For my wife to be given a ‘sentence’ of an aggressive and disabling form of rheumatoid arthritis certainly wasn’t on our agenda when we married. Neither did I expect to be diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (M.E.) not long after taking early retirement. These chronic illnesses changed the direction of our lives for ever, but although they were the cause of much grief and struggle, we have so very much to be thankful for and strangely, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It has been a life-changing experience so far and this continues – we are still learning. What I personally have learnt and am still learning was on my mind today and these are just a few thoughts:
1. Fun. There are times when I have to remind myself not to take life too seriously and find time for fun. Yes FUN! It helps to have a sense of humour. Mine gets buried at times and I need to let it out and even take the risk of offending some.
2. I’m learning poise – I needed to. There’s only one day that matters and that’s today. I’m learning to savour and enjoy the moment, whether it’s a chance meeting or to gaze at a bee feeding of the flowers in our garden.
3. I’m learning to ‘be.’ The ‘being’ that starts in the womb and continues as an infant on mother’s knee seeing the affection in her eyes and as we grow receiving validation from our fathers. Many of us missed out somewhat on this sort of thing. I believe a lack of a ‘sense of being’ – as I call it – can be at the root of so much stress-related illness. Fortunately this lack can be corrected by sitting on the knee of Father God, spending time with Him in intimacy. This is a need God has put within me, but setting aside the space can be a battle at times.
4. Making the most of time. With our limited strength and energy – is anyone unlimited? – we have been living in what we call ‘the slow lane’ and see others whizzing by – perhaps they are missing out on something? Paradoxically the weeks and months seem to fly past, so it’s impressed upon us to choose carefully what we do and how we do it. The only way I know how to do this is to yield to Father and follow His lead and experience that He has more than enough strength.
5. I’m learning to follow the dreams and desires God has put within me. This often seems risky, especially as what ‘normal’ people see as simple and everyday, can be a challenging adventure to us. So if something comes to mind, I either do it or forget about it. For my 60th birthday my wife arranged for us to go on a hot air balloon trip – don’t ask me how I got her into the basket! No matter that we hit overhead electric power cables and were splashed over the newspaper front page the next day. We had a perfect landing following a beautiful and unforgettable experience. God took care of us.
6. I have never been good at feeding relationships and I try to change this. Especially important because some friends, for one reason or another, cannot handle disability and chronic illness and they fall away. Some we have to let go, but others come along.
7. Change. I’m still learning to be more flexible. I used to have a habit of wanting to maintain the status quo – sticking with what I am familiar with even if it may not be the best. Life is about changing and it’s best to get into that attitude early in life or it gets harder later on – believe me!
8. Childlike not childish. My journey has involved letting my childlike side come to the fore, but dealing with the childish traits and emotional ‘wounds’ that can be so disabling in adult life.
9. Deal with loss and grief without pretending, let go of what I cannot do and discover or rediscover what is possible. I now have time to write and paint for example.
10. Learning to be me and live with other people’s anger.
11. Guard the Spirit within me and encourage hope.
I could keep on but I’ll stop here. My wife would add a lot more I’m sure.
“One day at a time, sweet Jesus, that’s all I’m asking of you.
Teach me today, to do all the things that I have to do.
Yesterdays gone, sweet Jesus, and tomorrow may never be mine.
Lord, for my sake, teach me to take, one day at a time.”