One day this past summer, I was talking to a friend about Lyme disease. I was complaining about the illness and how I never really know when my symptoms will suddenly return out of nowhere.
He posed an interesting question: “If you could give it up, but it had to go to someone else, would you still give it up?”
I didn’t even have to think before responding, “No. Absolutely not.”
It was interesting to consider. Although I don’t enjoy having Lyme disease, I also wouldn’t be able to live with myself being healed of it if I knew that a different person would have to suffer instead of me.
Now that I’ve had it for the past nine years, I feel that I am able to cope with it relatively well. I know what to expect (usually). I can see the signs of a relapse. I wouldn’t want to give it to someone new, someone who would have to experience the rollercoaster of emotions that happen in the weeks and months after the diagnosis, and then again with every relapse.
I would love to be healthy without Lyme, but not if it meant causing another person the same kind of suffering that I have experienced.
That’s an interesting way to view struggles in general, considering whether or not we would take the opportunity to rid ourselves of such struggles, on the condition that someone else would have to experience them instead.
I don’t view myself as an extraordinarily selfless person. However, I could never live with myself knowing that I was the direct cause of Lyme or some other pain and suffering for another person. I don’t think I would be able to live with the joy of my health, knowing that someone else was experiencing that pain that I gave up.
So maybe instead of being frustrated about Lyme when it does return, I should think to myself maybe I am the one experiencing this pain in this moment because I am well-equipped to handle it. I can get through this while someone else, if given the same situation, may not be able to handle it as readily.
I don’t believe that God gives us more than we can handle. We each have our cross to bear, and I’m certain that there is a reason behind each of them. He knows exactly what we are capable of.
So yes, I’d love to be Lyme-free. But for some reason, this is part of my cross. It’s what I must handle, so maintaining that mindset that I am suffering so that someone else doesn’t have to can potentially help me when I’m feeling frustrated. I must pick up my cross, not looking to pass it off onto someone else’s shoulders.
With my 28th birthday taking place tomorrow, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the things I have learned thus far in life. So, in light of turning 28 years old, here goes…
1. It doesn’t matter what people think.
I don’t really care what people think about most of the choices that I make in my life, but that is something that hasn’t always been true.
My middle school and high school self definitely cared what people thought of me, but once you remove that weight off of your shoulders, it really sets you free to become who you want to become and to do what you love.
I will continue to be myself, whether or not people like it.
2. God must always remain my top priority.
When I am feeling depressed, lonely, or in pain, it’s so easy to turn to God in prayer. But it’s also easy to forget about Him when things are going well rather than praising Him in thanksgiving.
Just like friendships will fade, family is not perfect either. But God is my perfect father who has been by my side through every obstacle.
He is my main focus, since Heaven is my goal. He is the source of all joy. He has to come before everything else in my life – money, friends, relationships, work…everything.
Without Him, I am nothing.
3. Family will be there during the toughest times.
Friendships sometimes weaken, relationships end, and once that happens, it is family who will be there to support me no matter what, even if they don’t necessarily agree with my decisions.
4. True friends are people who lift you up and who push you to become the best version of yourself.
I don’t need to have tons of acquaintances. I would rather have a few solid friendships, and those true friends are people who will push me to become better and to make positive choices in my life.
A true friend will be honest with me and let me know when I may be making a bad decision. She will let me know that the guy I’m interested in might not be the best choice for me. She will support me during the tough times and she will be there to laugh with me through life’s adventures.
A friend is not someone who I need to prove myself to; rather, a true friend will love me for me.
With Lizzy in NYC
5. Exercise should be a priority.
Now that I’ve endured a 9-year continuing battle with Lyme disease, I’ve tried many different treatment options. But when it comes down to it, exercise seems to be the best remedy, at least for me. I did the antibiotics (doxycycline, tetracycline, ceftin, biaxin, and mepron). I cut nightshades from my diet (tomatoes, white potatoes, peppers, eggplant). I used herbal supplements (fish oil, resveratrol, andrographis, cat’s claw, astragalus, garlic, B-12).
And I absolutely believe that a combination approach will always work the best for Lyme. However, exercise would have to be my top choice. When I run, I feel free. It removes any sadness or stress. It strengthens my body. In order to maintain my health as well as my sanity, I need to exercise on a regular basis.
6. Yoga is much more than glorified stretching.
I don’t know why yoga always had such a negative connotation in my mind. I thought it looked boring and easy. But now that I’ve been going to hot yoga since February, I’ve come to love it.
It has strengthened my body, increased my flexibility, decreased my stress and tension, and made me a faster runner. And it’s definitely not easy.
7. Dessert is absolutely acceptable.
I eat healthy and I pay attention to the foods I put into my body. I try to eat as much organic produce as I can, I opt for grass-fed beef, and I avoid farm-raised fish. But I am against dieting and tight food restrictions since they usually don’t work anyway.
So while I eat healthy most of the time, I won’t give up desserts. I have a sweet tooth and it’s not something that I’m trying to lose.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t eat massive, decadent desserts every day. Sometimes my dessert consists of 6 Reese’s Pieces or two Starbursts. But still, I love dessert and I don’t plan on changing that.
8. Material objects do not provide lasting happiness.
I’m not a very materialistic person, so this is something that I’ve always known, but it amazes me how many people my age still seem to believe that new car or computer will cause them great happiness.
I don’t own designer clothes. With the cost of one designer blouse, I can instead buy at least four shirts at cheaper stores. I don’t think I’m any less happy because of it.
I’ve never had a new car. I prefer used. Then, if it gets some scratches, I don’t really care, since it already had some to start with.
9. Financial stability is nice, but wealth is unnecessary.
Do I seek to be poor? Of course not. I am happy that I am financially stable, but wealth is not my goal.
I want to be able to provide for myself in terms of the things that I need in life, but I don’t need to buy that beach house or that Maserati to consider myself successful.
If I one day have a family, I hope that my husband and I can provide a level of stability without spoiling our children. I want to be able to do the things that I need to do, but I don’t want to be so wealthy that I forget what it is like to struggle.
10. A yearly vacation is necessary.
So many people never go on vacation. Others go once every few years. For me, yearly vacation (or vacations even more often than that) are an essential part of life.
That doesn’t mean I have to shell out thousands of dollars to fly to Hawaii, Fiji, or Cabo. I’d be happy with a week down the shore, a weekend getaway, a trip to see Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon.
Growing up, my mom never had much money, but vacation was always a priority. She saved all year so that we could go to Long Beach Island for one or two weeks and for that I am grateful. Everyone needs time to hit reset, time to forget about work and problems at home and simply relax.
11. Volunteering benefits the volunteer as much as the people being served.
I love traveling overseas on mission trips and serving the poor of the world. But what is always amazing to me is how I end up being served, how I end up learning so much from the people I think I am going to help.
The Rwandans I met last summer were the happiest people, yet the poorest I’ve ever met. They had nothing. Some of them lived in one-room homes that were constructed from mud. They had torn clothes. One pot to cook with. But their smiles could light up the room and their prayer was incredibly heartfelt. They worshipped God through their song and dance like nothing I’ve ever seen in America. I was humbled to meet them.
Everyone should participate in some sort of community service. It doesn’t need to be overseas; it can be down the road at the soup kitchen, or helping out with Habitat for Humanity.
12. A simple smile can brighten one’s day.
I try to be friendly and welcoming to everyone I come into contact with. I say hello or wave to people I pass on my runs. I care to hear the answer when I ask the supermarket cashier how her day is going. I smile. A lot.
Just like that famous quote about how we never know who may be falling in love with our smile, we also don’t know what obstacles the people we encounter on a day to day basis are facing. Our smile might seem insignificant, but it could be what lifts a person’s spirits and makes them feel loved.
13. Love is powerful.
I have a tattoo from 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. This verse reads: “If I speak in the tongues of men or angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophesy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have the faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
Love is what it all comes down to. If you volunteer only to convince people that you’re a good person, it’s meaningless. If you help the poor while judging them and looking down upon them, you’re not really helping. We must do everything with love.
14. Struggles strengthen and shape us.
Nobody wants to face pain, but it is those moments when we come close to rock bottom that we learn from the most. It is those times of weakness that build us up.
During the various obstacles that life brings, it’s often difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but looking back, it becomes more clear how each struggle helped us to grow.
15. We must take pride in our work.
I love my job as a teacher and I take a great deal of pride in that. I wish more people felt the same way about their jobs.
But even if you don’t have your dream job, you should still take pride in it. I didn’t always have the perfect job. I was a custodian for two years during college, but I still put forth my full effort. I vacuumed every little corner in the library and I washed every smudge off of the windows. Was it my dream job? No, but I still did it to the best of my ability.
There are custodians in my school who are the most positive, energetic people. Did they grow up hoping to clean schools for a living? Probably not, but that’s where they are at the moment and they are carrying out their responsibilities without complaint and with their full effort.
My generation is full of entitled people who think that they deserve that position as CEO with very little work. They don’t want to accept anything lower than their dream position, but for most people, that dream job won’t ever happen without the stepping stones that lead to it.
16. We need to stop judging others, comparing ourselves, and being so critical.
If I spend my time judging someone, I will have no time to love him.
There will always be someone with a better job, prettier face, more toned body. We live in such a cutthroat world that leads us to compare ourselves to everyone. I can’t say that I’ve never done this before; we all do.
But this judging just hurts us as well as the people we’re looking down upon.
We don’t know what someone has experienced in his life. We don’t know why people make the decisions that they do. We must spend our time loving them rather than critiquing them.
17. We must savor the moment.
We need to be present in the moment, rather than waiting for the future or living in the past.
So many people waste their life away hoping for the future. The high school student thinks that life will begin after graduation. The college student is waiting for the “real world” that will open up to him after earning his degree. The girl who spends her days hoping for her future husband. The married couple longing to have children. The older couple waiting for retirement.
Every day is special and we must acknowledge that, rather than wasting our time waiting for what we want next. Be happy with today.
18. We should strive to remain child-like.
As the Bible says, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
As children, we long to become adults. And sometimes as adults we take life too seriously.
It is not just good, but necessary, at times, to be like children and to have their childlike faith. We need to step back from our hectic lives to embrace laughter and silliness once in a while.
Children can accept the idea of God and Heaven so much more easily than many adults. They have that childlike faith that God really wants from each of us.
19. We must be aware of current events.
I’m not always the best when it comes to this. Since I don’t have cable, I never see the news, so I have to make a point to look at the news online. Some days I’m better than others.
I know that the news can make us cynical or frustrated, but we have to make ourselves aware of the world.
And we can’t just focus on America. We must pay attention to international news as well.
If you have never heard of the Rwandan genocide, you should go do a little research. If you know nothing about the many recent terrorist attacks, you should spend a few minutes educating yourself.
We can’t give into the “stupid American” stereotype.
20. Experiences are more memorable than tangible objects.
When I think about my experiences in life thus far, these are some of my most memorable moments (and none of them has to do with a tangible object):
-Teaching a group of teachers while volunteering in Haiti
-Trekking with gorillas in Rwanda
-Blowing bubbles while running around with a group of young children in Ecuador
-Hiking up a waterfall with my now brother-in-law in Rio and swimming under one in Brasilia
-Sitting on the hang-gliding platform with my aunt and cousins, enjoying the view of Brazil
-Family trips to Long Beach Island and Myrtle Beach
-Standing in line to get to stand front row at the Eminem/Rihanna concert
-Standing in line to wait for Adam Sandler’s autograph
-Hiking with my dog, Butterscotch, at Tarrywile and Lover’s Leap
-Meeting my sister for the first time at the airport in Rio and meeting my Brazilian grandparents for the first time in Cruzeiro do Sul
I could go on an on, but none of those memories has to do with any tangible object. They are all experiences that are memorable because of the activities I was taking part in and the people I was spending time with.
21. We can’t let fear stop us from living a fulfilling life.
I grew up terrified of airplanes. I told my mom that I would honeymoon at the Jersey Shore because I had no need to travel if a flight was required.
But ever since my first flight during my trip to the Dominican Republic with my mom during my senior year of high school, I have learned how this silly fear of airplanes would have stopped me from experiencing so many places like Ecuador, San Diego, Brazil, Haiti, Rwanda, Texas, and Nicaragua (in a few weeks).
22. We ladies with curly hair need to embrace it.
I used to despise my curly hair. Although it’s not as curly now as it was when I was young, it’s still quite curly. Although I would still love to have naturally straight hair, I have learned how to maintain my curls and how to make them look better by using mousse.
So many girls with curly or wavy hair straighten it every single day, but that just ruins the health of their hair. So will I still straighten it occasionally? Sure. But most of the time, I now embrace the curls that I was born with.
23. We must never stop learning.
I might be going into my 7th year of teaching, but there is still so much for me to learn. We must never become satisfied with our current level of knowledge, as there is so much to know in this world.
Not only do I want to learn more about the best teaching methods, but I also want to become fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, two languages that I can understand and speak (Spanish more than Portuguese), but not fluently.
My mom started college when I was in high school. She graduated with her associate’s degree when I graduated with my bachelor’s. She graduated with her bachelor’s when I earned my master’s degree. There is no age that is too old to keep learning.
24. Jumping pictures never get old.
I love them. I take them everywhere. I may be 28 years old, but I have no shame.
25. We shouldn’t always take ourselves too seriously.
Life is meant to be enjoyed. Sometimes, we need to just let ourselves loose and be silly. We can’t be so rigid that we forget to enjoy the simple moments.
26. Cousins are the friends we get to keep for life.
I love my cousins so much and I have so much fun with all of them. I started off just knowing my two cousins on my mom’s side, but then as aunts and uncles started to get married, I got so many more. And then I met my family in Brazil, along with even more cousins.
I’ll probably always be closest to my two cousins, Doug and Dan, on my mom’s side, since we spent so much time together, especially when going on vacations while growing up. They’re more like the brothers I never had than cousins and I’m blessed to have them in my life.
27. Dogs truly are man’s best friend.
I love dogs and I miss Butterscotch so much, even though he hasn’t been with my for two full years now.
And rescued dogs are the best, since you can save them from previously rough lives.
I had so much fun walking him, hiking with him, and just cuddling up next to him on the couch while watching a good movie.
He licked my tears off of my cheeks when I cried. He could tell when I was not feeling well. He was with me for ten years and he was such an important part of my life during that time.
I really believe that everything happens for a reason. I find myself repeating that line over and over in my conversations, especially with my students. But sometimes it’s so difficult to actually heed my own advice.
I can’t say that I love the fact that I have Lyme disease, but it has forced me to grow in so many ways. If it had not been for Lyme, I might not be a runner right now, something that I love so much.
Upon graduating from college, my goal was to move to the Jersey shore. Things didn’t work out initially and I had to work in Connecticut for five years, but I had amazing experiences at my job there and I had the opportunity to meet some awesome students and coworkers.
Two years ago, I met a man who I really thought I was meant to be with and when he suddenly ended the relationship, I was lost and confused. I felt especially lonely since I was living in a new state. But looking back, I think that he was the reason why I had the courage to take the leap of faith that required me to pack up my life and move to New Jersey. If I had been in a relationship with someone in Connecticut, I may have second guessed myself. Or if I had been single, I may have simply been to afraid to move somewhere where I didn’t know a single soul, leaving behind my job, apartment, friends, and family.
I could go on and on with examples of other times when, looking back, I can see God’s work, but the most recent occasion happened last night.
Since moving to New Jersey, I have been hoping to meet some like-minded, Catholic friends. I don’t want to be picky when it comes to friends, and I have met great people at work, but I want someone who really gets me and understands why I am the way that I am.
I was so fortunate to have attended Franciscan University, where everyone is Catholic and it is so easy to find people who will push you to be a better person. Out in the real world, things aren’t quite that simple. I want a friend who I can talk to about my faith without them thinking I’m too hardcore, or some sort of Jesus freak.
So about a month ago, I was reading the church bulletin, hoping to find something geared toward people in my age group. I saw a little blurb asking for young adults in their 20s and 30s to try to start a CORE team for Theology on Tap. I immediately sent an email when I got home to say that I was interested.
We ended up meeting at a place in Belmar a few weeks ago, but the turnout was not great. There were 5 of us, and only 2 of us were actually from the parish.
We had a nice time, but I was not looking too optimistic about this group, considering that there was only one person who was actually from my church and in my age group. So we met again the following week and this time, there were only 4 of us. It wasn’t looking very promising at that point.
In trying to think of possible future activities, we decided to go to a place near St. Rose for dinner at 6pm and then walk over to adoration (my church has Eucharistic adoration from 7-8pm on Monday evenings).
Last night, to my surprise, there were 8 of us at dinner! I was so excited that it was more than just the four of us. I ordered my typical water without ice and then I heard the girl across from me, Gabby, order the same thing. I know it seems totally random, but most people think it’s strange when I order water without ice. When someone asked us why we don’t like ice, we immediately responded with the exact same sentence at the same time about how it makes the water too cold.
Then I was talking about my previous day’s 11.5 mile run and I found out that Gabby also runs and that she’s done a half marathon before. I was really excited, thinking that maybe this was finally someone who I could get along with well.
I had a great time at dinner just talking with everyone and getting to know everybody’s back story.
Then we walked over to church for adoration. A few people had to leave due to prior commitments. During adoration, I usually pray the whole time, read a book, or do something else that really requires my full thought. I started off that way, praying about the things on my mind, but then I just felt like being still and trying to listen to God, knowing that He has a plan for me.
I didn’t feel particularly inspired, but I left church feeling happy that I had left time to be with God on my busy Monday.
As we were walking outside, I saw Gabby approaching us in running clothes. She was trying to get back in time for benediction, but she had just missed it. She asked if I wanted to go for a run since she was headed to the boardwalk. At first, I didn’t really want to since I had eaten a BLT and fries for dinner and I never run that close to eating. But how could I turn down the offer to finally have someone to run with?
So I drove her to my apartment and changed into my running gear, and then we went for a short jog on the boardwalk. I couldn’t believe how many things we had in common. My birthday is July 20th and hers is July 16th of the same year. She’s also left-handed. Obviously those are pretty insignificant things, but I felt like we could have talked for hours. We talked about relationships and the struggle that it is to find a guy who is actually committed in his Catholic faith. How it’s easy to find nice guys, but that nice isn’t good enough.
I sometimes feel like I’m too picky when it comes to guys, but I don’t just want a nice guy. There are plenty of those around. I want a nice guy who loves God and who loves his Catholic faith. And being Catholic alone isn’t really good enough. If a guy simply goes through the motions of attending Mass, that’s still not really what I yearn for. I want someone who is passionate in his love for the Lord, someone who makes his faith a priority.
Yet while I want someone who is passionate, I also want someone with other interests, someone who likes to do things outside of church as well. I have looked at guys on Catholic Match before, trying to see if there was anyone who I was interested enough in to actually pay for the subscription, but I don’t love the idea of paying to find a relationship. And many of the guys who I’ve been on the site are one of two options:
Option 1: They’re Catholic in name only, mainly on the site to meet nice women, but they aren’t passionate about their faith.
Option 1: They’re passionately Catholic, but they seem to lack social skills and they don’t share common interests with me. It seems that all they do is related to church.
And this is why I sometimes feel too picky. Yes, I want a Catholic guy, but despite my love for my faith, I have many other interests. I don’t want to spend the entirety of my weekends in church. I love running, kayaking, hiking, going to the beach, mini-golfing, and just being outside in general. I want someone who can share those interests. Is it impossible to find someone who shares these feelings?
Looking back on my relationship with my ex, I really thought that we were headed for marriage. We had talked about engagements and future plans. I was confident in us. But I see now how I was still settling. Yes, he was Catholic, but he refused to say grace aloud at a restaurant because he didn’t want people to look at us. He didn’t want to go to Mass on holy days. He went to church with me every Sunday, but he didn’t mind missing Mass here or there. He was always complaining about the homilies.
He didn’t really like going to do outdoor activities as much as I did and was very happy to watch TV or movies instead — something that I only really do on a rainy day when I have no other plans. He loved going out to watch movies at the theater, while I would rather spend my money going to a nice dinner and watching a movie at home.
He had no desire to travel — something that I am so passionate about. Yet I was okay with that. I thought that our relationship was worth sacrificing travel for. And it wasn’t even his refusal to go on mission trips with me…he wouldn’t even go on a day trip to another city. I had accepted the fact that I would probably just continue to volunteer overseas alone, while he stayed home to coach football. Football was his passion and although I learned a lot about it, I really don’t care at all about the sport. He was a great guy, but he was probably right when he eventually decided that we weren’t right for each other.
Maybe it could have worked out just fine. But I am still hoping that God has something even better in store for me. Maybe, once I meet the right person, I won’t have to sacrifice some of my passions. I know that any solid relationship requires some sacrifice and compromise, but it’s tough to decide how much is acceptable. It’s difficult to know if I’m giving up too much of myself in order to be in a certain relationship.
Gabby has the exact same feelings as me, and similar situations with dating. If it wasn’t a work night, I am sure that we could have just talked for hours. And she said something that really resonated with me, about listening to the desires of my heart. If there is something that I really seek in a man, that is something that I shouldn’t give up on.
I know that if I had to choose the perfect person for me, he would love God above everything else, but also enjoy being outside and staying active, and be eager to travel with me. I don’t want to have to compromise on any of those three things. If I did compromise and find myself in a marriage with someone who didn’t fit those criteria, I think I would be always curious if I could have found a better person if I had waited it out. And that is what would lead me to a divorce.
Do we necessarily need to enjoy all of the same outdoor activities? No, but some should overlap. I’m not expecting or even seeking a guy to accompany me in marathon training. But I hope I can find one who will cheer me on at the finish line. I don’t need a guy who loves kayaking, but maybe instead he enjoys hiking. He has to enjoy some of the activities that I enjoy. Does he need to jump on a plane for 14 hours to go trekking with gorillas in Rwanda? No. But going on a drive to the Baltimore Aquarium, or flying out to see the Grand Canyon would be awesome. And he would need to be supportive of the mission trips that I go on, not upset with me for leaving for a week or two.
So Gabby and I chatted about jobs, relationships, dating, our faith, and friends over our 2.3 mile run. She told me how she loves going kayaking and stand up paddle boarding on a river that is close to where her sister lives. She also enjoys running and the beach. Although I don’t drink, she assured me that I will enjoy going out with her to experience the Belmar night life with her and some of her other Catholic friends.
I drove her back to my car, we exchanged numbers, and I left feeling so excited about the way the night had played out.
A few hours before, I had come home from work, went to the beach, and I was actually feeling a bit frustrated knowing that I would have to leave the beach early to shower and go out to dinner. But I am so happy that I went.
I have no idea what will come with this young adult group or this friendship, but I am absolutely thrilled to find out.
I couldn’t even fall asleep last night because I was just in awe of the way God works. My relationship ended in February and I took time to work on myself. During Lent, I had been going to adoration every Monday and Stations of the Cross every Friday. I went to Mass every Sunday and I went to confession twice. I was reading my devotional daily and trying to pray more than I had been in the recent past.
I also worked on restoring my health, through hot yoga and running. I needed to be alone during the past few months to get to where I am right now. And maybe He now knows that I’m ready for more, whatever comes from all of this.
They always say that things happen when we’re least expecting them and I think last night was a perfect example of that. I went to dinner expecting there to be four of us, maybe five max. But everything fell perfectly into place.
I wish that I was better at waiting patiently and trusting in Him, but I get so impatient when I feel so alone. I need to remember that He truly has the best plans for me, even if they don’t happen as quickly as I think they should. Waiting is key.
And the idea of waiting reminds me of a blog that I wrote on February 11th, about The Difficulty of Waiting. At the time, I was just frustrated that I had to wait to see how life would unfold, but now, in June, I am starting to see the fruits of that message in my devotional about waiting. It had said this:
“Your path is difficult. There is no work in life so hard as waiting, and yet I say wait. Wait until I show you My Will. Proof it is of My Love and of My certainty of your true discipleship, that I give you hard tasks.
Again, I say wait. All motion is more easy than calm waiting. So many of My followers have marred their work and hindered their progress of My Kingdom by activity.
Wait. I will not overtry your spiritual strength…
All your toil in rowing and all your activity could no have accomplished the journey so soon. Oh, wait and trust. Wait, and be not afraid.”
Four months later, and maybe the waiting has finally paid off. I am eager to see what unfolds next.
God is so good and I am feeling incredibly blessed.
Jodi Picoult (author of My Sister’s Keeper) is one of my favorite modern authors. I find myself so captivated with her books because they always keep me guessing. I never expect all of the twists and turns that occur with her plots.
I recently finished reading her novel, Leaving Time. In the beginning of the book, it reads:
“The moral of this story is that no matter how much we try, no matter how much we want it…some stories just don’t have a happy ending.”
I really had to stop and think about this line for some time. I have always believed that everything happens for a reason. At first thought, that seems to contradict Picoult’s sentence. However, upon considering it a bit more, it’s not a contradiction at all.
Just because something happens for a reason does not mean that something happy has occurred. Often times, it’s just the opposite.
I don’t proclaim with joy that I have Lyme disease; however, I do realize the ways in which it has been beneficial to my life. Although I would love to have grown into a stronger person without having Lyme, I appreciate all of the ways that is has strengthened me. Lyme has allowed me to be grateful for the days that I am healthy enough to work out. It has definitely helped me to live a healthier lifestyle in general. It has also increased my faith in God.
I am thankful for the struggles that I experienced as a result of growing up with a single mother who, at the time, did not have a college degree and was always struggling to find good jobs. Without that experience, I would be a completely different person today. It was from these experiences that I developed my work ethic and drive. It was through witnessing my mom’s struggles that I found the motivation to excel in school. I knew that I had to prove to my mom that all of her efforts in raising me were not done in vain.
Although breakups are never fun, I know that looking back, there is always a reason for the time that was spent with ex-boyfriends. I don’t regret having dated any of my exes because I believe that I learned valuable lessons from each of them. Although it’s difficult to see why things had to take the route they did during the moments surrounding a breakup, I believe that there is always a reason for each person having been in our life.
We can yearn for those happy endings forever. That doesn’t mean that is what will actually occur. We can pray for hours on end for certain things to happen. But just because we don’t get that joyful response that we were looking for doesn’t mean that God didn’t answer our prayers in some way. Often times, our prayers are answered in the ways that were least expected.
My Lyme story has no happy ending. It has strengthened me and increased my gratitude, but having a chronic illness will never really be something that can be considered “happy.” I may have flare-ups for years to come, if not forever.
My relationship with ex-boyfriends will also never have a happy ending. I don’t believe that the whole friends with exes thing is a realistic goal. I miss having those people in my life, people who I had at one point opened my heart to. But just because that happy ending was missing does not mean that those years were wasted.
I left my dream job to fulfill my lifelong goal of living by the beach. I unfortunately can’t say that life at the shore is all sunshine and rainbows, like my idealistic brain had hoped, but that also doesn’t mean that it was a mistake. In Connecticut, I was blessed with an amazing job, great coworkers, and family members who lived close-by, but I hated the area in which I was living, and I longed to live at the beach. Now I’m living at the beach, but I don’t know many people in the area, family or friends, and it can definitely get lonely at times. Was it worth it? I think so. Is there a happy ending? I’m not really sure yet.
So just because something turns out in a way that is different than we hoped or expected, just because it doesn’t seem to be a “happy ending,” does not mean that it was a waste.
Life on earth is wrought with struggles. That is to be expected. Every person on earth will one day die. As I grow older, I will lose the loved ones around me. I’m not trying to be cavalier about it, but we must be realistic with ourselves that sadness and pain are facets of life. Happy endings aren’t always possible or realistic.
I hope and pray that my happy ending is to eventually make it to eternal paradise in Heaven. That would be my ideal happy ending. But here on earth, I can’t expect things to turn out perfectly. All I can do is move forward each day with the confidence that everything can and does happen for a reason, no matter how difficult each obstacle may seem at the moment.
I’ve been sick for the past 3 days. I don’t typically go to the doctor for anything other than routine physicals. Due to my 9 years of struggles with Lyme Disease, and seeing how the mainstream medical community dismisses it, I find myself very cynical in terms of medicine. I know that if I mention Lyme to a conventional doctor, it will be ignored, since most of today’s physician’s don’t believe that chronic Lyme actually exists.
But going to a Lyme-literate doctor is outrageously expensive, which brought me to my latest predicament. First, a little background:
I drove up to CT for a funeral on Saturday and I felt fine. The previous week I had been working out every day, finally getting back into a good routine. I was running, lifting, and going to hot yoga. On Friday night I had a particularly intense and sweaty round of hot yoga.
On Sunday morning I woke up feeling tired, but not terrible. During the beginning of 10:30 Mass, though, I started feeling really strange. I had a few chills, some body pains, and I just had no ability to focus. I could tell that I was not well.
I went back to my grandparents’ house and I just laid on the couch, covered in a blanket, but I was still freezing cold. I wasn’t tired, though, so I couldn’t fall asleep. I still had an appetite, ate a big lunch, and then drove back to Jersey.
Driving back, I felt really tired, I had a bad headache, and I couldn’t wait to get home.
I stopped for gas, and then the supermarket. I then went to Rite-Aid, where, upon pulling into the parking spot, I realized that I had left my purse at t he supermarket. Now this wasn’t a one-time occurrence. I had actually left my wallet there TWICE before, but fortunately nothing was stolen.
The last two times this happened, I didn’t realize that my wallet was missing for two full days. This time I noticed within 10 minutes. I left the pharmacy and raced back to the supermarket. My purse was not in the cart in the cart corral as I had hoped. I raced inside and up to the customer service desk and thank goodness, my purse was sitting there.
Unfortunately, all of my American money was stolen. I think that was about $80, though I’m not entirely sure. I just know that I got $60 from the ATM on Friday night and I had already had some money in there before that. It could have been worse. My credit cards, gift cards, Brazilian money, passport, and camera were all intact. And I know that deserve it. I’ve now left my wallet and/or purse at the SAME supermarket THREE times in the past few months.
Part of me can’t understand how this can happen, but there are some similarities from each of the 3 situations:
1st time losing my wallet: I went shopping after a super stressful day at work, and I wasn’t feeling well.
2nd time losing my wallet: I went shopping after another very stressful day at work, and I wasn’t feeling well. When I put my cart away, I was talking to someone on the phone.
3rd time losing my wallet and my entire purse: I had just driven home from CT. I had a fever and felt really sick. It hurt just to walk. I was tired. And I remember being distracted while putting my cart away because there was a car with a bunch of Spartan Race stickers on it, so I was reading those.
I think the moral is to not go shopping when I’m sick/stressed/distracted. If only I could control that.
Anyway, back to the main point of my blog. I was not doing well on Sunday. I finally got home, realized that I did have a fever, and just spent the rest of the evening on my couch.
On Monday I called out of work. I woke up super sweaty, thinking my fever had broken, but no, I still had a fever that was actually higher than it had been on Sunday. My head was pounding so hard all day that I felt dizzy any time I stood up because it just hurt so badly. My neck was stiff. I had some occasional body chills. My knees were hurting, and I had some body aches.
By mid-afternoon, I decided to go to a primary care doctor since I wouldn’t have to pay to go there because I really didn’t want to miss another day of work on Tuesday. I figured that it couldn’t hurt to get a doctor’s opinion of my symptoms.
Just driving there was a task. My head would not stop pounding. They gave me a flu test, which came back negative. They checked my vitals, height, and weight, but nothing else. The doctor finally came in, told me I had a virus that has been going around for the past 2 months, and said that she couldn’t do anything to help me. She did tell me that the virus peaks at 3-5 days, so she said I could only expect to feel worse. She wrote me a note excusing me from work for Monday and Tuesday, and told me to check in with her on Wednesday. She said that I could get another note for Wednesday if I was still feeling sick.
She said I should expect to develop a cough and/or sore throat and that all I could do was rest, drink liquids, and eat soup, because I needed to flush out my mucus.
I don’t know why I didn’t think of this when I was with her, but I should have asked, what mucus? She listened to my chest and noted how my lungs were clear. My throat was normal. My nose was normal. But her solution was to keep hydrated to flush out my nonexistent mucus problem. She also said to eat soup because it was a liquid and she knew I wouldn’t want to eat anything else since I wouldn’t have an appetite. But that wasn’t the case either. I did have an appetite.
Today I took another day off. I woke up even sweatier than I had yesterday (which was so frustrating since I put brand new clean sheets on my bed on Sunday, but oh well), but my fever was finally gone. My head was still hurting, but not nearly as badly.
I’m glad that I have had the time to rest today, but I’m now feeling much better. My body aches are gone, with the exception of my stiff neck.
I know that I’m always cynical of doctors, but I think this doctor gave me the diagnosis she did because it seemed relatively likely that I had the same virus that had been going around for a while, even though some of my symptoms didn’t match up. The headache, fever, and body chills matched up. However, I had no sore throat, cough, runny nose, or loss of appetite.
And I mentioned my stiff neck a few times, but that was completely ignored. They didn’t check my neck at all.
So the whole predicament I am currently pondering is this: did I actually have a virus, or is this just a Lyme flare-up?
Today I am feeling much better, but my stiff neck still won’t turn properly. My headache has now moved to the back of my head and my neck area rather than my forehead.
Is this just a Herxheimer reaction that was set off by the recent intensity of my workouts?
There isn’t really a way to know for sure. I could have had some virus that just gave me different symptoms than it does for other people. Or this could all be Lyme-related, which is what I’m leaning to more.
According to the doctor, I was supposed to feel terrible today, but the opposite is true. I’m feeling much better than yesterday and Sunday.
According to the doctor, I was supposed to have developed a cough or sore throat by today, but again, that is not the case.
And unfortunately, for those of us in the Lyme community, this is what we’re always facing, and what makes us very cynical towards doctors who do not specialize in Lyme Disease. We tell them we have Lyme. We write it in our charts, but it is completely ignored. This doctor didn’t ask me one question about Lyme and because I was feeling terrible and just wanted to go home, I wasn’t about to get into a big conversation about Lyme.
It’s possible that the doctor was correct, and that is just a virus. But having Lyme Disease, I will never really know if it was the virus or Lyme. All I can do it work on getting better and moving forward. Since Lyme can show up in almost any sort of symptom, it’s always a big mystery.
I hope that one day, Western medicine will be different. I hope that one day, Lyme disease won’t be such an ignored epidemic. I hope that eventually, I can mention chronic Lyme to a regular doctor without them thinking that I’m crazy for thinking that I have a disease that they believe doesn’t exist.
When I lived in Connecticut, I would go to a sauna a few times a week and it always seemed to help with my Lyme joint pain.
Upon moving to New Jersey, I was unable to find a sauna that was reasonably priced. Now with the fancy infared saunas, the cheapest option I found was a spa that charged $445 for 10 sessions. In CT, I was paying about $20/month for a gym membership to a place with a sauna. Sometimes I would go 5 times a week. There was no way that I was going to pay $445 for only ten 30-minute sessions.
I found a Groupon about a month ago for a hot yoga place that is just a few blocks away from my apartment. I’ve never done any sort of yoga, but the website said that the classes are suitable for all levels. It was only $45 for 10 classes. $4.50 per 75-minute class? That works for me!
So far, I’ve gone to 6 classes with 4 different instructors. The first time was a bit intimidating. I also didn’t sweat much the first time, probably because A) I didn’t drink enough that day and B) I was paying more attention to everyone else, trying to understand how to do the poses, so I wasn’t really focused on my own movements.
I just got back from a class tonight and by the end, I was dripping onto my mat. I don’t sweat easily at all, so any amount of sweat is an accomplishment. It’s gross to most people, but I get so excited when I get sweaty since it takes a lot for that to actually happen. I now sweat way more during hot yoga than I ever did in the sauna.
I think part of my sweat levels also depend on the instructor. The Friday evening instructor really keeps us moving, and she really pushes us into tough poses, so the sweat really increases.
With Lyme, it’s necessary to sweat to flush out the toxins. It’s only been a month, but I’m feeling SO MUCH better right now than I was in January and early February.
I’m FINALLY working out regularly.
Monday: 4.1 mile run, followed by lifting.
Tuesday: 75 minu of hot yoga
Wednesday: Rest day
Thursday: 2-mile run, followed by lifting
Friday: 75 min hot yoga
Sat/Sun: Rest days since I was in CT visiting my mom
Monday: 2.4 mile run, followed by lifting.
Tuesday: 5 mile run (my longest run in a long time), followed by lots of stretches / abs.
Wednesday: 2 miles total of quarter-mile sprints, followed by lifting and plyometrics.
Thursday: It was my rest day, so I just took an hour walk on the beach.
Friday: 75 min of hot yoga.
I have not been able to work out this much in a full year. Back in 2014, I ran a half marathon, a 5k, a Tough Mudder, and 4 Spartan races (Sprint, Super and Beast). I had almost no Lyme symptoms.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when that all changed, but I didn’t compete in one race in 2015. I had been registered for a half marathon, but had to cancel since I was always in too much pain to run.
Now that I’m getting back into a routine, I’m really hoping that I continue improving and that can sign up for some races for this year.
I definitely feel like the hot yoga is helping, although I have changed a few things recently. I started going to a chiropractor twice a week for the past 2 months or so. I also started drinking more water since I realized after my first 2 non-sweaty hot yoga sessions that I probably wasn’t drinking quite enough. I’m still taking a bunch of herbal supplements like I usually do. If you’re curious, these include:
-Krill or fish oil
So right now I’m really happy with my progress, and optimistic that it will continue.
I’m a runner. I’m an obstacle racer. I like my workouts to be fast-paced, getting my heart pumping. I never really liked the idea of yoga and all of its slow movements. To me, it looked like glorified stretching.
But lately, my Lyme has not been conducive to running and I’m tired of not being able to work out. I looked into local saunas, but they’re all outrageously expensive. Then I remembered seeing a hot yoga studio that is not too far from my apartment.
I then logged onto Groupon and saw that the same studio was offering a deal to purchase 10 yoga sessions for only $45. I signed up last week and attended my first session on Monday.
Now, the class said that it was for people of all levels. I spoke with the instructor before starting the class. She, too, has lyme. She told me to do as much or as little as I needed to, and to go back into the child’s pose when it was too much for me.
So I borrowed a mat from the studio. I had my towel and water bottle with me. I didn’t realize that most people show up 20 minutes early, so the instructor had to squeeze me in between people who were already settled. I had a middle-aged man on my left (which I hadn’t really expected, not gonna lie) and a high school aged female on my right.
During the class, I was trying to watch what people around me were doing without making it seem like I was staring at them.
The instructor kept saying things like chaturanga, flow, vinyasana, etc. I had no idea what any of these things meant, so I had to watch everyone else and try to figure out what I was doing. Luckily, I already knew what downward dog was, as well as the child’s pose.
Anyway, it was a 75-minute class. The heat felt good, but it really didn’t make me sweat too much. I tried every pose because I’m just too competitive to ever give up and just take the child’s pose. I know that’s not the point of yoga — it has nothing to do with competition, but I just wanted to try me best with each part of it.
There were a few awkward moments when we were a little too close to the people on either side of us, particularly since there was a man right next to me. At one point, his butt was definitely not too far from my face.
But overall, I didn’t feel too out of place. Other people would sometimes lose balance, most were not perfect. Though there were a few super intense people who could just go into a random inversion like it was no big deal.
At the end of the class, I felt very peaceful, happy in my decision to attend.
Then I woke up on Tuesday morning and I was quite sore, which I didn’t expect. On Wednesday, I was even more sore. My hamstrings were burning all day. I now feel bad about my previous preconceived notions about yoga. It is definitely a workout.
So I decided to attend another class last night. This time, my yoga mat had come in from Amazon, and I felt a little bit more confident since I had made it through my first class.
But this instructor was different and boy did she keep it moving. This time, I sweat a lot more. It’s good that this wasn’t my first class. As a runner, though, I liked feeling a bit more active.
There were a few poses that I did have to cut short because certain parts of my body were just too sore. I was trying to stay humble and not be upset if I couldn’t do everything.
This time, my hands and feet were pretty sweaty, so I kept sweating on my mat. I saw that most of the other people had towels to cover their mat, so I’ll have to invest in one of those to avoid the slippage.
This morning I don’t feel too sore, but I’m curious how I will feel tomorrow.
I am really hoping that yoga helps to alleviate some of my Lyme-related joint pain so that I can get back into running. In an ideal world, I’d like to be training for a half marathon, full marathon, or obstacle race, while also doing yoga once or twice a week to improve my flexibility, posture, and strength.
So that was my first (but not last) yoga experience. I am definitely humbled by yoga and I now realize that it is A LOT more than just stretching.
This morning I realized that I lost my wallet. Today is Friday. I lost it Wednesday afternoon and didn’t notice until today. It’s actually quite ironic because I found a wallet in the parking lot yesterday and turned it in, hoping that nobody had found the wallet before me and removed the cash, since all that’s inside was a license and debit card.
The exact same thing happened to me just a month ago. At the exact same store. On December 2nd, I left my wallet at Stop & Shop. Two days later, I realized it was missing. Someone had turned it into customer service and I got it back, without anything removed.
Apparently this week, my memory was just as flakey as it was in December. On Wednesday, January 20th, I went shopping at Stop & Shop. It wasn’t until this morning (Friday, January 22nd) that I noticed t hat it was missing.
My first reaction is thanksgiving toward the fact that people have turned in my wallet both times. But then I also feel like a complete idiot. I had to go back to Stop & Shop to get my wallet for the second time. They probably wonder who this stupid girl is who can’t keep track of her belongings.
My main concern is that I don’t know how to fix this problem. I’m thinking it has something to do with my “Lyme brain” and memory fog. But how to I make a change? How do I force myself to remember to check if my wallet is with me everywhere I go?
I can deal with the join pain. I can deal with the fatigue. But how many more times will I lose my wallet? And when will it be the time that I lose it and someone decides to steal everything inside rather than turning it in?
My wallet sat in the parking lot for who knows how long? It could have easily been swiped. Or someone could have easily taken the cash and gift cards before turning it in. I don’t deserve to be so lucky despite my dumb behavior.
I’m obviously happy about the way it all turned out, but I just can’t believe it happened again.
I don’t really make resolutions. I just think they’re silly since most people can’t even remember their promise by February.
But this year, there is definitely a big change that I would like to make in 2016.
In 2013 and 2014, I ran half marathons, a full marathon, a Tough Mudder, and Spartan obstacle races. It was an absolute blast, and it helped me to stay in great shape.
2015 hit me hard, though, in terms of Lyme symptoms. I never really went more than 3 weeks without symptoms. Thus, my workouts suffered. Fortunately, because I eat healthy, my weight didn’t really fluctuate that much, but I can tell that my endurance is shot and my muscle mass is pitiful.
I went to confession at church this week, like I always do during Advent, and one of the sins I confessed was how I sometimes found myself feeling angry at God. I had the whole “why me?” mentality regarding the Lyme, frustrated when it kept coming back.
The priest’s advice really resonated with me. He said to stop saying “I’m sick” and to instead, say “I’m getting better.” It’s not a lie, because at any time, I should be maintaining the hope that I am getting better. And my mom always told me about self-fulfilling prophesies. Saying “I’m sick” all of the time isn’t really helping anything. If nothing else, it probably just perpetuates my symptoms since, in a way, I expect those symptoms.
I know that I can’t always maintain my positive “I’m getting better” outlook, but I think that being cognizant of the way I talk about the Lyme may be helpful. I need to stop dwelling on the things I can’t do, but rather focus on the things that I am able to do. This week I was able to walk on the beach a few times, I did two simple, low-impact workouts, and I even ran a mile, albeit a very slow mile. I need to focus on each of those accomplishments rather than complaining that my running pace was not great.
It’s easier said than done, but I’m hoping that working on my outlook and positivity in 2016 will help me to feel better. I also want to try to do workouts even when I’m feeling sick. If my back hurts badly enough, it probably isn’t a good idea to run, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t at least do stretches, or go for a walk. If my knees are sore, maybe I can lift weights instead of doing a run or squats.
I’m only 27. I can’t already give up. I have too many more things that I want to do. Too many more races that I want to run. So I am hoping that in 2016, I can complete in at least one race, if not more. I’m hoping to either get my distance running up to the level that I can run a half marathon, or get my strength training in order so that I can run another Spartan race.
With my recent Lyme relapse, I’ve had quite a bit of joint pain, predominantly focused around my back, shoulders, neck, and my left elbow and wrist. Although these symptoms cause me a great deal of pain physically, it’s now the mental issues that are more troubling.
In the past, when I’ve had a foggy memory due to Lyme, it never really concerned me too much. I would have lapses in my memory that weren’t too normal for a girl in her twenties, but that would have been rather typical for older adults. But now it’s not just a foggy memory. I’m experiencing quite profound lapses in my memory that are becoming a bit jarring. I’m 26 years old. What will happen if this continues as I age?
I’ve probably forgotten (ironically) many of the items that clued me into this recent memory problem, but some include:
-I forgot my social security number when filling out some paperwork last week, despite having known that number since I Was a senior in high school.
-I forgot my bank account number, which I have had memorized for at least the past 5 years, if not longer.
-I’ve had contact lenses since I was 14 years old. In the past 12 years of wearing contacts, I rarely had a problem remembering to take them out before going to sleep. But in the past 2 weeks, I’ve done that twice.
-I have a tough time remembering to shut off the oven after I’m done cooking. Fortunately, I’ve never forgotten overnight, or when I have left my home, but it’s definitely been left on at times for at least a full hour.
-Last night I finished cooking some chicken, but apparently left the burner on. I didn’t notice it was on, so I placed my rubber oven mitt on the burner for at least a few minutes. Then I only noticed the burner was still on when I almost burned my hand reaching for the oven mitt to remove my brussel sprouts from the oven.
-During work, I write notes to myself on my hand if there’s something I can’t forget to do at the end of the day or after school because, even if I write a note on my calendar, I often forget to look at my calendar for the reminders. But if I wash my hands too thoroughly when I use the restroom, then that reminder is gone and I typically have no memory of what had been on my hand.
-People sometimes comment how I respond to e-mails very quickly. They think I’m super diligent, but what they don’t know is that the reason behind my quick responses is because I will never remember to respond later on. It’s now or never.
-If I’m on the phone with my mom and she needs me to bring something to her later that day when we are going to meet for dinner or something, I have to put it in my car immediately. If I wait until I get off the phone, I forget entirely.
-My refrigerator usually has about 6 containers of butter and 3 jars of parmesan cheese. Sometimes I have had up to 3 bottles of kefir at once and two quart size cartons of milk. I live alone. I have no need for all of this food, but when I’m out food shopping, I forget what I have at home. So I either buy too much, or I’ll decide to skip the milk that day only to realize that I have none at home. What usually happens is that I have to go to the supermarket multiple times in the course of a week. I try to write shopping lists, but I often forget them on the counter, in my car, in the pocket of a jacket I’ve removed, or I lose them completely.
-I have a hard time finding my car in parking lots. At the supermarket, I now park religiously in one particular aisle so I don’t have that problem. I do the same thing at church and at work. But if I go to a new parking lot or one I don’t go to often, I find myself walking up and down the rows in search of my car.
-My boyfriend sometimes refers to a story he told me that I have zero recollection of. My mom does the same thing. She thinks I’m not listening, but it’s more that I’m just not remembering the story.
Some of these things sound trivial, I realize that. But I’m only 26 years old. What is going to happen as I age? If my memory gets much worse than this, then I’m in trouble.
I’m currently taking Bacopa, Gingko, and another natural supplement for mental acuity but I’m not sure if they’re helping or not. And ironically, I’m not always good at remembering to take them with dinner, so my routine is off.
Someone suggested a cleanse, that those can help clear one’s mind. Right now I’m open to any natural solution because this lack of a memory is becoming quite startling and I’m not quite ready to get back on antibiotics since I had so many side effects from them the last time I took them.