I wrote this in the spring and it’s now fall, time to get it posted! Just pretend it’s spring for a minute.
It’s the second day of spring and we in the Pacific Northwest are starting to feel the weather shift. It’s still wet but getting a bit warmer and less windy. I use a large light box as a substitute for sun rays in the winter and it does the trick sometimes but there is nothing like the sun, shining in all its glory and warmth. As my brother said recently, “The sun is singular”. It may have something to do with being a Leo but it just seems to permeate my body and wake everything up, (including my brain) even if it’s just filtering or flirting through a window. Simply standing outside, closing my eyes, tilting my head up to the sun and feeling the warmth on my face is so relaxing. Some call it “sunning”.
Simple pleasures like sunning can become like a new lease on life after being sick for a long time. When sick, I had minus zero energy. I got used to a simple act like making a grilled cheese sandwich be THE main event of the day. I don’t eat grilled cheese sandwiches anymore, (you know, gluten and dairy are NO foods now) but I sure do miss the yummy comfort of the warm, buttery, grilled bread, and the soft, luxurious, melted cheese. My former Go To comfort food.
At the end of a day I would say to myself, “What a successful day! You made a beautiful, delicious, grilled cheese sandwich! Nice job.” And wasn’t being sarcastic.
There were days when getting food into me was the extent of my activity. That and slow trips to the bathroom, the couch, the bed. Early on, I was hard on myself for not being able to do more. Sarcastic too, about my accomplishment for the day. “Woohoo! You made a sandwich today. That’s just GREAT.” But, I’ve softened. I’m much easier on myself. I’ve learned to honor my limits. Pushing never had a good result, but it’s very understandable.
Over time, simple things like looking out my fifth floor apartment window to the doings of the neighborhood below was helpful. Mixed but helpful. Got me out of my head.
I was living in such a strange, isolated, bubble of sickness, but from my perch, I could see people walking back from the nearby QFC or Walgreens, hauling a heavy load of groceries, with celery tops and corn on the cob tassels sticking out of the top of the bag; old, new, and shiny tricked out cars, coming and going, always on a mission. A baby stuffed into a basket with a blanket to keep the sun off, and small, tightly packed gardens with a mosaic of plantings; bok choy, tomatoes, grasses, flowers of every color, herbs. My view reminded me of one of those pop-up books, that when you open the cover, a 3-D town pops out, with every little thing you could imagine in it, all the way down to the stray cat rolling in the sun.
One summer afternoon, I looked down from my lookout post and saw some happy girls wearing bright colors, playing double-dutch jump-rope on the pavement below. I envied their energy. Oowee! I wanted that spark! They were amazing; jumping and twirling, laughing and singing jump rope songs with such abandon and joy that I had to grin and wave hi to them, even though I was five floors above and they couldn’t see me.
I eventually moved from that apartment, those long days of illness and captivity, and I now live in a sweet place on a beautiful island. My health is much better these days. I’m not jumping rope yet but I’m not counting it out.
Illness forces us to look at everything differently. There’s no way around it. I’ve tried. It’s just part of what happens. We are changed. I gradually learned to let in the little joys that I came across. No matter how small. At first, when I saw those delightful girls jumping rope, I was envious of them. I wanted to play too. I played double-dutch as a girl, too. How could it be that I could barely walk across the room? I wanted my life back. But then, just watching their skill and hearing their infectious laughter, I had to chuckle and give it up.
Living with chronic illness can be the hardest thing you’ve ever done and I understand. At the same time, see if you can find just one glimmer of light in your day. Maybe it’s the crazy squirrel who won’t stop coming to your window and finally makes you laugh, the stellar’s jay with its great hairdo, all dressed in blue, parading past your other window, a smile from the cute UPS guy or gal who is delivering your supplements. This is not Pollyanna, it’s actually an essential skill when living with chronic illness. It takes practice but is so worth developing.
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