When the doctor told me that something was wrong, I don’t think I believed him. I smiled and asked questions, nodding at appropriate moments. I’m sure the doctor thought I must have fallen off my rocker. It wasn’t until I got home that I let myself contemplate his words. “Something is wrong. We need to do more tests.” The possibilities he had laid out were scary. They were so scary, in fact, I don’t think I associated them with real words or actual reality in any way. Cancer? MS? Those words were such outliers in my vocabulary of reality, they didn’t seem to possibly apply to me in any real or appreciable way. They were, of course, things that happened to a beautiful (and skinny) heroine in softly lit, heavily airbrushed movies.
That is why I lost it at home that night.
I lost it in a way that only slightly strange people like me can. I cried and thrashed about on the bed. I raged at the curtains and walls. I felt the injustice of it. I wanted to yell “It’s not fair!” like my 7-year-old daughter does when household justice isn’t meted out in perfect parcels. Frankly, I just didn’t feel like ‘the type’ to have a life-threatening disease, whatever it is that means. Somehow I hoped that thrashing about in my tantrum might somehow change the new vocabulary words that were entering my consciousness.
After the raging came the sadness. I plunged into that terribly selfish place where I felt utterly alone in the world. I was surrounded by dozens of people that loved me and were serving me in so many ways, yet no one, I felt, could really understand what was happening to me. I had suddenly been handed the weight of the world and asked to run a marathon with it.
I went through the next round of tests with this feeling, the heavy certainty that I was bearing an unmanageable load. I carried all 100 MRI films of my brain into my next doctor’s visit. Walking from the car with these films, I felt their weight as I felt the pain and anxiety of the last six weeks of tests. They seemed to get heavier as I walked through the parking lot. They held all these answers that I knew would add weight to my already sagging shoulders. I almost couldn’t carry them, their answers unwanted, their offered burden unbearable.
I cried quietly to the Lord, “In my head, I know I’m not alone, yet I feel so singularly alone. But I know I am not the only person who suffers. Please help me remember. Help me remember.”
I closed my prayer as I was stepping into the waiting room. Inside, I saw 10 or 15 other people sitting in chairs.
Waiting their turn.
Clutching their films.
I held on to my own films and cried as I walked. I walked into this room that had so immediately answered my prayer, this room that held people holding their heavy burdens in black opaqueness on their lap. I sat among these friends, holding my own burden as they held theirs. We sat together quietly, communicating what could not be said.
I am not alone.
We’re all carrying burdens. We’re all hoping for good results. We’re all thrashing about on the ground sometimes crying that it’s not fair. But the truth is that when I’m the one thrashing about, any person that helps pick me up off the floor will be carrying a burden of their own.
My life is no different, no more special or traumatic, than yours or any other person. I suffer and hurt and mourn lost expectations, yet the Lord still expects me to occasionally be the person to scrape someone else off the floor. I don’t get the luxury of a perpetual tantrum. We all hurt, and yet we all are commanded to comfort those in need of comfort. We all struggle, yet we all are commanded to give anyway. I want to remember that this week. I want to give as the Savior showed us. I want to give in spite of the struggle. I want to give precisely because I am not alone.
What can you give this week to someone who might feel alone? How do you fight your own pity parties? Is there someone in your life that serves you in spite of their own struggles? I know there are in my life. This week, I’m going to serve them for a change.