“Gratitude can change common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joys, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings” –William A Ward
I have chosen to focus on the good in my life rather than be bitter over the bad. Truly, I could go on and on about what my struggles have taught me over the last year. I see life differently, and I am grateful for that.
Even when life is hard, I am blessed beyond measure. I am loved.
1) Love is the most exquisite power in the world. It gives us the courage to do things we never thought we were strong enough to do. This year I witnessed so many examples of this. My sister-in-law, who lost her twelve-year-old son in a drowning accident four years ago, recently announced her pregnancy. What bravery, what faith! A friend, who had just gotten engaged a couple months earlier, took her ex-husband in when he was diagnosed with cancer. She and her fiancé took care of him and loved him right on through to the other side. What love, what trust! Watching these individuals love the way God wants us to has been an incredible inspiration in my life.
2) The first time I was hospitalized, I received a call on my cell phone. Am I the only parent who upon seeing their child’s name on the screen automatically envisions tragedy? Our three teenagers text. Teens don’t actually call people anymore. So, of course, my first thought was something is very wrong. But this was his question. Hey, mom, I need gas. How do I pump it?
Holy crap. I explained how to swipe the credit card, open the gas cap, lift the nozzle, select the grade of gasoline, and pump. I ended the call and started to cry. It was a harsh eye-opener. I had failed to prepare my teenage boys for real life. I had taken care of everything for them, leaving them clueless on the basics. Lyme forced me to let go of the reigns and trust them to do the grown-up stuff. In the last year, they’ve had to mature, from helping with their little sisters to cooking small dinners. In many ways, this was another positive side effect of my illness.
3) Ellen is great for the soul. The Ellen Degeneras show is the one thing on television that makes me smile and gives me hope. (The rest of daytime television might burn brain cells.) Ellen teaches kindness and devotes her entire show to helping people and making viewers laugh. That’s just what we need in this world, or at least in my world. More kindness and laughter.
4) Writing this blog has exposed the importance of commenting on others. Before I started writing, I read several other blogs regularly, but I rarely commented. Now I know I should have. If you like what you read, lift that writer up in the comment section. It takes only a couple minutes, but it might be just what the writer needs to stay motivated. It gives me purpose to know that readers are touched by my writing. Sure, I can see the stats on my blog, but knowing X-number of people clicked on the link doesn’t tell me how those readers reacted to it. I now take the time to comment on my favorite blogs. If her words affect me, commenting is the least I can do to show my appreciation for the time and heart the writer put into her work, and sharing the post is the ultimate compliment.
5) When you are stuck at home, the days are unbelievably long. Yes, there was a time in my life I would have envied individuals who “got” to stay home all day; now, I know better. Stay-at-home moms are the toughest cookies on the planet.
6) People will die. You will die, and so will I. I know some will find this openness a bit morbid, but pretending that we’ll live forever is irresponsible. We each have an expiration date. Get yourself and your family prepared for it. Don’t leave behind a mess. My time in the cardiac unit, coupled with the recent loss of a good friend, inspired me to have a living will and medical power of attorney drawn up. When I returned home and felt well enough, I created an emergency binder, which included everything from life insurance information to a list of my wishes upon my death. I am not ready to die, but I have organized my life in preparation for death because I want to take care of my family even after I’m gone.
7) There is no off-season in divorce. Never put your guard down, even when you’re sick.
8) Nearly every person I talk to will inevitably say “my uncle has Lyme” or “I knew a teacher in Gilmer county who had Lyme.” Everyone seems to know someone who has Lyme, yet Lyme supposedly isn’t a problem in our state. We aren’t considered endemic by the CDC, which makes testing and diagnosis even more difficult. Many doctors truly do not believe it’s worth taking the time to test for Lyme unless the patient has traveled to an endemic area. If you or a loved one have been bitten by a deer tick, you must be your own advocate, insist on testing, and debunk the myth that we don’t have Lyme in our area.
9) Accepting is not the same as giving up. There was a point when I was afraid that if I accepted my disease, then this would be my new normal forever. I was terrified of never getting back to the person I once was and the life I once had. Now I know that sometimes we are sleepwalking through life, and God has to wake us up. Sometimes it just takes a nudge; other times, like for me, it requires drastic measures. Accepting my very different life doesn’t mean I’m not still fighting to get well. It just means I understand that this is what it is. Denial won’t fix me, but acceptance will allow me to begin to let go of anger and loss and figure out how to live better.
10) Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels. About a month ago, my mom and her best friend tossed me in the backseat and dragged me to a homeopath / nutritionist about six hours away. I had nearly given up hope of ever achieving consistent wellness, was on IV antibiotics and handfuls of medications, and was drastically losing weight because of my inability to eat. I spent seven hours with this woman. She, too, had survived Lyme disease. The near-death experience had comprehensively changed the trajectory of her life. I respected her crediblity because she’d been in my position, and I decided to do whatever she had done to get well.
I stopped all medications. Yes, all. No antibiotics, pain meds, heart pills, nerve-blockers. I had the access to the chest port removed. I now take five supplements a day, and carefully monitor my nutrition. I eat no gluten, dairy, sugar, alcohol, or caffeine. There are a few food allergies, from egg whites to black pepper, that we’ve removed from my diet as well. As a woman who has never felt compelled to “watch what I eat,” this has been a learning curve; however, since I accepted this new way of life, I have felt the best I’ve felt in a year. Each day I’m able to do more. As much as I miss bread, it doesn’t taste as good as it feels to be able to walk to the mailbox. As much as I miss chocolate, being able to hug my husband without pain is better than any candy bar. Nothing, absolutely nothing in the world, tastes as good as healthy feels.
As this first week of November draws to a close, I hope this series of Lyme Lessons has reminded you of your blessings. After all, life is more beautiful when we choose to focus on thanks and giving.
It’s just better when we keep coloring in spite of our brokenness.
(This is Part 3 of a three-part series on Lyme Lessons.)