This post originally appeared on pdxkcm.com on Wednesday, January 19, 2011 under the title “Wellness”.
Just before I got out of the shower this morning my wife opened the door and made a dispiriting announcement:
“Seth just threw up.” (Seth is our son.)
Illness comes every now and then, it’s a fact of life. The stomach flu is different. I would gladly endure ten colds if it meant I could avoid one twenty-four hour, gut-wrenching marathon of nausea, feverish and sleepless dreams, and intermittent dashes to the bathroom.
You can stream the narration audio below or download it here.
Our household has a special, unwelcome relationship with gastrointestinal maladies. Over the years we’ve faced IBS, allergies, “sensitivities”, and a severely distressing scrape with Crohn’s disease in one of our children (which appears to have been a misdiagnosis, thank God). Our diets are very restricted. Even trace amounts of many common ingredients can do serious damage. Throw a bout of the stomach flu on top of all this (no pun intended), and life can get very complicated.
You might think, then, that my wife’s announcement this morning caused me no small amount of consternation and distress. It didn’t. I wasn’t happy about it, but it didn’t send me spiraling into cycles of panic, anger, and frustration like it would have just a few short years ago.
That change has been hard-earned. It came from years of illness and other afflictions amongst family and friends. The most trying cases were those that had profound impacts on our lives yet eluded clear diagnosis, leaving us to wonder if and when things would ever feel normal again.
The trick has been to learn that there is no “normal”. Normalcy is a fragile illusion. Better to learn to continue on in the face of whatever may come, facing the tough times and savoring the times of peace and wellness. Saying this is easy, but it’s impossible to bring about this attitude by self-will. Trying to do so is a sure path to bitterness and cynicism at best, hopelessness and despair at worst. It’s taken years of fervent, searching prayer, asking the tough questions and facing tougher answers. There’s no substitute.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
And so while the path has been trying, the result is invaluable. I’ve exchanged one kind of wellness for another. Physically speaking, I doubt I’ll ever feel quite as whole or capable as I once did, but that’s no longer a key criterion of my personal sense of peace and well-being. I also wish I could say this work in me was complete, but I know better than that. At least now I feel confident I can walk the rest of the road.