Last Tuesday, I woke up not feeling so great. There’s nothing unusual about that, but on this particular day, I had a lunch date with my new neighbor. She had heard from my husband that my birthday was coming up and had very generously invited me to lunch. She was picking me up at 11:45, and here I was feeling like crap. I already some concerns: would we have anything to talk about? (I don’t know her very well), would my hips do okay with whatever chairs we would be sitting in? (I can’t sit on hard chairs for very long or my hip bones flare up and I’m incapacitated for days), how far would I have to ride with her? (I don’t do well riding with other people), and now, I was feeling worse than usual on top of all this. Nerves started taking over, but I didn’t want to cancel on her, so I decided to put on my big-girl pants and go on.
When she came to pick me up, another neighbor, who I absolutely love, was in the back seat. The three of us went to a delightful little cafe just down the road from us, and we had a wonderful time! We had plenty to talk about, soft chairs to sit in, and a tasty lunch on top of that! As we left to head back home, I couldn’t help but think that if I had canceled, I would have missed out on a wonderful experience and a great chance to form a deeper relationship with a couple of my neighbors. I almost let my fear of what might happen hold me back.
Fear is a terrible companion, but one that has been faithfully by my side for quite a few years now. When my fibromyalgia first got really bad, I was living in a constant state of fear. Before I found out what was going on with my body, I honestly thought I was dying. I couldn’t imagine that I could feel so terrible and not have something seriously wrong. The pain wasn’t the major issue for me; it was the co-existing conditions that made me think something was terribly wrong, but that’s a story for another day….
After I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, that constant fear subsided as I realized that all these weird things that were happening to me were normal, but a more insidious type of fear took its place. Now instead of worrying that I was going to die, I would worry about what might happen: What if I am out somewhere alone and am suddenly too shaky to drive back home? What if I do this and I’m in too much pain to do what I had planned tomorrow? What if I do this and I hurt myself? I have to admit that this is still an ongoing battle for me. I want to have a normal life and do all the things “regular” people do, so I guard my schedule carefully and am very selective in the things I choose to do. This has worked really well for me as far as keeping the pain at bay and being able to participate in the things that are really important to me, but the longer I live with this cluster of symptoms, the more I realize that although my life looks normal, it really isn’t. I’m letting my fear of what might happen keep me from really living life to its fullest.
For me, this definitely doesn’t mean doing anything crazy, like skydiving or climbing Mt. Everest, but it does mean letting go of this tightly controlled leash I’ve had on my life and activity levels and deciding that it might be worth a few days of extra soreness to experience something new, to make a new friend, to do something I’ve always wanted to do, etc. I know my life will never be what it used to be, but I’m okay with that. I just want this new life to be one I’m actually living, not one that I’m just existing in.
That one little two-hour lunch really opened my eyes to just how much I’ve let my fear control me and what I might miss out on if I continue to let it take charge. It was absolutely vital for me to develop a self-care plan, establish boundaries, and do what I needed to do in order to give myself time to heal and grow stronger. Now it’s time for me to loosen the constraints and see what else God has in store for me!