After my complete and total emotional/physical breakdown in September of 2006 my mom came to stay with me for a few days so my husband could go to work (someone had to). I was not mentally stable enough to be left alone. Feelings of wanting to just die, cease to exist and not feel the pain or anguish anymore were overtaking me and I did not trust myself, what action I may take because of this despair. My mom has a friend that I know well, I had actually worked for her a couple of years right out of high-school, and she was going through her own health crisis. This woman is a survivor! She was a 20-something young mother of 2 boys when her bi-polar husband mysteriously appeared in front of a speeding train, ending his life. She is a kind and dear woman that did the best she could in the face of very terrible circumstances. Years had passed since we were in each others lives and she was now re-married, had a darling little 2 year-old girl and...thyroid cancer! She had just undergone surgery to have the entire gland removed and was facing awful terrible challenges and realities in the face of a vicious attack on her life and sanity. My mom's next stop was to go help her out (lets just call mom Florence Nightingale, why don't we?) after she nursed me to stability. Lifetimes had passed since this lady and I had last talked so when my mom gave her a call I got on the phone to say hello. I asked her how she was and she said with the most sincere and thoughtful voice possible that she was...GOOD! It was like someone had spurred me with a cattle-prod and slapped me across the face at the same time... She was good? How was she good? She had a little baby and new husband and teenage boys and a lifetime of nasty thyroid meds to tend to and cancer in her body...and she was good? Here I was completely falling apart with some strange (non-terminal) illness no one could treat or cure, mentally breaking down and ready to go jump off that famous orange bridge San Francisco is so well known for, if only I had the energy to get myself there!
She opened my eyes that day to something deep. Something that has been the only way I have survived the awfulness of CFS & Fibromyalgia, and more recently, 2 strokes. I got off the phone with her and seriously marveled at her sincere and genuine response. I wondered how one could be so in control while so blatantly out of control of their circumstances. It became blazingly obvious to me she had chosen to be good. She was not given the position, yet despite her situation was not wallowing in self-pity or anger or frustration. She was meeting life's challenges head on, clear in heart and mind. I am happy to say that 5 years later she is still good. Still riding the never-ending roller-coaster of life's ups and downs like the rest of us, but her eldest has recently gotten married and she is healthy.
The Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you respond that matters”. I don't think there was every anything said with more truth. Once I realized EVERYTHING had been stripped away from me, leaving me like a rotting carcass picked dry by ugly greasy vultures, I realized I still had 1 thing left...my choice of how to respond to the situation. You can take my money, security, health, stability, job, love, joy, ambitions and hopefulness, but you cannot take away my spirit! You cannot take away my choice of reaction. There have been times where finding that spirit was darn near impossible, but with faith and fortitude I have been able to find my way back to the path of progress and slowly rebuild my life brick-by-brick, inch-by-inch. She taught me something valuable that day, and stretched me in a way I did not know I could be stretched. I am thankful for that wake-up snap so early in the process of this disease, for it showed me a foundation I have been able to establish that has been my saving grace many times over...
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