When I was in high school, one of my favorite weekend activities was to play Monopoly with my Mother. If it were not for homework and household chores my Mother and I would have played the game all day. We loved going round after round, hoping and waiting for all the properties to brought up so we could make our exchanges and build our hotels.
As I look back on those enjoyable mother/daughter afternoons, I remember that despite nearly always loosing the game, I would have such fun. But there was always a low spot (not counting my nearly perfect record of landing on Park Place or Board Walk after it was brought), that made my heart tremble. And that was landing on the community property space. There were so many dangerous cards to chose from such as pay poor tax, pay school tax, or the dreaded hotel and homes tax.
But one bright spot to the day was the unexpected joy of lifting up the card and discovering that I had chosen the get out of jail free card. That wonderful card which would allow me to get of one jam without having to pay a penalty and having to fork out 50 dollars that I did not have.
As I think about it now, I imagine that to some people it must appear like I or any other chronically ill person has managed to land on community property and by the luck of the draw pull out this special card. This wonderful card that allows us at any moment to get out of work, chores, and any other unpleasant life duty. To many it may seem like if something is too boring, to demanding, to exhausting, dirty, disgusting, stressing, etc we get to pull this little ace from out of sleeves and declare that we are now privileged to get out of work and got and do the things that we really want to do.
They think that saying we are sick is nothing more than playing a privilege card that like a get out of jail card allows us to escape the penalties and rigors of real life. That if we do not like the food we just pull the “I am allergic card” and now we are free to skip the meal and head to the desert bar where we can gorge on cake, cookies, and ice cream.
Sadly there are some who have given this impression because not knowing or caring for the danger that allergies can pose to those who are allergic or the damage they do to those whose illness does not leave a visible mark play this card in hopes of receiving special treatment. But for those who like myself suffer from very real, chronic, often debilitating pain this is far from the truth. Because we know all to well the sad reality of us the blurred days of chronic pain, the discouragement of making plans and waking up to miserable to do anything more than crawl to the sofa, the mountain of disappointed hopes, and seemingly endless days of loneliness that come with chronic, debilitating illness.
While it might appear to some like chronic illness and allergies is a wonderful privilege card granting me the rights to sit on the sofa and watch TV, to lay back and surf the web all day, and avoid the foods I hate, this is not the reality. To me I have not drawn the delightful get of Jail Card that removes all penalties for landing on go to jail. Oh no, instead I have landed in a strange reality where no matter where I turn, no matter what I try to do, I can only go a few steps before I get a do not pass go, go directly to jail card thrown in my way. Because no matter how hard I strive or push with all my might to fight for my dreams, it is not long before a sever bout of pain, a debilitating round of anemia, a massive infection, or a frightful allergy puts a halt to my dreams of living a normal life. And almost as soon as the dream began, it comes to a crashing end.
To me it seems like I have gotten a Get Out of Life Free Card that at every turn yanks me out of life and puts me on the sidelines. For years, in spite of the pain and misery that was sure to come I would fight to go to school. All it took was a few weeks of feeling good and my hopes would rise. At last, I am finally getting better, now I will finally be able to reach my goal of becoming a doctor. A few days or weeks later, after putting in hours of sweat and study, with grades high, yank your sidelined to the sofa. Try again next semester. It’s my birthday and I have planned a day of games and a delicious meal, do not pass go, you have an infection and feel to miserable to sit up and play a game. Try again next year. There’s a gathering with family that I have not seen in years, sorry you must go to jail. Do not get up from the sofa, do not lift your head to look at your computer. Instead spend the day in so much pain that you can hardly stand to open your eyes. Have a project that needs your attention, running low on groceries, want to take a walk on the beach, go on vacation, eat out, go to church, a pile of receipts that need to be put in the bank book good luck. Because at every turn, no matter how hard you wish it to be different you know that sooner or latter the card will be played.
It seems like my life has been an endless round of do not feel well, do not enjoy life, do not succeed, do not dream, do not… Just go to jail and enjoy your frustrating life as a prisoner of pain stuck eternally on the sidelines watching the world and time pass you by. Watch your former friends and classmates grow up, graduate from college, get married, have children, and enjoy life to the fullest.
With great frustration this little card has ruined my plans, destroyed my dreams, and left me sitting in a curled up ball watching everything that I have planned and work for crumble. Watching all the other players smile with delight as they land on go, build houses on board walk, and win the game of life. Because each time this card is drawn I find myself sick, painful, to exhausted to even lift my head off of the sofa.
Unlike the wonderful card of endless fun that some believe it to be, this card of misery has proven to be more like a thousand pound truck knocking me down. Yes, I am too tired to work, to tired to do the dirty chores no one enjoys, but when a flair up comes along I am also too tired to sit at my computer and write, too tired to play Monopoly with my Mother, too tired to go grocery shopping, too tired to practice my piano or flute, too tired write a poem or story, and too tired to do anything more than watch life march by my lonely window.
Yet as deep a blow as this unexpected card has delivered to my hopes and dreams, I can say that in some respects this great disappointment has proven to be a blessing. For example I have learned that I have 2 choices. Look only at what has gone wrong, look only at the pile of broken dreams, and accept that life is nothing more than a depressing game of chance. That I can wallow in a bed of self-pity and accept my hopeless fate.
Or I can take the second choice and realize that while there is much to be discouraged about, there are many good things in my life. I have been blessed with a wonderful family who instead of kicking me to the curb has done all in their power to help me. My illness, while debilitating and knocking me to the ground over and over again, could be far worse, robbing me of the use of my hands and feet.
I have learned that it is my choice to sit down and sob because I am not a doctor like I could have been if I was not sick, or I can thank God that while I might have to lay on the sofa and prop up my head to type this, at least I can still use my own hands.
I can chose to feel mope around all day with my face hanging on the floor, screaming to one and all about how unfair life has been to me and animatedly declaring that I am the victim of some cruel plot to rob me of my due. Or I can instead take the lemon that life has handed me and make lemonade by finding little things such as writing this blog that not only creates a sense of satisfaction, but also gives some purpose to my life.
If it were not for this life altering Get Out of Life Card, I might not have learned the power of this important lesson. Then when a major life storm came along, I might have been tempted like some to feel ill-used, short changed, and unfairly burdened down. And to think this way would surely have led to depression.
But instead, thanks to this unfortunate twist, I was taught the power of looking on the bright side of life. That while there will be days of sorrow and discouragement, with God’s help I can still wear a smile and rejoice. Because if I look hard enough I can find a reason to hope and celebrate.