To say that the past few months have been stressful would be a humorous understatement. I mean there is stress, and then there is STRESS. I think we all know the difference. We all have stressful days, or moments of anxiety to work through in our daily lives. But then there are those times when the stress seems crushing, like the world is just trying to kick you when you’re down. That is where I have been the past few weeks.
Being the primary caretaker of a chronically ill child just sounds stressful. Maybe that’s why I try to avoid checking that box on my job description. I do it, but I have to do it without paying it much thought. If I focused on that aspect of my job, I do think I would struggle to find the joy. Rather, I am just a mom who loves her kids…all of them. I do my best to take care of them individually, and all that that entails. Obviously, sometimes one child will need me more, or in ways the others might not.
My daughter has been fighting this last infection since October. That virus that you called your pediatrician about, just took her out for 7 weeks. Yeah, try explaining to people how your child is still sick with a “sinus infection” for almost two months. If you thought that sounds crazy, then your reaction is pretty spot on. I have been asked if I am giving her anything for it. I have been asked if she is still sick. And then there are the looks that people give me…the ones that make me feel like I better keep talking and explain it all away. People can’t be understanding about things they don’t understand. I feel like it is my job to make them understand.
Here is the thing though…I decided a long time ago that we were happy. We are a happy family. Being together is what makes everything OK. We actually don’t sit around being sad about her illness. Most days, that fact just lives in the background. She takes her medicines morning and night (sometimes in between when she is sick), and then goes about living her life. Even when she is home sick, we try to focus on other things rather than dwelling on how bad she feels.
A huge ingredient in our recipe of happiness, is noticing things to be thankful for. Sometimes these are huge blessings, and other times they are little things that just make life easier or better. Trust me, there are plenty of days that I have to consciously look for things to be thankful for. When we are heading to see yet another specialist, and traffic is stopped, and everyone is a little nervous…we are still thankful for good insurance and a car. I am thankful that if my daughter has to go through this, at least we are blessed with my ability to stay home and take care of her. I honestly don’t know how working moms deal with sick kiddos. We are blessed that on the days of major appointments, my husband has the flexibility to leave work and come with us. I am so thankful for our family. I really do think it is a rare treasure.
There are days when I wish that I could just build a cocoon around myself and hide. When I’m asking her ten times to take her meds, when the dishes are a mile high, when we aren’t getting any answers…hiding and quitting seem like great alternatives. I get trapped in this alternate universe where nothing can exist outside my walls. I’m so consumed with trying to get her healthy, stay on top of some semblance of order in my home, not to mention the renovation project we are in the middle of on an investment property; that I just can’t give the real world a thought. I almost seem surprised in these moments that the calendar keeps moving. Events and responsibilities just keep coming whether or not we are in a good place to deal with them. Deadlines are real. It’s learning to find the joy, even in these moments of extreme stress, that bind us and propel us forward. I could sulk, I seem to remember being pretty good at it as a kid; but then, where is the joy in that? Moving past those moments and getting back to the good stuff…knowing there is still good stuff, is the important thing.
God never promised clear skies, but He did promise to walk with us in the storm. There is no avoiding the rain, it is coming whether you’re ready or not. Maybe it is just me, but I feel like every storm loses some power when it gets filtered through joy. My daughter and I have made each other laugh in some of the most stressful situations, because we needed to practice joy. Doctors and nurses have come into her room and expected to see a morose child feeling sorry for herself, and were surprised to find her in good spirits. She is truly an example to others about having joy versus happiness. One’s happiness is dependent on outside factors, and can change depending on circumstances. Joy is a choice, one has to choose to be joyful. Not always an easy assignment, but worth it every time. I’ve never thought that I wasted time being happy or laughing; however, I have thought back over time wasted being sad or low.
So, the next time that you are planning your escape into hibernation, remember to look for things in every situation that you can be thankful for instead. Don’t focus on the storm, have fun jumping in the puddles. Maybe it is a really bad storm, then you just hold on tight and wait for the amazing rainbow that was promised. It is in the knowing that the storm will pass, and the sun will shine again, that we have the power to overcome. Don’t be a storm chaser, just waiting for the next big one to hit. Let the sun shine brightly on the good days. If you just can’t see anything in your storm, reach out… you are never alone.
Be thankful and find your joy. Live so that others can see that you are joyful even in the rain. I know that I have difficult days, but I genuinely hope and pray that everyone can see joy in my heart. I’ll keep working on it…