When I was stumped as to what to write this month, I asked my husband, Art, for suggestions. He had only one: Why I was thankful for having lupus, to fit in with the Thanksgiving holiday. I laughed! Was he kidding? I’d have to pretend and lie, unconvincing and unbelievable. Then the challenging idea began to nudge me, and genuine ideas crept in that I could honestly say were true. So here are some gifts lupus has brought me, that I am truly thankful for, no kidding!
More friends, new friends
I have more good friends and a constant source of new, diverse connections as I meet more people affected by lupus, not to mention their caring families and friends who support them.
Healthier balance in my life
Previously driven by adrenaline and a compulsion to be productive, I now balance activity with rest, employ forethought and planning before projects, and what I accomplish is more important than how much I accomplish. My outcomes are better too, with more planning and less hurried execution.
More appreciation of life
Before lupus, I took life and good health for granted. There is nothing like a chronic illness to teach humility, appreciation, patience, and making the most of what you have left.
Time to reflect
Now that my body cannot speed around, I have more time to spend “in my head”, with my thoughts, searching my soul, contemplating the meaning of life, the universe, and our complex human connections.
With lupus, I have done more poetry and article writing, teaching, designing, creative cooking, repurposing, and decorating than ever before.
Continuation of my career
Once devastated by the ending of my nursing and teaching career as I knew it, I have found new ways to use my knowledge, experience and teaching via writing, online forums, and support groups to help others with lupus and a variety of health problems.
Enjoyment of the little things
My roses in bloom, birds at the feeder, growing tomatoes, fresh flowers from the garden, a leisurely meal al fresco, long soaks in the tub, playing with my grandkids, wrapping holiday gifts while cookies bake in the oven, and walking through the fallen leaves hand in hand with my hubby all give me more pleasure than ever before.
Change in values
People, rather than things, are most important to me now. My younger desires to buy and accumulate have given way to simplicity and de-cluttering. Comfort, practicality and design are more important than trends, brands and cost. A purse from Target, if I like it, trumps a brand-name bag any day.
A more giving spirit
I actually enjoy giving more than receiving, unless it is a back or foot massage! Gifts of time, creative effort, given from the heart, matched to the recipient’s personal nature are joyful to give and see in use.
The pursuit of happiness has given way to being happy with being content-with my life, my relationships, my limitations, and myself as a whole. Contentment implies a serenity for which I strive.
Acceptance of an imperfect self
I have been a perfectionist my whole life and am finally shedding that heavy cloak of expectations. I am accepting myself, graying hair, rashes and bruises, knobby knuckles, widening waistline, and even the pain and inability to do things I used to do. For every ability I lose, I try to learn a new skill to replace it.
Ability to relax, slow down
As my body slows down, I am embracing the quieter pleasures of life; art, reading, music.
Understanding of love
I have learned that I am worthy of love, in my imperfect state, just as I can truly love others who are burnt, amputated, misshapen, scarred or paralyzed, and realize one’s exterior is virtually transparent when focusing on a person’s inner beauty.
Opportunities to help others
My best distraction from fatigue and pain is the act of helping others through theirs. It is a constant source of inspiration and satisfaction to know that I can lift, ever so much, the burden of others by a simple smile, caring word or gesture, or act of unsolicited kindness in the spirit of giving and hope.