I believe wholeheartedly that every experience offers a life lesson, and the universe never doles out more than we can handle. That being said, I’m pretty sure there is currently an angry flock of lessons trailing along behind me like Canadian geese, hissing and nipping at my ankles.
Lesson #1: Slow Down, Sweetheart
This weekend, I received a call from my doctor’s office. A recent blood test came back positive for Coccidioidomycosis, Epstein-Barr Virus, and Cytomegalovirus. Time for a brief medical lessons from one layperson to another, via Dr. Google.
Coccidioidomycosis: “Valley Fever” is an infection caused by inhaling the Coccidioides fungus, found in the arid southwest US air; symptoms include fever, fatigue, and a gnarly cough; it can lie dormant and “reactivate” when immune system is compromised. Three years ago, while hacking up blood, I swore I would never wish it on my worst enemy.
Epstein-Barr Virus: Human herpesvirus 4 is the cause of Infectious Mononucleosis (aka Mono); also associated with cancer and immunodeficiency; symptoms include fever, fatigue, and lack of appetite. In elementary school, my friend was home sick for over a month with Mono. Yuck!
Cytomegalovirus: A common virus that only shows symptoms in immunodeficient individuals; symptoms include fever, fatigue, and swollen glands. Sounds like a dinosaur super-villain, but really isn’t that cool at all.
What’s interesting is all diagnoses are infections that the immune system typically knocks effortlessly out of the park. Those balls are usually pocketed by excited young attendees who hold onto the ball for years, until the defense isn’t looking. Suddenly the immune system is bombarded by thousands of figurative baseballs, and I’m crumpled up into fetal position in the middle of the field waiting for the outfield to rescue me.
The next question is whether there is something else at play that is compromising my immune system, beyond the three infections listed above. It’s a slightly freighting question to ask oneself–a question that I don’t necessarily want to know the answer to.
I once listened to an interview where the speaker stated that “disease” is when the body is in a state of dis-ease–when we overthink, over-complicate, and over-exert. Disease is the body’s way of begging us to slow down, sleep more, and practice self-care. I thought I was doing all of the above, but my diagnoses are helping me reexamine my life. I don’t feel well, and that’s not something I should shrug off.
Lesson #2: Patience, My Dear
In late-April, our home flooded and destroyed 30% of the property. The contractors ripped out the walls, ceiling, and floor to reveal an abundance of green mold. We were told we had to leave and find alternate housing for up to four months. Insurance will pay for living expenses, so we figured that staying with my boyfriend’s parents would allow up to direct some of that $14,000 towards upgrades like new flooring in the unaffected rooms and bathroom vanities that don’t scream 1982. It makes logical sense, but I forgot how difficult is can be to live with other people.
My in-laws are both very generous and very demanding, and it’s been a constant struggle to assert myself and stand behind my boyfriend while still respecting their house rules and expectations. I have to remind myself several times each day to choose my battles. It’s not worth arguing whether we’ll go with hardwood or tile, or whether we will install granite counter tops or a cheap unit from IKEA. It’s not worth arguing why we’re planning to move to a higher cost-of-living city within the next year, nor why my boyfriend is supporting my decision to pursue a master’s degree when it may delay his graduate program.
I keep reminding myself that family–in and of itself–is a gift, and maintaining an amicable relationship with these individuals is an obligation. Sometimes this means practicing patience, biting your tongue, and nodding in agreement to something you don’t actually agree with.
Lesson #3: Observe, Ask, and Prioritize, Go-Getter
I’ve been interviewing for a job in downtown Seattle. I would be doing work that matches my skills, passion, and values within an rapidly-growing startup. After a few rounds of interviews, they truly seem to believe I would be a great asset to the team. The pros are: being in one of the most dynamics and innovative cities in the country, living somewhere with trees and rain, lots of opportunity to get involved with startups, and the proximity to the university I plan to apply to in the fall. The cons are: the same pay rate in a 30% higher cost-of-living location (so, essentially a 30% pay cut), loss of my medical network while my body is fighting off multiple infectious diseases, housing that is 205% more expensive (to give you an idea, our 3 bedroom and 2 bathroom in desirable location has the same value as a shoddy mobile home 40 miles outside of Seattle), and–lastly–my in-laws are vehemently opposed to the idea.
Though, I can see both the upside and downside to accepting the position, the various discussions have forced me to set aside my emotions and observe all elements of the situation. There are risks in moving to a exciting yet overpopulated city, as well new opportunities to be uncovered there. I’ve had many conversations with said company and I’ve asked all the questions about how Seattle has changed since my boyfriend left the city ten years ago, and what aspects of the job will make the possible sacrifices totally worth the risk.
In the end, I’ve decided that I will likely decline the position. My body is asking me to prioritize my health and I don’t think relocating, commuting across a new city, and starting a new position will foster optimal health. A conversation with my in-laws has led to shouting matches and, though my boyfriend and I don’t agree with much of their logic, I can agree that it’s best to let things settle–my health, the home renovations, educational plans, etc.–before taking on any new challenges.
Lesson #4: Allow Things To Settle, Love
I once read a quote which stated that when we meditate, the sand in the muddied water of our mind settles and the water eventually becomes clear. This image keeps coming to mind, and I must continually ask myself whether I have the clarity to know what’s best right now. With compromised health, nowhere to call home, agitated in-laws, and a prospective job with a long list of pros and cons, I don’t think I’m in a place to make any major, life-altering decisions. Right now, I think my primary job is to find peace and stillness amongst the chaos–to slow down, step back, and practice patience.
One of my best friends is going though a tough breakup and, though she knows it’s for the best, her tender heart is hurting. I keep reminding her to be kind to herself, to be present in each moment (even the poignantly sad ones), and to know that she is perfect just as she is and exactly where she is. Life isn’t a race to get the best job, to earn the most money, or to find and marry the best mate; rather, life is simply a meandering road to an unknown destination, so the best approach is to simply keep moving and to appreciate the variety of views you pass along the way. Speaking these word to her over and over has been an important reminder to myself–this too shall pass, and these less-than-ideal conditions are all part of my own unique journey.
I just posted a story titled: “What’s Your Story?” and here, you give me yours. Fantastic! Your words remind me of this list of virtues found somewhere:love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self control – but the greatest of these is love. May these work for you.
Thank you so much for your sage words, Sha’Tara. 🙂 Life is filled with ups and downs, and everything in between–it’s so important to practices those virtues and find peace and joy in ever the most trying situations.
I can tell you’re a old soul, equipped with so much wisdom and compassion. I’m so grateful our paths have crossed here in this digital space. ❤
I vote for Seattle — of course knowing just about nothing of your situation. Why? Two intuitions. First, the vaguely immuno-ish quality of your various diagnoses tell me that you might be dampening your self down too much over a period of time, instead of following your best impulses. And this is in line with how you mention that the job is much better in line with your passions. Second – your in-laws are against tit. This speaks volumes. You need to get away from them; him too probably. Health can restore magically when we are doing something we want to do rather than our ‘duty’. Good luck.
Goodness, you have no idea how much I appreciate your response! Funnily enough, when I called the company back to inform them I need to stay put for two months while undergoing treatment, they said “Okay! We’ll, we still want you, so let’s talk logistics.” My current job is absolutely draining and has long passed its “best by” date, so I vote for Seattle too. I truly believe a bad can literally be toxic for the body.
It makes me heart hurt to see my in-laws shoot down every aspiration my boyfriend (or he and I jointly) present, and I agree that it would be best for us to get away; we have solid plans, we have a track record for achieving the impossible, we have $15k+ in savings, and we have support from my family.
It means a lot hearing your specific insights. I’ve been unhappy in my current job for most of the last 4 years and keep justifying staying. It’s not worth the price of my health, and I know that deep down…but I think I needed to hear it from someone from outside my innermost circle. Thank you! Seattle, it is! 🙂
I feel like I remember your first (last? most recent? I’m unsure at this hour) battle with Valley Fever from a few years back. It sounded most unpleasant when we talked about it. I’m hoping you get well soon (not to mention get well enough to be able to fight it off again, should it decide to try to come back).
Yes, I had valley fever in 2015 and was *supposed* be immune forever. But, apparently I’m quite the anomaly. I had the infection in my lung last time–the mother-ship landed, sent satellite ships to the furthest regions of my lungs, and then all the happy little fungi hopped into the bright red waterside. It’s no longer in my lungs, which is good…but also bad, because it’s active but we don’t know where it’s hanging out. Could be gut, brains, bones, bloodstream, or anywhere else. I’m seeing an infectious disease specialist next week, so hopefully she can permanently fix me. 🤞
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Let’s hope. That certainly doesn’t sound pleasant. Hopefully they can locate it and it’s nowhere too serious.