If I could hold a game of BINGO filled with questions or comments I have received over the years of being ill I can assure you that round of the game would have been mine, hands down. Regardless of my status on the theoretical game of BINGO I always find myself in these typical “elephant in the room” type of situations. I first begin with small talk about the weather or the daily news and once that is over I’m always met a genuine, yet blissfully ignorant question that people tend to be greatly hesitant to ask.
“How have you been doing?”
Honestly (no offence to either party), how does one begin to answer that inquisition? Do I smile, nod, and reply that I’m “fine”? That I had nothing “new going on” and I had “no reason to complain”? Perhaps I should I be forthcoming regarding the searing pain I’m in? The nausea that has me shaking? The anxiety that I’m fighting against so hard just gain control of myself? All while attempting to answer your question with just enough information for you to understand my reasoning, but not enough information to intimidate you. I haven’t quite figured out how to master the balance of the two.
Regardless of whether that day my answer was that I had a good day or a bad day, I’m always an array of questions:
“I cannot understand how you can go through so much and still smile”
“How do you do all of this?” “Is this how you feel every single day?”
“I wouldn’t be able to be handle what you go through”
“How do you stay so strong and positive?”
I never know how to answer.
How do I do it? How can I endure the chaos of life and come out on top? Drama here, celebrations there, grief here, hilarity there, betrayal here, love there. How can someone possibly remain heart strong when ones heart is constantly under attack and loving deeply yet cautiously? How can my body remain strong when it’s being weakend and plagued by disease?
The best way I can explain my coping mechanism is through the analogy of rocks in a box.
Imagine the body as an empty “vessel”, or a “box” and as you go through your day various contributions are out into this box. To make this analogy work, I like to imagine the negative challenges as rocks, pebbles, or boulders and the positive experiences as retracting those. So, you begin your day with a stain on your favourite shirt, you are met with an empty tank of gas in your car, end up stuck in traffic and end up arriving late to your appointment. From there you decide to reward yourself after a good appointment by meeting up with a friend at your favourite coffee shop and having your favourite drink, from there a stone is removed from the box and your load is once again lightened. As you continue your days and weeks this pattern continues; with each challenge you face a stone of various sizes pertaining to the significance of the circumstance is added to your box and some are removed depending on the resolution.
The difficulty in all of this is that one day you may have an argument with someone that can add the rock that leads to a complete breakdown, or you could have the same argument a different day be left unaffected. The significance in this “box” is that you can only carry a load so great, and it can take something incredibly small and insignificant or something great and heartbreaking that can lead to the crumbling of this box and an emotional breakdown. It seems harmless at first, to imagine carrying your troubles as tiny little rocks that can be held in the palm of your hand, but after 10 days of carrying around a load that consistently grows heaver and heavier, and we can only bear so much.
Now picture this empty box as your heart and mind; you can only put so much strain and burden on your heart before it will eventually burn out. You have two eyes and two ears, but only one heart and mind for a reason. We have many, many bones in our bodies, but only one heart and one mind to protect and as boundless as our potential may seem there are limits to the extent in which we can stretch ourselves.
So, how do I manage to endure all that I have to? Some days bring heavier burdens to bear, and some bring great redemption but the only way I can surely get from one moment to the other is by turning one stone over at a time.