In the midst of a 30-inch snowstorm, I felt a mixture of unearned guilt and helplessness. From the kitchen window I peeked out at my husband every so often as he labored in the wintery whiteness.
Glancing around, I observed an elderly neighbor to one side and young children on the other, all tackling the mountains white stuff with a vengeance. Meanwhile, I was warm and dry, but not completely unproductive. I tackled a few chores that needed attention around the house, reminding myself that I, too, was making a contribution.
The fact is, my husband specifically asked me not to help, despite my protests to the contrary. My first reaction was that of surprise that he would reject my desire to carry a share of the workload. With 30 inches of snow on the ground, I know he wants my help. So why did he lie to me?
The answer was obvious. He knew, even before I did, that my unearned guilt was talking, not common sense. He knew that in spite of the fact that I wanted to help, I would be unable to lift my feet through the densely packed snow, or to lift a shovel high enough to get the job done. He knew I might end up injured or in pain or, at the very least, extremely frustrated. He was saving me from myself. He didn’t lie to me. He lied for me.
Life with chronic illness is fraught with mind games. Sometimes what we want to do, and what we can safely do, are at odds. That’s not to say that people with chronic illness should not aspire to do as much as they can. It is just a matter of calculating risk and reward. In the case of playing second shovel in the driveway, the reward simply was not worth the risk. My husband could and would adequately clear the driveway without my assistance.
It’s not the first time that I have bumped up against this scenario, nor is it the first time my husband has filled the role of spouse/caregiver in such wise manner. Having a spouse or other loved one who has the presence of mind to speak honestly and openly with us about our limitations, as well as our strengths, is a blessing.
Once again, I am reminded of the importance of flexibility and the willingness to alter plans and perceptions when new information or opinions are presented.
We don’t have chronic illness alone. Our loved ones are also affected and are sometimes called upon to assist. To the ones who make our lives better by their presence in our lives… and occasionally lie for us… thank you.
Writer Ann Pietrangelo embraces the concept of personal responsibility for health and wellness. As a person living with multiple sclerosis, she combines a healthy lifestyle and education with modern medicine, and seeks to provide information and support to others. She is a regular contributor to Care2.com’s Reform Health Policy blog in Causes. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo.