I have compiled a fairly “extensive” list of my personal “sayings” – things I have thought about and written down as well as phrases that have organically arisen from intense discussions over matters of “life.” I would really like to get a book of them out (to be continued …), but I thought this would be a good place to start getting at least some of them down and discussing why they are important to remember, especially for those of us facing severe chronic illness(es) or disability (/disabilities).
My FIRST “Sunday Saying” is one I articulated on Facebook a few weeks back, regarding my very palpable reaction to the obvious “sadness” of someone who, at the very least, I would consider a friend. I noticed a definitive change in this person’s “usual” demeanor (not that we are “close,” but I have been around this person enough over the past year to see what is “normal” and what is “abnormal”); I am also highly empathic, and I can tangibly feel when someone is uncomfortable or something is wrong. In this case, although it affected me in a different set of ways, the change in behavior was actually something that I felt – it felt very much like someone was ripping at my heart. I suppose that is really all I can and “should” say here; I just wanted to give a little background to all of this. I don’t know what the “situation” necessarily “is,” but I do know that in many of these sorts of situations, one of the people involved within said situation feels “trapped,” whether it’s because of the actions or threats of another person, the behavior or manipulation of another person, the confines of one’s “chosen” profession (and whether or not that profession WAS, in fact, chosen by said individual), the various commitments that dictate the inability to travel freely when one NEEDS to travel, …. , the list can go on and on. Here is what I have to say regarding it all –
THERE IS ALWAYS TIME … UNTIL THERE ISN’T. AND “THERE ISN’T” ALWAYS COMES TOO SOON.
You might read that and think “Well gee, Beth! That’s a terribly bleak thing to say!” But I mean the exact opposite in saying that. This holds particularly true for those of us with chronic illness – especially those of us who have “lost” years or decades to said illness(es), ESPECIALLY when those “lost years” were or are years during which “everyone else” finished school, got married and settled down, traveled a bit, had kids, started and established a career, &c. To “miss out” on those years is something a “normal, healthy” person simply cannot understand. I often try to phrase things in ways everyone can understand – but I have tried this “thought experiment” with all kinds of “normal, healthy” people; even people who have gone through horrible things during their 20s and 30s … and even presenting them with trying to IMAGINE the scenario that you’re not married now, you have no kids because you never got married, you never were able to finish school, you were never able to work a “real” job both because you were unable to finish school and because you were and are too ill, you don’t have financial stability, your very life depends on the existence of maybe one or two other people, &c. &c. People who have not been there truly seem to be unable to RELATE with any of that. To clarify, I do not mean that these “normal, healthy” people don’t feel for those of us who have to face the above scenario (or even parts of it) every day of our lives, but they simply cannot turn their lives over and back that many times; they cannot step that far away from who they are now and everything that led to that “identity.” I can completely understand such “lack” of understanding (it has taken me a LONG time to come to terms with simply being able to ACCEPT the fact that “normal, healthy” people CANNOT understand where I am coming from when I confront them with these sorts of hypotheses.) – it is incredibly difficult to try to paint hypothetical counterfactual dimensions for every “not” that never was a “not.” Even writing that up as an explanation makes your head spin!
At any rate, what I am driving at with the above saying is basically that there is time – that although we might have “missed out” on the time when “everyone else” was getting their lives together, time hasn’t stopped for us (or for them!). In fact, if we look at things comparatively, we have “the world by the ass,” so-to-speak, insofar as we are not “weighed down” by jobs and partners and kids and other “obligations.” We have not BEEN ABLE to commit to YET. That doesn’t mean or imply we won’t ever find these things in our lives (NEVER LOSE HOPE!) – it just means that as of now, time has had a different plan for us.
With THAT said, TIME MARCHES ON. There is no reason one cannot work on finishing his or her BA/BS and go on to graduate studies in his or her 30s, 40s, 50s, or really at any age. If you want to practice medicine – if that is what you are DETERMINED TO DO – do not let the concept of “time” deter you from your dreams. There is no reason you cannot take a couple of years to complete the “pre-reqs” for Medical School; you could earn a more basic certification in the interim to help pay for school and living expenses (doing so will also give you the benefit of “experience” in a medical field): if you take those years to finish (or start and finsih!) undergraduate classes; apply to Medical School, get in, finish, and finally complete your Residency, there is no reason you cannot go on to practice medicine for 30 or 40 years, perhaps longer. Just because the vast majority of people have a “head start” doesn’t speak at all to where you are in life or what you want and most importantly, WHAT YOU ARE CAPABLE OF ACHIEVING. Youth has its benefits insofar as energy is concerned; however, I don’t know about you, but the amount of energy I had in most of my 20s was comparable to that of what I would imagine the “average” 90-year-old has – i.e., just about none. *Fingers crossed,* although I’m not there QUITE yet, I do feel my body getting a little better every day (it is a very slow process, no doubt); there are setbacks, of course, and I never know if I will go into remission. But NEVER let “maybes” or negative thoughts impair you from chasing your dreams, working toward your goals, even if meeting those goals means taking one class a semester. THERE IS ALWAYS TIME UNTIL THERE ISN’T.
Having chronic illness simply means that we must operate on a “different” timeline than those people who are “healthy” and “normal.” Sometimes it means we have to adapt the way we operate. But don’t let those things trick you into thinking “it’s too late.” It’s really never too late … until it is (I feel a “Tautology Tuesday” post coming!). You might have to put in a lot of work to figure out how you can accomplish your goals in a logistic sense, but YOU ALWAYS HAVE TIME UNTIL YOU DON’T. And those of us with chronic illness certainly know that “THERE IS ALWAYS TIME UNTIL THERE ISN’T;” that “THERE ISN’T certainly COMES TOO SOON.”
Last night I was talking with a friend who had traveled to and from Pittsburgh in one day (altogether about an 11-hour-long drive); “I MISS LIVING IN PITTSBURGH!” I lamented. And it felt as if the decade that has passed since I have lived there hit me in the chest like a ton of bricks. It genuinely doesn’t feel that it is possible for me to be “old enough” for an entire decade to have passed since I have left that city. But when I stop and think about ALL OF THE HORRIFIC things I have encountered in that decade regarding my health, I realize that my timeline didn’t just stop somewhere around 2009; it just took something of a detour. I’m not quite sure WHERE that detour is ultimately headed, but I DO KNOW that I just have to adapt my life and my specific set of circumstances to enable myself to get ON THE PATH toward what I ultimately want and NEED to do. That is really the challenge all of us face in life; those of us with things like chronic illness (especially ones that hit us when we are young, like “classical” Behçet’s) simply have to do it without a definitive path to follow. We can’t “follow the herd;” the social conditioning that has manipulated the “timelines” of everyone around us necessarily cannot be ours too. It’s like the board game of “Life;” except the paths we take go off the board in infinite directions.
This “saying” of mine is important for everyone – not just those of us who have chronic illness; it is unequivocally a universally applicable “mantra.” Don’t let others rob you of one of your most precious resources – time – however that might manifest. Time cannot be “found.” Once it is gone, it is gone (i.e., “THERE ISN’T COMES TOO SOON.”) I see so many people who are absolutely beautiful people (in every sense of the word) who are held captive by their own beliefs that “there isn’t more time,” or “I’m too old,” or “It’s too late now;” I see far too many amazing individuals get “stuck” in positions and relationships they don’t really want to be in because of others and ethereal beliefs Do NOT EVER ALLOW another person to rob you of YOUR time; do NOT allow another person to dictate what your time holds now and in the future (you can’t go backward, so just look ahead!). Don’t ever allow someone else to “blackmail” you in any way or hold things you love captive so you “stay” – in all of these scenarios and many more “you” are just throwing away the ONE THING YOU ALWAYS HAVE UNTIL YOU DON’T – TIME. Take it from someone who has “lost” a “FUNCTIONAL” decade – there is so much out there and there are so many things that we all NEED to do – never give in to someone or something who even tries to hold you back. Even the time needed to respond to that person or thing is wasted time. *MUCH MORE ON THAT ONE TO COME!*
And with that, I hope you are all having a happy and healthy day, wherever you are in the world! I will say it one more time because I think the (re)iteration is so incredibly important for ALL OF US – THERE IS ALWAYS TIME UNTIL THERE ISN’T. AND THERE ISN’T ALWAYS COMES TOO SOON. My heart is always with you!
❤ Always, Beth