Every cloud has a silver lining.
That’s what people say. That’s what I say. What I’ve always said. What I’ve always believed.
I believe that everything has good and bad. And I have always chosen to focus on the good.
I have always considered myself to be positive in the face of undesirable circumstances.
And yet, I’ve always seen those circumstances as undesirable.
While I choose to focus on the good, it’s not because I view the situation as positive. I see it as something to make the best of.
And I thought that was the only option. A choice on how to deal with a bad situation.
But it turns out I was wrong.
Because today, I am grateful.
Today, on Canadian Thanksgiving, I have a very special thank you to give.
Today, I want to thank my body for failing. For forcing me away from the life I thrived on, for giving me uncertainty and limitations.
I want to thank the illness that took root and refused to leave.
Because today, I see it as a gift.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not wish illness on anyone. It is scary and painful and, if I had the choice, even feeling the way I do today, I would not choose this path.
But I did not have that choice. I do not have that choice.
And while I may not choose this life, I can’t say that I’m sorry for it.
In the past, I thought that the only gift this struggle has given me is strength. The ability to survive. It is a double edged sword, because it is both forged by and used against adversity. But it served as something for me to latch on to, something positive, a skill, a power that I may not have otherwise gained.
And I still believe that. I still hold on to that. But I have found other things to hold on to as well.
The time I have spent, unable to do anything but lie still, has provided me with time to think. To think about life, to think about myself, my hopes, my dreams, my fears. To contemplate ideas that fascinate me. To make plans.
The years I have spent, living in uncertainty, failing at various attempts to move too quickly, have allowed me to release some of my previous definitions for ‘success’ and ‘achievement’, letting me feel proud over what is relevant to me, and not over what may impress others.
The people who have stuck by me even at my worst, along with the people who have reached out after reading this blog or hearing second hand news, have given me a reason to trust. To be open and honest, and to know that there are those who will not turn away.
And my limited resources have given me the opportunity to identify and focus on what I truly care about.
The choices that I must make on a daily basis due to my decreased energy and concentration have given me the greatest gift of all. They have forced me to look directly within myself, and recognize what I truly care about. What I truly want.
I have a limited amount of energy per day. And I never know when it will run out. So everything I do in a day has to matter. I cannot afford to waste resources on something that doesn’t.
It’s hard. Sometimes I collapse, exhausted, after simply getting out of bed, making and eating breakfast, and getting dressed.
But often, I can do more. And I have the privilege of looking at all of my options, from basic household chores, to visiting with family and friends, and learning something new, along with numerous other activities – and I get to choose which are most important to me.
I have to, because I may only be capable of accomplishing one on any given day. But it is also a gift.
By being forced to prioritize, I am essentially getting to know myself.
So many people struggle with knowing what they truly want. They struggle for purpose, for an identity, for fulfillment.
I have too. I still do.
But each day, I narrow the field. Each day, I examine what matters to me, what makes me happy, and I am slowly beginning to see myself, not through the vision or expectations of others, but through my own choices.
I am slowly beginning to understand myself.
And I do not know that I would have taken the time, or had the patience, without the intervention of chronic illness.
I doubt it.
So I am grateful. I am grateful for the beautiful things I have gained over the past couple of years, because of, not in spite of, my body.
Today, I say thank you to my unpredictable medical state. I give thanks for the opportunities it has given me, for the guidance it has offered, and the space it has afforded.
Today, I feel blessed.