Life is tenuous, isn’t it?.
One year ago I was stung multiple times on the tip of a single toe by one single, solitary yellow jacket. As the hours progressed my foot swelled, then my calf. Fever set in. A trip to the doctor for relief brought no immediate comfort. And a combination of being in the Georgia sunshine, mixed with sulfa drugs (which are photosensitive), created a fever that caused me to shake uncontrollably, and finally landed me in the hospital for two nights.
One problem led to another (CT scan for possible blood clots, heart monitor for a pulse that seemed too slow, blood pressure that could not be regulated, etc.), but finally I was released. The road back to normal promised to be a long one. I was not a week out of the hospital when my wife experienced abdominal pains, visited the same ER, and was admitted for an emergency appendectomy. “When it rains, it pours,” they say.
Now, for a married couple with health benefits, sick leave, and vacation time, this would have been an unfortunate and frustrating inconvenience. But for a couple working hourly wage jobs with no health benefits whatsoever . . . this was a disaster. Our hospital bills exceeded $40,000 and the loss of work time was financially deadly.
Life is tenuous at best. One moment you can be sitting pretty and the next you are in the ditch. And it seems to matter very little how much wealth and security you have accumulated, or how thick the castle walls are which you have erected around yourself. The wealthiest of us can fall prey to sickness, depressing circumstances, family and relationship stress, etc., and . . . with enough debt – even financial ruin. And the poorest of us can experience all of the above as well, of course. There is no reprieve based on your poverty, or your wealth.
Nevertheless, here I sit today, writing this blog. I feel fortunate today. My possessions have not been confiscated, I have not lost my residence, and I have not filed for bankruptcy. Not everyone is so fortunate. But what happened in our unfortunate circumstances a year ago, you may wonder?
The hospital and many of the doctors/labs discounted their costs for us (due to lack of insurance), and created interest-free payment plans which continue to this day. One of my part-time jobs has an assistance program for just such situations, and they contributed greatly to our debt. Several family members saw fit to send us money to help stem the tide, and another of my jobs excused some of the hours I had missed and paid me for it anyway.
My point in this diatribe is not to solicit sympathy, or ask for financial assistance, of course; rather, it is to say that although life is tenuous, and security can be an illusion . . . there is a truth in all this that I am learning. And that is this. Real joy, true happiness, is found in embracing the whole of your life, not just the parts that seem worthy. Your story is the story of success and failure with lots and lots of boredom and mundane moments in between. And the truth is that the times of trial and testing (be they financial or emotional or physical) forge in each of us some much-needed character, give those around us an opportunity to reach out and love us tangibly, and . . . give our own individual stories the twists and turns that make them truly remarkable.
Resilience. Ah! A powerful response to the uncertainty we live with every day. Each story worth reading is filled with lots and lots of resilience.