Birthday's are hard. They're hard for everyone, but particularly hard for those who are battling an illness. Each year is a mark of what has and has not improved, and what has and has not changed. We measure ourselves against other peoples' progress (let's face it, we do), and against our own progress in ways we shouldn't measure. Because truly, those things can't be measured in the ways we think they can.
I could spend today thinking about all the things I should have now that I'm 28. I could spend today thinking about everything I should have accomplished, should feel, should know, should possess. I should be healthier by now, especially after how hard I work at my health. I should be married. I should have a child or at least be planning for one. I should have more money. I should be farther along in my payments towards my medical bills. Should. Should.
But, rather than talking about what I should have (which, I have been doing all week. Okay, all month.) I will talk about what I hope I never lose- those things I have acquired on this journey that I hope stay with me forever.
I hope I always have my desperate will to live. Yes, there are days when I want to give up- days where getting out of bed is so incredibly painful I can't believe I'm actually not dead. There are nights I cry myself to sleep, curled in a ball, praying for relief from the pain. But there is always that desperation. That loud voice inside that screams to keep going- that throws the doctor a look when they tell me there is nothing more they can do, that voice and that face that looked that doctor who told me I'd never finish school in the face and said, "watch me." I hope I keep that stubborn pride. I hope I keep that desperation, that stubborn, unrelenting fight to keep going, to see the world and experience, feel it and taste it. I hope that voice never quiets down.
I hope I always feel excited at the smallest thing, like a successful grocery trip. I hope, on a day when I manage to grocery shop, cook, and curl my hair, I continue to twirl around and dance in happiness over my success. I hope I always notice when the weather changes slightly, and when the cardinal in the tree in my front yard comes to say hello. I hope the smallest things always remain the biggest things.
I hope that I always dream dreams that are bigger than most would imagine. I hope I continue to push myself to move farther. I hope I continue to create ridiculous goals in my mind (PhD? My own therapy practice?) that make people look at me with bug eyes and shake their heads. I hope I continue to have ridiculous ideas that I write down excitedly, and smile to myself when I think about them on a dark day.
I hope that part of me that pushes myself to the brink never shuts down. I hope I continue to push myself, sometimes way too far. I hope that on the days when I did push myself too far, where I cry and I pace or I fall to the ground, I still do find that moment to forgive myself and congratulate myself for trying.
I hope I can learn to forgive myself more.
I hope that I always believe I will be well one day. Yes, there are days when I question it. There are days when I question if I should reside myself to always feeling sick in some way, to not having the level of strength I wish for. I hope I always come back to center, to that stubborn desperation that screams, "yes you will get better, you will have everything you want."
I hope that my intuition stays with me, even though on some days it is difficult to endure. I hope that my ridiculous way of "knowing" remains. I hope I can still sit in a room with people and pick up on their pain, so I may relieve it in some small way.
I hope, that in the face of overwhelming odds that are still thrown at me, I continue to prove medical professionals wrong. I hope along the way I can teach them something. I hope, one day, what they learn saves someone else.
And, believe it or not, I hope a little piece of this always stays with me. I hope I never forget my worst days. I hope I never forget the desperation, the pain, and the overwhelming sadness. I hope that when people sit in a room with me, they can still tell, from my face, my body language, my presence, that I know pain, so they may feel comfortable enough to share their pain and their story with me. I hope I don't forget my story, so I may always tell it, and so people may feel they can tell me theirs.
And, of course, I hope you find peace. And health. And happiness. And everything you have ever dreamed of..and so much more.