And though I looked like hell, one of my friends stopped me in the hallway to ask how I was doing (and associate with me in my less than desirable state). As we stood there discussing our days, she said to me, "Kenzie, I just don't get how you do it. How do you do it?"
"How do I perfect the hobo look?" I said jokingly...surely that's what she meant.
She chuckled, "No, I mean THAT. How do you do THAT? That humor, that smile, that strut like you're on a mission thing even when you're in pain? I want to know how you do that."
"I just do it." I said.
"Well, I'm glad you do." She replied with a smile.
We casually said our goodbyes after that. She jetted off to class. I conquered two flights of stairs and limped back to my dorm where I conquered several more flights of stairs before snuggling up in bed with a couple of ice packs and some ibuprofen. I intended on watching an episode of Gilmore Girls to reward myself for getting out of bed that morning, but instead I started thinking about the conversation I'd just had.
Though I wish I had a better, more elaborate, or wildly descriptive answer to give, "I just do it," is the only one that can really sum up what it's like to live with a chronic illness.
You see, I hadn't slept for more than an hour the night before because I was running a low grade fever as my poor little immune system attacked itself in true autoimmune fashion. I was wearing leggings for the fourth day in a row because every time I've worn jeans in the past two weeks has resulted in severe hip swelling and pain that just isn't worth looking cute for. I hadn't shaved my legs in days because it's been impossible to bend over with the morning stiffness that meets me each time I crawl out of bed. I hadn't washed my hair because doing so would not only force me to blow dry and straighten it, (two things that would force me to lift my arms up over my head for an extended period of time) but also because every time I've washed my hair lately, I've lost excessive amounts of it as a side effect of a medication I'm on. I was wearing my makeup from the day prior because it generally takes me about 15 minutes to apply a fresh coat...and that morning in particular, I'd chosen 15 minutes of potential sleep after spending the night wide awake and unable to. I'd missed my morning class because I physically could not get down from my lofted bed at 8am and I was leaving my biology lab early because the fermeldihyde from our pig dissections was triggering a migraine.
"I just do it" encompasses every last thing I just did my best to explain in that last paragraph. In fact, it encompasses even more. It would be easy to stay in bed, skip my treatments/medications, and ultimately give up. "I just do it" doesn't mean I'm Superwoman or even that I'm trying to be Superwoman...it just means that I've chosen to show up and accept the invitation I've been so graciously given to live. I guess the best way to describe it is that I've simply realized if I'm not living my life, no one will.
There are so many things in life we don't get to decide for ourselves...and at times, that seems awfully unfair. I can tell you right now, my "ideal" life would not incorporate disease, illness, or any sort of pain. If there was a way to rid of it, I certainly would. But since eradicating that pain isn't in my power, I like to try to find the beauty in it. My pain has given me a profound sense of vulnerability. This disease has allowed me to connect with individuals I might've never "met" otherwise. The word determination has taken on a whole new meaning since my diagnosis. What's beautiful about the seemingly unfair moments is that they're also the moments I get to search for purpose in. I want people to know that they can "just do it," too. I want people to know that they're not the only ones.
And if I can do those two things alone...well, I'm glad I do it too.