So, I hit my two year mark at my job, recently. Waiting at my desk was a bag of bite size candy bars, a $200.00 gift card ($100 for each year), and a card signed by all of the coworkers in my division. I, of course, was very touched by this act of kindness. It did make me smile, but it did something else as well.
Inside the card, one of the signatures wishing me a happy anniversary was my immediate superior. She wrote:
“Your courage and strength is an inspiration!”
Now, most of my coworkers know that I am an MS warrior. I don’t like to keep that information from my workplace for several reasons. Number one, I would never want to work someplace that didn’t want me there due to my disease. Another reason is, I wouldn’t want to attempt to excuse away why I suddenly smacked my bag of chips off my desk, or why one week I might be using my cane on the right side, and the next week, using it on the left. They know I have MS, so they already know why. I like it that way.
What caused me to step back from my enjoyment of the moment was the idea that by coming into work every day, I was being strong or brave or whatever. I’ve been told that before. This was the first time it hit me oddly, though. It simply didn’t seem valid.
This caused a bit of guilt, on my part. I don’t feel like I’m showing strength or bravery, or any damn thing close to it. I feel broken. Barely useful. The guy others have to pick up slack for. Where is the strength in that? I’m not sure I see it.
Most of the time, I feel like I’m drowning. Just barely keeping my head above the waves. I don’t see what there is to admire in simply trying to stay alive and useful in some way.
You see, the way I look at it, I have two choices. Try to keep moving forward, no matter how slowly, or lie down and die. Sometimes, to be honest, I wish for the latter. I’m tired. I’ve fought to get everything I’ve worked for my entire life, and now I have to fight for the rest of my life to keep what I have, now! I’m tired of fighting, but I refuse to give up and lose my job, my house, my wife, my anything I have now! Would it appear to show a of lack of strength to decide the fight was no longer worth it?
That is an interestingly complicated question for me. You see, my best friend from Freshman year of high school (1983. Yup. I’m old.) up until September 17, 2013, decided to permanently check out by putting a gun to his chest and pulling the trigger. For thirty years he was one of the few people in this world that I could tell ANYTHING to. Suddenly, by his own hand, he was gone.
I was sad. I was upset. I was confused. Most surprising to me, I was jealous. Yes. Jealous. He was out. He was done. Whatever comes next, if anything, he now knows. When I received my diagnosis a year later, the envy was reinforced. I was upset that he wasn’t around to talk to, and it made me wonder if he was better off, now. I wondered if I would be better off joining him. I also wondered if I would have had the determination to go through with something like that. That was surprising, too. Along with the jealousy, there honestly was some admiration. Yes, I wish he hadn’t done it. Yes, I miss him. Yes, I still, at times, get mad at him for doing it…………but I also admire the strength it took to go through with it. There. I said it. I think it took some level of bravery and strength to rush blindly into the unknown, thinking the grass might be greener on the other side. I hope it is, Matthew. I truly hope it is.
So here I sit, wondering how much I will be able to stand (Ha! Stand! That’s a good one.) before I break. I sit and internally debate whether there is more bravery in dealing with the shit that the known world doles out, or in choosing to find out what is next. What is beyond this existence, trapped in this flawed, malfunctioning shell that is slowly killing itself? Is it better? Is it worse? Is it…………anything? There is only one way to find out, and I’m not brave enough to go there, as of yet. Meanwhile, my coworkers, friends, and strangers tell me how brave or strong I am, simply for trying not to die. That’s odd, to me.
Tell me what you think in the comments below, or on Facebook/Twitter, if you know me on either of those. Just talk to me. I really would like to hear other people’s ideas on this.
Until next time, keep doing what you do.