Life Is All About The Little Things

Robert doesn’t know it (Until now; thanks for being my #1 reader!), but this weekend was one of the best I’ve had. Not for any reason in particular, other than the fact that we got to spend it together. Something I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is that the very most valuable and wonderful thing I have in my life is time. I honestly could be doing nothing special at home, but as long as I’m with loved ones I am happy. I’ve learned that “simple” doesn’t equate to “boring,” and that contentment is just as great as joy because it can really last for the long haul.

This weekend we just hung around the house and played games, ordered takeout, and took the dogs out for a few walks, but it was really great getting to catch up some after what has been a tiring couple of weeks. I loved getting to chat instead of watching a ton of mindless television, and we even went on a few mini adventures around town — my favorite being our outing to the restaurant where we celebrated our anniversary back in October. No matter how long we are together I always want to have regular date nights, because I think they’re so great for the heart.

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I found 9 four leaf clovers outside my soon-to-be-home with Robert. I’d say this was a good luck charm for our 100 day countdown!

At this point I’m really excited for our wedding still, but I am much more stoked for the entire lifetime of memories and love that is going to come after. Despite getting sick with POTS and having pain be a regular guest in my body, I am overall even more joyful now than I was before I got sick. I think this has to do greatly with recognizing all of the love and amazing people I have surrounding me. I feel so blessed that the everyday beauty in my life does not go unnoticed, and that my heart is content with all of the love that fuels it. All the adventures we have ahead of us are going to be a blast (I am particularly excited for our honeymoon!), but I am also so excited for the countless game nights and dinner dates we have in store for us. I feel so darn lucky to have this life, and I am working to appreciate every gift — big and small — that God has given me.

 

Choosing A Season Of Joy

I’m baaaaack! A lot has gone on in the week and a half I took off, but I’m ready to write again and update you all on some new developments.

It’s been crazy rainy lately and my POTS symptoms seem to get aggravated during changes in weather. Something interesting about POTS is that it affects a bunch of important organs, and has trouble finding homeostasis when even minor changes are introduced. My physical therapist takes my blood pressure and heart rate every single session — before and after and sometimes during my workouts — and it’s crazy to see that whenever I feel symptomatic my blood pressure is super low, and my heart rate is higher than usual. One cool thing about people with chronic illnesses is that we really know our bodies well. I can almost always pinpoint what is physically wrong with me because of the way my symptoms are behaving. We are going to start looking at the barometric pressure and my blood pressure throughout the day, just as a little test to see how they compare since both of us have noticed this trend. I can’t wait until POTS has been studied better and we can just look up a million and one facts about it, and one day there can actually be a cure.

Which leads me to my next point. I have been trying to be really cognizant of the blessings I have in my life lately. It makes every obstacle a whole lot easier to tackle, and I have felt more peace and joy by looking at the great things God has given me, rather than focusing only on the pain or discomfort. Today, for example, I saw a sweet little bunny outside on our front lawn. He was eating part of our flowers, but I sat and watched him until he was ready to leave before I walked past him. While I was sitting on the porch I saw a little red robin fly into a puddle next to our yard, and he started to fluff his feathers and bathe himself. These two little moments made my heart so warm the rest of the night.

As far as wedding planning goes, we keep making slow and steady progress. Robert and I got our wedding bands this week and they’re absolutely perfect. I keep putting mine on every time I go to his house because I love it so much! I am super sentimental, so I love that he picked everything out for me, but it’s also just so me. I love his too, and I think he looks super handsome with a wedding band. I wrote a little message to him in it so he’ll always be reminded of how I feel when he looks at it. 🙂 Despite all the stress of planning, I keep realizing how fast this time is going by and reminding myself that the primary feeling of this time of engagement should be joy. We have four months to go as of today, and I am so, so excited.

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I’d Like To File A Complaint

Do you ever find yourself really annoyed because you find yourself complaining about something really trivial like being stuck in traffic or not having any milk keft in the fridge?

That’s how I feel today. I went to a concert last night at my alma mater, and my lower back is k i l l i n g me. I think I hurt myself from standing too long and not wearing the proper shoes (read: sneakers), which sounds ridiculous but is life with EDS in a nutshell.

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Really, though, my brain is functioning well, it’s rainy and I don’t feel super symptomatic, and my heart is content. My main issue is that I am medium-grumpy today. The pain is getting on my nerves, and I feel frustrated that every time I do something fun and different I have to take it easy for a few days after, while my friends can keep going and going without any problems. I am annoyed at my body for not just being normal — the way it used to be — and I hate feeling like a grandma at 27. Everything takes so much planning, and I turn down certain plans that I want to do, just because I have to weigh how much I have going on the entire week, rather than just a single day.

So, since I am bitching about a million and one things right now, I want to take a minute and realize what I should be thankful for.

I can get up off the couch and walk around. I have feet, legs, and arms that all work. My heart works twice as hard to keep me alive, but it’s pumping and keeping me going! Most of my organs are a bit goofy, but they are all working overtime to make sure I can keep living, and I am so, so thankful for that. I have a wonderful family who loves me, the best fiancée in the world, and amazing friends. I am doubling my family this fall, I am not allergic to chocolate (I count this as a blessing, as I developed a bunch of food sensitivities as an adult), and I have a roof over my head and never go hungry.

I could go on and on about more beautiful things in my life. Dogs make up a great number of blessings, and sunshine, birds, butterflies, and heat are just a few more. Candlelight, snuggling, soft blankets, The Office, country music, buttercream frosting, gentle massages, writing, decaf coffee, warm memories, Pinterest boards, glitter, loved ones’ sweatshirts, snail mail, flowers, dog tags, and a diamond are just a few of the beautiful blessings life has given me.

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As much as I want to complain today, I am going to allow myself a minute of being annoyed, and then just let it go. My pain isn’t an 8 or a 9 today, and I can handle everything that I have on my plate. I just have to turn my frown upside down and enjoy the simple pleasures until I can go out into the world again and take on the next adventure.

Today’s lesson: The next time you want to punch a wall because you’re frustrated about something, take a few seconds to count your blessings. It helps put life into perspective, and makes you realize it’s an enormous waste of time to be grumpy when you can learn to be content instead.

Love And Pain

Pain and sickness are really difficult things to write about. Trying to describe things you’re feeling but  many people have never dealt with before is essentially attempting to put pen to paper about the way butterflies feel in the beginning of a relationship to someone who still has yet to experience it. You can use the right words, but they won’t really connect until they have something to relate it to.

For example, think about the way some of your first crushes felt, versus how actually being in love feels. They both have the same warm and fuzzy feelings as a base, but feel drastically different. That’s how I would compare temporary short-term pain, such as an injury or a broken bone,  to chronic, long-lasting pain. I’ve experienced both, and before getting sick I wouldn’t have had anything to draw from to compare to the new exhaustion chronic pain brings. You don’t ever get a break from chronic pain. Even when you can kind of ignore some of your problems on your good days, the bad days are right around the corner. I do a great job of not thinking too much about that when I am well, and I’ve gotten really good at living in the present when I can. Then, the bright side is that on bad days I know a good one just has to be right around the corner. Chronic pain is a vicious cycle, though, and wears you out to your core. Not only does everything hurt, but you also are always so incredibly tired from not being able to sleep. Whether your body is annoyed from being tense and having your muscles screaming at you all day long or your brain keeps you up thinking about the pain you’re feeling, you don’t get good rest. I don’t remember the last time I got in bed and just fell right asleep. It’s been years.

I’m constantly sending articles and trying to pull up scientific findings about my conditions to people I love because I want them to understand how I feel. God, I want to be understood. I hate feeling cranky because of my pain or having days where I can’t stand it anymore and just break down and cry. Granted, the latter are few and far between, but sometimes my body just can’t take anything else and needs some sort of outlet. Talking isn’t my best one because I want to help other people feel happy and good, so I don’t like to complain — or maybe I don’t know how to complain properly; I haven’t quite figured that one out yet. I love to write, but I don’t always have the strength, and frankly I don’t want to leave behind troves of essays on how much my body hurts.

I just don’t feel like anyone I’m incredibly close to has been in a situation quite like mine, and it’s minorly heartbreaking knowing that yes, I always have a shoulder to cry on, but I don’t have anyone who really gets it and can tell me that they know how I feel. That’s why I am motivated to write about my struggles. 

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Don’t get me wrong; I don’t want anyone I love and care about to ever understand chronic pain or any other kind of difficulties in life. One thing I’ve always been thankful for is that I’m the one with this problem. I would gladly take every pain away from the people I care about if it meant they didn’t ever need to face it themselves. Not only do I feel like God gave me a strong heart and will to keep pushing forward, but I think He gave me a beautifully optimistic outlook on things, and I’m really grateful for that. I think I’m handling the hurdles I’ve been thrown the best I possibly can, and I actually think that despite being a painfully average twentysomething, I am exceptional in accepting the negative things in life as a reality and then figuring out how they can turn into a blessing — or at the very least, something that doesn’t consume me. I have always said that I may have POTS, but POTS doesn’t have me. The same goes for my chronic widespread pain; it’s a big part of my life, but there’s no way in hell that chronic pain is going to take my entire life from me. I will count my blessings until the day I die, and today those are my loved ones, dogs, chocolate, Taylor Swift, Brad Paisley, and each and every one of you. 

“I Can’t Wait Until Tomorrow”

How many times have you heard someone utter the words, “I can’t wait until tomorrow,” “I can’t wait until Friday,” or “I hate Mondays?” I find myself saying this on days I feel sick, lonely, or even just bored.

Somehow the future is always more bright, beautiful, and easier than today. Nobody warned us that there would still be trials, loss, and unplanned twists and turns where you least expect them. That being said, why do we still always hope for tomorrow to come, even when we have so many blessings today? I think a big part of it has to do with boredom. It’s hard to sit still and have a mundane schedule and so much easier to “live for today” when today is exciting and great.

Getting sick with POTS really opened my eyes to the harder parts of life. One of the most difficult lessons I’ve learned is that the future isn’t promised, and some dreams may never come true. You know what else I learned from these lessons, though? That this is all okay! I learned that you have the opportunity to grow and learn from trials, and that you can always handle so much more than you realize. I learned that sometimes the hardest thing you have to go through can turn into the biggest blessing you’ve ever had, and that God’s plan for you is even better than what you have planned for yourself. Finally, I learned that sometimes all you can do is take life one day at a time, and focusing too much on the future can actually be harmful when you are dealing with a particularly difficult trial.

Instead, on the harder days I try my best to list my blessings. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve surely seen my “Five Blessings” posts. This was the most recent one:

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Instead of having the mindset that life is going to be better tomorrow, count the blessings you have today. Don’t get me wrong; it can be really hard sometimes, but if you can find even just one thing to be grateful for, life quickly feels a little bit easier. Sometimes you need to just take baby steps, even if it’s just counting your blessings — one day at a time.


Update: Still trying to change my domain to KristaLauren.com, but it’s taking forever because I need technical help and it hasn’t been the biggest priority on my list. Keep in mind this site will be changing, though!