalgia Awareness T-shirt with hundreds of names on it…one of them yours!

 This will sound REALLY odd, but becoming sick has opened doors to a whole different world for me…I won’t necessarily tell ya the ride is worth the price of admission…not sure anyone would really claim that. But I will claim that this new chapter has been its own dark gift. In the last year, my eyes have been opened to so much that, as a “healthy person” I never had the time to see. (OK, never took the time to see.) The books I’ve read, the people I’ve “met”, the different Realms that exist inside this strange, New World I’ve passed into…these are things I probably never would have learned of from the other side of the border.

 And yes…I did refer to this new life as a dark gift. I think it would be a strange person who would want what so many of us live with, yet it‘s given me opportunities I may never have taken. I’ve learned so much about all the “amazing” ways a body can turn on itself…and all the ways the human spirit can rise up to meet those challenges! I’ve stumbled across the sadder folks who are stuck on the anger, and I‘ve encountered even more who have chosen to greet each day with joy and hope. These latter are the ones I gravitate towards…emotions are contagious, and I’d much rather catch “hopeful joy”…

 And even the “darkness” has been it’s own opportunity to truly appreciate the light in my life. I can tell you, I never TRULY appreciated how good it felt to wake up every morning until I began waking up feeling like a bad batch of taffy!

 Before, caught-up in the day-to-day work, family, bills, etc. etc…I never gave myself a breather to step back and be grateful for all I have in my life! Like most, it was the stress and worry that drew my focus.

 Now…I spend most mornings watching the sunrise, completely amazed at it’s constant beauty. I take the time to not just talk to the kids, but talk with them. I understand just how lucky I am to have a loving, supportive partner…And that may be the biggest gift I’ve been given…gratitude…for every day!
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