We were visiting with some good friends about a week or so ago. She has been fighting a pretty tough battle with leukemia for years. Gratefully, things right now are looking positive. Probably better than they have in a long time.
She talked about trying to reclaim a bit of her life by reintroducing activities long ago forgotten. One is riding a bike. Her plan is to set the bike up in the house on a stand to work her way up to embarking in the great outdoors.
The conversation worked around to the subject of disability. I was kind of surprised to hear her express a concern that I have been fighting for a long time. She mentioned that while on disability she feels guilty if she ever has a good day, or feels better and closer to normal than not.
First of all, I have always felt like I must be a lazy person if I’m on disability. Secondly, if I have a day when I don’t feel rotten, then I think I had better get back to work – and quickly.
But of course then the next day comes and I kind of hit my head in a “Duh, this is why we’re on the disability.”
There are those who are healthy enough to go to work every day. Ann sets her alarm and, rain or shine, tired or refreshed, she heads off to work. I remind myself that there was a time (actually more than 20 years) that I did the same thing.
There are those who are in wheelchairs and need 24-hour care. They are in nursing homes and spend their days with others in similar situations, maybe listening to the TV, or just staring off into the distance.
And then there are those of us in between.
It’s actually kind of a tough place to be. Could be pride, could be a desire to contribute, could be frustration at watching the rest in the family sweating and toiling and not feeling like we are doing our fair share.
One regret that plagues me is that Ann should be at a different point in her life right now. I’m actually a pretty smart guy and a hard worker. Our kids have flown the nest. This should be when we have the greatest financial freedom of our lives and still have the physical energy to enjoy it. She has worked so hard all her life that she most definitely has earned it.
Of course, she is pretty great about the whole thing. In her no-nonsense way she simply says “but that’s not the way it is.” She’s not angry, nor does she ever make me feel bad about it. Just the opposite, in fact. She told me that she would rather that I sleep until I can actually function and not try to do too much around the house while she’s gone.
It just makes me want to work harder to do more for her.
We are kind of funny like that.
I guess this is what has made me wonder about the whole thing: What makes us feel that doing well is an all-or-nothing situation?
And so I battle being between the one and the other.
Isn’t the reality though, that it is that way for everyone?
No one is completely rotten or supremely perfect, whether it is in physical ability, mental acuity, emotional stability, or spiritual capacity.
All of us have rainy days and sunny days. We do our best; which sometimes isn’t much at all, but at other times is actually pretty amazing.
Ann told me that I should write about the ability to experience happiness and mental illness simultaneously. It made me smile, because I know that we wouldn’t know that almost oxymoron without her attitude and love.
I think it is because she has learned NOT to battle being between the one or the other. For her, there is simply what is.
And we go from there.
Just as important, what is your role in others personal battle being between? How compassionate, understanding and selfless are we in letting them have things be as good as they can be, even if it is suboptimal?
Instead of battling that the spot even exists, there is freedom and confidence in finding just where on the “between” scale we find ourselves. When we have, we need to, like Ann, recognize that it simply is what it is.
Here’s the exciting thing about the whole situation: The miracle of life is that it isn’t a static position. We slide up and down the scale, depending on a million different factors.
Like our personal oxymoron of experiencing happiness and mental illness simultaneously, you will find your own contradicting daily experiences.
Letting them exist together and not forcing an all-or-nothing choice lets us focus more on sliding on the scale.