Life Lessons Over Morning Coffee
It was a run-of-the-mill morning in the Anderson household. Early morning rising, getting kids up and motivated. We were down one vehicle at the time, necessitating me dropping my husband off at work before returning home to start the three-school morning drop offs. Conflict was an all too familiar companion in our lives, and I made the executive decision to take a morning off and bring coffee to my husband at work.
The shop was busy, yet relatively quiet as the traveling electronics technician was off for the week and one of the shop mechanics was spending the day with his daughter before she was to return to her mother’s. It was my husband, his best friend and now employee, and myself there. My relationship with the best friend had nearly six years of turbulence, snap judgements, dislike, and clashing personalities; certainly not an easy scenario for my husband to be in the middle of perpetually. Despite all that, I had just undergone a stressful, emotionally draining custody battle and now the best friend was facing the potential for the same situation, even asking for the name of my attorney.
This simple question opened the door for a conversation that would become the steppingstone for a much greater respect between him and me. One topic led to another until I made mention of something relating to my health and he finally inquired something that felt as thought it had been gnawing long and hard at his mind.
“So what is the actual deal with your health? Like, what’s actually wrong with you? Because it seems like you only get sick when you are working,” he asked, point blank.
Without skipping a beat, I responded, “I have a genetic condition called CVID (Common Variable Immune Deficiency). I was doing IVIG replacement for it, but after the second dose, due to both a nurse’s error and some unknown genetic quirks, I ended up in the ICU with aseptic meningitis.”
“Yeah, I remember seeing that. But, like, how come you’re sick when you work?”
“CVID means my immune system doesn’t have the antibodies it needs to fight viruses and bacteria. The more people I am around, the more exposure I have, heightening my risk. When I was switched to at-home infusions, my system began a downward spiral of organ damage similar to rejecting an organ because we were unaware at the time of me being a chimera.”
At that point, I made eye-contact with my husband and shared a smile. We like to joke about this incidental (still questioned) theory that was discovered after doing genome studies in 2019. My bone marrow biopsies in the past always confirmed a 46 [X, X], female. It wasn’t really arguable, until my saliva came back 46 [X, Y], male.
“You’re a what?!”
“The working theory is that I am a chimera – vanishing twin- “
My husband, in all his tactful magnificence, piped up with, “She ate her twin brother!”
Rolling my eyes, I kept going, “Thanks for that. The doctors think I was a twin and when my brother died early in the pregnancy, I absorbed him. So, I have two sets of DNA. The second set matches with my health issues.”
“Weird. Okay, so why can’t you work?”
“I’ve tried, but the more I am exposed, coupled with stress, breaks down my system even further, making me sick. I even tried working from home and the stress ruptured a cyst on my ovary. I had to have it removed, then I contracted Cytomegalovirus from latent cells in one of my infusions, ended up with chronic mononucleosis and viral hepatitis, had to get my tonsils removed, had post-op pneumonia, and liver damage lasting months. Stress and no immune system causes me to get sick very easily and it isn’t just a small cold, it is serious and can be deadly.”
“Whoa, I had no idea. I just thought that you didn’t want to work and so you were using my best friend for money. But I bit my tongue because as long as he was happy, then I was happy for him.”
The conversation ebbed and flowed for about ten more minutes, until it was time for my husband’s lunch break. Getting in the car, my mind and heart were heavy. I had struggled with many things in my life, one in particular was the necessity of silence to avoid abuse during my first marriage. Finding my voice after, I genuinely believed my sharing of trials in my life was helping other people find inner strength.
At that moment I had to face what it was like to see and know that it was not always the case for everyone. Though there was sadness momentarily, I genuinely felt as though my husband’s best friend and I had well and truly found a new level of mutual respect and the conflict from the past could be laid to rest finally. Perception is an interesting concept; I came to realize. Wholly subjective, we paint our own perceptions based upon our own motives, emotions, and limited understanding.
I could have walked away from that conversation beating myself up for believing in the messages I was sharing coming across in the exact way intended falling so drastically short in reality. I could (and in the past would have) thrown in the towel on trying to help others with my life lessons. What good would that have done for me? What good for others?
You are going to have moments along the road of life when what you are trying for, fighting for, dreaming of, dealing with, is skewed in the minds of others. Moments of rejection and, in my opinion, worse, projection. Don’t let those fleeting moments dictate anything. Stand firm in what you believe but be open to hearing all sides of perspectives. Find a new approach to sharing your message to help them understand if it is an important person to you. If not, shrug if off and walk away because here’s the thing: Everyone is uniquely different and sees the world through their own lens. If your views, lessons, etc. aren’t for them, who cares? You have a voice. Don’t be afraid to use it. Don’t give up when you learn someone thinks poorly of you. They don’t know you, so hold your head high and let your radiant light keep shining.