When I was sick as a kid my dad would bring home new paper dolls (we called them cut-outs) or a coloring book for me. I loved that. When I was sick as a kid was also the only time I was allowed to drink pop (except occasional pizza nights). It was also probably the time when I got the most attention from my mom (living with four siblings, including a twin, you are always competing for attention).
Maybe this is why I used to tell everyone I loved being sick.
Not so anymore.
I got sick a few months ago. I had this weird cold thing that felt more like the flu and pretty much incapacitated me from being my usual productive self. Nick started referring to me as his “little Nietzsche,” as I was deliriously wandering around the house, questioning the meaning of life, “why go on when I feel so awful!?”
We had made plans to have two different couples over that weekend and Friday morning (when my cold was probably at it’s worst) I was stumbling around blowing my nose, sneezing, and attempting to get the house ready for our guests. Nick practically had to wrestle me to the ground and force me to contact our friends and cancel our plans.
Now I am well aware that I have control issues, but this was ridiculous. All I had to do was change our plans. But cancelling our plans was crushing to me. I hated that I didn’t have control over what my weekend would look like and that nothing I could do could change the fact that I had a cold. I sulked the rest of the weekend as Nick and I got wasted on orange juice and sprite and watched the Godfather and Rocky series.
This experience made me think of the people I know who have or are struggling with physical disabilities or illnesses. Being unable to control my own body, or do the things I want to do ranks right up there with drinking acid.
I imagine I would be a very depressed, cynical, and self-pitying sick or disabled person.
But the people I know who have such physical struggles teach me something. They teach me that life isn’t all about what I want. Life isn’t all about things going my way- or fulfilling my plans.
Life certainly isn’t about having control over everything- or anything, really.
They teach me that you can still find hope, and experience joy, and invest in relationship, and live full lives even if your body is not listening to you, or your agenda is not what you thought it would be. They teach me how to rely on God in a way I have never been forced to.
I am thankful, so thankful for these friends who do not give into the pain, but lean deeper into their faith, and teach me – yet again – that this life is not all about me.
This picture was taken at my wedding when several of us spontaneously circled a dear friend who struggles with chronic pain and couldn’t dance on her feet anymore. This friend (in her 20s) flew across the country by herself using a cane to be there for our wedding. This picture, and remembering her sacrifice, always makes brings tears to my eyes.