Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Why Influenza was THE Highlight of My Christmas Season. Life Simplicity. The Circumstantial Silver Linings in Sickness. Active Choices in Life.

I wrote about our battle with Influenza HERE. As with everything in life, our experience with influenza had some awful moments mixed with the good. Now that my family is done with it, I have realized I miss it a bit. I asked myself, "What kind of crazy misses the family having Influenza?" It's not like I would actively go search it out again. I am generally a germaphobe. But it was the sort of sickness I could handle. Plus my vitamin C regime made me get over it quickly and only suffer moderately (see more in link.)

I shocked myself when a friend was over and asked how was my Christmas was, and I replied with, "Well I think the highlight for me was our family having the Influenza." I felt surprised at my statement but realized it was the truth. We both started laughing. I added, "I'm serious actually, now that I think about it. It was more magical than Christmas. Maybe because it literally ended Christmas Eve and took up so much time...but I liked it better because for two full weeks, our family of five was camped out in our room. I was Supermom taking care of everyone, including my husband. I seem to be more capable when I have a fever and food is taken out of the equation to think upon mostly. We still have most of our December grocery shop packed in our freezer and pantry because for two weeks we mostly drank fluids or consumed light meals...But more than that, we were together, just focusing on getting better, moment by moment. Our only priority was each other and a clean house when it was possible."

Little pleasures like fresh sheets, warm showers, and soothing fluids felt like a day at the spa. Gratitude was ever constant for the small sensory comforts. Everyone was sick enough that they didn't bother with conflict, but well enough at times, that we could gather together to watch a show or nap at the same time. It was beautifully simple. Community and individualism wrapped into one ongoing event. Four of my most favourite people constantly around me but also not overly loud or demanding. It was demanding in some regards but not in the usual way. Quiet and home time. Our world was reduced to our room and our bathroom for the most part. We felt lucky when we were well enough to travel upstairs. Our home felt huge and comforting. We had everything we needed, except for the few times my dad went out to grab us more Vitamin C or new toothbrushes...and that satisfied feeling was enough. We had enough.

The world was also boiled down to what was right in front of us. For two weeks we simply survived. We didn't think about the news, the bills, the mail or anything outside of our home. For a hermit, to have this also with family, when they are not divided with their attention and also have the same wants and needs of solitude and healing, this was heaven on earth. I will always look back fondly on the Influenza of 2017. It was probably the magic swirl of togetherness, servitude, body care and rest.

I'm not saying it wasn't alarming at times, or miserable with symptoms. If it had been more complex with more dangerous symptoms, more stomach symptoms or secondary infections with the need to use antibiotics I would be singing a different tune... I also feel lucky that we have made a life where it is possible to take two weeks off and not suffer too much. Yes, this next month will be trickier but it won't break us. Some people have awful experiences being sick because they are not able to rest for an extended period of time. The body needs to convalesce for a good chunk to recover. Also, if one is alone and sick, even an easy sick can seem hard. I loved this flu because it was the one time all five of us have been sick together. Which made things tougher in some aspects, like cleaning, but luckily I improved enough to manage that even though I was also sick. I thrived off of being able to do the minimum for my family, but also allowing myself to rest. In fact, I would say that suffering myself enabled more compassion when care taking. This is not always the case. If I am in a lot of pain or throwing up, I am obviously not going to be able to help. But in this case, I was able, and I loved serving my family in a tangible way while also understanding what they were going through.

I felt the same way about Mono. When my daughter and I had Mono it had moments of being absolutely terrible. It dragged on for months. Just when I thought we were getting better, we would regress or have zero energy. But BOTH of us look back on most of our memories as positive. We spent days in bed watching our favourite shows together. With no pressure or guilt to get moving. We just WERE. When we had spikes of energy we would goof off or sing together and then crash afterwards. My daughter stated, "The problem with Mono is that I never knew when it would end. The exhaustion and sore throats were also miserable...but now that I know that it did have an ending, I look back fondly. I don't think I would want it again - especially because I liked having it with you and having it alone would suck. I had someone who understood so neither of us pushed the other and we were each other's companions through out the day. I liked that.

Sometimes, I think the same can be said of Chronic illness or even terminal illness depending on the type. Obviously pain factors can negate all the good if they are constant. I am NOT saying Chronic illness/ Terminal illness/ or any suffering is necessary or beautiful or easy...but I have talked to people who said that their Terminal illness diagnosis gave them some of the most beautiful moments of their lives. Because sometimes we discover what can really live on without us. It is both terrifying and emboldening. We then have the freedom with the time we do have, to concentrate on what we truly love. (Again, this can not apply to being in loads of pain because that concept is completely different.) If one is only mildly uncomfortable sometimes or moderately a few times, but can have some Mono was for us, the rest of life becomes clear. Priorities are made. The loved ones in our lives also make their priorities. Suddenly we are enjoying more time with those we care about and less time with the details of life that do not really matter. Yes, there is still some responsibility but overall we find that most expectations or goals we have for ourselves and those we love are less important than we originally thought.

Most of us do not realize how much of our to do list doesn't actually need to be DONE. I actually love to do lists and believe they can be a necessary part of living, but illness has taught me, over and over again, that life still goes on, whether I finish my list or not. Life is so much more than a goal for my children's career or future family or... Sometimes, I get stressed about their future but then realize that maybe they won't have one- so why am I not maximizing their time NOW? Also, maybe they will have a future, but life can change on a dime, so why not teach them joy, gratitude and flexibility to adapt and truly see the beauty moments when life inevitably brings it's change? This is more important to me than their 'school', their 'socializing' or their 'career goals'. Because if they learn how to grow, love themselves, prioritize, recognize both good and bad in choices, enjoy any learning opportunity, and create serving with self giving, they will be set for most things. They will struggle, they will have hard moments happen. However, they will also have what they need inside themselves regardless of disabilities, or what town they live in, or what job they have or what adventure awaits. My chronic illness always puts this into sharp clarity whenever I start to worry about the future. I should not make all my decisions based on some unseen mark on the horizon. It helps me find the balance between living now and being somewhat prepared.

The greatest freedom I have found, has come from realizing that I am both expendable and valuable. No one can give what I can. I am unique and bring to the table of life many gifts. YET, there will be someone, just as unique to carry on life in a different way, when I am gone. It's both simultaneously everything and nothing. When life is reduced down to the very basics, even for a few weeks, it's easier to see what matters.

On the flip side, any illness can be awful. I do not underestimate the suffering and stress that can come with being sick. I have been there in some instances, and in others, I do not envy anyone in these cases. While, like anything in life, there can be good and bad, some circumstances have more silver linings than others. I wish I could change that for the world.

For myself, I just found out that my thyroid nodule shrank from last January by 5mm to this January. That fact alone felt like a weight had been lifted off of my soul. Because if it had grown, I would have had to do a biopsy and possibly surgery. Both of which would bring down my quality of life immensely. Now, I can ignore it for another year and get another ultrasound again...and continue that cycle unless something changes. It's back on my low priority list. Which helps for all the other issues I tend to have. I was light and happy last night after this news. I do not underestimate the power of good news and good health.

What I am trying to convey, is that when illness strikes temporarily or permanently, there CAN be some beautiful moments. Not always and there are many, many tough aspects of ill health, and it is completely circumstantial. There are diseases and sicknesses that bring nothing but heartache, pain and terrible suffering. But for the instances where there is more, I am hoping that my example can show that there can be silver linings?

Life is part choice and part circumstance. We have a lot in our power to change, and then sometimes nothing at all. Yet, what is most important is our ability to see the possibilities, to see the opportunities but to also see what is NOW, to recognize with gratitude the little moments that make up an entire life. To acknowledge that our time is the most precious gift we have. So why are we wasting it on moments we hate, people we dislike or do not trust or take advantage of us, and our focus on the mundane? Why are we not realizing that 5 minutes on the phone to a telemarketer is five minutes we can not get back? Unless we are giving those five minutes to make the telemarketer feel good about themselves because that changes everything...Why can we not see that an hour on a show that does not bring us either delight, beauty, challenge or inspiration is an hour we could spend on something or someone we love? And that most (exceptions to everything) careers or jobs are only as awful as our perspective.

I recently watched a documentary called "The Philosopher Kings" about people who are the toilet cleaners and "bottom of the barrel" workers in our society. Yet, most of them either CHOSE their job because they actually liked it, or began to see what merits are in what they do. It was a beautiful commentary on perspective taking. And if a job is truly truly constricting, abusive or damning of the soul...usually there are ways we can find, outside of the box, to still live without it. This mentality can be applied to many aspects of life.

My life looks like "quitting" to many outsiders. Because they see that I dropped out of church, education, communities, some extended family circumstances, jobs, good opportunities ect. But these were all active choices that I filled with other things that were more meaningful to me. I adore most of my life. My therapist can testify that I have a weird, strange love of life that is heavily entangled with the struggle of it. I have both strong abilities and disabilities. I need regular therapy to cope with a world that I rarely ever fit into 'appropriately.' Sometimes I am hard on myself for this fact. Ok, if I am being honest, I am consistently hard on myself, which is why I write, to gain healing and understanding...and acceptance from my own persona. I don't need these aspects from anyone else besides a few key people in my life, but I need these attributes for myself balanced regularly. I write what I need to hear or what I need to share into a void, hoping that maybe one less person will feel alone or weird or ... not enough. I spent most of my life feeling those emotions until I was about 28 and I started taking back my life in big strides and baby steps. The years following have been the TIME OF MY LIFE. And now that song is happily in my head...But these years have been the time of my life, even though I have been chronically ill for most of them... I hope, that I was articulate enough in this post, that those outside of my situation, can understand why that fact IS?

Song Choice: Time of my Life- Dirty Dancing Soundtrack


S said...

Elizabeth Gilbert once said:"Death — or the prospect of death — has a way of clearing away everything that is not real". We can replace the word "death" with "chronic illness" and it will mirror everything that you have written about chronic illness in your post. So it is true that when one is chronically ill, one learns how to separate the wheat from the chaff. I have learned the hard way too.
The documentary "Philosopher kings" ( although I have not watched it ) is saying exactly what I am trying to express all these years to those who are at the other end, judging me or getting puzzled at my choices,-i.e. perspective taking. Thinking out of the box,thinking differently or choosing the road less travelled is not often done with a whim, we have reasons for doing what we do, our personality, chronic illness, brain or our soul directs us towards that direction-nothing is left to chance or luck. We have taken certain decisions or chosen to lead very unique lives because of some unexplained phenomena but there is some mysterious phenomena going on, which cannot be denied or overridden.I would also like to highlight that we have not only chosen this kind of a (particular ) life because of "no other choice was given to us" but also we derive "immense pleasure" out of it. So, instead of people feeling pity for us, they should realize that we are enjoying our life even if they cannot see any "fun/joy" in that.
I completely agree with this paragraph that you wrote - "My life looks like "quitting" to many outsiders. Because they see that I dropped out of church, education, communities, some extended family circumstances, jobs, good opportunities,etc.. But these were all active choices that I filled with other things that were more meaningful to me. I adore most of my life. My therapist can testify that I have a weird, strange love of life that is heavily entangled with the struggle of it. I have both strong abilities and disabilities."
Obviously, as a neurologically different/diverse person, we will think differently, out of the box. Maybe, our bodies will also behave differently :) there might be a thing called physiodiverse/bodydiverse/bodysensitivity or something similar:) Just because we are different, (a little different or extremely different, doesn't matter here) - being differently abled does not cut us off from our human experience to feel, be happy (or sad).Nobody can deny us or tell us to stop feeling our feelings because we are different ( again it doesn't matter if we are a little bit different or very much different :))
There is no right way or wrong way when it comes to living life or experiencing emotions because everything is coming from a great mysterious place called "the brain/neurology" or the "soul". Human beings have not been yet able to decipher the mysteries of the brain or even the soul from where our behaviour,actions,choices and decisions are coming, so how can somebody say something is the right or wrong way to live /behave ? Mystery is one thing and code of conduct/social rules is another thing. We choose to live by mystery, I guess.
Yet another great post from you. Thank you for sharing.

Kmarie A. said...

S: I LOVE your analogy of separating wheat from chaff!!! that sums up the entire post in a nutshell. That is EXACTLY what chronic illness can do effectively and sometimes harshly.
Yes, I LOVE my life now but did not when I fit into culture...even the times I was on the fringes did not give me this much satisfaction..
LOL. I DEF think our bodies behave differently for sure and there is that proven even in the gut bacteria.
Yes, I agree...there are so many diverse ways to live a life! I guess we do chose a bit more mystery. For instance, I have been asked to have multiple guest posts on my blog, team up with other blogs ( there have been a few I trust) or even do a documentary...oh and be a counselor on a forum...but I said no to all of these things because my priorities are different. They are not inherently bad things- some could even be good - but I do not need to complicate my life with more. Some of these people are genuine and I applaud their bravery of approach and wish them well. Others are scammers or looking to exploit but trying to flatter me in the process. On occasion I have written back to questions with some great momentary connections. Most people who have heard some of my opportunities respond with "That is a FABULOUS opportunity! You should try it..." My response "WHY?" I would only ever do something if it matched my heart and soul completely. Why try something that takes up my time if I am not fully trusting or on board with it? Just one example of many ways that the mystery is chosen over the concrete:) Yet if I had not taken a chance and trusted my gut- I would never have met you- a life friend...which has happened now 6 times! So you never know...but gut always...
Thank you and as always, thank you for your thoughtful feedback.

Full Spectrum Mama said...

We were stuck in the house for about 16 days due to extreme cold and all being a bit under the weather and it was soooooo soothing! kids are both extroverts and love to tawk ;)

I get it. Reading your words is similarly soothing because they let me know I am not alone.

Thanks and love and blessed be,
Full Spectrum Mama

P.S. I have it in my book to remind you re the next Blog Hop xoxoxo

Kmarie A. said...

Full Spectrum Mamma:
Yes we had the extreme cold can be soothing! I am so glad you felt less alone. Always a goal for me... Yes thank you!
Thanks and Love and Blessed Be to you too!

S said...

Hi, I wanted to add that maybe because we do not prefer multi-tasking or we have a tendency to be overstimulated, have anxiety or overwhelmed with too much outside stimuli therefore, we do not prefer to take up assignments and opportunities which other people would happily jump in/give their right hand for.
Our choices are largely due to that. We have physiological/neurological reasons behind our choices and being unable to explain these physiological/chemical/neurological reasons ( not enough research has been done in this area and not even the experts could prove it scientifically till date), we attribute it to something "mysterious". Even this mystery has its reason ( which could not be explained till date, so it remains a mystery). Well, I love mystery and we all know that in this universe, not ALL mysteries can be explained and so what we can do best is to revel in it:)

Kmarie A. said...

S: Sorry I missed this comment...that is a good addition! So true!!! We dont want those opportunities. Yes we do and many can feel that way. LOl revelling in it is a good idea!:)