Saturday, November 26, 2011

These Small Candles

One thing I think this illness has taught me over the years is the need to maintain a constant sense of perspective.

I can recall healthier days many years ago when I sometimes complained about various inconveniences I now see as luxuries:  long lines at the grocery store, traffic, the high cost of a movie ticket or night out with friends, the tediousness of housecleaning, an especially difficult day at work.

And yet, as I reflect back on those things, I long to find myself in some of those same circumstances, which I now view as great privileges.

Today, I would do anything for the blessing of being well enough to go to a grocery store and pick out my own food, and would happily stand in long lines to do so.  I would be equally thrilled to pay any amount if it allowed me even one night of health to spend out (or in) with my family and friends.  And I would never complain about a long or hard day at work because I'd be so overjoyed to even be ABLE to work that I would be there half an hour early every single day.

When I first became ill, I thought I'd lost so much. And I had.  But despite how difficult my life had become as a result of my health, I was still able (with extreme determination) to continue to work. I was still occasionally able to go to lunch or to a movie with a friend.  Though it was difficult, I could do my own laundry, get my own groceries, cook my own meals.   I didn't realize how extremely fortunate I still was.

And then, I had a life-changing setback which left me housebound. Suddenly, I found myself  once again longing for my old life. Not just the life I had before I got sick, but the life I had just prior to the setback. If only I could get back to my previous level, I thought, I'd never take anything for granted again.

And then another setback struck, this one leaving me bedridden. Then another, leaving me unable to speak above a whisper. Then another, leaving me unable to shower. And so on.

Each time I have a setback, I find myself yearning for what I had before it -- for what gifts I did not fully appreciate as much as I should have, and for things I never even imagined I could lose or would have to go without.

This illness can take away so much from our lives: our independence, our careers, our hobbies and our sense of identity. In extreme cases like mine, it can even take away basic, elemental abilities we don't expect to lose until we are nearing the end of our lives.

As I've mentioned previously, in order to cope with this degree of  loss, I've had to learn to shift my thinking; to try to focus on what things I can do on any given day, and not on what I can't. This is often easier said then done.

Struggling with these challenges, I recently found myself searching for quotes on hope. I came across the following:
"In moments of discouragement, defeat, or even despair, there are always certain things to cling to. Little things usually: remembered laughter, the face of a sleeping child, a tree in the wind -- in fact, any reminder of something deeply felt or dearly loved.
No man is so poor as not to have many of these small candles. When they are lighted, darkness goes away and a touch of wonder remains."

-- "These Small Candles" (attributed to a tombstone inscription in Britain)

It reminded me to take a moment and reflect on what small (and even large) candles still remain in my life. Here are just a few:

Friends and Family

Sweet Notes from my Fiance

Hearing those 3 words....

Flowers to Brighten My Day

Hot Cups of Tea

The Rare Chocolate Indulgence

Comfort Foods

Sweet, Healthy Fruit

Audiobooks (and getting lost in a good story)

Bird Song

Window Views, Blue Skies and Puffy Clouds

Soft Breezes

Beautiful Music That Carries Me Away

Photos of my Niece and Nephew

Little Kid Drawings (made just for me)

Childhood Memories
(that's me climbing our maple tree)

Humor and Things That Make Me Smile

Memories of Past Travels
(This is a photo I took while in Venice, Italy)

Hope for the Future

Dreams --
For it is in dreams that I am almost always healthy.
It is there where I can still walk, talk, run, dance, travel
and even fly.

What are some of your small candles?


Photos that are not my own are courtesy of or