Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

I have been blog-averse lately and neglected to post since the first week of the semester. Being a seminarian is grueling spiritual, emotional, mental, and even physical work (the physical part of which, I have not even begun). Incidentally, those same things can be said about being a military spouse and mother. Add those together with the stress of chronic illness exacerbation and you have a perfect storm of life challenges that can feel insurmountable. Yet, I carry on.

I spent much of my weekend down in the depths of my recent flare and wallowing, momentarily, in the struggles I face daily. I did not get as much work done as I should have. I let my illness get the best of me. I let my obstacles overshadow my will, my strength, and my drive to keep on. It is probably something I needed to do. I was in a flare-up, feeling sad about being away from all of those whom I love so dearly back home, and letting the weight of our current circumstances weigh on me. It is stressful, this life thing.

I typically fall into a very dangerous trap to which anyone with a chronic illness might fall prey: The Tyranny of the Shoulds. I “should” be healthy. I “should” be able to keep pace with my peers. I “should” be able to walk down the hallway without pain or a slight limp and have no one looking at me as the “sick girl.” I should be able to wake up and hop out of bed, full of energy and ready for the day! I should be able to participate in life fully and robustly. I “should” be NORMAL, for Pete’s sake! I “should” be a lot of things. I am not.

When I was a teenager and young adult suffering with lupus and fibromyalgia, these shoulds threw me into depressive bouts that would reach into every aspect of my life. Now, as a full-fledged adult with a chronic illness, married mother of one, military spouse, and seminarian, I do not have the luxury of prolonged wallowing. More than that, though, I do not want to wallow. I did not even want an entire weekend of it. But I cannot beat myself up about it. I took care of my husband and son the best way I could, I did the minimum amount of work I needed to for seminary, and I let my body rest and recover from this recent flare. What else could I do?

I let myself feel bad and I needed to. And now it is over, and life goes on.

That oft quoted Buffy line uttered just before she gave the ultimate sacrifice at the end of season five,

“The hardest thing in this world is to live in it…”

is so incredibly true. And yet I think that we often focus too much on that “hardest thing” piece that we forget what Buffy said afterward:

“Be brave. Live.”

So, while I think it is vital to allow those moments–that hour or day or weekend to regroup–it is equally important to “be brave” and to recognize that, though things may be unbearably difficult for this reason or that, we are still alive… and we must live.

I pray that I am on the upswing of this recent flare and that I have seen the worst of this terrible exacerbation. I would like to return to normal. I should be able to accomplish much this week. Will I? Only God knows. But I will be brave and I will live as boldy as I can in these moments of struggle. It is all I can do.