Summer, that great time of year when warm breezes blow and sunny days beckon one and all to roam a vibrant green world as busy birds flutter through the trees singing their merry song of life. Where visions of melodic waves crashing against the shore and refreshing dips in cool ocean waters fill the imagination.
But for me summer is a time of frustration. As the thermostat rises and the humidity climbs so does the deep ache in my bones. Instead of lounging in a chair by the refreshing waters of a crystal clear pool, summer finds me curled up in a tight ball with a steam of tears threatening to run down my pain contorted cheeks. And in sorrow I watch from the sidelines as the days of summer slip away, never to return.
Frustrated I dream of long walks by the ocean, and of typing by the pool as I sip a refreshing glass of ice cold pineapple fruit shake. My hot brow desperate wishing for the chance to cool off in a shady corner of the pool, even though I know that my achy bones would never allow it.
Haunted by images of the life I long for and worn out by the increasingly debilitating ache that sores with the thermometer, disappointment threatens to engulf me. Oh how I long for a normal life, to know the joy of living with strength and purpose instead of tip toeing around my endless discomfort. As I look at my empty platter and think about how empty my life is of the active joy that I long for, a deep depression threatens to take hold.
But it is at this moment that God in His mercy steps in. With tender love He points my throbbing head upward and reminds me that trying as these days of frustration are, this need not be my unhappy end.With love he reminds me of the promise that one day soon I may rise like a mighty eagle unhampered by the chains of pain that currently hold me back.
Slowly, as I take my eyes off my current suffering and by faith behold the glorious days of promise, my frustration gives way to joy. And although pain still racks my body, my heart begins to sing songs of praise. As my imagination is carried past the fleeting dreams of an earthly summer and carried to that which shall stand the test of time. No longer concentrating upon the sorrow of having been born into a world of pain, I look ahead to that precious day when the clouds do part to reveal a vast host of angels whose song makes the world to tremble. And at last my weary burdens I shall be able to put down, as with the freedom of endless youth I bounce, and a heart filled with joy I fall before my Redeemer and pour out my soul in gratitude that my days of pain and heartache He melted away and transformed into the wonder of the dawn of endless, pain free youth!
Even though I had known for a long time that it was coming, the day it finally broke through my thick head that my dream was over, it felt as if my heart had been run over by a mile long bullet train running at full throttle. Tears filled my eyes as I looked down upon the pitiful remnants of the dream that been the driving force of my life since I was five, and finally admitted to myself that like Humpty Dumpty, all the glue in the world would not put it back together again.
I would like to say that when the truth finally knocked its way into my brain, that after a few hours of mourning, I rose from my bed of tears stronger, wiser, more resilient, and with a sweet calmness worthy of emulation. I would like to say that it was such, but sadly for days, weeks, even months I was touchy, moody, and at times only tolerable company as I grieved for the cavernous void in my heart that I had no clue how to ease.
With bitter sorrow I listened to every tidbit of the active world around me. The green eye of envy rising to the surface as I was barraged at every turn by fresh tidbits of my peers success until I dread to hear the phone ring lest it was some loved one sharing news with my Mother that they were certain would bring smiles of delight to our face. News that at other times might have only brought forth a dry smile and a momentary pang of longing that was easily smothered by the abiding hope that one day soon my Mother would triumphantly be able to declare that her daughter had finished premed or graduated from nursing school.
But now that the battle had been conceded, now that I had admitted that my life’s purpose had been defeated by the superior foe of chronic pain and misery, I was like a flimsy dot of a life raft lost at sea. Rising and falling on the storm maddened waves of uncertainty and loneliness and pounded by the beating rains of despair. Like a haunting melody the unforgiving wind declared that I was nothing but a useless blob, a worthless blood sucker sucking the life of my aging parents. With fiendish glee the flashing lightening and earth jarring thunder would announce that my future once so bright and hopeful was doomed to ignominy and failure.
During this bleak time my pain was made more acute as imaginary images of my frightful fate, terrorized my dreams and haunted the most peaceful moments of my days. Like the midnight sectors of Dickens strange Christmas tale, my eyes were tortured by the fearful realization that one day the comforting arms around me would be no more, and that I would be left pale, friendless, and jobless to face a future wandering the streets begging for the stale crumbs of human sympathy.
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.
Today is one of those days were discouragement keeps knocking on my door trying to find entrance into my heart. Stubbornly reminding me of all the goals and dreams that I have not meet and pointing out all the accomplishments and privileges that my peers enjoy. Whispering in my ear that life is and has passed my by. Insisting that my humble little life is a failure because I have not hit the mile markers of life such as getting a car, a job, a husband, and children like all my other classmates.
When discouragement comes to visit, it is amazing how as soon as its footsteps cross the threshold happiness threatens to go on vacation. Probably because joy, peace, contentment, and self-esteem cannot endure discouragement’s contentious presence. There is something about that dreaded visitor called discouragement that drives away pleasant guest such as hope and comfort.
For the past two summers all I could think about is how much I want a pool. My Father has not been to well the past couple of summers so I have had to help him mow the lawn. The early part of the summer, while not fun, was not so bad, but by June as the temperatures soared into the nineties, the only way I could manage a step was by imagining the fun of floating lazily in the refreshingly cool waters of my own pool. Day after day I imagined, I hoped, and I dreamed of the relief of splashing around in those cool waters that would help to relieve the aching of my weary bones.
Sadly as much as I longed for one, I knew there was little hope of attaining my wish as a few minutes of dream crushing research revealed their steep price. But if a permanent pool is currently out of the question, what about a temporary above ground pool. Considering that a 15X4 foot pool can be $300 dollars I could at least hold some type of hope for buying one.
Six years ago my family and I decided that we would like to have a small raised garden bed in our backyard. We brought these beautiful movable cedar boxes that could be placed one on top of the other. We loved them, but three years latter when we went to get more they had been discontinued. So after some pricing we brought a couple of man made wood boxes.
My mother loved the way that they looked and was considering getting more, but after spending a couple of hundred dollars on dirt and plants she decided that it was better to wait a while and get more. A few weeks latter we were all grateful for her decision as one day when transplanting a new set of flowers into the garden I noticed that one corner was overflowing with ants. I did not think too much of it until a few days latter when standing on the stones that we had placed in between our garden boxes my legs began to itch. That is when I saw it, a trail of hundreds of ants were using the stones as a highway between the two boxes. That were now infested with millions of biting ants.
Time, I think that I am so painfully cognizant of it because thanks to my chronic health issues I lose so much of it. Everything in my life has to be planned around those precious hours and days that are lost to the debilitating waves of pain and fatigue that repeatedly force me to take a time out.
Have you ever heard the saying, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. In part that is true. There is so much about life that we cannot control. No matter how hard I wish, I cannot change my age, my height, the place I was born, or my genetic code.
Sometimes even in areas where we think that we should have control, such as going to school and choosing a career. With our plans all laid out, our eye on the port of choice, we set sail. Certain that we will reach our dreams it never crosses our mind that other factors such as lack of money, family issues, and health can steal our plate of velvet cake and leave us holding a basket of sour lemons.
It is at that moments such as these, when life hands us our greatest disappointments, that our true character and ability to maintain happiness shines. It is at this crucial moment that we have a decision to make that will impact the course of our live. We can chose to take the easy road and let the wave of disappointment swallow us up and give into the urge to slip comfortably into the satisfying robe of self-pity and burry our head under the covers. Or we can decide to take our basket and make lemonade. To get out of bed and do something that will put a smile on our face and take the first step towards choosing happiness.
From my spot on the sofa I can watch the first dry summer breeze as it ripples through the leaves of the oaks in my backyard. A small family of red coated cardinals is playing tag in my neighbors yard while lazy marshmallow clouds decorate the crisp blue sky. In the distance I can hear the sounds of kids splashing in a pool while their watching parents talk with friends from the comfort of their shady porch.
It is summer and life is calling. Calling me to get up fertilize and weed my little backyard garden, to admire the saucer size peach and red hibiscus flowers, or to pick a pepper the size of my hand. Life is calling my name begging me to cut and sew a cool summer blouse, to reorganize my closet, to spend an hour at the gym, to try a recipe for blueberry pie, or curl up in a corner with my favorite book.
One of the hardest parts of living with a chronic illness is the long list of life’s missed opportunities and adventures. Regrets over the long list of things you dreamed of doing but knew that you would never be able to do because your health would never allow it. And the frustration over the list of things you tried to do but had to give up because an ill-timed flair of pain left you bed ridden.
More times than I can count or want to remember I tried to reach my goal of becoming a doctor and failed. Several times under the influence of a brief pain free period I registered for class, only to have to drop days before the semester started because the intense aching of my bones had left me bedridden. Even when I managed to make it past the first hurdle and survive the add drop period, major infections, life-threatening allergy attacks, and overwhelming pain forced me to withdraw from one or all of my classes before the term was over.
Despite moving with the speed of a hibernating sloth, I continued on. Saving every ounce of my feeble supply of energy for my determined fight to reach my goal. Twelve years of faithful fighting and at last I had earned my A.A degree. But like a stubborn frog hitting his head against a brick wall, I still refused to give in. I still did not want to admit to myself that my dreams of becoming a doctor would never be reached. Time after time I waited for the wave of misery to pass so I could try again. Confident that I this time I would not make the same mistake that left had left me curled up in a useless ball of living pain. Promising myself that this time the outcome would be different and that at last I would realize my dreams. Trying to convince myself that if only I pushed a little harder, worked a little smarter I would make it. But each time my hopes and dreams for life had to be sidelined, postponed, and eventually abandoned as the list of missed goals, postponed hopes, and forgotten dreams grew longer and longer.