The hint of autumn spices the air here in Nebraska. We had cool temperatures yesterday, and I threw my windows open, relishing the wonderful breeze on my skin. Soon, the leaves will start to turn, the sun won't shine nearly as bright and hot, and pumpkins and Indian corn will begin dotting doorsteps.
It's a taste of what's to come.
But until that moment, it is only a taste. The temperatures are supposed to climb into the high 80s tomorrow and while that may be a comfortable temperature for some, it is still far too hot for me. Give me temperatures in the 50s and 60s. That's where I am comfortable. That is where I can breathe and sigh in contentment, hopefully walking through crisp piles of leaves and drinking hot cocoa.
I hope that the cooler temperatures will also improve my health. Heat does quite a number on me. Of course, almost anything lately does a number on me. I find that I am not improving; I am getting worse. That's rather scary. I still have at least two months to wait to see if the new drug I'm on for my rheumatoid arthritis will work.
There are times when I wonder: would I feel better if I was not working full-time, if I did not have the stress of wondering how I will feel every morning when I wake up and whether I can go to work or not? I cannot see myself lazing about the house and doing nothing; no. But the harsh truth is this: working full-time at a job that requires I be present for several activities is taking its toll. Good days are few and far between.
But if I didn't have to go to work - if I had time to rest, time to prepare good, healthy meals, time to take slow walks, time to write - instead of trying to cram everything in on top of working full time...would I improve? Would I find that my good days began to increase? Or would not having a place to be every day be far worse? Do I need that responsibility to get me out of bed in the morning?
These are the thoughts I've been having for several months now. Two years ago, I did not have these thoughts. Two years ago, I could go several weeks and even months without taking a sick day. Now I can't make it through one week without a sick day.
What does my ideal look like? This: to write full-time, to be committed to writing a novel a year. I believe that would give me the necessary motivation to get up in the morning and to properly structure my day so that I would be able to take care of my health and my family without worrying about the demands of a job.
There is sadness in thinking this way. Sadness because I enjoy my job and I enjoy what I do; it's a perfect fit for me. I love my co-workers and I love the environment I work in.
But there may come a point, and it may come far sooner than I think, where my health will simply now allow me to do it any longer. I am the type of person who takes pride in my work; I do not want to only partially do my job and let people down. I don't want to reach a point where I cannot be successful.
I never thought I would be dealing with a chronic illness at this stage in my life. I was a healthy kid and only dealt with headaches (from a volleyball injury) through college. My health battles began in 2000 - so it's been 16 years of going from one doctor to another, but with long periods of good health - even years long with a few interruptions here and there. Now, it's constant. Now, my daughter asks me every day, "How are you feeling?" Now, I wake up every morning and think, "What hurts today?"
There are times in life when we must go through the wilderness, when we must fight the brambles slashing our cheeks and the sharp rocks piercing our feet, where we must push through despite the blinding sand in our eyes, despite the thirst that can never be quenched. That is where I am. I am in the wilderness, trying to find my way, step by step, battling, praying, fighting.
God is my constant companion, though sometimes I forget He is there. I forget to pray, to cry out to him, to let Him embrace me when I simply can't go on. There are days He carries me, days He watches me take steps on my own, but is always there in case I fall.
I only know this: hope keeps me going. My family and my faith keep me going. The sweet sound of my daughter's laughter keeps me going. My husband's kiss on my forhead keeps me going. The books I read, the words I write, keep me going.
And one day, I shall emerge from this wilderness into the land of plenty, where at last I can see the path ahead, where I can accept and embrace what life has in store for me. I am not there yet; but I will be.