Tuesday, April 23

I thought I was the only one. {Meet my friend}

found here

A lot of unexpectedly good things come about from a health collapse. Trust me. You start to think some unexpected things, change in some unexpected ways, and find that you are drawn to sick people – which you never expected. When you meet a sickie, it’s like meeting a fellow Melbournian in Germany. In that sea of people you find a person who keeps saying, ‘Me too! I know exactly what you’re talking about.’

This particular friendship which I’m going to tell you about began in the kitchen at the flat I was living in during my university days. I was exhausted after a gruelling day of trying-soooo-hard to attend uni and really needing to be in bed. She was visiting someone at the flat, and so we ended up both needing to go to the kitchen for some reason. Now, when you are sick, you really don’t want to meet new people at night in the kitchen. It’s just something you absolutely dread because it will take up so much energy and because you don’t have any, you will go into energy-debt. I’m not sure quite how, but we began to talk, and it come out that neither of us were well. In fact, we were both sick with the same illness, and shared a whole host of common experiences from our ill health. We actually had a most enlivening chat that night. That was the beginning, and now we have a precious understanding of each other’s health, but we have found we have far more than that in common. 

My friend is the kind of person you want to know. She’s a book-reading, tea-drinking, dog-loving, cake-baking, laughing kind of person. You don’t meet her and think, “goodness, she is a tired and sick-of-life person”, which wouldn’t really be surprising after being severely sick for well over a decade. She’s loving, empathetic, generous and hilarious when she could so easily be bitter and depressed. 

I told her that I sometimes struggle with feeling jealous of all the people around me who didn’t get sick; who got to continue with their goals and dreams.

 She fully understood my feelings, but related to me that she didn’t even get to finish secondary school! We laugh and laugh about this, this tragedy. Being unable to finish school could so easily be a touchy and emotional topic for someone with crushed dreams. Despite being bright, talented, and losing the ability to put her life plan into action, she is completely fine with it. Her formal education ended, but she kept on bettering herself.  And now she can giggle about it! And here I am, cut that I didn’t get to finish university. I silently remind myself to get a bit of that perspective, that courageous ability to make lemonade out of lemons.

I love her for having taken this journey to contentment. I know it’s been a journey, because she’s told me about the years where she wasn’t here yet. I don’t think you can ever get sick and immediately go, “Ok, no worries. I’m totally cool with this.” Grieving is the natural process, but it can either continue on and on and produce bitterness, or plant the seeds to a new way of life and contentment. I’ve seen it grow a new life in some people, and the life that I see is fresh, wise, and inspiring. Why do we think that there’s only one way to live, really live?

I have often thought, “I don’t think I could bear to be sick if I had to move back home and hadn’t met Ben.” Or I think, “If I was still as sick as I was when we first got married, I couldn’t keep on keeping going.” But my friend is older than I am, less well than I am, living at home, unable to work...and she’s happy with her life. You can understand why I’m glad to have met her.

She wrote to me, “God has been able to teach me things I never would have been able to hear if I was off living the life I planned, and I am so grateful for that.” 

She says that she focuses on the good, and then the not-so-good becomes less. 

I get to hang out with this person who has learnt about love, empathy, life, and most of all trust. I see how her life has had great value. And when I see that, I start to see more clearly that all the emphasis on life milestones and success are not the whole story. Secondary school followed by degree, followed by vocation followed by family – that’s not the only way to live a worthwhile life. At all. Every set of life experiences and gifts adds a value to the world and fills a role. She’s knows how to care for people, a skill that we need more of in this world. And if her life had gone the way she’d planned, she wouldn’t have been so well equipped to care.

This quote I found here {and it was first written here}. I like the emphasis on living & giving right where you are, rather than pining after the life you had planned. My friend has definitely taught me a lot about that.

“Avoid Comparison-  You are enough.  End of story.  That girl over there… you don’t want her life.  Because you don’t have the grace for it.  You have the grace for yours.  You don’t have her kids, her job, her talents, her hubby, and her network FOR A REASON.  Because you are needed right where you are at.. by Your kids, Your job, Your hubby and YOUR network!  Do what you can, with what you have… right where you are at!  And be grateful..  Always be grateful.  What you are taking for granted, someone else is praying for.”


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