Two Perspectives: How this blog came to be
We (Debbie and Lisa) are the yin and yang of best friends. Each of us offers a different perspective: Lisa chooses the manicure, Debbie the pedicure. One the expert closet organizer; the other a hurry-up-and-shove-it-in-a-closeter. One a quiet thinker; the other a loud and let it all out spirit. Sometimes trying really hard. Other times not trying hard enough. Other times needing encouragement to give it a try. We hope you can laugh at our mistakes, relate to our mistakes and vow to never make our mistakes. Join us in finding the courage to share…to share our imperfect progress.
Debbie and I have debated starting this blog for a good year now. She gets the credit for asking the question, “Do you want to start a blog together?” My excited response was “Yes!”, and it felt like perfect timing. I was in the middle of a funk stage in my life, and it sounded like just want I needed to pull me out of it. A necessary distraction.
In my 36 years, I have moved very little. I grew up in a tiny town in SE Colorado, population around 300—birth through high school graduation. My friends in elementary were the same in middle school and high school…Deb was one of these lifelong friends. These friendships have maintained longevity…some in memory form and others in physical form. Nothing like a friend standing by your side through youth, awkward braces and pimples, first kiss, lack of athleticism yet a lot of fun cheerleading, and making college bound choices. I have often entertained the thought that my luck in unbelievably wonderful friendships happened in high school. Or maybe another way to look at it would be that my high school friendships are irreplaceable. After high school, I was off to Nebraska for four years of college. Upon graduating, I landed in Fort Collins, Colorado, where I’d spend 12 years and develop utter content and comfort for my surroundings and relationships.
My husband’s change of jobs and a move to a new state put a hault to my comfort that I was not expecting. I have always felt like I am a pretty easy going person who can adjust to change, go with the flow and adapt as needed. Well, reflecting back I can say with confidence that I did not adapt with ease. Instead, I fought a hard battle not to enjoy our new home state and to put very little effort into it. I expected that new friendships, new routines, and finding that new sense of comfort would come with ease, without the involvement of my effort.
For several weeks, Deb and I shot texts back and forth, brainstorming topics and blog names. It felt good to have a reason to exchange these daily texts and to be rekindling a friendship that lagged behind our individual lives where parenthood, careers and wifehood took priority. Oddly enough, we were in similar funk-stages for different reasons, and I think we both needed this reconnection more than we saw it at the time. These exchanges were a nice break from my consumed brain of discontent; it gave me an inkling of light, a thought allowed to consider putting effort into my new surroundings. Do you ever get so caught up in an emotion that seeing it any other way, right or wrong, doesn’t even seem possible? I think that is where my head had been. And being able to momentarily take the focus off of feeling bad was a really good start.
I am a believer that our experiences shape us, and that some sort of good can always come out of something difficult or even painful. We promised in our text exchanges to make this blog real and to make ourselves vulnerable. We have junk and funk and garbage just like everyone else out there, but we also have successes and celebrations. We have goodness and purpose and meaning. And we are the most symmetrical balance of friendship: to give a little and to take a little but most importantly to be okay in our own jeans.
Friendships do make all of the difference. After a lot of laughing during a recent weekend getaway with Debbie, I was making the two+ hour drive back to Wyoming on Highway 287. Typically when I make this drive I can comment that it is pretty outside, but in this moment, I could actually see the beauty. I could feel it. It felt good.
I know what you’re thinking. I have no idea what you’re thinking, but my insecure inner voice is telling me you’re saying, “How did you become so cliche?…a stay-at-home-mom-blogger?” Truth be told, my story, like all of yours, is anything but cliche.
My story really begins about 36 years ago. Kidding! I wouldn’t do that to you. I will take you back to a little over four years ago, when I was heading down after summitting La Plata – a 14er in the Sawatch range in Colorado. It felt nearly impossible for me to make it back to the car. With each step, I felt pain in just about every possible part of my lower body. I was going at a snail’s pace, the rest of my party far ahead or having to frequently stop and wait. This wasn’t my first mountain. They are never easy. Making it up and down takes at least as much mental and emotional strength as physical strength (insert countless metaphors for life). This time was different. Crawling down the mountain gave me a lot of time to start putting together all the nagging clues my body had been giving me since having my daughter the year before. In my typical style, I didn’t listen to anything my body was saying until it was screaming at me.
Fast forward a few months later. I saw my doctor, had blood work done, and was referred to a nearby rheumatologist due to markers for lupus. My diet was pretty much Hershey bars and Diet Pepsi. That’s not an exaggeration. I can’t really say that I even drank much water, just enough to swallow a handful of pills every day and night. The medical strategy I was participating in at that time was, throw all the medicine at it and see what sticks. This left me tired, sick, in a lot of pain, and truly unable to stomach much food. No doubt, not eating all day, then enjoying a supper of chocolate and soda wasn’t helping the situation either.
Enter: my knight in shining armor, my husband…awe. Who knew that a few, simple words casually thrown out one night would change my life so drastically. That night all he said was, “You can’t keep doing this.” I took it as a personal affront, and quickly made excuses for why I couldn’t change my diet or the way I was living. Yet over the next few days, we prepared to cut out all sugar and grains for just two weeks, as a cleanse to begin better eating. That was only the beginning. He still hasn’t given up looking for ways I can control and improve my health. Today there are chickens running around our backyard and raised-bed gardens where green grass used to grow, all for my benefit and in hopes of saving our daughters from a similar future. He even encouraged me when I sought some alternative medical treatments like this.
It turns out, my markers and symptoms qualify me under “mixed connective tissue disease”. In my case that means, I have a combination of lupus and an even more rare autoimmune disease called relapsing polychondritis. (Hello to all my fellow RPers!) “Losing my health” took me through the stages of grief on repeat. Definitely denial – for YEARS I only participated in hushed, vague conversations that never admitted what was really happening to my body. Sadness and anger – grieving the loss of the life I had envisioned for myself, the life I wanted to live as a mom and wife. The first time it was too painful to braid my daughter’s hair and weekend afternoons curled up on the couch while my family was outside having fun, come to mind. Fear – hearing, “some day…” (in a less than uplifting tone) countless times from your forthcoming pulmonologist, will incite some real fear. Feeling like you have no control over your own health is pretty scary too. Finally, honest acceptance, ahhh. So when my trusted rheumatologist said, “It’s too bad you have to go to work,” I had another bit of a wake-up call.
I do have control over my health. I don’t have to be sad over losing some vision I had of a life that was never really mine in the first place. I only have this one. I don’t have to fear the future. It will always be uncertain, for everyone. I find the hope in that now. I can choose doctors, of all types, with my long-term health in mind. We can live on a budget, and I can stay home. I can treat my food like medicine, and be very discriminating with what I put in my body. I can control my perspective, choose to celebrate the gifts this illness has given me instead of choosing denial, fear, and sadness. For me, that’s what this blog is about, a sincere celebration of all the gifts having an autoimmune disease has given me – an unbelievably supportive husband, more time to be the mom and wife I want to be, a sense of urgency to savor every moment and make it count, an evolving understanding of how to treat my body with the care and respect it deserves, a grateful heart…Add to that list, lifelong (By “lifelong” I mean one of a handful of people who know my story without me having to tell it. Someone who accepts me to my core – chosen family.) friend who not only offered support and encouragement, but jumped right in when it came to putting herself out there for the sake of this blog. This is all owed to my co-blogger, Lisa.
It’s about something else too. Each of us has our own story, none of them cliche. I know that most of us are tired. I know that most of us are in some kind of pain. I know that most of us struggle, in some way, with health and managing all life throws at us. A diagnosis isn’t needed to legitimize that, but if the experience of our imperfect progress could help someone else, in any small way, that would make this even sweeter. After all, this isn’t our (as in YOU too) first mountain. We may be on our way down from this one, but there will be others in our future. If we can get over them together, stopping for each other along the way, the view will be all the more beautiful for it.