|Enjoying a vegan cupcake with one of my best friends from|
Governor's School! Shout out to Hannah for driving 1.5
hours just to make it to brunch. So much love for this girl!
When fixing a situation is possible, it is by all means the way to go. When I could not open my sandwich bags at lunchtime because my hands hurt so badly, my friends fixed the situation by opening them for me. But we are not divine, and often "fixing" someone is impossible. Nothing that I do or that anyone else does is going to stop the arthritis that tears apart my joints or the pain that often swarms over me. Even the best friend in the world could not remove the fluid from my joints.
Despite almost never having the power to turn a situation around, we always have the power to make someone feel loved. When I think about the dozens of people who have helped me to cope with such a cruel illness over the past seven or eight years, they all proved to be such valuable members of my support system not because they tried to shove a bunch of "magical cures" in my face, but because they made me feel loved even when I felt like a rotting corpse (just being honest here). They asked uncomfortable questions and waited patiently as I stumbled for words. They told me I was beautiful when I hated a body that was destroying itself. They gave me hugs and tissues when I cried. Many of them cried alongside me.
Truthfully, I also remember people who became frustrated as my disease stopped me from doing the things I wanted to do and from being the person that I wanted to be. I remember friends who were less patient and less forgiving and who became annoyed when my coping was less than perfect. I am pointing this out not because I harbor any resentment, but simply because if you are suffering it is important for you to remember that even if the vast majority of people choose unrelenting love, the fact that others do not does not reflect poorly on you.
Last Monday was my eighteenth birthday. Normally I do not plan large gatherings, but this year I decided to hold a birthday brunch with some of my friends. I went to bed that Sunday excited to wake up and spend a lovely day with so many people that I care so deeply about. My body jolted me awake at 5:53 a.m. that morning, and I threw up almost immediately. It's my birthday, I thought, feeling a pang of self-pity that I try not to allow myself too often, Can't I get a break? I instinctively looked in the mirror while washing my hands. My eyes were bloodshot from throwing up. I was still nauseous. I can't go to my party looking like this, I thought.
|My dear friend Alana!|
Realistically, I know that my story with juvenile arthritis is not over, even though I am an adult now. Wouldn't it be nice if it just went away when a person turned eighteen? I think I would have thrown a brunch for the whole town. But I have been fighting for seven years now, and although I am hoping that I have way more than seven years to go, I think I can do it. We don't need perfection. We just need to feel loved.
The past week has been filled with many ups and downs as far as the nausea situation, including a period of time in which I was unable to hold anything but small amounts of water down. Wednesday was a lonely day. I was alone for eleven hours due to some atypical circumstances, and all I could do was throw up and watch "America's Next Top Model" with glazy eyes. There are only so many hours a person's body can handle this before you just start to lose your mind and cry when Tiffany's photoshoot doesn't go well.
|A photo I took with my dad following my|
senior year acceptance into UNC Chapel Hill.
It is suddenly very relevant!
Apparently the actual answer was "active bystander." But a few rows down from me, one of my new peers loudly called out, "Decency." I could not help but agree. Why do we consider helping someone to be an extraordinary act of kindness, when really it is just human decency? We have to look out for each other, even if it takes up our own time or energy. We have to ask each other how we are doing, and to mean it. There are no other options. There is no other decent way to live.
I can name dozens of incidents in which I wish I had loved people more than I did, although the actual number of times I have failed to live up to the love shown to me is countless. I like to think that I am getting better at loving people. It is probably way simpler than I am always trying to make it. So far I know that it involves a lot of hugs, a lot of time, a lot of hard conversations, a lot of listening, and occasional cards and notes and letters and gifts. Maybe we can all make it a goal to love people today just a little more than we did yesterday. Maybe we can apply that goal to every day of our lives.