In earlier blogs I have shared my 45 year journey with chronic pain, increasing disability, and finally reaching the point where pain and disability were not always compatible with the will to survive. I have also written of the recent procedures that have relieved that pain enough for me to cope, and to begin to pick up the unraveled threads of living; to once again look beyond the immediate desperation of losing control of my life and to see, and feel, the enticement of a world that had somehow managed to retain its fascinations even when I was not paying attention. I joked with friends that I now knew how Lazarus might have felt, when Jesus brought him back to life. What a thrill it has been!
You would think that by my seventh decade of life I would have learned that one cannot stay on the mountain-top experiences of life. The journey continues; there are valleys to plunge into, rivers to struggle across, and then more mountains to climb.
Even so, I was completely unprepared for the news I was given two days ago. I have acquired yet another chronic disease process that is not only difficult to deal with, but also extremely expensive. Because of my intolerance for so many medications, there is only one that will provide any relief at all. It won’t cure, only relieve for brief periods. It costs $173 for about a month’s supply. Medicare doesn’t cover it, and neither will my Schedule D coverage. I live on social security, and this is not the only medication that I have to pay for myself. As my doctor pointed out, sometimes those valley experiences are less like rolling downhill and more like falling off a cliff.
I was immediately faced with the commitment I had made with a former colleague to take the following day, yesterday, and travel about an hour out of the city to spend an afternoon with two other of our former colleagues. We had all worked together at my former college, but over the past six or seven years had made separate decisions that eventually brought us all within reach of each other again. Only I was now unprepared for the challenge. First, it would be my first major trip in over a year. Up until my “restoration,” driving within a four-mile radius had been my limit. Second, my new self-confidence seemed to have disappeared, along with my new joy of living. Why should I impose my doom and gloom on my old friends!
I considered my options. I could call and beg off – that was nothing new. I have had to do that so often in the past couple of years. Then, instead of enjoying the comfort of conversation and shared memories with old friends, I could stay at home with the dubious comfort of self-pity, letting the fears of the past roll into the fears for the future. I could choose, in other words, to be miserable.
So what if I chose instead to be, if not happy, at least to be content? And what was there to be content about? Well, for starters, I still had the freedom once again to move about. I actually could drive away from the safety of my four-mile limit, and see what the world outside the city looked like. And I could enjoy a much-needed day with old friends, just as we had planned.
So I did. And it was magnificent. I don’t recall the scenery ever having been so peaceful, and lovely. I had forgotten the exhilarating sense of adventure that is fueled by the idea of “road trip.” Best of all, I was once again enfolded in the rich satisfaction of being with old friends, sharing good food and better memories. I was so glad that I had chosen to be happy.
Coming back to life has its challenges, as well as its joys. Old ways of coping with day to day living may have to be relearned after years of coping with pain and desperation, and serving the egocentric needs of being a patient. Worse, it is not a perfect world that you come back to. Much needs to be corrected, to be fought for. Much needs to be protected, and treasured.
Please, Lord, remind me to change what things I can change; to accept those things that I cannot change; and most important – to know the difference. And to be content.