A year ago, at the start of year two of this journey, I wrote about being grateful. I meant every word and still do. I have been grounded and humbled. The relentless support from my family and friends, and people I have never even met, still takes my breath away. My eyes have been opened to possibilities in myself and the world around me that I never even imagined. It has been difficult and it is an ever evolving uphill journey, but I am still grateful beyond words.
But now, on the dawn of year three, I’m learning to stretch myself to be both grateful and accepting.
I’ve written about acceptance before — many times. But I’m starting to think that true acceptance is a concept that grows and changes right along with us.
I’ve purposely never read any books on life with chronic illness, as I made the choice to learn and reflect on my own. However, I can imagine that much of the literature has to do with fighting and acceptance. When you are first diagnosed (or in my case, desperately trying to get diagnosed), your automatic reaction is to fight, and as well it should be. You spend hours in front of the computer, find the best doctors and travel all over the country to get third and fourth opinions. You are relentless in your quest to reverse what has happened and return to life as you left it. You go flying into the battlefield, swords flashing and fires blazing, and you fight. Good gracious, you fight like you have never fought before. Many days the fight seems futile, but you garner every ounce of strength left inside and you persevere.
But at some point, without even realizing it, the battlefields disappear. At some point, the paths become well-worn and your armor is dangling, useless off of your side. At some point, you look around and notice that you are standing alone, with a dilapidated sword at your side.
And that moment, my friends, is where the real healing begins.
You see, acceptance is not laying down your sword in shame. You have not been defeated. Acceptance is putting that sword to the side and walking forward with your head held high.
My sword is always close by, but I don’t need it now.
I am enough.
Two years later, I know that I will make progress and then I will relapse. Many times. But now I know that I will learn something each time. I will learn what my body needs and how best to let it heal. Our bodies will always tell us what they need, but we have to be willing and mindful enough to listen. A few weeks ago, I wrote about a relapse so swift and so powerful, that it knocked the wind out of both my body and my spirit. From that I learned that it’s ok to feel defeated and ask for help. It doesn’t make me weak or unworthy to lean on my friends and family for support.
I am enough.
I now go entire weeks without a visit to any sort of doctor — a concept which would have seemed preposterous if you had asked me a year ago. Especially preposterous seeing as medically speaking, not much has changed. You see, I’ve noticed that life with chronic illness is a lot like teaching. The first year is absolute mayhem and pure exhaustion. You spend the entire year in survival mode and collapse in a heap on a regular basis. The second year is still crazy and chaotic, but your feet are starting to find the ground. Then there is that glorious third year. The year where you finally feel like you may actually know what you are talking about. There will always be surprises and every day is still an adventure, but for the most part you can start to breathe.
So now, as I embark upon year three, my sword is close by, but I know I don’t need it. There will be progress. There will be relapses. There will be days where I am frustrated and days where I feel strong. There will be days when I need support and days when I can stand on my own, and that’s ok.
I have fought a good fight.
I have laid down my sword.
I am enough.