This I Believe

Nancy - Cincinnati, Ohio
Entered on September 19, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
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This I Believe

I am a mother, a wife, a skilled professional in my field, a friend, a daughter and the wife of a clergy person. I also have a chronic illness, one that reaches into every role that I have and every thing that I do. My back problems are less than many other peoples’, and greater than many other peoples; I believe that pain is subjective and that much of it depends on where you are in your life and what is causing the pain. When I know that the pain has an end I can endure much more and it hurts much less than when you tell me that it will be there for the rest of my life.

When chronic pain becomes serious, you focus all your energy on survival. Its all I can do to get through the day, and I put my children first. I work incredibly hard to keep their world normal. Sometimes I can put up a good front for the rest of the world, but sometimes I can’t. Strangers and casual acquaintances generally don’t notice anything is wrong, but those who are close to me have told me that my personality changes, I stop smiling, and I’m just not as thoughtful. I’m sure that is true. Depression is a risk too, and although I’ve only faced that once, its always out there waiting. If I have PMS and I get a crying jag, I start to worry. I believe that only people who have lived with chronic illness or depression can really understand what it is like to get up every day to that struggle, and I know how lucky I am compared to many.

I believe that chronic illness teaches you true and painful lessons about forgiveness and the nature of friendship. I have lost close friends who couldn’t or wouldn’t understand when I was going through tough times, and wrote me off. My fault for not being more open about who I was and what I was going through; yet their inability to understand and forgive will haunt me for the rest of my life. So maybe they weren’t such good friends in the first place. I believe that true friends take you with all your ugliness; for better or for worse just like in marriage. I know in my heart that when one friend asks forgiveness of another, and truly means it, a true friend reaches out with open arms and says “of course.”

There is one more thing about forgiveness that I have learned in the last few years. You can’t expect others to forgive you unless you can first forgive yourself. Perhaps this is the hardest lesson of all for those of us who want to be all things to all people…we are all only human. I believe that I can only try, one day at a time, to raise my children, to love my husband, to be a good friend, and do well at my job. Try as I might, I will never meet my own standards, much less anyone else’s. But I can stop and smell the flowers, watch the sunset, read a good book, listen to my three sons talk about their day, and play Ninja Turtles.

This I Believe.