For most of the past 18 years of my life, I have been trying to get over, through, around, or beyond my health limitations. My focus has been firmly fixed on the future, both in thought and deed. If I can just get over this , then I can get on with the rest of my life. My real life will begin. There was a brief, but lovely, hiatus from this focused mindset after I realized I wasn’t going to die from this illness. Yep, from 1995 til about 2000, I assumed I was going to die. You can trust that I am serious about my beliefs at the time because I read up on it. That’s what I do. I research and prepare. I thought I was dying so I read the major religious texts, and some of the minor ones, of all the major world religions.
But then I didn’t die. Not only did I not die, I moved to paradise and was blessed enough to have two beautiful children. I wish that I could recapture the constant sense of gratitude and sufficiency that I felt at that time. I would settle for a portion of it. But no, I am a 21st century American woman and I want more. Always more. Yes, I have two extraordinary children and I enjoy being a stay at home mom for them. I have a supportive family, I live in a beautiful environment, I have good friends, and if I live within my limits I am not in pain. Shouldn’t that be enough? It has not been. I want to push those health limitations farther out such that I can work, even part-time, at something purposeful. So that I can travel occasionally without repercussion. Somedays, I even want truly self-indulgent options, like the occasional restaurant meal without the possibility of a trip to urgent care.
The small victories make forward planning particularly seductive. But there is always a step back around the corner with Environmental Illnesses. For example, here is what happened just over the past year and a half.
Forwards – I had enjoyed some steady recovery leading up to the spring of 2012, when my chemical sensitivities were improved enough that I started the process of becoming certified to teach. Yay!
Backwards – I overreached and some systemic inflammation caused multiple problems including cornea damage that left me temporarily functionally blind. Oops.
Forwards – Four months later, about the time I physically stabilised and emotionally worked through some fear, I started talking about a part-time job with a company who does science projects in schools. Alright!
Backwards – My daughter had a significant health crisis. For months we struggled with undiagnosed GI issues; she missed 75% of school days over a three-month period. Doh!
Forwards – I finally trusted my instincts, put her on a gluten-free diet and she improved. We re-grouped and planned our family summer vacation since we had our new mom friendly camper that lets us prepare our own food. Team Fun!
Backwards Two days before we are scheduled to leave, I had an episode of gastritis that puts me back in urgent care with a grossly swollen, inflamed abdomen. Argh!
As you can see, no matter how much I want to get past health issues and onto more satisfying, impactful pursuits, I am constantly re-directed back to those health issues. I have no training, interest or skill in health care. And yet, that’s what I have to do. A lot. So ….I think I have to flip this. What if, instead of getting around my health problems, I start with them? What if my life is centered around great nutrition, improving my family’s health, and sharing the journey however I can (like blogging)? With the right intent, can I make a largely domestic life enough? If I start with my health as a focus rather than as a limit, can it transform my life into something larger?
Obviously, it is time to go read up on Buddhism again.