I’ve been sick for a pretty long time now. Ten years, to be exact. Well actually, if we’re being exactly exact, then it’s ten years, two months and five days.
That anniversary used to be a bigger deal to me than it is now. I expected the ten-year anniversary of getting sick to feel like this big heavy thing, but to be honest it really wasn’t a huge deal. I didn’t even feel the need to write about it!
If I hadn’t gotten sick ten years ago, would I have ended up sick eventually? Would some other combination of environmental factors have combined with my genetics and turned my immune system against me? Maybe. Probably. To some degree, at least. Would my life have turned out this way anyway? I’ll never know, and it doesn’t feel productive to spend too much time wondering.
Because I did end up sick and my life did turn out this way.
It used to be that every year when that anniversary came around, I would think wow I can’t believe it’s been three…five…eight years and I’m STILL sick.
But now? Now I’m at a place where I just think well of course I’m still sick. This is what my life is. An existence built around illness is really the only existence I’m familiar with anymore. It’s certainly the only adult existence I have ever known. And I mean that in a matter of fact way, not a woe-is-me way. It just is what it is. It’s ten years later and we’re here and we’re doing this and it’s okay.
Ten years to the day of being sick felt like acceptance.
A few weeks later it was November and people started talking and sharing posts about how there were only two months left in the decade. Which is when it hit me that I will have been sick for the entire decade.
Did anyone see where I put that acceptance I was just talking about? Because I can’t seem to find it anymore.
Being sick for ten years is okay, but losing an entire decade to illness? Not okay! Not fair! I guess when I think of being sick for ten years, it feels more open-ended? I’m still doing it. But when I think about having been sick for the entire decade, that feels finished. It’s closed off. Over and done with. It’s just gone.
An entire decade, gone. Where would I find myself at the end of this decade if I had never gotten sick?
Just like before, I’ll never know. I can imagine where I would be in life, but I don’t know. How could I know? How could anyone a decade ago have known where they would be today? And how can anyone today know where they will be at the end of the next decade? A decade is a radically transformative amount of time.
But it’s also just that. A unit of time. A period of ten years.
On October 11, 2019, I had been sick for a period of ten years. An entire decade. And every day since then, I have been sick for an entire decade. More than that. A decade plus two months and five days, now. And I’m okay with it.
Still not really okay with this whole being sick for the entire 2010’s business, though. And if you are wondering why I can accept one and not the other, even though they are essentially the same thing, well, I have no good answer for you.
And that’s okay. Because one of the biggest lessons this decade of being sick has taught me has been about acceptance, that acceptance is neither all or nothing, nor is it an endpoint.
We hear about the stages of grief and we think that once we’ve reached acceptance then that’s it. We’re done. We did it. We’ve grieved. Next.
Yeah, no. In my experience, that’s really not how it works.
It’s more like a game of Twister, where acceptance is the red circle you’ve got your left hand on but your other limbs are tangled up elsewhere. Then life calls out “left foot red” and then “right hand blue” and just when you are ready for a “right foot blue” and for your life to be solidly and steadily squared up on one corner of the mat, life goes and calls out “right foot green” and ruins it all. Not just any green circle, by the way, the green circle in the opposite corner from where you are building your foundation. Because when life is in control of the game of Twister spinner, it gets to pick not just the colour but the exact circle.
Time passes, life changes, and after a while you have an entirely different perspective; now acceptance feels like the yellow circle your right hand is on. That’s when, of course, life calls out “right hand purple” even though there aren’t any purple circles.
Basically anytime you’ve found a place of acceptance you can be sure that in time life will be there, spinner in hand, ready to shake things up.
It’s not a perfect metaphor.
Really though, what’s what acceptance feels like. It’s there, and then it’s not. You’re there, and then you’re not. You can accept “ten years” but you can’t accept “the entire decade.” Your right hand is on red but your left is on green, you’re still thinking about that blue circle you couldn’t reach a few spins ago, and all the while you’re trying to find orange.
You can accept that acceptance is not an endpoint, and then you can’t understand why you can’t just be done having to accept the same thing over and over again.
Acceptance. It is not all or nothing and it’s not forever. We can’t expect that from ourselves and just as importantly, we can’t expect that from each other. It’s also not a logical thing. It doesn’t follow a standard timeline. It looks different from one person to another. And a lot of the time it comes down to a spinner we have no control over.
So I guess that where I am after a decade, two months and five days of being sick is hand over hand under foot, tired from a long game of Twister that I never wanted to play in the first place. But trying to enjoy it as much as I can all the same.
It’s ten years later and we’re just here and we’re doing this and it’s (mostly) okay.