Have you ever heard the phrase, “Grow where you’re planted”? It comes from the Bible 1 Corinthians 7:14-24, but I am taking it out of context because those four words are great advice for what I am experiencing.
In other words, do the best with what you have. Sometimes, that’s really tough. The soil beneath your feet isn’t so sturdy, the sun might shine either too brightly or too weakly, and the rain may fall too quickly or not at all. That’s a lot of symbolism, but I’m a former English Major, and you can’t take that out of me.
The Ugly Human Emotions
I sometimes find myself looking at the lives other people lead, and think, if only I had the health they do, the same level off resources, or the opportunities, then I’d have the life I wanted!
I recently found myself getting down about the things I can’t do due to poor health – travel, work, raise children, play sports and do fun, spontaneous “extreme” things. I thought, here I spend half my day on the couch doing treatments and taking medications, saving my energy to maybe get a bit of the housework done, fighting with my insurance company to cover my recent $41k hospitalization, while “everyone else is out there living and having adventures”.
I succumbed to self-pity, sadness, and yes, jealousy. I even cried. I’m not proud of these feelings, but I’m human. I admitted my feelings to my husband as well as my closest CF friends.
“There is so Much Love…”
Crying, I apologized to my husband for being sick and not being able to do what a normal wife and partner could do, that I am keeping us from having grand adventures and exciting lives.
The first thing my husband did was tell me to look over in the corner, at my cats. There they were, snuggly and cute, sitting together in their Kitty Korner.
“There is SO much love in this house. Look at your babies!!”, he said.
- When I’m sick, they are by my side or on my lap, purring.
- When Ken comes home from work, they sit at the front door, waiting for him to come in, then follow him around the house until he sits to pet them.
- At night, they pop up on the bed and trill at us, even poking us with their little paws, letting us know that it’s time to cuddle.
When times are sad, or when they’re scary and uncertain – somehow, Ken knows how to get me to smile or laugh, and we can communicate really well, even if I’m covered in medical wires and tubes, or sick or in pain.
- We have a secret hand and facial signs to communicate when I’m tied down with tubes and wires, or cannot sit up or can’t talk (whether medicated, in pain, or in a procedure).
- Over the holidays this December, which was only days after a week-long hospitalization and another week on home IV antibiotics, he lined up about 10 of my favorite holiday and other movies for us to watch together (21 Jump Street, 22 Jump Street, Love Actually, to name a few!)
“And we do fun things!” he said.
That’s right, too!
When times are happy, we have our own special ways of celebrating.
- When we lived up near Boston (9 years), we’d go into the North End (“little” Italy) and sit in the open air part of our favorite restaurant with a bottle of Pinot Grigio and eat risotto, or grab cocktails and then go dancing with friends. We celebrated New Years Eve Y2K in black tie at a posh party.
- A couple of years ago, we celebrated our anniversary at Dairy Queen because I wasn’t feeling well and having problems getting food in, and I had a hankering for a soft serve Ice cream cone.
He then said, “Our entire life together is an Adventure!”
And I thought about that, too.
- Meeting on vacation, having a whirlwind courtship writing letters and making long-distance phone calls until he decided it was time to pack up and move across the country so we weren’t apart anymore.
- Surviving what began as exploratory surgery that turned out to be a life-saving, all-day surgery.
- Traveling across the country to visit his parents every year, which also took us through Oklahoma and Missouri.
- Our amazing trips to Puerto Rico where we saw the Rainforest and spent time at centuries-old fort, another trip to Montreal where we visited the old part of the city and toured Notre-Dame Basilica, and partied at an 80s club on St. Catherine Avenue with people visiting from all over Europe.
- Vacations spent on Cape Cod with my sister and her family several years in a row.
- Meeting and getting to know each of my nieces and nephews, and loving them more and more each time I see them.
- Impromptu moments with my sisters, perhaps going to lunch, getting manicures, and even a late-night trip hubby and I took with my sister and her husband to Atlantic City, which we followed up with a 3am breakfast after winning $$ on the slot machines.
- Watching the Super Bowl while in the hospital and ordering hot wings and pizza and sharing with the nurses.
- We’ve cheered for our beloved Red Sox during the playoffs, seen Billy Joel in concert half a dozen times together, and sailed into international waters for a Whale Watch.
(When I look at it all, it does seem pretty cool!)
With a Little Help from My Friends
My CF friends then gave me some amazing support.
More than words of encouragement, they shared their own experiences, of their own struggles and fears and unfinished wishes. The fact that they opened themselves up as humans who experienced similar feelings made me realize that though I don’t have much of a “real life” social network, I do have friends who know me, support me, who were similar enough to understand one another, and different enough to learn from one another.
“I SO GET THIS. I have had so many times in my life where I feel like life is just passing me by while I’m stuck able to do almost nothing.” – C
“‘ For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.’
It’s a constant reminder that I struggle with… My health declined badly in the last 5 years. I find myself constantly comparing [redacted] talents, home, kids, vacations, etc. I can’t take my kids places or make commitments.
I finally started seeing myself the way God sees me. He never compares me. He’s given me a measure of Faith to take my eyes off of her & trust in what He has for me is good right & just for my spiritual growth.” – R
“Back in the day (1994) I received letters from people with CF around the US that offered to be penpals via the CF Network Newsletter. Those letters and camaraderie changed my life. It was the first time I communicated with people who had cf as well. After that experience, I have always attempted to be available to others with Cf, share knowledge, share support. I feel like that is the greatest gift.” – D
Even more amazing to me was the love they showed to me for being me – appreciation a doctor referral I shared, thanks for starting a private social media group where we can all gather, and the general input or advice I’ve given over time. I often feel like the small things I do don’t or won’t make a difference, but it has… That is the reason I started this blog and doing some other projects – to help others deal with CF, chronic illness, or life in general. I never thought I’d make a difference in one life, let alone five, ten, or more.
So Back to that Metaphor.
I may not stand tall and bloom loudly and brightly like a carefully cultivated sunflower.
Instead, I’m like the Daisy. In carefully cultivated gardens, Daisies are often seen as a wildflower, a weed, a “common” flower unworthy of a grand plan. But God gave Daisies a happy face and the ability to grow about anywhere, and I consider myself like those happy-faced Daisies. (I actually had Daisies in my wedding bouquet and on my wedding cake!)
I’d rather continue to grow all season and come back year after year, than spend my entire lifecycle trying to stand tall and perfect for a brief few weeks at most, and always having to chase the sun.