It’s official, I’m sick.
I hung in there for awhile, but I’ve been exposed to too many germs from too many people in too small a space, and I’ve succumbed. (Theaters, nursery schools and hospitals are notoriously difficult places to stay healthy. They’re dropping like flies at the show these days.)
My dumb luck, right? Getting sick in the middle of the holidays?
Well, maybe. And maybe not.
You see, two years ago, I had what some people would characterize as a really nasty streak of luck. In February of 2002, my father found out he had to go on full-time dialysis. In May, my live-in boyfriend of 3 years and I broke up. And finally, in September, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, Crohn’s is a super-chic disease whose symptoms include fever, weight loss and diarrhea. And we’re talking high fevers (104ºF +…several!), severe weight loss (I was 90 lbs. when they released me from the hospital), and, well, I won’t even detail the horrors of my bowel movements except to say that at my nadir, they were happening 32x/day and necessitated the replacement of 2 pints of blood.
The thing is, when I’m done cataloguing the many delights of my illness, I always follow up by assuring my now-horrified listener that it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Because it was. Not only did I have a bona fide epiphany in the hospital (worth the price of admission, alone, believe me), the sucker actually took. My outlook shifted. I relaxed, for one. I began greeting each day with genuine delight, instead of worry or aggravation. I began to rely less on “The Colleen Show” and got more in touch with my authentic self.
If I hadn’t gotten sick, I wouldn’t have found the amazing diet that not only sent my Crohn’s into remission and improved my overall health, but taught me that I was the best authority on my health, not some doctor. I might have met my new best friend, Jan Pessin, in fact, we already had met prior to my illness. But if I hadn’t been sick, she wouldn’t have been my advocate in the hospital. We might never have bonded over our illnesses and become good friends. And we certainly wouldn’t have written our show.
I don’t mean to discount the tragedies great and small that befall us all; I would never use the word “lucky” to describe someone who has suffered a loss of any kind. But since my own so-called misfortune, I much more leery of automatically classifying something as being bad for me, whether it’s an election outcome, a relationship that ends painfully or a much needed job that falls through. I enjoy my good times, but it’s my difficult ones that have moved me to look at the world differently, to become more compassionate, to educate myself, to change.
I suppose that sometimes a rotten thing that happens to you ends up just being a rotten thing that happens to you. Lord knows I don’t have all the answers (I’m still learning to recognize the damned questions.)
But sometimes, just sometimes, what you think is the worst thing that ever happened to you can turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to you.
If you’re lucky, that is.