Wouldn’t it be great if it were just this easy? If those whose immune systems didn’t know how to behave could just get some good old-fashioned TLC and call it a day? No steroids, no endless explanations to the bosses that never seem to get it, no monthly infusions? I have to say, I saw this quote and I was pretty mindblown at the thought.
But then I started really thinking. And maybe finding the alternative isn’t easier at all.
A few years ago I got divorced, and in talking to one of my friends, it occurred to me that one of the worst parts of leaving a 7-year relationship was getting used to sleeping in a queen-sized bed alone. There’s something physically uncomfortable about regular human touch being ripped from your life, and it’s something I started chasing immediately (in all the wrong places). While it probably took me 6 months or a year for that to feel less strange, it’s still an anomaly to me.
I learned about this approach to becoming my “whole self” by this theory I read in a book a while back, and it’s a method I’ve tried to apply to my life ever since. The general idea is to think of owning a pizza shop. It happens to be the pizza shop of all pizza shops, with the best pizza, with an unlimited supply, and it’s free. Now, if someome came to your house and knocked on your door, saying, “hey, I have the BEST pizza on the planet – just do whatever I want and I’ll give you some…” how would you respond? Would you run laps around the living room? Give him your new pair of shoes? Pay his rent? Even more, would you sacrifice parts of who you are, emotionally, for the pizza this person was offering? Of course you wouldn’t, because as I mentioned, you already have an endless quantity of the best motherfuckin’ pizza on the motherfuckin’ planet. You’d say, “No, I’m really good, thanks. I got my OWN pizza. Keep it moving.” :::snap:::
But what if you didn’t have that pizza shop? What if you hadn’t eaten in a week and you answered the door really fucking hungry? Now the circumstance has changed. You no longer have the upper hand, and you’d be inclined to do whatever was asked of you, because you weren’t able to provide yourself with what was being offered.
So if you were to apply that analogy to relationships, you can either be answering the door as a boss-ass-bitch, providing yourself with everything you need, so no one else could be used to fill your voids (read: make you happy), or you can have holes in your happiness, leaving yourself room to let other people break you down in order to survive. With this idea in mind, I spent the next few years trying to figure out where I wasn’t “complete.” I discovered that I’m independent, resilient, and educated. I have a fulfilling career and can provide for myself financially better than many people my age can. My healthy lifestyle is on point, I can cook, I speak a few languages, and I know my way around the city I live in. But there was always one piece of my life that I was never able to figure out.
I know how to make myself happy. In fact, every once in a while I’ll throw caution to the wind (ignore my bank account balance) and have a “Becky day.” This usually involves getting my nails and/or hair done, maybe adding a few cute pieces to my wardrobe, stopping at Starbucks for something sweet, and dancing around my apartment while I wait for Seamless to deliver me something I shouldn’t be eating. But the mystery for me remains: how do we re-create human touch? How do I show myself affection? Sex I can figure (finger) out, but I can’t hold myself in bed or rub my own back. I can’t kiss my neck or play with my hair. I’m not even trying to be a smart-ass; this is something that has tortured me for the longest time because I know for a fact that it’s this one missing fucking piece that keeps me at a disadvantage. And while I do believe that I’ve gotten significantly better at determining when someone is worth keeping around (Lord, have I…), I am scarred so badly from my past and so accustomed to going it alone that the thought of becoming the kind of close to someone again in a way that I really want absolutely terrifies me, because with pleasure comes the risk of loss, and pain, and pain.
And so after reading the quote above, I wonder if all of us “chronic illies” are even more drawn to intimacy because of the emotional crosses we bear every second of every day. I’m not sure about everyone else, but I can tell you that for me, it’s not even just about being touched. It’s also about having someone around that matters to give it back to. I’ve always said that being sick makes me a compassionate person, and it’s here especially that this is true. I love loving. I know that when I touch someone, I have the ability of telling them how important they are without saying it with words. I don’t just touch with my hands, I touch with my mind. I think about how I want to be touched, and how the person I’m touching deserves to be touched. And all of the stress of my day seems to just bleed out when I have someone to connect to like that.
… which is so much better than connecting to an IV line.