What’s in it for us? Why do we live this life? Why do we do it, and maybe more importantly, how do we do it?
The complexities in the answers to these questions could certainly fill the pages of an entire book, but since this is a blog, and since you’re undoubtedly cutting into your workday to read this, I’ll just scratch the surface.
Life with a chronic illness is not a glamorous one. The “lows” can be very low; frustration and stress often lead to anxiety; overthinking can be a prison of itself; pain may be temporary, but the experiences leave scarred memories that last a lifetime. Why do we do it? Why do we, people with CF, battle every single thing that comes our way, just to turn around and see ourselves facing another daunting challenge?
Adversity can be met at any step along the way, at any given time – football taught me that. Until I was in 9th grade, I can definitely say that I took just about everything for granted. Although, I definitely think I had a grasp on the value of hard work and matured much faster than most of my peers, I don’t think I fully understood the challenges that where ahead of me until I got to that point in my life. Football is unique from any sport simply because at any given point adversity can strike. It’s the only sport where someone volunteers to put his body in harm’s way at every moment of every practice or game as a form of fun.
Football taught me that the reward for overcoming adversity is more adversity. As an innocent little 9th grader, I didn’t have the moral compass to comprehend all that CF was doing to my body day in and day out. That all changed once my football “career” ended after my senior year. On the football field, things happen at an entirely different speed. It is the microscope that shows the development of a young boy to a matured man. I came away from the sport with an understanding of the long uphill road that lay ahead for me. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t have discovered that CF is a vicious thing without football, that’s not it at all. I’m saying that football gave me a sense of heartfelt purpose to overcome the relentless challenges I faced during practice and maturity – like conditioning drills, fighting through illness, understanding plays and tactics, how to protect myself or any number of problems. A football player gets his motivation from his desire to compete and get better.
Where does the motivation come from for a person facing a chronic illness? For many people, a good night’s sleep is a chance to recharge and start over fresh the next day. For me, and the thousands like me, sleep never brings that feeling. When I go to sleep I hook myself up to a feeding tube and fade into fantasy dreamland. My dreams are an escape from my daily life – a chance to live freely.
It’s a catch 22, though; falling asleep only brings the inevitable – the next morning. Mornings are often the worst for someone with CF. Our lungs aren’t hydrated or filtered throughout the night. Mucus builds up giving us the sensation of, well, suffocating – the first challenge of the day. Responsibilities snap in the moment I open my eyes. Is everything working properly? Are all systems go? Where is my pain threshold? Does everything feel normal or worse? In fact, I can tell you that most of the time I won’t feel quite as well as I did the day before until the afternoon rolls around. Needless to say, I’m not much of a morning person. From an outside perspective looking in, it begs the question, “how can anyone live in a reality like that?” because, that’s exactly what it is, a reality.
The will to live is the most basic of human instincts – that’s the easy answer to this question – but what I am trying to explore is larger than that. If it ended simply with the will to live, I don’t think I would have made it very far. I can tell you that sensations of pride and utter success that come along with the fight to survive are pretty unique feelings.
If we look at Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection, what does his explanation of evolution show us? My life, in the end, is one not worth living. CF dies out along with its sufferers on the path of human evolution. Quite Frankly, I use Darwin and his counterpart Herbert Spencer’s Survival of the Fittest papers to wipe my a** when I get out of bed to perform my morning glory. If that isn’t motivation enough, I don’t know what is.
In all honesty, as much as I love sticking it to the man (that man being Darwin), that’s not my only reason for treading down the path of success. Every single great moment that I have had in my life shows me that there are more great moments in my future. My deepest form of motivation is when I choose to give myself the opportunity to live those moments. The pride that I find in that is the purest emotion I feel, deeper than my will to live.
So, why do we do it? I think you need to answer that for yourself, but somewhere, inside you there is a pride that burns so hot that it needs to express itself. We all want something, we all need something – it’s just a matter of making those things happen. I’ve always said that there is no such thing as luck. We make our own luck. The opportunities we give to ourselves are what create the moments that allow our pride to really shine. If you find yourself searching for your “why,” then why not search for your desire to feel pride in something. Make slow changes in your life until you grab ahold of that same feeling you had the last time you made a great memory for yourself.
Every single memory we make for ourselves defines our personality. It is the great ones that drive our sense of pride we have in the will to live, the will to survive against any adversity that steps in front of us.