This is going to sound bizarre, but I think in some ways, being diagnosed with a chronic illness has made me incredibly selfish. Maybe, a better word is self-centered.
I felt that fibromyalgia my battle to fight, my demon to slay, and I was wary of letting anybody join the one-woman army. I have always had issues letting go of perceived control and trusting completely without guard. This attitude blinded me to the fact that my condition did not just affect me, it equally affected my husband. So if I ever selfishly believed that I was my own army, I was living a lie.
My husband reminded me of that very recently with a few simple words, “we are in this together.”
I expected to feel some combination of fear and relief at that declaration. Instead, I could only feel embarrassed.
Embarrased, because how could I ever have thought otherwise? We were always in this together. If we weren’t, then why would he wake extra early only to force me to wake up earlier than usual, in my healthier days, so I could get in extra study/work time before classes? If we weren’t, then why would he deal with all my frustrations, agonies, eccentricities and melt-downs, and be steady as a rock through it all? And that remains true of both my healthier days and current ones, though the themes for each have changed. If we weren’t, then why would he keep better track of my pill times than I do? Why would he make it a point to buy me a new supportive pillow nearly each month, as soon as the previous one starts to feel flat? Why would he take the initiative to research new pain relieving methods for me to try out, knowing most of them are likely to be a waste of money? Why would he cancel plans at the drop of a hat, plans he may have been looking forward to, just because I felt tired, and never once complain? Why would he give up on his own rest at night just to comfort me in my tiring sleeplessness, or to try to massage me to sleep, and never once take an apology from me for any of it? Why would he take up all the extra household chores, that once used to be my responsibility, just to save me that energy that I would otherwise expend on it?
The truth is, whether I explicitly admitted it or not, we were always in this together – in sickness and in health. It is so easy to say the vow when one does, but so much harder to live it. When we married quietly after knowing each other for over a decade and living practically in a marriage for half that time, the spoken vows meant to little to us. We were already living it.
The only vow I needed to make that day is really a wish. I wish to never be so blinded again as to not be able to see when he is riding alongside me in every battle; to never be so selfish and self-centered again as to believe I am a one-woman army; and willfully abandon my guards when I lean on him, with the trust that he will never let me down.
Featured image: At Sky’s Edge (8X10, oil on canvas). A tribute to one of my favorite contemporary artists, Giuseppe Faraone – modified to explore ecstasy in contemplation.