Life is rarely how we envisioned it would be, isn’t it? We set out our plans, take mental photographs of our dreamy ‘someday’, and hope with all we have that it’s as good or better than what we’re thinking it might be.
And then reality hits. You’re fighting a disease that has stripped you of normal, spending your days swallowing pills, sitting in waiting rooms, and staring at your bucket list with all the empty check boxes. This isn’t where you thought you’d be.
This weekend is my 30th birthday.
I’m having a hard time figuring out how to navigate all my feelings with this milestone year. There’s a sadness here, I’m not going to lie. I could paint this whole turning 30 thing real pretty. Tell you all the nice, cozy words and make you feel more comfortable.
But instead, I’m going to tell you the truth. That this isn’t the life I dreamed I’d be living. It isn’t how I pictured my twenties or thirties to look. And this whole fighting disease thing? It’s often been too much for me to handle, despite what the pretty phrases try to convince me of.
So here I am, struggling every day and fighting with all my heart, mind, soul and strength. I’m disabled and spending my days treating, writing and hoping for healing from an awful disease. And instead of holding my first child in my arms, I am mama to one of heaven’s babes.
I honestly don’t feel like celebrating this year.
In a sense, it feels premature. Birthdays in chronic illness tend to shine a light on the fact you’re still sick. You’re still in the same place as (and sometimes worse than) last year. It doesn’t feel like the time you bring out the cake or sing three choruses of “happy birthday”.
I’d rather throw confetti for everyone else on their special day and leave my moment for later on. For better days. For the year my health no longer limits or affects my every move. Maybe even for when I can eat something delicious without feeling like I’ve been hit by a truck afterward.
But this year, I’ve deciding something. That this milestone birthday can be whatever I want it to be. It can simply be a moment of recognizing the fact that I’ve won the fight for my life one more year. Lyme may have nearly won the battle on more than one occasion, but this fact rings true:
I’m still here.
I’ve held onto hope with scraped and bruised hands and advocated for Lyme disease awareness. I’ve spent hours upon hours writing from the raw corners of my heart and linking arms with other chronically ill fighters near and far.
And you know what? I’m giving myself permission to embrace those truths, but also let the tears of sadness fall. Without holding onto guilt or belittling their validity. Because these tears of sadness are honest and real. They’re a reflection of how hard and how long I’ve been fighting. Of how badly I’m hoping for healing, even just “better” someday.
But tears aren’t the only thing here. There are smiles and laughter and sun rises over the hills that I can see from my front lawn. There are ocean waves crashing against the Oregon coast as I look out the window from our birthday weekend retreat.
I catch myself watching my husband as he helps set me up for sleep each night and I feel the warmth of his care. The depth of his unwavering love.
I see friends and family rally around us to support our medical fundraiser (again) and I’m reminded of the good in the world. The depth of what it means to be a community who leans on each other.
So when these milestones come to remind us that we’re still sick, still single, still not parents or still living at home? We lean on each other. We allow ourselves to grieve. And we embrace the gifts that bring light and life to our moments.
Let’s remember this truth, friends: we’re also still here. Daring to dream and holding on to hope.
And that fight and resilience will always be worth honoring.