love · relationships

In Sickness & In Health: The Flip Side

Walking through the rural countryside today, my heart lifted. I see, feel, and hear nature’s presence, constancy, and care.

Crossing the creek, the following came: We got the wedding vows all wrong. Or, maybe I’ve been hearing other people incorrectly all this time. For almost 45 years, I’ve believed the vow to love and support another “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health” meant “I will love and care for YOU even if YOU become ill or impoverished.”

Today, my feet stopped in their tracks and my brain said, “Wait… ”

For several weeks, I’ve been pondering Darcy’s request that I write about how to build community. I’m eager to do so, and have been allowing the ideas and words to form. This seems to be part and parcel.

When we love and care, it is critical to do so even while we are feeling shitty and even when we are over the moon. Even while we are depressed. Even on the day we win the Nobel Prize. Even when our neural pathways are doing acrobatics. Even when our ship finally comes in. Even when our body has decided to take a long break from moving at all. Even when our primary relationship is finally flowing all honey-like.

The vow is not to love YOU even if YOU are sick or poor. I mean, yes, let’s do that too! But, what happens if I love and care even when I have run out of resources?

I feel like this is a common error in our culture.
We feel like crap, so we withdraw.
In our biochemical depression, we cancel the event we organized.
We need to stretch our pennies, so we skip the friend’s birthday party.

Now, anyone that knows me knows I celebrate boundaries. (YUM!) I don’t think we imagine up our autism, our multiple sclerosis, our chronic fatigue syndrome, our biochemical depression. And, I am a huge advocate of self-care. Rest! Sleep! Binge watch Netflix! Stop to eat! Unvolunteer from the Too Much! Resign from the committee!

But, there’s a balance to all of it.

Am I loving you and caring for you even when I feel like garbage and am low on resources? Am I remembering you and supporting you even when my life happens to rock? Do I leave you in my sickness, or forget you in my joy?

How can I be present for you no matter what? A phenomenal example comes from many long relationships, wherein Sally is there for Jo even if Sally is struggling today. This is the kind of commitment I’m talking about. What happens when we do this not only in our “marriage-like relationship” or parenting, but in our communities, with our neighhours, in our friendships?

Send a smiley-face text. Not because you feel happy in the moment, but because this is one easy way to say to a friend, “I don’t have a lot of words right now, and my body is stiff with depression, but somewhere inside me I remember you, and want you to know you are loved regardless of this crappy transitional biochemistry.”

Forget the spendy gift, but show up at the party. Your presence is what matters to your beloved.

Contagious? Send an email or video.

Your body, ravaged with cancer, can’t afford to catch a virus? Send an MP3 of you chatting away. Tell your friend all the things you love most about him.

Mail a parcel.

Can’t bear to hear yourself talk? Ask a neighbour how she is. Be so specific that she starts talking. Listen well.

Place a chess board on the table, and gesture for the man who speaks no English to join you.

Whatever you do, keep showing up.

Let’s love each other and care for each other in our sickness as well as in our health, in our poverty and in our abundance. My vow is to love you no matter what my body is doing today.

7 thoughts on “In Sickness & In Health: The Flip Side

  1. Wow Joon! So powerful. I am so grateful that you share these thoughts with me. I am reading “The course of love” by Alain de Botton and find it very meaty (about a marriage through time, and what love is vs romanticism). Not sure others would find it a good read–I particularly like the narrator’s commentary (more than the story characters even).


  2. I love that you said “…share these thoughts with me…” Yes, I am sharing them with YOU! And everyone else who decides to be loved by me πŸ™‚ It is so helpful for me to know you are there, and to know that when I type type type, it reaches someone out there…


  3. I’m reading too! I feel resistance (spelling?) when I read this post: But I am too tired to reach out! And than I feel lonely. I will try some of the things you have suggested.
    Like BNgarden, I’m glad to be able to still hear from you!


    1. Dear sweet Maaike, hello again! So good to have you here… I don’t know how to spell resiste resistan that word either.

      Yesterday I totally lived that experience of “too tired to reach out.” I found some cool new options for such moments, and am going to be sharing those in a blog post soon πŸ™‚ For now, let’s just send that smiley-face text to one person that we know also struggles. Ya?


  4. That is a beautiful sentiment, Joon! Recently, I’ve found that reaching out, or focusing on someone who needs me, actually helped how I felt. So we both felt better by my trying harder even if I wasn’t feeling good.


    1. Hi okits!! Yes, I find exactly that to be “story of my life.” (In fact, see today’s post!) I too find that when I feel like crap, and reach out to support another, I end up feeling much better!


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