Finding the Positive in Difficult Circumstances
I remember when my husband asked me to marry him (finally!). We were sitting on the couch in my old condo watching the Maury Povich show (please, no judgments) about the lizard man who had tattooed his body and literally had his tongue surgically split to resemble a lizard. It’s true, you can look it up. Anyway, we were sitting there and he reaches into his pocket and pulls out this little white box, pops it open, and says, “Let’s do it.” Not exactly the Jumbotron at a baseball game or a skywriter on a romantic getaway, but what did I care?
I didn’t know until sometime later the full extent of the engagement ring saga he endured. You see, back then I didn’t have a lot of money, so the only jewelry I could afford to buy for myself was sterling silver (or stainless steel for that matter). So he naturally assumed that I preferred to wear silver jewelry, because that’s all I ever wore. Reasonable…and oh so male.
Little did I know that when he went to buy my engagement ring, he made a point of telling the jeweler that the mount for the diamond had to be white gold. The thing about white gold (or platinum) is that if you are going to mount a diamond on it, you better be sure to get a very high quality one or the color defects in the stone will stand out against the silvery backdrop. Needless to say, he sprung for a really high quality diamond.
Now mind you, he already had this ring on order when a few nights before our engagement we were actually discussing rings and such. I let him know that I had always dreamed of having a gleaming yellow gold ring and band, and that I only wore silver because I couldn’t afford gold. So Mr. Johnny-on-the-Spot ran down to the store the next day and had them re-mount my beautiful (and now unnecessary) diamond on yellow gold.
I guess you could call it a “not so silver” lining! Get it? Not so silver? Anyway…
My point here is that you should never discount the value of trashy daytime television, lizard men, or the unexpected silver linings that may emerge at any time. Even when your family is diagnosed with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). This may seem like a tremendous gray cloud over your life (which, let’s face it, it is), but if you take some time to embrace and reflect, you can find a multitude of little specks of silver throughout that cloud.
For you ladies out there who are asymptomatic the way I was (not rail thin, no gastro issues, etc.), I can tell you that the biggest silver lining is the potential weight loss. When I finally decided to go completely and naturally gluten-free with no processed foods, I lost 80 pounds in a year. No agonizing trips to the gym, no starvation. All I did was start listening to my body and give it the fuel it needed while cutting out the toxic fuel that was making me sick. The weight just started falling off (and I got to buy new clothes every step of the way!). I’m at a comfortable and healthy weight now (although still not ideal…hey, I am 40 after all) and I feel great. And for those of you ladies who became rail thin, when you go gluten-free for good you may actually gain a bra size or two…just sayin’.
Another silver lining that will quickly make itself apparent is learning who your true friends are. I mean, it’s really no fun to go out for coffee and watch your girlfriends munching on strawberry Danishes while you are paranoid about the crumbs that may spill into your cup. And they just look at you as if to say, “What’s the big deal?” And you pretty much want to punch them in the face (hypothetically, of course). Your real friends will either arrive early so they can have their Danish or politely order one to go as they walk out. Trust me, you’ll go from nine girlfriends to three in about a month, but then you know those three are rock solid.
And then it really gets fun!
My husband calls this the “Dude, no pizza? This beer sucks!” moment. It’s the point at which you understand that many people (friends, family, teachers, coworkers, etc.) just can’t get it, won’t get it, and probably didn’t want to get it all along. It’s not about the food; it’s about hanging out watching the football game. It’s not about the food; it’s about getting together with family and friends to celebrate a holiday. It’s not about the food; it’s about collaborating with a colleague over lunch. It’s about the substance of life, not the sustenance of life. Say that again with me. It’s about the substance of life, not the sustenance of life.
Let’s all be honest. Sustaining a healthy life is not that hard. Any doctor will tell you. Don’t drink too much, don’t smoke, take a walk every day, reduce stress, and try to have a Greek salad instead of fried chicken.
The formula is not too complex. What truly comes into focus when you are told that you have a chronic condition that will never go away unless you reduce the stress on your immune system (from outside stress or diet) is that YOUR body has told you to break the mold. You have been given permission by your own genes to make the change that so many others are unwilling or unable to make.
And that’s when you turn that Queen of Spades into the Ace of Hearts (if you don’t understand, look that one up, too!). There are a whole bunch of hang-ups that you begin to overcome once you lose weight (or start to feel healthy) and learn who your true friends and allies really are.
You gain confidence to take a few steps forward, to learn about how your body works, to realize that you face a lower risk of diabetes or heart disease or aliens abducting you (okay, I made that up). That now you actually have to cook and that maybe you can teach your kids how to cook, too!
Maybe you will take your kids to the grocery store to buy real foods to cook, and teach them that perhaps fresh green-looking green beans look better than the sort of yellow-brown-green green beans that come in the can. You might plant a garden, even a little one. You might teach your kids about soil, worms, and cow poop (if you have boys this will be cool…girls, maybe not).
As you begin to see silver linings, you may also begin to see changes in yourself. Physically, your sinusitis might go away or perhaps your depression. You’ll feel younger and begin to live in the moment again. But it’s the effect you begin to have on other people that will really make the difference. You can become a positive influence on your family and friends (seeing is believing). In a sense, having to make such a dramatic change to your life actually gives you a chance to change your life. You begin to realize that you are not only letting go of gluten, you are letting go of a lot of things.
The biggest silver lining for me, in retrospect, was that I got a chance to start my life over. I had no choice. Don’t get me wrong, this is not an easy process. Your resolve, marriage, and family will be tested in ways you can’t imagine. You’ll feel like that gray cloud is following you everywhere. But the changes can be real and significant, and if you persevere, those dark clouds will soon turn into sunny, golden skies. SGF
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Heidi Kelly is a mother who writes about her rise from the depths of gluten-free despair to a place of downright enthusiasm on her blog Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom with wit, humor, and touching honesty. Find Heidi at www.adventuresofaglutenfreemom.com.
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