Spreading Joy

When I’m sick or blue, I want my mommy’s chicken soup.  She’s 84 and lives on the other side of the country.  But still, “Just get on a plane, Mom, and fly here with a plastic tub of chicken soup.  I need you!”  I want the comfort of those soft, squishy noodles, slightly firm carrots and nicely murky broth that always has a little chicken fat in it.

Like lots of people, it’s easy for me to feel irritable, abandoned and offended when I’m sick. I put great expectations on others.  Many of us find it easy to feel abandoned and unloved no matter how much others are present for and with us.  We know they have a job, but why can’t they be with us all day, anyway?  We know they have their own families to take care of and chores to do, but certainly those can all wait.

I’ve worked hard to recognize this dynamic in my life and change it (for which my family and friends are grateful), but like a spot on a favorite dress, it hasn’t gone away. I have learned that when I can sort out reality from my perception of it, people have been there for me much more than I thought.  When I let myself recognize the care people are giving me, it’s really wonderful.  Feeling heard and seen by another, that care has been given, and that I’ve let myself receive and acknowledge it is marvelous—especially when doing so is such an achievement!  If this pattern fits you, it’s worth working on it.  Life will be much more pleasant whether you have a chronic illness or only get sick once each decade.

I’m grateful for the people who, when I’ve been ill, stepped forward and walked with me on the journey.  They brought lunch to share on the patio and gave me healthy tea varieties to drink.  They offered help without being intrusive. They walked at my speed through The Huntington Gardens and took me shopping so I didn’t have to use my energy for driving. They sent notes and cards that I keep in a basket and re-read.  Because of them I have a sense of the greater community in which I am held and remembered.  If you know someone whose abilities are a bit limited right now and you haven’t known how to be helpful, try one of these ideas.  They mean a lot. 

Others have boundaries on what they can do or bear, just as I do, and we need to give each other the grace to accept those limits and boundaries, even if it’s sometimes painful.  boundaries don’t mean that one person doesn’t care about the other.  It means each one is also caring for him/herself, and that’s completely appropriate.  If you’re the one who feels guilty about not doing as much for others as you’d like to, give yourself the grace to accept your own limitations.  Only God’s energy, time, and capacity to bear sorrow are limitless, ours are not.  If you’re one who wants to receive more from others, sort out what’s realistic, and forgive others their need for self-care.  It’s an appropriate gift of grace to do so. 

When I live this way, I’m grateful for what I receive from others, for the times we laugh and the sudden insights we share, for that which I am able to give to and do for others, and for our willingness to let each other be who we are.  Life is good this way.  

Learnings: (1) Recognize that others may already be giving you more than you realize they are. (2) Receive what others are giving and be grateful. (3) Give yourself the grace of recognizing your own limits.  God loves you in your humanity.

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