Have you seen the commercial for a rheumatoid arthritis drug that talks about the life you have and the life you want to live? It is shrewd marketing. Inject this powerful drug and you can do anything.
The hidden cost of chronic illness, because pain and fatigue are invisible, is that I pretend to be living the life I want to live rather than being honest about the life I am living. As Mary C. Earle writes in her book, Broken Body, Healing Spirit, there are sometimes two people living inside me and one is a liar.
What fear or perceived defect do you hide from the world?
Have you had the flu or bad allergies and gone to work anyway? Do you have back pain? Grief? Migraines? Fatigue? Paralyzing anxiety? Fear of what others will think? Are you in recovery from addiction? Or unsettled by the signs and symptoms of getting older?
Substitute your secret for “illness” as you read this quote from Broken Body, Healing Spirit (italics mine):
…a body that has been overwhelmed by illness is also a body where life dwells. Disruptive, distressing, and acutely confusing, illness calls us to a deepening awareness of the wonder of the body, an awareness that we did not bring ourselves into being, and that it is through our embodied life that we encounter the presence of God…
Through illness, the embodied nature of our lives grabs our attention, and forces us to befriend the very flesh we thought betrayed us. The body that we had taken for granted turns out to be a rich and varied text, full of layers of meaning and symbol.
Always, it comes back to powerlessness vs. control. And I most want to control what I fear. Until I have faith and trust, I will be afraid. And I will miss a lot of fun stuff.
My husband has a big, yellow BMW motorcycle. He rode it cross-country and back, alone. He wants me to ride with him. Once, I said yes; we rode around the neighborhood on quiet residential streets with no real traffic. I trust my husband. I know he would never deliberately hurt me. All I could see from that rear perch was my body shattered into painful pieces.
New experiences are fun and invigorating for me–teaching a class, being in Paris alone for 5 days, going on a week-long silent retreat. For Mike, riding the motorcycle is a form of meditation. For me, it is like white-water rafting or parachuting.
I’ve lived with chronic illness for over 20 years. Rarely have I said “I can’t”. I can usually find adaptations and compromises that let me do most anything. I want to be the free spirit that sees a lovely day and says “Let’s ride!”
I think it could be a prayer–”Your will, not mine be done.”