I’m Having a “Thumbs Up” Day.

This photo is from a trip to Telluride two years ago. You can’t tell, but this is the top of a 5 mile roundtrip, 1,000 foot elevation hike. It was a significant accomplishment for me. I went at a snail’s pace, took a few rest stops, and lagged far behind the rest of the group. I was slow, but I made it.  (Don’t worry, I wasn’t alone. My devoted husband stayed at my side, as always). 

Some would question the wisdom of me even attempting the hike. Others might count me out all together. But I woke up that day, and decided to see what was possible. 

And that’s how I’m trying to live my life. To wake up each day and see what’s possible. The last few weeks, the answer was “not much”. I was in a downward cascade that started with vertigo six weeks ago. The vertigo spell seemed to unwind months of forward progress. Suddenly, my energy was low, my appetite was absent, and my digestion was terrible – I was back to pureed food for a while. Then emotional fragility set in.

It was a dark time. I was feeling incredibly low. I try to take set backs in stride. To accept them as part of the process. That’s an easy concept to grasp intellectually, but much harder to put into practice. Especially when you feel miserable.

There’s a great line from a song: “When you’re going through Hell, keep on going”. What other choice is there, really?  So, these past few weeks I did what I did on that hike. I kept putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how slowly, no matter how hard it was.

And guess what? Yesterday I reached the proverbial top of the hike. I have mental clarity. My energy is good. I have my appetite back. My digestion is working better. 

Am I cured? Not even close. In fact, compared to a healthy person, I probably feel pretty crummy. But compared to where I’ve been, I feel great. Alive. Happy. I have a spring in my step, and lightness in my heart. This day is full of possibility for me.

This is the perfect illustration of living with chronic illness. Good days, bad days, horrid days, mediocre days, excellent days.

Here’s the rub. I stick to more or less the same regimen every day – same diet, same supplements, same meditation, same supportive therapies, same amount of sleep. Yet, there is no sameness to how I feel. This is what it means to live with Lyme Disease. Line up 100 other Lyme patients and you will hear the same story.

Since this is my reality, I’m attempting to make peace with the the varied nature of my days. In meditation you are taught that nothing is permanent. Things are always changing. Therefore, bad times don’t last, but neither do good ones. 

I think we’re all pretty good at embracing the transient nature of bad times. But it’s less intuitive to view good times in the same light. But that’s what I must do. Celebrate good days? Absolutely. Cling to them and expect them to last forever? Absolutely not. Be crushed when they leave me? No, no, no.

The same is true of bad days. Be crushed when they arrive? No. Think I’ll never again have a good day? Absolutely not.

How will I do that? I’m not the Dalai Lama, so I don’t really have a good answer. But I do know one truth. Regardless of how I feel any given day, the only answer for me is to keep on going. And I will. 

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