We all have goals for ourselves. Many are made on January 1 and we call them New Years resolutions. This year, I did something different though. I had summer resolutions.
Like many spoonies, I spend the majority of my energy on earning a living. This summer, I took a sabbatical from work. While I still had some responsibilities, I was determined to use my energy to make new friends and have some fun. Then, I realized something – I no longer remembered how to make friends. I have spent so long in the medical world that I have forgotten how to interact in “normal” conversations with my peers.
So, I started wracking my brain to remember how I made friends as a freshman in college. I knew I had to actually go out and meet people with similar interests, or maybe even dissimilar since I was in no position to be picky. And then I remembered the most important thing in any successful friendship. Authenticity and honesty.
I would consider myself an honest person, but it is not like chronic illness is such a great conversation topic. It usually makes people ask a zillion questions that I have answered before, or they just back away slowly, either literally or figuratively. So, when I meet people, I usually put up a front. I wear the makeup, I smile a lot, and I work hard to keep up with the conversation. But as a fellow spoonie once put it, the thought of being “on” is just too much most days.
However, I was determined to try. After all, I was not working so I had extra energy to spend. I went to a new small group, put up my front, and even felt like I was sort of being accepted into the group. And that is when it all started to tumble down. Because I was putting up the front, I was suddenly very aware of how much my body and mind now fail me. I was hyper aware of how much I play with my phone and how much I fidget while sitting. I hated that when I wanted to stand to avoid the metal chairs, someone brought me a chair because everyone else was sitting. Worse yet was when my anxiety kicked in because I did not know how to react to now unfamiliar social situations.
So now, I am 10 weeks in to this social exploration, and I feel like I have almost come to the point where I have to ‘fess up. I have to be honest about why I sit or stand in odd ways, why I miss events, why I can answer a lot of health questions with authority. I know some of my new friends have noticed but are polite enough not to ask. However, I know that real freedom will come when I tell the truth. Then, I can say why I am brave, why I can still smile, and why I still try. It is time to embrace the light.
I am brave because I believe Jesus is my Great Comforter and Healer. I smile because I know that I have survived my worst days so far, and I have no reason to believe I will not survive my next bad day. I still try because my chronic illness is not a death sentence. It is just a different way of living.
So, to anyone out there who just received a frightening diagnosis for the first time or the 10th time, or is just struggling to make it through today, believe in yourself and hope for brighter days. I am not going to deny that there are days that are impossible, but there are also days that are full of joy and life. Soak in those rays of sunshine however it may come your way. Maybe light is in your child’s eyes when you play that silly board game with them for the hundredth time. Maybe light is in the sun itself as you stretch to receive its warmth. And maybe light is found in your circle of friends who stand by you through sickness and health.
This summer has been all about relearning to find warmth and joy and life outside of work or a doctor’s office. I have been successful some days, and other days, I have cried in my car. This is all I know. I cannot be successful if I isolate myself. I have to embrace others and let them embrace me back. So, tomorrow night, I am going to go to that baseball game, put myself out there again, and just maybe I will step out into the light.
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