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How Love Keeps Me Happy Through My Battles With Illness

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“What is making you happy?,” my friend asked.

I suppose given my circumstances of walking the death line and all, that’s a fair question. Really, despite my long-winded response, it’s a very simple answer.

I came to a place where I feel like the me I am right now is enough and I let go – or am letting go of everything else. There is a freedom in being sick. I am able to focus on what is important, which is not being some high level executive at some corporate job. It isn’t being the best this or the best that. What really is important is just embracing who I am in all my imperfections, surrounding myself with people who reciprocate my feelings for them and creating a life that is right for me.

I stopped feeling guilty.

These are my cards. I started listening to my body. I go to sleep between 5 and 7 a.m., but I am sleeping now. I stay up all night, but I am creating art and writing every day. I make a point to listen to a playlist of music that makes me happy every day when I get up. I look at my Patreon feed and visit artists I follow who I love. I hug my animals and favorite human and tell them I love them. I talk to trees. I visit my parents more. I see my cousins often. I tell people whom I love that I love them. I sing out loud. I dance in the middle of the store. I wear what I want because I don’t have anyone to impress anymore. I schedule time to deal with the negative stuff, red tape paperwork and such, so it isn’t consuming my life. The negative stuff is the only thing I really schedule and I make sure I have time for self-care afterwards.

I stopped worrying how other people would feel about my feelings. My feelings are mine, and I’m allowed to have them. My feelings are just as valid as those of anyone else. I stopped worrying about a lot of things; if my art was good enough, if my writing was good enough, if I am good enough.

This is all I am, and that has to be OK.

Whether I raise the money to get treatment this time or not, I’m never going to be cured. I’m never going to be well. I’m always going to be on borrowed time. Hopefully I will get to stick around a little longer, but in case I don’t, I’m living a life that won’t leave me on my death bed with regret. I’m done using my well day energy on ungrateful people. I’m done feeling obligated to people. Or feeling people are obligated to me.

A friend of mine who is also sick asked me what I hoped for at this point in my life, given how sick I am. I want quality. I don’t care how many days are left, I care what I do with them and who I spend them with. I’ve been gifted life twice (three times really if you count my accident), and I felt suddenly, or maybe not so suddenly, like I should honor that.

Recognizing that I don’t have to be the best or keep climbing some ladder to leave some intangible impact was incredibly freeing. No one is going to remember me for being good at marketing. And I don’t want them to. No one is going to remember me for my loyalty to some corporation, and I don’t want them to.

I want to love and be loved; everything else is secondary.

I want to create memories and leave art. I want to live whatever life I have left and instead of focusing on the end, I am focusing on right now.

And I started being honest about my anxieties and asking for help. I need help. I cannot do a lot of things alone and rather than not do those things, I started asking for help when I need it. I let go of being ashamed that I need help. I am human. We all struggle. What I found is that the more vulnerable I am and the more open I am, the more the right people gravitate to me and the wrong people go away. I’m certainly not perfect or completely healed of my neurosis suddenly, but what I realized is that I could be both happy and still be working on myself. I don’t have to be a finished project to share myself. I am working on intentional happiness. On feeling true moments of joy. And slowly, that’s changed everything.

Two nights ago, I had a bad moment. I let the dogs out and when I was walking back in, I couldn’t catch my breath. My lungs were filling up. I felt the black out coming and I just sat down where I was and Daniel came over and grabbed my medicine and inhaler. He sat in front of me and rubbed my back and gave me my meds. I took my inhaler and breathed in. I focused on my dogs around me, the man who loves me and the feeling of his hand on my back. I wasn’t scared. I heard his words: “This is what we do. We get through this. Together we get through this. We are here loving you through this.”

Last night I had an Addison’s attack. My service dog started barking and I sat down. My sugar dropped and it felt like a drunk person was in the driver’s seat of my body. I couldn’t make my left arm move. I couldn’t make my left leg move. Daniel gave me medicine, picked me up and laid me on the couch with my feet up. My service dog licked my face through it, and the other two sat with us. Ordinarily in these moments, I would have focused on the fear – of not being able to breathe, of my heart jumping off rhythm, of my limbs not receiving the messages from my brain, of all of the “bad” things, but I didn’t. For the first time in a long time, I saw through the sickness – through my haze, past the misfired messages in my brain, through my pain, and there was something bigger.

That thing that is bigger than the sickness, more consuming than the fear, is love.

And we did get through it. I didn’t feel fear, I felt grateful for the love. There is a tenderness that happens when you allow someone to love you deeply that can’t be explained. Really, that’s it. I am happy, because I choose to focus on love. Wherever that love comes from – a moment, an act, a day, an art form, a person, an outing – that is what I’m looking for. And, the universe is delivering as it always does.

Follow this journey on Upcycled Jane.

Thinkstock photo via milicad.

Originally published: October 11, 2017
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