Anticipation. It can be wonderful, like when you are waiting for Christmas or a special event, but it can also be immobilizing when accompanied by fear.
I started a new med this week. It was one I had been avoiding for years. Methotrexate. It’s actually a cancer drug. My rheumatologist wanted to start me on it years ago, but I resisted. The possible side-effect list alone was enough to make even the heartiest patient think twice. It was recently brought to the table again, by first my rheumatologist, and then again my MS specialist. I tried to sound convinced, but I still tried to duck out of it. It wasn’t until my MS specialist kindly, but honestly reminded me that MS is a lifelong disease, and it is important to get a good handle on it to start with that I knew the time had come for me to make my peace with it.
I knew the time had come for me to make my peace with it.
The refills on the old meds had lapsed, so I was finally at a point of no return. It was time. Yet still, I resisted. I was going to start them Monday night, then Tuesday morning, both of which came and went without me actually taking them. By Tuesday night I ran out of excuses. I talked with a friend about her experiences with it, and she assured me it wasn’t that bad. I braced myself for the worst. She said it took about 45 minutes before I’d feel any effects. I tossed and turned, filled with anxiety, just waiting for the dreaded wave of nausea to come. Instead, I fell asleep. I slept soundly. I was in fact, one of the best night’s sleep I’d had in a while. I didn’t toss and turn in search of a pain free side. I just slept.
When I awoke the next morning, I thought “now it will come. I’m going to feel awful now”, but I didn’t. It was a normal morning. Ok, normal mornings for me are just this side of miserable, but it was normal, not worse. I had faced the medication beast, and it had really been a non-event.
What is it about the “unknown” that can turn an otherwise rational and strong person into a panic filled bundle of nerves?
The realization of this struck me as a message for life. How often do I create anxiety and fear because of what I think is going to happen, only to have the reality be a far more manageable? What is it about the “unknown” that can turn an otherwise rational and strong person into a panic filled bundle of nerves? Why do we always assume that the unknown will be a bad thing?
An old friend of mine always says worry about the things you can control, and leave the rest be. It’s great advice I never seem capable of following. It is precisely the things I cannot control that I seem to grapple with the most.
I was recently interviewed by a fellow writing classmate and asked the question, “Do you believe everything happens for a reason?” It was a difficult question to answer. It’s something I have thought a lot about since getting sick. When life is in turmoil, we often search for some sort of thread that ties it all together. The thing we have to accept is that if everything happens for a reason, it is truly everything. The traffic, the spilled wine, the big, the little, the good, the bad, and everything in between. So although I will stop just short of making that statement, I will say that I believe that good can be found in even the worst of circumstances.
I believe that good can be found in even the worst of circumstances.
That means even in the circumstances I cannot control. I am given the opportunity to learn this lesson time and time again, and yet it appears to be the algebra of emotional life for me. I just don’t seem to completely grasp it. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that by having to let go, I have to admit that I don’t have control. My intellect knows that, but I just can’t give up my belief that I can will elements beyond my control into effect.
It’s actually a fine line to walk. It is precisely my tenacity to not give up that pulls me through the darkest of days. Having faith that prayer can influence outcomes is a big part of a hope filled life. The trick is knowing how to balance the two. I must do what I can and believe in the best for the rest. Then I must learn to wait.
Waiting is NOT my strength. But waiting is a crucial part of life. When we plant seeds, we nurture and care for them, and over time they grow. Though we do not see it, amazing things are happening below the surface. Growth happens over time, with plants and in our own lives. That is important to remember as we struggle to instantly become what we think we should be. Every stage of the growth process is important. You can’t jump from seed to flower in one step. In fact, some flowers that have their stems grow too fast are often unable to stand tall when the flower emerges. The stem cannot support the weight of the flower. It’s something to think about as we go through the journey of our lives.
But waiting is a crucial part of life.
I wish dearly that I could always be strong and confident in my new body and life. I strive to do so every day. Some days I am successful, others I’m not. Instead of seeing these down times as moments of failure and weakness, I need to see them as a natural part of the growing process. To expect myself to completely let go of my old life in one fell swoop without looking back is unrealistic. I will not always feel strong and positive. Times of highs and lows are a part of every life.
I need to remember that no matter what might happen, I will get through it. It may not be easy, but I know I can do it and I believe there is good that can be found in it. I know it is part of the growing process. Let’s face it; part of planting anything includes a little fertilizer, some rain, pushing through dirt and moments of waiting.
I may struggle to understand algebra, but I still know it is important. I can explain why a plane can fly, but I don’t really understand it. That doesn’t stop me from getting into a plane though, or in a car, or using a computer or cell phone or any of the other things that evade my skill set of understanding.
Though we may not see it, the times of waiting and wondering are actually creating growth.
What I’m learning is that much of life falls into that same category. There are lots of things I don’t understand. There are many ‘reasons why’ I doubt I’ll ever know on this side of life. I don’t know what the future holds, but that shouldn’t stop me from living my life and still believing in the good that can be found; even in the moments of waiting.
Something is happening. Though we may not see it, the times of waiting and wondering are actually creating growth. It happens gradually. It’s like the seedling plant we suddenly see emerge from the soil. We say, "hey it’s finally growing." But it’s been growing all along. We just didn’t see it. It was happening beneath the surface out of sight in the place of the unknown.
I want to be able to look at the unknown with the same sense of wonder and anticipation I have for the events that bring me joy.
My reminder to myself is to think of my life as the flower. There are seasons of growth that come with sun, rain, fertilizer and soil that we are planted in. There are times of waiting and wondering. There are things unseen, but still wonderful. I want to be able to look at the unknown with the same sense of wonder and anticipation I have for the events that bring me joy. Because isn’t all just part of the process anyways? Everything working together to help create me?
So here’s to the unknown algebra of life, may it’s mystery never stop us from seeking and finding joy.