I have had my fill of tears but I will never have too many fits of giggles.
In the reality that I live in, life is pretty constant. Each day is similar to the next, there might be some subtle differences but nothing that confounds me.
I don’t do much. I don’t feel like I have much to do. There aren’t a lot of options as to what I can do with the day, somehow, and maybe that is what resiliency is, I get through the day. I don’t kill time, I am aware that it will kill me, so I learn something new every day. I continue to believe that “better” is an option. I don’t get stuck. Resiliency is when you are OK with the tires spinning, because you know that you will get traction, eventually.
Essentially my life has gone generic. I am the same Harlon I have always been, the colour of my gel coating may have changed, yet on the formulary of life, I have demonstrated bioequivalence. As long as I get enough sleep (which is work for me) and enough food for thought and for the soul, then I am efficacious. I am Harlon, I am interchangeable. Can you hear me roar?
Welcome to the world of subsequent entry Harlon. Act 2, Scene 1, Enter stage left.
My first line: I am the patient who went off patent.
Let’s look at the first seven days of the month. The first four days are difficult and full of triggers for me. Do I give notice at my apartment and decide to move in with my Mom to reduce my expenses? It’s an easy decision to make and an easy one to defer. It is 100 per cent happiness. My family is a sure thing.
I’ve learned that timing is everything, I am exploring the “when”s of my life. When will I have to? When does next happen next?
The first four nights of this month I cried myself to sleep, feeling that I was a failure. That going home wasn’t returning to love, it was me forced out of the city. In the past, I went home so I could survive. An adverse event of a difficult drug therapy for the difficult to treat left me hardwired. Fucked in other words. Home = survival. After you survive though, what happens next?
What am I trying to survive through when I go home this time? Late at night it feels like the end is near. Four days out of seven feel like I failed therapy. If I had done things differently, if I had sold out, I would be working, I would be going on adventures and on vacations. I would have fallen in love. I might have won a Daytime Emmy. I would be doing things my way.
Spending too much time by yourself is not good for the self. Four days out of seven I did not feel engaged, I did not feel that my life had meaning. I wasn’t living up to my potential. I was not empowered, I was not resilient. I drowned out the sounds of tires spinning with other noise.
For me engagement happens in how I connect with people or navigate the systems through the course of the day. Four days out of seven, I didn’t leave the apartment much at all. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride, I was not feeling engaged.
Three days of the last week felt very different, different but similar to the other four days. I felt that I am in transition, I am establishing new goals, new and realistic targets for settling, and a new definition of “me”. To be resilient, hope and courage are more than words that I highlight in another unfinished self-help book.
Three days out of seven, I spent with a sense of purpose, eating tuna from a can that had no porpoise. Having a friend over for dinner and talking about change. Cooking dinner, then watching The Lego Movie and then afterwards, walking along Yonge Street at one in the morning, talking about who decides what is good and how do we agree on what is ethical. The Lego movie is just so amazingly creative and has a beautiful message: EVERYBODY IS SPECIAL and EVERYTHING IS AWESOME. An evening like that is good therapy. I value creativity and positive reinforcement. Put that on my electronic health records! Friends giving advice, listening and being supportive, we were like Cosmo girls giving beauty tips. We were coaching each other on life. We were the “i”s in teamwork.
Another day of the week of seven, and more time with a friend, same age, same demographic, same social determinants of health.
Neither of us have done great but we both live well. On a day like that. A day that you spend with your best friend and you can talk honestly about what’s rough but at the same time you spend most of your day laughing then the tough days blend in with the good.
Later that day I was in the produce section of Loblaws singing the theme song from the Mary Tyler Moore Show, out loud.
I am going to make it after all I informed the zucchini.
Day number seven of seven, I reached out to my community, to my peers, to the people who understand how my health impacted my life. Someone who understands that things can be challenging and that I make mistakes, that I am human.
It was divine.
I reached out to someone I respect immensely from the HIV community, and I went to a pub with him and his partner and that was my “The View” moment for the week.
There is something about peer support and it is in that where the engagement piece does well. I felt connected. I had the tools and the resources to carry on. I didn’t have to use a lot of words to express myself, they got it, and I got it. We get it. We talk about how it could be better, we talk about success stories, about leaders and we talk about loss and why we are losing people. It is real, it is elegant.
My friend, Ed, said as I left, “Harlon you are smiling again”.
When a dog chases his tail I laugh. I laugh like crazy, it is one of the most joyous things to see.
I must have caught myself by the tail.
If I can be good to myself so that I am strong and can be good to people that have been good to me, then I can press the happiness button.
Balloons and confetti fall from the sky because yes, I know it’s my own tail, but at least I am chasing something and I know exactly what it is. That makes me smile. Tears of joy. Tears of a clown because there is no one around.
I feel healthy when I am happy. Home is where the heart is. You only live once. You can’t take it with you. Life goes on.
As health care explores reform and dabbles with sustainability let’s not lose the small print, the things we know, the maxims of hope and joy.
If we can just for a moment, be gentle with the word evidence, there are lots of published papers about the therapeutic value of joy, hope and laughter.
It’s not rocket science, but I believe it’s time for us to give equal value to the qualitative, to happiness and to joy because in moments of doubt of fear, send in the clowns.
Don’t bother. They are here.
photo credit: www.webpan.com