Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hope, Faith and Works

Twelve years ago this month, I was living Redding, a town 30 miles north of here with my former husband. I was bedridden with an illness neither I nor my doctors understood. There was no cure, they said, for CFIDS (Chronic Fatigue Immuno-dysregulation Syndrome) and it was not known when, or if, I would ever recover. All I could do was wait for the results to different types of medications they could try to lessen the symptoms - extreme exhaustion, fever, malaise, confusion and excruciating muscle and joint pain. In the meantime, the winter days of that El-Nino year were the most dark and despairing time I had ever known. The rain never stopped. "Yeah, merry fucking Christmas", I thought to myself. I felt as though even God had abandoned me.

There's a saying amongst PWC's (People with CFIDS)... "The good news is, you won't die from it. But the bad news is, you won't die from it."

Some days, I was so weak I had to crawl on my hands and knees to the bathroom. Sleep would have been a welcome reprieve if it weren't for the fact that sleep was one of the mechanisms affected by the viral war raging inside my body. My career, social life and ability to do simple things like go to the grocery store or do a load of laundry came to a screeching halt. My marriage was crumbling under an uncertain future, as then-hubby "B" had little patience with a debilitated spouse no longer bringing in a full paycheck and a poorly understood illness whose cause and cure were as elusive as chasing a ghost. Deep depression set in as a result, and I found myself contemplating suicide. I made it as far as the planning stage. The conflict of choosing escape over adherence to my spiritual beliefs only added to the misery. Things seemed hopeless - there was simply no easy way out.

One evening while aimlessly flipping through channels, I caught a glimpse of Christopher Reeve, intubated and paralyzed, giving an interview. "Superman" could not even breathe on his own, but there was a little glimmer, a sort of smile emanating from his eyes as he said, "as long as I'm alive, I have hope..." In that moment, I realized that if this completely helpless man, whose situation appeared absolutely hopeless, could keep hope alive, then maybe I could, too. Somehow, someday, I would make it out of this bed and be able to have a normal life again. I could have all the hope I wanted, and faith was there, albeit shaken. But still something was missing. If faith without works is dead, then hope without works is nothing more than empty wishing.

But what could I do? I could barely stay on my feet for more than a few minutes at a time (not even long enough for a stand-up shower). I was broke. I was living 30 miles away from my support system. Being too proud to ask for help was always one of my flaws, especially where my parents were concerned. My dad had passed away long ago, and my mom in 1997 was 73 years old and not in the best health, either. But I broke down on the phone to her, was honest about my state of desperation, and willing to let her help. I moved in with my mom, and gave "B" his freedom. (He had underestimated the difficulty of the "...in sickness" part of the marriage thing). I went to a different doctor, I went to physical therapy. On good days I would spend time with the friends that I so missed seeing while living in Redding. I fell in love with someone I had known for some time as just a friend. (We are still together!). I decided that somehow, someday, I was going to get better - I would worry about the "how" later. I signed up with the Department of Rehabilitation and was enrolled in a special distance-learning degree program for mid-career adults that I could do from home. I was able to get disability benefits. I slowly improved with time, a caring husband, two-steps forward and one-back, the right medication and faith in God. But it was faith WITH works - hope WITH a down payment of action. And just before the Christmas of 2001 - exactly 4 years after the most hopeless and miserable time of my life - I had my Bachelor's degree in Psychology. I went back to work, for the first time in four years. on Feb. 1, 2002.

Some days I still struggle. I come home exhausted and am in some degree of physical pain more often than not. Working full time, running a household and a revolution, and having a normal life were once just "hope". But it was both FAITH and WORKS that brought that hope to tangible fruition. God did his job, and I did mine. It's been a great partnership!

I totally believe that this same "formula" will work for our little revolution, too! With faith in God, hope that some good can come from despair, and with WORKS in DOING things differently and taking direct action for our country and our world- we are destined for awesome things!