I had an interesting conversation with an old friend of mine the other day. My friend's son has many severe health issues which she has attended to on an ongoing basis since the day he was born. Surgeries, infections, daily management of the most basic of physical functions. A lot of very tough, unrelenting issues, not the least of which has been having to watch her child struggle and suffer with persistent physical and emotional challenges. She does all this with remarkable grace and courage and has so for the last 16 years. Every single day. She's done so without really noticing that she's doing it and consequently, hasn't given herself much credit for all that she does in the process.
I shared with my friend that what I've come to learn through writing this blog was that it is very important to notice what you are doing and living with, even if it's become normal over time. Just because we're inside an experience like she is or we are, doesn't make the doing of it with grace any less remarkable.
It's weird how that happens, how the normalcy of the "less than normal" life with chronic illness or disease makes it hard for us to see how remarkable the choices we've consistently made actually are. To engage and do what is needed to be done. To persevere even in frustration, exhaustion or fatigue. To simple carry on, day in and day out. My friend does it every day and doesn't recognize it. All the amazing friends I've grown to know through blogging, they do it every day too. All with true grace and bravery.
I've become more and more convinced that it's critical to notice the remarkableness of our normal lives. I think it really matters to see and own the courage it takes to do this. The fact that we deal with this every day doesn't make it any less brave. I'd argue in fact, that in some ways it makes it more so. It's one thing to be heroic in a dramatic moment or event, but it's quite another to step up every time and do it again and again. Like my friend does with her son. Or the diabetes community does. Yes, it takes a special kind of courage to keep standing up in light of unrelenting physical challenge.
I also believe that once we come to see the remarkableness of our lives impacted by physical challenge, it's equally important to let it count for something. For it to have weight. For it to allow if you will, a trade off wherever possible. I've written about this before and I shared this idea with my friend last week. I'm learning to let my diabetes factor into decisions about what I want to do and who I will spend my time with. I'm starting to let it count for more than just the physical maintenance it requires. I told my friend that doing this is helping me. A lot.
She responded by saying, "But what other choice would I have had than to do take care of my son in this way?" And I said, "Oh, there are so many choices you could have made! You just chose the path of character and courage because that's who you are. It's sometimes hard to see this from the inside, but you are truly one of the bravest people I know. And you deserve some credit and gentleness because of it. You deserve to let the reality of your situation count for something in the places where you have choices about how to spend your time or treat yourself. You deserve acknowledgment and comfort and joy wherever you can possibly get it, because you are so very, very remarkable!"
Because she is. And we are. Even though we might forget it most of the time, that doesn't make it any less so.