Life, from Inside a Fish Tank

My friend Roxanne has a fish thumb, she can collect any fish, nurture it and reap the benefits of thriving species, which fill her bright, colorful tanks. I admire the dedication she takes in caring for her charge and for ensuring their tanks are filled with lifelike water shrubs in every imaginable color. She has aged driftwood, green hued rocks flecked with mica – reminiscent of the Emerald Isle and other quizzical shapes for her fish to hideout, play or raise their young.

There is symmetry involved when comparing life with chronic illness to Roxanne’s lively fish tanks. Chronic illness has the ability to make us feel we are being viewed as captive specimen, from which well wishers, physicians and curious observers place us, simply because they don’t know what to do with us.

We override contentment of having a small, familiar circle with the inevitable what-if, could’ve been, and was, which equates a narrowing perception of our abilities and ourselves. If we are not careful, our tanks decrease in size over time, almost imperceptibly and we are suddenly swimming alone.

Those in the confines of disease are as varied, unique and beautiful as the fish in Roxanne’s tanks. Some of us are striped horizontally or vertically; others of us take on muted solid colors. Depending on how we deal, we can live as vivid seekers swiftly swimming the currents we are dealt, displaying a new found sense of importance and cloaking ourselves in rainbows of orange, yellow, pink, red, turquoise or violet.

When we learn to own our illness, we begin to fan our fins just a tiny bit to test the waters of a changed life. For some, those fins morph into powerful propellers, much like the propellers on my Uncle Harold’s twin engine Bonanza, which I’ve auto piloted before under his skilled guidance! I clenched (thanks, Stephen) a few times though when turbulence caused our time machine to suddenly veer sideways or up. Atmosphere has no respect.

For others, there is safety within the confines of our own little tank. We realize most people will never understand our struggles nor grasp exactly why we cannot accomplish the same things as they, even though we look fine on the outside.

Fanning your fins just a little is better than nothing at all. I’m not writing to suggest you react one way or the other – that is up to you. What I am suggesting is that you grant yourself permission to dream, if only a tiny amount; fantasy may be a form of coping, a brief respite in the continual onslaught of feeling bad.

May we appreciate that God has granted us passage into a new calendar year. I hope you realize how special you are to have reached the year 2018; some do not make it this far.

There is life both inside and outside of Roxanne’s fish tanks, it may not be as ethereal on the outside as we would like but it is there for the taking. Welcome to 2018 and welcome to your own unchartered waters.

2 comments

So we’ll written my friend! Can’t wait to see how your wings spread during this year of 2018…..and so look forward to being part of those adventures. As one who doesn’t have a cronic disease, having been exposed to your blog and sharing with you (and much laughter) I know this disease doesn’t define you (yes it is a factor of your every day life), but your personality and how God made you is still front and center! I hope all who do have a chronic disease that follows your blog can hear the encouragement in this post and try spreading their wings of their persinality.

Thank you for the lovely reply! Indeed, if one person can find hope through all of this, it will be worthwhile. God has brought me far!

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