I’ve never been one to watch many television shows, and I’ve especially been reluctant to watch anything remotely resembling a soap opera. Somehow, though, I found myself thoroughly caught up in the series finale of Desperate Housewives tonight. The final message was one I cannot help but agree with: Let go of the hate in your heart, and tell those whom you love how much they mean to you. I suppose, because of my experiences, this hits home with me on a regular basis more than most.
A few weeks ago, I was able to have a conversation with my mother that really touched me. This past year has not been an easy one. The surgery a year ago today gave me hope that I would gain back full sight in my right eye. That hope was dashed in the ensuing months which left my condition exactly as it began. While my joints have not been experiencing much discomfort, my rheumatoid arthritis has wreaked all kinds of havoc in my recovering eyes. A year after meeting the world’s foremost expert on eye complications stemming from Stevens Johnson Syndrome, I’m back at square one.
I feel in several ways as though I’m starting over, really. I’m applying to graduate schools. I’m watching my father begin a new life in a new marriage. I’m coming to terms with endings in my life that have provided growth and new beginnings. It’s true that the only constant in life is change. But when I spoke to my mother, I was given quite a bit more insight into why I am who I am and why she did the things she did when I was growing up.
I was first diagnosed with RA on my second birthday. In the following years, my family went through hell with me. Into my teen years, my mother kept me extremely close, regardless of how uncomfortable or frustrated it made me feel. On the other hand, Dad was a bit more distant, giving me the space he thought I needed to build my own sense of strength. Both loved me so very much and were affected so differently by my various health conditions. Still, I did my best not to burden my loved ones with any complaints or troubles. Though I spent a great deal of my time taking care of everyone else, my own frailty was thrown into my face with a flare up of RA in 2007, followed by a rather horrendous case of SJS. Suddenly, I wasn’t the one in control.
I went searching for control in other places, throwing my sensible nature to the wind in spite. At times, I took for granted those who meant the most to me. In my own uncertainty, I distrusted and tested those who had been by my side every step of the way, only to find that I far preferred my usual good sense and caring nature. In the four years since entering the hospital four years ago today, I changed so much… Only to realize today that I never changed at all. Instead, my perspective changed–matured. I let go of anxieties and started reaching out again.
The final episode of Desperate Housewives focuses on a woman faced with her own death, something I probably spend too much time considering. We see this theme often in entertainment–a constant reminder to tell loved ones how much they matter and to recognize that it is love, rather than hate, which gives our lives importance and meaning. Though I have lived much of my life planning at least the subsequent ten years, I have always had, in the back of my mind, the knowledge of how lucky I am to have each day. Moreso, in these past four years, I have been reminded of how incredibly fortunate I am to have so many amazing people in my life.
Like everyone else, I am quite the flawed individual. I have said my fair share of cruel truths (and handful of hurtful lies). I’ve had anxiety bring me seemingly to the bring of insanity and stress leave me useless and cranky. I’ve had harsh words for myself and others, and I’ve told those I care most about in this world to “shove off” in no uncertain terms. But with all my flaws, I must have done something right to have collected so many remarkable people who love and care about me. I like to think that one of these reasons is the fact that when I care about people, I tell them. Even when it makes me feel stupid, even when her success makes me feel jealous, even when his response is silence, I have always made sure that the people in my life know how wonderful they are and how deeply I care for them. At least, I hope have.
To all my friends: You are the reasons for my smiles, the comfort I find in getting up in this crazy world each morning and trying to find “normal.” You are my hopes, my dreams, and my warmth. To my family: You are my guiding light through every dark tunnel. You are my rock, my fortress, and my strength. I love you all with everything I have. I cannot thank you enough for being my raison d’être. And especially to my mom on this Mother’s Day: Thank you for finally giving me the space I needed to stand alone.