In the spirit of full disclosure, when I compare my life prior to chronic illness to the life I have today there have been a couple of surprising changes that I didn’t anticipate, and that I am pleasantly surprised about. It is truly amazing that
from out of the maelstrom of problems, difficulties, challenges, pains and losses a few surprises have washed up onto the shore like treasures. But I have had to search long and hard for them.
Prior to this life, which I shall call BI (before illness) I was too busy working that I almost always ‘never had time’. I was always constantly in the endless search for time to do things. Juggling work / life balance and trying to run around pleasing so many other people that I was always time poor.
I would always promise myself that I would devote time to reading and enjoying literature again; but I never did. I promised myself that I would make a conscious effort to put more thought and develop my intellectual abilities, instead of constantly focusing my mind on work driven activities and work skills; but I never found the time. I promised myself that one day I would examine my life a little more and take time to work through some of my baggage and be introspective; but I never had the time. I also wanted dearly to get to know better the man that I was living with and would someday call my husband, but, you guessed it, I never found the time.
All these things that I knew would be helpful to me as a person, helpful to my self esteem, self confidence, resilience and helpful to my most intimate of relationships, I never took the time to prioritize as I was either working myself as hard as I could, or, I was doing my best to avoid any further burdens or complications, fearing it would be too much to take on when my life was devoted to working, climbing, securing, buying and competing with the rest of the work force.
I look back on that period of my life now with utter surprise that I had spent most of my life and almost all of my health running around in a hive of activity, but not really doing some of the things that deep down I desperately wanted to do. I look at other people still locked into these lives, often too busy to grow as people, to connect with others on a deeper level, too busy to examine, question, understand and work through some of their life long ‘baggage’ because modern life does not allow for this. it sweeps us along and force feeds us what it wants us to think, do, feel, like, enjoy, pursue, achieve and become.
I still see many people (dear to me) white knuckling their lives until Friday, until the holidays, until the end of the year, until the kids leave, until they retire… In the meantime the weekends are an endless routine, crammed with duties and obligations and probably made more tolerable by drinking and shopping themselves into a stupor. Was I any different then? No. Am I any different now? Completely.
Although I dearly wish I had the health and the physical abilities that I once had, I am now more reliant on my mind, my spirit and my internal capabilities more than I have ever been in my entire life. For example, I remember the day I wheeled myself down to the library in our home and ran my hands over the books that we had collected over the years, and I took down some unread treasures that I was always ‘planning to read someday’ and with aching hands I opened the front cover. It felt cool and crisp to my touch and there was something wonderful, like coming home after a long day and climbing into bed. And so it began my AI (after illness) life.
Since then I have managed a couple of other milestones too. I have done a lifetimes worth of soul searching and have been systematically working through every ‘inch’ of my psyche, my insecurities and leaving no stone unturned. Everyday I would make both happy and painful discoveries, but always learning something new about myself and finally putting to rest some old demons. I have been remaking a more confident, more emotionally aware and peaceful person, from the inside out
I then started to get to know the truest and most treasured friend that I never realized I had. He had been waving goodbye and saying hello to me every day for 11 years, but I never truly realized what a true friend and truly remarkable man I had been living with all these years. The man that would help me out of my wheelchair and gently place me on my bed. The man that would wipe my tears and hold my hand. The man that has read to me, laughed with me and stood up to the world for me when I was unable to move. The man that had every right and every opportunity to go but didn’t. I got the most wonderful gift that no disease or illness could tear away from my body; I got a soul mate. To me, this is worth more than anything I had ever achieved before in my entire life.
Its ironic that these diseases have both stripped me of a life and yet given me a different life at exactly the same time.