Better Living Through Snark

Chronic illness builds character like you wouldn't believe.

2014: Welcome, Failure!

"If you want God to zap you with a lightning bolt, tell him your plans."

Superstition holds that the way you spend your New Year’s Eve dictates how the year ahead will unfold. I hate to cave to old wives’ tales, but so far they’ve been pretty dead-on. On New Year’s 2012, I checked myself into Weil-Cornell’s ER for the first time. (Check-plus, superstition! I went back at least once a month for the rest of 2012.) For 2013, I went to sleep at 10pm on New Year’s Eve, which was par for the course for a numbing, depressed, and early-bedtime-filled year. (High five again, superstition! You miserable jerk.) 

I’ve clawed my way out of those bad places, but looking at the year ahead has taken on a weird edge. New Year’s doesn’t seem like the rite of passage it once did. For many people, a new year is an opportunity to build upon a familiar foundation. For me and the rest of us Caught-Betweens, it’s just another day in an unpredictable world of shifting expectations. Why bother making grandiose plans when you’re so acquainted with human frailty?

This is one gift/curse of chronic illness: an awareness of the universe’s anarchy. Eating right + exercise + positive thoughts + goat sacrifices to minor deities =/= guaranteed health. Realizing this is scary. As humans, we like having a clear cause and effect. Virtue should equal happiness like eating salads should equal six-pack abs, and it makes us skittish and confused when these tidy transactions don’t work out.

Of course, they rarely do work out, even for the richest, healthiest, and most virtuous among us. Everyone has a crushing moment where they realize this fact. We Caught-Betweens are just ahead of the curve. (Lucky us.)

I’m slowly, grudgingly learning to accept the anarchy. I shouldn’t expect to clean my bathtub any more than I should expect to be named Queen of the Pixies, but that doesn’t mean neither is possible. If Thursday demands I stay in my PJ pants with bananas on them, so be it. If Saturday allows me to accomplish great feats, then high five, Saturday. The trick here is to see that both types of days are valuable.

We’re used to ascribing value to “productive” days, and beating ourselves up for “non-productive” ones. With the help of Illness Anarchy, you realize these distinctions are kind of arbitrary. Maybe my puritanical-work-ethic brain is upset that I’ve plowed through an entire season of “Kitchen Nightmares” and created a dent in my couch. But what does it know? Some combinations of cells and nerves are working their hardest to do whatever it is they do, and my macro-level sloth is (potentially) allowing some micro-level accomplishments. 

After two years of ever-increasing loss, I’m only just starting to befriend the uncertainty. This New Year I wore sweat pants all day, took naps like a cat, and played board games at my friends’ house. At midnight we drank champagne out of tiny plastic dollar store trophies, which was pretty funny until we all came down with Bird Flu. (Just kidding! We’re fine so far!) In 2014, I expect to drink most of my beverages out of trophies.

So here’s to 2014: the universe is random and uncaring. Let’s drink to that.

Caitlin Caven has had Crohn's Disease for over seventeen years but she is still fun at parties.
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