Friday, 29 July 2016

A Letter to Friends Who Didn't Know Me Before Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Dear Friend,

I'm writing you this because our friendship our has grown into something beautiful over the past few years, and I'm also writing this because friends should be honest with each other. And if I'm really honest, I'd have to tell you that there are two things I have been dying to tell you...

The first is that I wasn't always like this. If you knew how often I have I wanted to say that, you'd think me a lunatic. I want to tell you that I looked different, maybe more youthful, certainly more athletic. I had interests. I went out in the evening. I spent more time with friends and held a full-time job. I liked dancing and running and biking and going out on the town, but most of all, I felt different. I was happier, more energetic, sillier, more fun. I saw brighter futures, potential and opportunity. I was lighter and busier and just more. In fact sometimes I'm so desperate to tell you this that I want to scream it out loud. I WASN'T ALWAYS LIKE THIS...

But then I want to say--what I REALLY want to say--is simply... Thank You.
Thank you because you never demanded this explanation of me. So often I see myself as two people—the person before this illness and the person after it. I know it's silly and despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I can't help sometimes but think that my old friends stuck by the 'new me' out of some sense of loyalty or duty. But for you, there is no 'new me' or 'old me' or anything else. There is just 'me'--Good enough as I am to find an awesome friend like you! You see, the greatest struggle with this illness outside of the everyday physical stuff is believing that, in spite of everything I have lost, I am still enough. And the knowledge that the me-after-Chronic-Fatigue is enough to befriend your awesome-ass is incredibly affirming, more than you know. So, thank you for that.

You know, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to see myself outside the parameters of 'before' and 'after' this illness or if I'll ever really let go of the notion that I was somehow 'more' of person before Chronic Fatigue wreaked havoc on my life. But on days when thoughts like that get me down, I will try to see myself through your eyes.

Lots of love,


Thursday, 7 July 2016

The One 'Must-do' Summer Activity for 2016

School's out for summer! If you're anything like me, those words fill you with one part 'Sa-weet!' and three parts 'OMG! What am going to do with them for all that time?' Well, I'm sure you've already come across your fair share of lists of must-do summer activities, you've enrolled your kids in swimming lessons, and concocted grand plans for day trips and week-long holidays at the lake. You're mentally compiling a list of craft ideas and outdoor activities for play-dates with friends and you've spent a small fortune on gadgets, water guns, and slip and slides, all to ensure that neither their boundless energy nor a day of the precious summer season is wasted. But, you're forgetting something... In fact, you're forgetting the best thing about the season--something we just don't get enough of the rest of year--an activity that is both timeless and revolutionary at the same. And that is this...


Sweet nothing.

If you're anything like me, the thought of doing or planning nothing makes you uneasy. It conjures up visions of your household positively erupting in mess with bored kids fighting and screaming while you pull your hair out until such a time that you become adequately defeated enough to enlist the services of Captain TV and Nanny Smartphone to rescue you from imminent disaster. Now, I'm not guaranteeing that won't happen, but I will guarantee that it wouldn't be the end of the world. I guess I'm just suggesting that kids, like us, need a little more of, well, nothing—time and space to be creative, relax, and to just let things happen (or not happen).

Occasionally the shift that occurs from one generation and the next is quite surprising to me, and this is one of those times.  Do you know what my mom planned for me every summer? Nothing.
Do you remember what your Auntie Martha used to do when you came over to play with your cousins? Well, if she was like mine, she watched All My Children and brought out some orange Kool-Aid around 3 o'clock. Your grandma? Mine made me pull weeds and pick raspberries and paid us in lemon drops and rosebuds. From memory, NO ONE in my neighborhood really planned anything for their kids, and, do you know what? IT WAS THE BEST TIME OF THE YEAR!

In my neighborhood, we used to get up to all sorts of things...tree houses, swimming (no one drowned in my memory), we played in the sprinklers, we let our imaginations run wild, we camped in tents made out of nets and blankets, we collected sticks and rocks and bugs and bottle caps, we got dirty, we ran in the rain, we jumped, we climbed, we ran, we hid, we had so much fun we forgot to hydrate or put on sunscreen. We even found other kids to play with and we adventured in pastures and groves of trees, we kicked balls and played 500 (does anyone else call it that?), we learned to catch and shoot hoops without drills or instruction, and unless our parents commandeered us into some house or yard work, WE JUST PLAYED, and I'll say it again, it was the BEST!

When my mind runs away with thoughts like these, of childhood summers that were easy and carefree, I worry that I just might be doing a disservice to my kids with all of this planning and structure. My guess is that there might be a hiccup or two and maybe an adjustment period while we learn to slow down, but my pledge this summer for my family is to do a little less of something and a LOT more nothing! Join me if you dare!