"The art of living lies less in eliminating our troubles than in growing with them."
– Bernard Baruch
Life hands us many things. Some things on a silver platter, some on a rusty pike. Other things we work so hard for they are reached for with great stretching arms, and the grasp of labors that no one could truly understand. No matter how things have arrived what remains is choice. Choice about how we will accept, manage, and sometimes "deal with" the things that life leaves at our doorstep.
Sometimes, when we receive new things in life, other things go. Not everything fits in this one life we are living right now. Either we are carrying too large a load, or the mix of things contains many incompatibilities. Again, we are faced with choice. We choose often to remove from our lives those things that are incompatible with the new. We may try to keep those things that don't fit well with the others, and then we learn about the consequences of that. We create more work for ourselves or more stress. And sometimes, on that rare occasion, sometimes we find ways to make all of those things we never thought could all fit together to really fit. That is a skill, or if we are very fortunate, it can be a gift from those around us that bend and shape themselves and the things around us to help them fit.
Those of us with chronic illness have learned much about choices. Much about giving things up to make room for things given to us on that rusty pike I mentioned. Illness is never earned, and it certainly does not arrive on a silver platter. It comes to us in slow, painful, ugly ways. If we let it, chronic illness can destroy more than our physical or psychological selves, but our social selves.
If we let it.
If we let it.
Let me obnoxiously say again: If we let it.
To me, being Chronically Awesome is about choice.
Each morning I wake up with Lupus, EDS, Fibro, Bipolar, Hypothyroid, Agoraphobia, OCD, Chronic Migraines, Polyneuropathy, Chronic Kidney Stones, painful fibroids that cause me to have "female" issues 20 out of the 30ish days of the month. And a few other nagging things. The Osteoarthritis is creeping in.
These are not choices.
When I wake up very very early and take my "empty tummy" meds, I do a brief evaluation. I used to start with "what's not working today". I would start at my toes and work my way up, making a mental note of what hurt, what wasn't moving right, what was going to give me trouble for the day.
This was a choice.
Now that I have chosen to be Chronically Awesome I have made a simple but effective choice to inventory "what works". From the toes to the top of my head I make a mental list of how grateful I am that my knees have not dislocated in my sleep, that my ribs don't hurt, that I don't feel anxious, or have a headache. Sometimes I then drift back to sleep for a couple of hours, smiling and knowing that I am not a totally broken, oil can begging, tin man.
Looking at the positive of this body is a choice.
Sometimes, at this wee hour I get up. I sit quietly in the dark of my living room, just me and my box of friends (my phone), and I catch up on communicating with the world. At this time I choose to not be alone, to not keep locked in the tight knot of my stomach, the things that others may not understand about my world. Being alone is not healthy for me. Not communicating is a poor choice for my anxiety.
Being a part of the world is a choice.
I love television. I could lay on the couch all day and watch TV. I could not bathe and not eat and just do nothing all day.
This is just an awful choice.
Getting dressed, getting going with a day that includes starting a business with a partner that understands that I have some limits (and he forces me to recognize them when I push too hard), and doing something each day to work my mind, not letting it grow stagnate.
Thinking and stretching my mind is a much better choice.
Helping my community is probably the best choice I have made for myself. Doing something small or large for the Chronically Awesome Community, giving back to a community that has given so much to me, is a choice that has completed a circle for me. I feel whole when I help. I feel complete when I can make someone go from tears to laughter. From despair to hope.
Starting the Chronically Awesome Foundation doesn't even seem like a choice to me, it was something I just had to do. I felt compelled. This writing project is a small beginning, and as I write this today I see people participating and making choices to be a part of something. It makes me so happy. I believe that happiness is a choice.
I have a lot of reasons to throw myself a pity party today. I have many challenges, many obstacles. That rusty pike gets shoved in my face more often than I care to see it. I choose to look away from it, and seek instead the silver platter. I say "screw you" to the negative choices and I greet the opportunities for awesome with open arms.
So, what does being Chronically Awesome mean to me? It means making choices that make me awesome, that make me happy in spite of what could be thrown in my path to make me stumble. Being Chronically Awesome is growing, and making changes to keep me first, and illness second.
I will be awesome. Today I am Chronically Awesome. Why? Because I am. Hard Stop!