Ryan and I have spent the last few days up in the High Country, exploring Vail (Or as our affectionately-named Google Maps Directioneer "Pamela" says, "Vull"). Friday (June 5th) was our fifth anniversary, a date that feels like a wonderful milestone, the first "chunk" anniversary. Five years into being Mr. & Mrs. Ramsey I feel full, wiser, and seasoned. Those of you who've been married for twenty or thirty years may sneer at the thought of a 26 year old feeling seasoned. But since I'm seasoned and all, I'm gonna choose to not care.
As you know from reading about my health here, the past five years have been far from easy. Disease has been, as I've often described, a constant guest in our home. She's the guest we didn't invite and keep trying to kick out. At this point, I think we've made a semi-permanent place for her, and vacillate between tolerating and hating her. And if I'm honest, she's taught us a lot. So I don't completely hate her.
Moving past talking about my disease as some wonky invisible non-friend as though I'm a total nutcase... I've been thinking a lot this weekend about "feeling like me," about identity. When you are sick, it feels like your identity changes. Midway into this weekend I told Ryan that I felt like I was able to be "the me he fell in love with" this weekend, the me who made a space in his world several years ago through going on tons of trail runs, the active, ever-adventurous Katie Jo. It has felt incredible to feel like me. All weekend (largely thanks to a low dose of prednisone), I've been able to be active, energetic, flitting from one outdoor activity to the next. This is the KJ I love being--the lover of the outdoors, the risk-taker, the one who soaks the very last drop out of every minute of life.
But I don't always get to be that Katie Jo. Don't get me wrong, I'm not depressed and I'm not a victim of disease-inflicted identity theft. I'm alive, well, and very much me. Explore with me for a moment, though...
Sickness often zaps my energy and physical capacity and makes me have to choose quite carefully how to spend my limited energy before fatigue takes over. (Totally hate that this is my reality. Argh.) Sickness makes my "all-in," whole-soul passionate self a bit more muted and quieted. Negotiating between the identity of my reality and my preferred version of myself is an ongoing and incredibly important task for living well with a chronic disease. I'm thoroughly (sometimes to a fault) idealistic, which means that I am more than fairly easily disappointed when life doesn't match up with my expectations or wishes (even just the elusive, subconscious ones). Acknowledging this narrative and paying close attention to its effects on my soul, mood, and behavior is essential. Acceptance of the fact that there really is a discrepancy between the self I have to be because of being sick and the self I am in my heart of hearts is foundational to finding joy in being the "me" of today. The truth is that I am always me, even when me doesn't feel as close to my internal picture of what I would like to believe I am. I'm getting a bit philosophical on you here, but I'm hoping this tension resonates with some of you who have suffered like I do.
Navigating our ever-unfolding identities is some of the hardest and most fulfilling work in life. Being at peace with myself and in myself is possible because I know where my story is headed and I trust its Author. The amazing truth of my life--even and especially in my physical suffering--is that my life is part of the beautiful tapestry God is weaving in this world, making his love, glory, and life known in every last thing that has been broken by sin, death, and decay. My story is part of the gospel story; my life is headed towards full healing. My body will someday be set from from its "bondage to decay" (Romans 8), and the way I suffer now can bear witness to the world of the meaning and hope that can be known and enjoyed in the mess of the here-and-now because of the love of Jesus.
So, today, I feel full. I feel like me. And I praise God for making me as he did--the bold, passionate, woman who loves to share beauty and can't help but tell the story of something greater than me. I am me. I am always me. And someday, I will get to be the me I'm always longing for in the tension between sickness and myself--the fully restored and at peace Katie Jo worshiping in the presence of the God Who Lives. That's who I am and who I always will be.