Monday, June 7, 2010

An Extraordinary Escape

If you live with any chronic illness that gives you pain and keeps you home on occasion, or in hospital for extended periods of time...plan to get away. Create a plan to escape somewhere. If you're bed bound, and hooked up to wires and tubes, try to go for a short walk around your hospital ward, and lengthen the distance each day. If you're in a flare up, and feverish, or in the case of Crohn's, having abdominal pain and are afraid to leave home for long...plan something short. Walk down to the shops, find out where the toilets are, and get going, even if it's slow steps. If you're in remission, plan a trip over a weekend or longer, with a loved one, or even alone...but get away from home, from work, from the limits of your world which impinge on you when you are ill. Plan an extraordinary escape, expand your horizons!

While in hospital 4 months ago awaiting my first bowel resection, appendectomy and gall bladder removal, I fantasized about the things I wanted to do when I was better. I made a wishlist of sorts. I wanted to eat a simple meal at my favourite Indian restaurant. I wanted to SCUBA dive again. I wanted to visit Rome with my husband again. I wanted to get back to my PhD and get out to meeting with colleagues and friends again.

It seemed so selfish...a list of "I wants", and I felt a little childish, but it gave me hope. Hope that some day soon I would actually get out of hospital and do the things "I wanted" to do. If you don't want anything, you aren't very likely to achieve anything...and as someone who lives with chronic illness, it's the hope that keeps the me going. The hope that soon, maybe next week, maybe next month, maybe next year, I WILL do the things I want to do. All this is in addition, or over and above, the things I must do, the obligatory things that one cannot run away from. These are the duties that one does, that are also enjoyed, but somehow not as much as the items on a wish list.

The non-obligatory wish list is the part that feeds the soul, filled with activities we choose to do because they mean something significant to us and are things we don't ordinarily do. They signify the unusual, the unique, the special, the extraordinary, the fanciful, the imaginative, the creative...the things that we do from time to time to break the monotony of the needful.

And so it was with a bounce in my step and a thrill in my heart that I marched off to Rome with my husband in late May for 8 nights. His workload suddenly cleared, and he knew that I had been dreaming of going back to Rome, having last visited in 2005. Plans were quickly made, and we had a very special time revisiting old haunts, discovering new treasures, and just getting away by ourselves without the kids. Having been through a lot earlier this year the time away was important for me as a milestone for my own recovery and journey with chronic illness and I felt overjoyed that I could make it really come true.

For the two of us the time away as a couple was magical, and romantic and simply so special. We rediscovered our love for each other...not that it had ever gone away, but perhaps it had been overshadowed by busy work schedules, long hospital stays, surgery, recovery, the needs of the children, the needs of the urgent triumphing over the needs of the important... and so we made time for the truly important in our marriage...the two of us.

At the end of the day, I like to think that no matter where we had gone, just the time together would have have been wonderful. I was blessed to be able to get away to Rome. The beauty of Rome for me is in her museums and the very sense of antiquity that permeates the entire city. Also, as a Catholic, praying in the chapels in St Peter's Basilica and attending Mass there moved me to tears. I sobbed tears of gratitude for the success of my surgery, I thanked God for all the many, many, good things He has blessed me with, and I also thanked Him for the bad...for some reason I felt that I had to say that. Thank you God for the bad, for all things that have happened to me, for the incurable Crohn's, for the painful and traumatic surgery, for my father's passing, for the pains and sorrows of the past - I thanked God for them all even as I thanked Him for my wonderful husband and my four lovely children.

I felt a peace in my soul. Perhaps I could have said those words and had that moment right here in my living room, but for some reason being there, in that special place in that special time with my special happened then, and it was...well, special. Words cannot quite describe it adequately. I won't soon forget it though. As I move on to other adventures, I will remember my prayer and the sense I had of an encounter. I am glad I had a visit to Rome on my wishlist.

The next item on my wishlist will involve another journey, but probably somewhere close by. Now to dream of my next SCUBA dive...when and where...and when I do get in the water, and when I am transported to the underwater world that I love so much I will know that I am living my life the way I want to...peppering the mundane with an extraordinary escape.

Thanks for reading!