For months, while living in the shadows of renal failure, I was petrified. Petrified of getting extremely sick, of potential dialysis, of the possibility of an early death. I read too many statistics for my own good. I could quote all the numbers: how many people are on the transplant list at my center, how many successful transplants occurred there last year, and how many people die each day while waiting for the kidney that never came.
Fear of illness and dying kept me from living. After another night tossing and turning about things I couldn’t fix at 3 am, I remembered advice from a support group mentor. When she felt sorry for herself, she took three days to deal with it and then got over it. She didn’t allow herself to drown in sorrow. That’s all great for her, I thought, but I’m getting so sick. How does that advice help me?
Why on earth was I saving things for special occasions or rainy days? I was alive; it is a special day. My kidneys were failing; it couldn’t get much rainier.
Soon after, I dragged myself in the bathroom to prepare for another day. In my makeup bag was an expensive lipstick I had bought several years ago, practically unused. I had been “saving it for a special occasion.”
It smacked me in the face how foolish this was. Why on earth was I saving things for special occasions or rainy days? I was alive; it is a special day. My kidneys were failing; it couldn’t get much rainier.
Standing in my bathroom that morning, I made a decision. I remembered the words of Auntie Mame: “The world is a banquet, and most poor suckers are STARVING to death!” I was going to change my attitude. I was going to LIVE.
The last several months I had barely existed. Suddenly that wasn’t enough for me. My decision that very day was to live out loud, every single day.
On went the fancy expensive lipstick. I dug diamond earrings out of my jewelry box. They were a gift from my beloved mother-in-law for my 40th birthday—a day I had spent at the hospital having blood work and an ultrasound, the day I had previously thought of as The Beginning of the End for me.
What was the occasion? It was an ordinary workday. I rose that morning to see another day. I knew full well that the statistics say 22 people on the list would be gone by nightfall. Although I was alive, I’d failed to embrace life. The last several months I had barely existed. Suddenly that wasn’t enough for me. My decision that very day was to live out loud, every single day.
It’s not easy. Living is a lot more work than existing, but it beats where I was. I try to savor every day. I’m more honest, more open, more forgiving. It’s true I can’t function in the world the way I’d prefer, but that doesn’t mean my life is over. I make modifications now. I’m more open to discussing my needs. As a result, my husband has his wife back, my sons have their mother back, my friends have their old buddy back.
I’m now officially on the waiting list. Sometimes the old fear does raise its ugly head, but I am firmly in the Land of the Living. That decision has made a world of difference to me. I still have bad days, when I cry in the car.
But know this: I am determined to live life to the fullest, to live while I’m alive.
Jenifer Newmark is a writer by night and registered veterinary technician by day. Her most recent work appeared on Kveller.com and the Forward.com. Jenifer lives in St. Louis with her husband and twin boys. You can follow the adventures of Jenifer’s search for a living donor and increasing kidney awareness on Facebook at Jenifer Newmark needs a Kidney, and @jenskidney on Instagram.
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