Exactly two years ago yesterday my knee swelled out of nowhere, and I could barely walk. I ignored it, and tried to push through the pain, but after two weeks of no improvement, I begrudgingly went to the local urgent care center and got an x-ray. They told me it was sprained, I should rest and take ibuprofen, and chill out on the yoga for awhile.
I had no idea that my life was about to shift dramatically, and this apparent “sprain” would become the catalyst for major changes in my life.
Life’s lessons are fickle. They come slowly, gradually, and if we’re not really paying attention we can easily miss them. When my knee swelled, it was like my body was manifesting where I was in my life. I had a great job, but it made me miserable. I felt isolated, in a town far from my friends and family, and stuck in a career that didn’t satisfy my creative and entrepreneurial desires. I didn’t know what to do next, but suddenly, I didn’t have much time to think about it. My body spoke for me, and soon I was swept into a sea of doctor appointments, physical therapy, acupuncture, prescriptions and pain…. more and more pain.
…we each have one human body that we must inhabit for the duration of this adventure on Earth, and how we choose to maintain it, enjoy it, nourish it… that’s up to us.
In time, it was clear there was something deeper going on. Other joints swelled. I was fatigued. My muscles ached. On my worst days, I couldn’t stand or walk for more than fifteen minutes without strain. I became depressed, and the doctors were baffled. My tests were all negative, I changed my diet, gave up gluten, followed a strict therapy routine… but nothing changed.
Years ago, a good friend of mine who happened to be a vegan chef and very health conscious, said something to me that struck a chord and has stayed with me ever since. “I don’t eat well and take care of myself because I want to live forever. I do it because I don’t want to be sick and suffering the last years of my life.”
No one wants to be sick and suffering. And each of our bodies is different. We can’t escape our genes, our cultural background, our environment, but we each have one human body that we must inhabit for the duration of this adventure on Earth, and how we choose to maintain it, enjoy it, nourish it… that’s up to us.
After a year of trying to solve my health mystery, a confident rheumatologist gave me a diagnosis of Psoriatic Arthritis, an incurable, autoimmune, inflammatory disease. She recommended I begin TNF inhibitors – prescription injections – right away. When I left her office, I sat in my car and burst into tears.
I didn’t believe her. It felt wrong. In that moment, I refused to accept that there was nothing I could do but take drugs and cope with side-effects for the rest of my life. So instead, I listened to my body – this time, my heart. I quit my job, my husband and I built a loft apartment in our old neighborhood, and at the end of 2013 we moved back “home” and I launched my own web design business.
Most of the time, we go through our days without thinking too much about the wider trajectory of our lives. We all have dreams… maybe it’s to open a yoga studio some day, to travel to Spain, to go on a road-trip with your sister, or to make more time for close relationships. But there’s so much white noise – chores, jobs, distractions – that we put it off. We wait. And we keep waiting. And we think, someday, when such and such happens, then we’ll do it. Someday, when we finish this and accomplish that, then we’ll finally be ready.
We forget that someday might not come, that someday is not any more perfect or aligned than today, and that maybe today is the perfect day. Maybe today is the only day.
When I received my grim prognosis, I made the choice to stop waiting. Things needed to change, and not the next day, but right then. Illness, pain, and suffering have a way of magnifying our sense of urgency and beaming a spotlight on what is most important. Priorities become crystal clear. I knew that if I was going to be in pain, I wanted to at least shape the rest of my life into what I wanted it to be.
It’s been a year since I made that decision, and I feel as though I have been born into a new life. I feel home, my business is soaring, my community is thriving, and my heart is full. Though my body is still healing, and I still struggle with pain – I’m working with a good doctor and slowly figuring things out. What’s most important is that I’m building the life I want and not waiting for answers. There is no time to wait, there is only now.
Funnily enough, I have been waiting a long time to write this blog post. It’s been an arduous couple of years, and I only wanted to come back to the blog when I could confidently say, “Sorry I’ve been gone, but I’ve been diagnosed with X and here’s my story…” I finally asked myself, why am I waiting? Life is happening around me every moment and there is so much to say, so much to share. I don’t need an answer – I don’t need a justification.
I’ve decided to share my journey because I believe all of us play the waiting game in one way or another. We hear people say, Life is Short. Seize the Day. Yadda, yadda, yadda… it becomes part of the white noise and we almost don’t hear it. But I’m asking you to listen. Listen to your heart, listen to your body, and really pay attention. What is it you really want in your life? What is it that fills you up inside and makes you jump out of bed in the morning eager to start your day? What do you want your story to be?
And, what are you waiting for??