I remember when cable TV first came to the island community where I grew up. Yes, I actually grew up on an island. Pull up Google Maps and look for Grand Island, NY, and you will see a pork chop shaped island nestled in the Niagara River between Buffalo and Niagara Falls—that’s our hometown. Both my husband and I grew up there. Anyway, my parents resisted the cable bug for a little while, but eventually they caved. Soon we had more than five channels to choose from on our television. Since it was the 80’s, I admit to spending countless hours watching MTV. That’s when they actually played music videos. Oh, and the videos weren’t of the sort that would need a parental advisory before airing. It’s why my parents didn’t raise too many objections, although they never joined me in my viewing habit. Instead, my parents found their own favorite station to watch. I can’t recall what my mom watched—she may have stuck to the original local channels. The Waltons and Wheel of Fortune were two of her favorites. MY dad, on the other hand, discovered The Weather Channel. Again, at that time, The Weather Channel actually aired weather forecasts. He became obsessed with always knowing what they were forecasting our weather to be. Of course, much of the time their predictions weren’t completely accurate. In fact, I remember him getting angry once, saying it was the only job where you could consistently be wrong and still keep your job and salary. He was convinced of two things. One was that the meteorologists were paid by the tourism departments to predict nice weather for the weekend even if that was not to be the case. The second thing he was certain of was that meteorologists purposely included a chance of every type of weather possible for the given season so as to make themselves look good. I can still hear him swearing at the TV: “Partly Sunny with a chance of rain showers. S*#t! I could get up there and say that day after day.” My dad knew, as I learned, that while meteorologists can predict some of what may happen, weather is, for the most part, unpredictable. A blue sky with bright sunshine can quickly be covered by dark storm clouds that soon release sheets of rain.
I’m finding life to be just like the weather.
Now, everyone knows that none of us can know what is going to happen. Any person at any given time can have their world crash down around them. But, the majority of people live their lives with some type of predictability. They wake up, shower, get dressed, eat some breakfast, drink some coffee (or Diet Pepsi), and begin whatever their work is for the day. Some leave their house and drive to work, while some, like stay at home moms, stay at home and tackle a never ending to-do list. Lunch is midday. Dinner is in the evening. Bedtime is pretty consistent. In a nutshell, predictable. I’ve lived on the edge of that kind of life before. Having four kids under the age of five, I have to say that predictability often went out the window! But, as strange as it sounds, the unpredictability of kids was, in its own way, predictable. There was always a part of me, though, that struggled with the not knowing what a day might hold. That part of me was the part that fought depression. As difficult as it was dealing with depression as a mom with four little ones, the busyness of those years often forced my depression to take a back seat to mothering.
That is not the case anymore. Those busy years disappeared much quicker than I ever thought they would, and now I find myself an empty nester. One would think that having an empty nest would make life much more predictable. I think that would be true for me if it weren’t for one thing–the presence of an invisible illness. MS has made my days, and therefore my life, unpredictable. Although I have struggled with depression for years, the daily battle with the chronic pain, fatigue, dizziness, and other issues related to my MS has added to the pit of depression in which I often find myself. I can wake up feeling lousy, literally having to force myself to even get out of bed but be feeling much better by afternoon. The opposite is true as well. I can wake up feeling wonderful, but by lunchtime I find any energy completely gone and need to hit the couch or pillow for necessary rest. One day I can get through most of the items on my to-do list, but the very next day find that vertigo is so bad there is no way I will be able to get much of anything accomplished. Likewise, I can wake up feeling refreshed and energized, but for no apparent reason, out of the blue will come streams of tears. This is not an easy way to live—not for me, nor for my family. Most of the time, I am skilled at hiding all that is going on inside. I have learned over the years of battling depression to compartmentalize. In other words, my heart, my body, and my mind may be in turmoil, but my actions don’t necessarily reflect that turmoil. I am often amazed how some people are just really adept at seeing through the masks I feel I have to don. Most, though, assume that if I am out and about, talking and acting like nothing is wrong that day, well then, nothing must be wrong that day. That’s just not the case most of the time. I have often returned to the book of Job as I have learned to ride the waves of illness. Job didn’t understand what was happening to him. He didn’t know why it was happening to him. He was fairly confident that he had not done anything to cause God to see him unfavorably, yet still he suffered tremendously.
Life, like the weather, is unpredictable. Sunshine and blue skies can quickly give way to dark clouds and storms. In these stormy times, I am thankful when I am reminded that God is in control of the storms— those found in the atmosphere as well as those that rumble through my life and heart. I don’t always like the storms. In fact, I usually resent them. But I am trying to remember that God works all things for my good and His glory—even depression that grips so tight I am certain my life will be snuffed out or illness that sidelines me and reduces me to one who feels worthless to those around me.