Chasing a Dream: An Epiphany!

Sometimes along the dream chase, I have an epiphany.  That moment often is what greets me when I first open my eyes for the day—even before Robert’s “good morning, sweetie.”  Today’s epiphanous moment requires a bit of explanation.

Many People Struggle With Chronic Illness

I know several people whose day-to-day battles against a chronic illness—many times an invisible one like asthma, diabetes, fibromyalgia, COPD or lupus—dictate the scope of their entire lives.  Perhaps they struggle to breathe or move; maybe it’s pain that limits their functions; sometimes it’s the financial impact of dealing with those illnesses over the long haul.  The simple truth is that long-term pain and the physical challenges that result from medical issues can be so much more than inconvenient—they can be downright depressing and sometimes almost overwhelming.  If you let them.

The Epiphany

So I opened my eyes this morning to the thought, “I am NOT fibromyalgia.”  That was it.  Wait.  Did you miss it?  That thought WAS the epiphany.

You see, I have met people whose entire lives are wrapped up in their medical condition—they spend every moment letting you know about it.  Sometimes the expression on their face screams, “I am ill, I am in pain, I am pitiful.”  This negativity may not be obvious to them, but it’s sure obvious to everyone else:  THEY ARE THEIR ILLNESS.  And they are about as much fun as a toothache.

How to BE

One of the challenges I faced as a parent was to teach a child born with an open spine (spina bifida) and tethered cord syndrome that she could be anything she wanted to be (other than a soldier or professional football player which were her dreams at 5 or 6 years old).  At the time, I wasn’t aware of the lessons I was teaching; I only knew I had to make her as independent and adaptable as possible in order to give her the whole world.  I felt that SHE would have to be the one to adapt because the world wasn’t going to adapt to her.  So I taught her to enjoy writing and learning, she excelled in spelling and fun.  We shared laughter (she was a child of joy), and fun times.  Even the physical therapy exercises we did for hours each day were noisy and giggling.  I had no background in dealing with her medical issues; I was just a mother doing the best I could for someone who deserved the best.  Somewhere along the way, it worked, and most people never knew—most still don’t know—the challenges she faced.  Because she is NOT spina bifida; she is a strong, determined, intelligent and capable woman who happens to HAVE spina bifida.  In other words, SHE has it but it does not have HER. There’s a huge difference.

That’s Where I Learned

My favorite picture of my Best Teacher.  This photo was taken 2 days after we would told she would never walk--she was 22 months old at the time of her first spine surgery.

My favorite picture of my Best Teacher. This photo was taken 2 days after we would told she would never walk–she was 22 months old at the time of her first spine surgery.

It’s interesting, too, that the lessons I taught are the lessons I needed to learn.  You know, the teacher became the student.  Little did I know I’d face my own issues with chronic pain.  I watched my brave and determined daughter overcome her extreme physical challenges, and somewhere along the way, I learned from her to put aside those things and BE THE PERSON I WAS MEANT TO BE.  In other words, SHE taught ME that I am NOT my illness; it’s only one of the challenges I face.  I may HAVE fibromyalgia but it certainly doesn’t have me.

You Will Be As Happy as You CHOOSE to Be

It’s a lesson I tell myself often.  I AM happy.  I choose happiness over all the other possibilities.  There have been times in my life when making the choice was more than I could handle.  Sometimes the things I faced temporarily robbed me of realizing that happiness IS a choice.  It is a conscious decision.  One can be happy in the face of great odds; or unhappy in the best of circumstances.  Think about people you’ve known.  Heck, think about some of the celebrities whose behavior indicates an underlying EXTREME unhappiness.  Some of them have more financial resources than you or I may ever know, crowds of people who seek to spend time with them, and reside in such opulence that it takes your breath away.  Yet they drink, drug, misbehave, encounter legal issues, and exhibit all manner of behavior that indicates their very souls ache for something that is missing.  I’ve often wished I could show them the way to joy, because it is obvious from their lifestyles that joy doesn’t live within them.  A client of mine (a very well-known wealthy client) once expressed it like this:  “I have everything handed to me.  There’s nothing I can’t get, and there’s no real challenge.  That feels so empty.”  This is someone who called the phone sex service for which I worked, and the utter dissatisfaction he expressed was quite puzzling to me.  This man had EVERYTHING:  talent, success, money, family, fans, cars, homes (in several countries), the finest clothes, and scores of people who LIVED to support his every wish.  Yet he felt deeply unsatisfied and empty.  I always thought it terribly sat that nobody taught him happiness is a choice.  Until the moment he died, he never knew.

THRIVE

I chose happiness.  Thus, despite a decades-old battle, my soul has learned to thrive.  I must say that my life is never boring—it’s unpredictable–anything but routine.  It’s often interesting and rewarding and sometimes scary as hell.  I laugh with abandon; I sing when I feel inclined (even if it’s loud and off-key); I dance when I find a good rhythm (can you say “Three Dog Night”?); I give with no expectation of return; I love without holding back a single part of my heart.  Because I am NOT my pain.  I have pain, but I am happy to say that it doesn’t have ME.  And I think that’s the only way to live happy.

DREAM BIG!  Despite the odds!

Thanks for being here!

peggy!

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