Thursday, April 3, 2014

Keep Calm and ... FLOAT On!

I'm really excited to be participating in the WEGO Health Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge.  I'm hoping that the challenge factor will motivate me to write more often (every day this month, in fact!), and that that will develop into a habit of writing regularly after the month is over.  More importantly, I'm hoping that by sharing my experiences, thoughts, and insights about living with chronic and invisible illnesses, I'll be able to bring comfort to someone struggling with the same issues.

*Note - I'll be including this introductory paragraph at the beginning of every post, so that anyone who's checking in will have that background info.  If you come back another day (and I hope you do), you can skip this part!

Today's assignment: Keep Calm and Carry On.  Write & create your own “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster. Try to make it about your condition! You can then go to (http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/) and actually make an image to post to your blog.


As soon as I read today's prompt, I knew immediately what my Keep Calm poster would say.  Considering the name of this blog, there was only one option, really.
It was obvious to me, but I understand that it might not be as much so for others ... so I thought I could take this opportunity to explain what it really means to float like a buttahfly.  Since this is for the challenge, I'll be sure to include how it relates to chronic illness ... but much (if not all) of it could be said for anyone, really.

Embrace change.  Just as the caterpillar morphs into a chrysalis, we all experience physical changes throughout our lives as well.  The changes from infancy through adolescence are (almost) universal - it may not be easy, but at least we know what to expect.   For many of us, though, our bodies change in ways far beyond the common life cycle.  We may gain (or lose) so much weight that we feel like a different person.  We may get injured from an accident (or from doing absolutely nothing), and be unable to move without supportive equipment.  Or we may get sick, and have to continually adjust to the transformation and degeneration of our bodies.  At these times, it is easy (and natural) to see only the loss, and to curse the change.  But we must remember the caterpillar, who is not finished yet.  It must struggle to break free, to emerge as the beautiful butterfly we know it to be.  As we struggle with our illnesses, we develop strength, resilience, and friendships that we otherwise would not.

Cherish every moment.  Butterflies have a very short lifespan, lasting anywhere from a few days to just under a year.  While we will live much longer than that, we must recognize that every moment is precious.  With a chronic illness, the fatigue alone can be disabling; adding pain, stiffness, dizziness, and nausea only makes the situation worse.  We do the best we can to get through our obligations, leaving little to no energy left for fun.  We have to cancel plans all the time, or leave early when we do go out.  We miss out on parties, vacations, and holidays, and get tired of our own company.  With all that loss, we learn to value the "everyday moments" that others may take for granted.  Meeting a friend for coffee may not be as exciting as taking a trip to Vegas, but it's time with a friend, it's coffee, and it's what I can handle ... so it's perfect.  I may not be able to go out dancing with my husband every night, but cuddling on the couch when he comes home from work becomes quality time that I cherish.  The big things may not always be possible, but as they say, it's the little things that mean a lot.

Be yourself.  Every butterfly is unique: no two are exactly alike, and yet every one is beautiful in some way.  Being a buttahfly is about recognizing that YOU are unique and beautiful - right here, right now.  All too often, we are so quick to focus on what we perceive as our shortcomings, rather than our strengths.  We wish we were thinner, prettier, richer, funnier, more popular.  We often hear that it is what's on the inside that matters, so we shouldn't worry so much about those superficial traits.  With an autoimmune disease, though, "what's on the inside" is an even bigger problem!  When we can separate ourselves from our illnesses, learn to love and appreciate who we are, rather than feeling inadequate and trying to become someone else, then we can float like a buttahfly.


**If you like what you read, tell a friend.  In fact, tell me, too - post a comment below!  If you don't ... well ... I'm all for honesty, but ... please be gentle!