Saturday, January 23, 2016

January Gratitude

     The past few weeks have not been the best, but they also have not been the worst. The first week after winter break, I missed five classes because I was feeling so poorly. It was absolutely awful, because I was in pain and behind in my classes and lonely. Luckily, I am feeling a lot better now, although I realize that my energy and milder joint pain may be short-lived. I ran 2 miles yesterday, which is a huge accomplishment considering that there is a wheelchair sitting in the backseat of my car just in case I need it. Of course, I am paying for it now with ice on my knees (conveniently collected from my back porch, thanks to the wintry weather NC is currently dealing with) plus rheum-y hips and ankles, but it was well worth it and I am hoping to run again sometime in the next couple of days. The ultimate goal is a half marathon, but I realize that might be a bit ambitious.

      Despite feeling sort of defeated during my time out of school, I also felt uplifted by the support I received from friends, teachers, and family members. So instead of detailing the pains of the last few weeks, which would be sort of sad and would involve capturing, in writing, many moments that I do not wish to relive, I would like to highlight some of the beautiful things that have happened. Arthritis has allowed me to experience compassion and humanity in ways that I never expected, and for those who have shown me this unconditional kindness I am very grateful.

     I am thankful for friends who still want to hang out with me when I am at a low point. I am thankful for friends who send texts and call me during their lunch periods to ask how I am doing, even when they know that I will likely lie to them. I am thankful for friends who help me make up the work I am missing, because I know that trying to explain two classes worth of material to someone who can barely focus due to the pain is not ideal. Over the past few weeks, I have found myself especially grateful for Faith, Spencer, and Amelia.

     I am thankful for parents who joyfully celebrate with me when I am feeling okay for the first time in forever on a Friday night, but who do not express frustration with me when I wake up sick on Saturday. I am thankful that they trust me to know when my body is capable of going to school and performing basic activities and when it is not.

     I am thankful for teachers who encourage me to rest when I am not doing well, and who make a point of letting me know that they are glad to help in any way that they can. I am thankful for teachers who walk me to class, and who unquestioningly allow me to discreetly exit the classroom when my medications result in morning and midday nausea. I am thankful for teachers who believe me when I anxiously remind them that I am dealing with a chronic illness, not skipping their class. I am thankful for teachers who maintain high academic expectations of me.

     I am thankful for a church that is comfortable with the reality of living with a chronic illness, and where I am surrounded by people who do not think any less of me during my flares. I am thankful that I am not suffocated by theology that passively blames me for the condition my body is in.

     So although I have found myself in an incredibly frustrating amount of pain over the past few weeks, I have also found myself astounded by the generosity of the people I am surrounded by. Your kindness does not reduce the swelling in my hands or cease the relentless pain in my hips, but it does remind me that I am strong enough to continue on even when the flares seem to consume me like quicksand. Thank you for your empathy, and I promise to do my best to return the favor. 

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