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Show me how big your brave is

I have never thought of my life as being particularly terrible.  It’s hard and it’s complicated, but I don’t think it’s bad.  Like I have to ship 20 lbs of medical supplies and IV solutions on ice to the other coast but I get to go to Seattle and have a great time.  Complicated.  Not bad. 

I ran into someone at work today that I only see once a month or so.  I caught him up on my recent symptoms and general medical happenings.  “You seem to be dealing with it very well,” he told me.  “I suppose,” I replied.  I never really know what to say when people say that to me.
I thought about our conversation on the train ride home.  I thought about how my life must look to other people.   It must look overwhelming and scary.  It might look a little sad. 
People tell me sometimes that they don’t know how I do it.  I mean, yea.  Me either, some days.  But really, it’s not like that.  I didn’t choose this life.  I just have it.  If you woke up with a chronic illness, you would do all these same things, too.  There is no choice involved.  You do what you have to in order to survive.  A lot of the time, that means ignoring all the ways in which my life is unlike anyone else’s.     
There are days when I feel the weight of my illness in every muscle fiber, every thought, every intention.  And sometimes on those days, all I can do is take medication and sleep, the pain and nausea and exhaustion too much to be productive.
But some days I think about these people who think that I’m brave and think that maybe I really am.  I get up and put on a pretty dress and twist my red hair into a knot and sing along to Rancid while I put my makeup on.  I go to work and eat even though I know it will make me puke and walk outside even though the sunlight makes me feel like I’m wilting.  I see my friends and go out and enjoy my life.  When I can finally take pain medication and crawl into my bed under my heated blanket, I feel like I accomplished something, for all of us. 
On these days, my bravery shows in my happiness, I suppose.  It shows in the fact that even mast cell disease cannot stop me from enjoying my life.  And I never really thought about it, but that is a choice.