Thursday, February 12, 2015

Priorities

"The Sweetest Rose" Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 11"x17"


My husband, Ed, called over to me from the back door. He was standing with it open excitedly pointing at the night sky. "You have to come look!" I was sitting at my drawing table, paints open, brush in hand, just about to put paint to paper. I had crashed early the night before and was looking forward to making progress on a particular painting since I had several deadlines looming. The excitement in his voice and the little boy look of wonderment on his face quickly dispelled any notion of claiming I was too busy. I wasn't disappointed. Directly overhead was a glowing full moon with a huge "moon bow" encircling it. The largest halo around the moon I had ever seen. He ran back in to get the camera and we spent the rest of the evening working with the photos and marveling at the wonder of the natural world. 

Was the floor covered in pet hair? Was there a pile of dirty dishes in the sink? Wet laundry in the machine? Did I have a ton of work to get done? Yes, to all of this and more, but there is something that Ed and I do exactly right. Something that makes our relationship a successful one. We realize the bulk of our lives are little moments strung together and not the momentous occasions that society spotlights. We recognize in those instants that we have a choice and it's an important one. Ed wanted to share that moon with me; that moment with me. That's an honor. Say "I'm busy" too many times and he'll likely stop asking. The choice is whether to make these moments a priority when they come along. Their very nature makes them unplanned and for two people like Ed and I who have a tendency to schedule every detail of our lives, it can be a challenge to let go of preconceived notions about what needs to be accomplished that day and enjoy the moment. Make your partner a priority not an accessory.

For those with chronic illness, this point gets driven home in a way that is neither comfortable, nor convenient, but it is a valuable lesson that everyone, sick or not, would be happier living by. No one has a perfect and balanced life. No one. I sometimes wonder if it's a base code written into our flawed human genes that leads us to sabotage our happiness. Always wanting more than we currently have. When you have actual flawed genes, your priorities change and reorder and not by choice. Your body ceases to function in a predictable manner making planning difficult and often making previous life goals unattainable. Does this mean you can't be happy? Can't be in a relationship? Not by a long shot.

Over and over I am saddened by the number of marriages/relationships that I see disintegrate because one person has a chronic illness. It's so easy to blame the healthy person for leaving. How could they be so cold and uncaring? What about the vows they took? Though some people just aren't cut out to deal with chronic illness, I believe it's rarely a one-sided issue. As a person who has multiple chronic conditions that impact me on a daily basis, it would be very easy to become entirely self-absorbed and descend into pity and depression. If you aren't the sick person, you don't get it. Trust me on this, you can't. You have no real frame of reference for the soul-crushing guilt we can feel for something that we have no control over and the bitterness of what it has stolen from us. The fear that some new tragedy is looming around the corner. At some point, you have to let it go. I am all for pushing our boundaries and striving for more, but some things are physically impossible now and I just have to accept it and move on. YOU have to be happy before you can even think about sharing your life with someone else. 


Why did you get married or why are you with a particular person? Really examine the reasons. Me, I fell in love with a whole person. I love his sense of humor, his intellect, his excitement of life, his caring, gentle nature, love of animals…I could go on. But what I have to remember is that he fell in love with who I am. This relationship goes both ways. When I'm happy, he's happy. When I hurt, he hurts. I have needs and limitations because of my illnesses, but he has needs too. I have to give in this relationship as much as he does even though I have days when it takes all my energy just to get out of bed. Our relationship has to be a priority otherwise, what's the point? I must be there for him, always. I don't get to hoard my pain and say, your problems don't matter because mine are more serious. That's just not fair. It's not all about me. I have to remain open and responsive to what he needs. When he hurts, I hurt. When he's happy. I'm happy.

Just in time for Valentine's...
A while back I was contacted by author Sophia Dembling who regularly writes for "Psychology Today" and asked if Ed and I would like to be interviewed for a book she was working on. We received a copy the other day and our first date has been forever immortalized in "Introverts in Love. The Quiet Way to Happily Ever After." We are honored and I truly love my husband with every fiber of my being. Thank you for being my love and my partner in life.

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