If an experience is a great teacher, there is no greater teacher than a repeated experience. It allows us to have a point of comparison between different times in our lives, and edits whatever imaginary views we have in our head.
Ever since I became sick, I have a hard time adjusting my realities. I don’t know what my real, versus perceived, limitations are. Time moves slowly, my illness fluctuates from sickness to illness to sickness, and recovery is illusive. Sometimes I can do more than I think and sometimes I can do a lot less than I think.
A week ago, I was fortunate enough to travel through Costa Rica on a weeklong vacation. It was my first “real” trip since I was diagnosed with lupus. The last time I was in Costa Rica was almost 13 years ago. I was younger, yes, but more than that, I was healthy! Up to that point, I haven’t experienced an illness more serious than a flu.
This trip was a lot different. I could not take long hikes in the cloud forest looking for quetzal birds or howler monkeys. I didn’t do a night hike looking for night crawlers. I couldn’t walk through the hanging bridges to view the active volcanos. I wasn’t able to zipline. I couldn’t go horseback riding on the beach. I couldn’t bask in the warm Costa Rican sun.
Yes, it totally made me upset. On top of not being able to partake in all of these activities, I spent much of each day just resting. It was hard not to compare this trip to the one I took when I was a healthy person.
But then reality adjusted itself and I was able to be grateful for my vacation. Four years ago, when I was hospitalized and undergoing chemotherapy, I did not think I’ll live to be able to even walk again. When I was bedridden and fighting for my life, a trip like this? – it was unimaginable. So this repeated experience, while it showed me how limited I am now, it also showed me how far I have come within the context of my new health reality. I leaned to enjoy the beach at sunset, and instead of a hike, exploring the forest on a nice river raft.