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Life Happens to You While You Are Busy Making Other Plans

Posted Feb 23 2011 12:00am

The title of this post is a John Lennon quote and it has described my life for a quite sometime.  I am always making plans and my plans always change.  I manage to swerve when life throws me curves and I dodge curveballs but it does mean that I don’t get hit once in awhile.  I just know that even my best laid plans can fail and I have to learn to accept that and deal with the cards I have been dealt with.

That was Then

A little over four years ago, I had been planning on taking my law school entrance exam so that I could go to law school.  I had also just started a new job after moving back to my hometown and getting married.   After making arrangements to take the preparation course, I found out I was pregnant so I decided that law school would be put on hold until the baby was at least two years old.  I also decided that after the baby was about six months, I could take my law school entrance exam and then look into law schools that I would be able to start in a year or so.  I had it all planned out.

A few days after the birth of my son, I awoke up to the inability to walk.  My entire body felt swelled and at the time, I assumed it was some kind of post-postpartum infection that antibiotics would cure.  The day that my doctor uttered the words, “rheumatoid arthritis,” I knew that my plans changed and this time the change wasn’t good.  My diagnosis left me to wonder who I was now that RA had invaded my life, a life that involved running many different directions. That was three years ago.   A few months later, fibromyalgia came into my life and I wondered at that point how much worse it would get.

I don’t know when my awakening came but at some point, I realized that I had to accept these new changes in my life and start making lifestyle changes to deal with many new challenges.  To me, this was a loss and I recognized that regardless of how stressed and depressed I was feeling, I had to move forward.  RA and fibro – they brought shock and anger to my busy life and they sent me to a screeching halt.   Once I accepted that they were here to stay, I found away to live with them.  I had to accept them, I had to be positive and I had to make new plans.

My new plans involved making more time myself and my kids, changing my educational pursuits, and taking on a different type of advocacy work to help me to feel like I was making a difference.  I stopped worrying about all the time I used to make for others and learning to prioritize my home and my kids.  I decided law school was out of the question and instead focused on my master’s in legal studies.  I also, rather than doing volunteer work that required my physical attendance, started advocating online for arthritis and fibromyalgia.  What I learned as my life changed was that my plans didn’t have to change, the timing and the path did.

This is Now

This past November, my entire family was thrown a big nasty curveball and it was something we could have never anticipated.  A month later we lost my 31 year old brother to a rare form of stomach cancer caused by asbestos exposure.  We had no answers, just questions and many that remain unanswered months later.  My brother’s illness and death is something that I have not really come to terms with yet in particular because of the cancer that killed him.  I have had many people contacting me to talk about my family’s story or to guest blog about asbestos related cancers and I am not there yet.  I have also thought about advocating for families dealing with what my family went through and I am not there yet either.  I am not sure if I will ever be.  Grieving is a process that takes many months and even years to deal with.  It took me nearly 15 years to stop missing my dad and only to lose my brother when I finally stopped grieving for Dad.  Sometimes, I look at my brother’s picture and I see his sweet smile and it makes me feel safe when I feel most insecure.  I was his big sis and when we were growing up, I protected him, and I wanted to protect him when he was sick and dying, and I hated that I couldn’t.  All I can do now is to hold on to his memory and live my life as he would want me to.   He was the kind of person who was content with what life handed him and in his memory, I can learn to be content with life hands me.

Shortly after my brother’s passing, I was thrown another curveball that I had to deal with it regardless of how weak I was feeling.  This curveball was one that was long overdue and it sent me to a screeching halt while my brother’s death was still new.  I also moved to a new place and was offered a new job.  All this change in my life all at once and I don’t know how to respond.  I asked a couple important people in my life for advice and they both told to take it has a blessing.   Both told me that while I may not realize it now, everything is falling into place and that is going to get better for me.  I hope so especially since I gave my notice to my current job today.  This new job is more in line with my career goals and objectives and it is a very welcome change. I am not complaining but I am being a party pooper while everyone is congratulating me.  I think I am mostly worried about RA and fibro being a damper.  Otherwise, I am very happy for this opportunity and if I did not have a nasty sinus headache, I would be much happier.

I am scared.  I am nervous and I am worried about this change but I am leaning to God to help me get through all these things so that I can just look at them as stepping stones on this journey I call my life.  I know change involves a lot of control over my responses rather than control over those situations since I can’t really have that.  I worry about how much has been thrust into my life all at once but I have also noticed that change is generally thrown at me in this fashion.  I think it is God’s way of saying, “You get to take it all in at once because I know that you are capable.”   I consider that a compliment.

I assume that the two most recent events in my life are positive and if not, I must choose a positive attitude.  Embracing change forces us to get to work on whatever has come our way and resisting it only creates further problems.  The irony of making a choose to embrace change, whether good or bad, means that we are changed as a result, and all these other little things after my brother’s death, they are hills compared to the change that his loss brought to my life.  His loss and dealing with it is like climbing Mount Everest.

All of this change is challenging my inner security in particular because I am making this change alone and I am not ready to talk about why.  I do have others in my life that I can lean on through this including my mother, my older sister, and my friends.   I am not alone and I know that because I recently found that out.  For a long time, and even with RA and fibro, I let others lean on me, and until I needed my friends and family to lean on, I didn’t realize how much support I had all along.  So, thanks John Lennon for the reminder, “Life Happens to You While You Are Busy Making Other Plans,” and it certainly has.  I also changed the header of my blog to reflect my life and the changes that I have recently come across.  It is my way of saying, “bring it on.”

I am preparing a book review for Karen Ager’s book, Enemy Within .  It should be up Friday.  It is Karen’s autobiography about life with rheumatoid arthritis and it is a rather extraordinary story. You will like it, I promise.

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