There have been plenty of times when I have wished I could be someone else. This usually happens when the “envy monster” whispers in my ear, “Look who has it better than you,” or “They have it all!” and I get the feeling in the pit of my stomach that groans about how life has been unfair to me. It’s hard when I hear when these same people have purchased a new car or won the lottery and the only “lottery” I feel we have won is that of incurable and obscure diseases. While other parents think about vacations, taking kids to practice, and play dates, we may never afford future vacations, I am often debilitated due to my Rheumatoid Arthritis, and I have to consider my son’s medical and behavioral issues if the rare opportunity for a play date arises. I think about illnesses every day. It is consuming and it eats away at my me. Bit by bit, the worry, guilt, and fatigue has at times compiled into depression. It would seem happiness is far fetched on the uphill battle we often face, but it isn’t. I can affirm that I have experienced envy, guilt, anxiety, depression, and sadness at the hands of multiple diseases. They have robbed me of sleep, peace of mind, and the luxury of quick decisions. Everything in our life has to be carefully thought out and planned. Life is lived one day at a time and we are sometimes barely getting through the day. So why am I so happy?
For one, I live by faith and believe my life has a greater purpose. I believe I have learned to be a better person through all of my suffering. Suffering is inevitable and to many, suffering is pointless but I dare you to consider the contrary. I have had a better look at the lives of others who have suffered around me by experiencing the same. I was ignorant and there was so much I didn’t understand until I also had to experience my life at it’s lowest. It was from the bottom where I could appreciate the strength of people who were experiencing great difficulty. It was also there where I became more aware of my weaknesses and failures and desired to be a better person. I learned how to find strength and happiness in the face of adversity.
It sounds simple but I no longer hold myself to an unrealistic standard. I allow myself to feel envy, sadness, and heartache and it doesn’t make me a bad person. Too often, I feel like I have to live up to some ridiculous, unspoken standard that says I have to be happy, or at least pretend to be happy all the time. I don’t. Life has been unfair, other people do seem have it better, and there are numerous health issues in my family. The pain is real so shouldn’t the acknowledgement of my own feelings also be real? Once I decided this, I also stopped sugar-coating my response to the question, “How are you?” I give an honest answer and if someone didn’t really want to know, they will not likely ask again. When did it become necessary to omit difficulty out of normal conversation? Difficulty is a part of life. Why should I feel guilty about talking honestly about my life?
I have also put unnecessary guilt to rest. I have spent too much time feeling guilty about things I could not prevent or did not cause. Guilt by its own definition should only be felt when one purposefully does something in contrary to what he or she knows is right. Trying my best is not something I should feel guilty about. Life should not be based on hypothetical scenarios that can’t changed. What’s the point? I also stopped feeling guilty about what I could not do. If life demands that I leave the laundry pile up and the house remain dirty, so be it. My house and my laundry will wait for another day.
On that note, I stopped telling myself that I had to maintain the perfect image. I made myself crazy cleaning house, painting walls, and making everything around me look perfect when I was falling apart on the inside. Yes, sometimes having other areas of my life in order helps me feel better but it should never take priority over my own or the children’s needs.
Lastly, I remind myself that everyone is struggling with something, even those people I envy and people like me who try to maintain that perfect appearance on the outside. Honesty can be very freeing. I appreciate those who are also honest when I ask, “How are you doing?” It helps to know I’m not walking the difficult road alone.