Sunday, August 18, 2013

Puedo Acostumbrarme a Todo

In college, I read a play entitled Historia del hombre que se convirtió en perro, or The Man Who Turned Into a Dog. The common refrain of this short play was that "los seres humanos se pueden acostumbrarse a todo" (human beings can get used to anything). This (satirical) play discusses an impoverished South American man who loses his job. Destitute and desperate, he searches and begs for a job, and graciously accepts the only position that comes available... he is hired as a watchdog. Over time, he gets used to barking, eating and drinking out of a bowl, living in a doghouse... and in the end, neither you nor he (nor his wife) can tell if he's a man or a dog.

When your day-to-day life radically changes, it's very weird how "normal" the once abnormal becomes to you. Once you live a certain way for awhile, it seems so completely commonplace to you that it becomes almost unremarkable, and you forget how unusual and different your life really is.

Such is my life with my GI issues.

After exhausting the medical treatments available for my intractable Inflammatory Bowel Disease, I endured 5 major surgeries to rid my abdomen and pelvis of over 7.5 feet of inflamed bowel, large abscesses, and fistulae. Consequently, I now have a permanent ileostomy (named Squirt) and a shortened GI tract that's twisted with adhesions and scar tissue. I live with chronic pain, nausea, dehydration, motility problems, and have difficulty absorbing medications (and sometimes, nutrients). I can only eat liquids, as solids cause bowel obstructions, which cause painful cramping and become a medical emergency with much more severe symptoms if they last more than a few hours.

It's now totally normal to me that a small piece of my intestine has been rerouted to my abdomen, and that I wear a bag over this intestine to catch my waste, and that I go to the bathroom many times a day to empty my poop out of the little bag that sits on my stomach.

And it's totally normal to me that I haven't chewed my food or used a fork since March, that a blender is my staple kitchen utensil, that I only drink my nutrition. It's normal that, since I can't absorb pills, I spend over an hour each week drawing up dozens of doses of liquid medicines in oral syringes. It's totally normal to me that my infant niece and I will soon share approximately the same diet and that my Google history brings up terms like "blended diet" and "homemade baby food" and "cute pictures of baby kittens" (okay, well, the last one is unrelated to my GI issues...).

But anyways, even though you deal with it day in and day out, sometimes you have experiences that remind you that your life is quite strange. Like when you move in with new people and they start to notice that you run the blender three times a day and your grocery store spoils contain an awful lot of sports drink and soup and popsicles and not much else. Or when a person turns up their nose and asks as politely as possible, "Um...what IS that?!" when you pull out a container of green pea pureé out of your lunchbox.

And then, you realize. While you can get used to pretty much anything, and while it can seem normal to you to photograph wounds around your ostomy during weekly bag changes and email said pictures to your doctor to document the healing progress (or lack thereof)... it may be commonplace and everyday... but it still just isn't NORMAL. I'm content with it, to some extent because of the amazing adaptability that God has placed in humans - one can acostumbrarse a todo (get used to anything)... but also for another reason.

God wrote a story through the life of a man named Paul that's a bit of a Christian parallel to Historia del hombre que se convirtió en perro. Paul, born into a high-class Jewish family, a prestigious member of the most esteemed religious group of his day, lost all he had when Christ chose him as an apostle. He suffered greatly for following Christ - he was beaten and imprisoned and shipwrecked and starved and cold and stressed and unfairly arrested and tried and put down by even the Christians that he gave up his former life to serve and teach. While he didn't turn into a dog, he went from being an elite member of society to a hungry, homeless outcast and criminal.

Yet as he reflected on his life, he said, "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.

I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need."(Philippians 4:11b-12). So what was his secret? It wasn't just "getting used to it."

Paul continues on to say, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."(Philippians 4:13). His secret to contentment in "bad" or "good" or "normal" or "abnormal" circumstances was Jesus Christ. Though the strength that He gives, Paul (and I) can endure anything.

So as I drink my meals or double over with blockage pain because I tried to eat a few bites of normal
food (as I'm supposed to try every several days) or take medicine to allow what I eat to stay inside me long enough to get absorbed, I can live this abnormal life, and see it as normal and be content... and not just because I've grown accustomed to it. I can consider my trials joy (James 1:2-4), and rejoice in my sufferings (I Peter 1:3-7, Romans 5:3-5) because they are bringing me closer to my Lord Jesus Christ. "For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison." (II Corinthians 4:17). My great and gracious God doesn't ask me to just stoically acostumbrarme (get used to it), but gives me contentedness for today, a hope for the future, and the strength to carry on.

Hannah ;)

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