Lupus stinks. I doubt I will ever change my mind about that. However, not everything about it stinks. I am learning to embrace things it has afforded me that I’d hoped for when I was a younger woman.
I grew up poor, and when I think of the things I have done and seen, I am at times in awe of my own life. As a 16-year-old kid growing up in a gang-riddled Chicago neighborhood, wearing the same shoes until I had to put cardboard in the bottoms, I never thought I would live the life I have lived.
Growing up, the people I saw on TV had fantasy lives. They traveled the world and had a support staff, even when it looked like they didn’t work. That was the life I wanted, but I had no idea how to make it happen without real-life mentors or examples.
When I joined the military, I was stationed in Louisiana. Sometimes I drove to the rich areas. There were long, tree-lined driveways with giant, monogrammed security gates and large, majestic homes. At times I wondered how those people did it, and what their lives were like in those giant homes.
As I grew older, I started watching financial news and learning more. I became a business owner and started working on retiring early and traveling the world. Lupus had other ideas. It came along and wiped out my stocks, my savings, and my hope for the future. My hopes of truly living the high life were seemingly gone forever.
When I moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand, I was solely focused on my health and was really frugal with my remaining dollars. I never even inquired about things I had wanted in the U.S., assuming they would be just as costly in Thailand. My only splurges, if you will, were having someone clean my house and sending my laundry out.
When I got to Mexico, I lived mostly the same, initially. However, the expat mentality is different in Mexico than in Thailand. In Chiang Mai, people often bragged about how little they paid for things. It seemed like a race to the bottom. As an overachiever, this conflicted with my beliefs in many ways, but I certainly could not complain, because I, too, was being very frugal — just for different reasons. Other people wanted to demonstrate that you could live a nice life with very little money, while I was trying to make sure I always had money in my savings to pay for inevitable hospital stays.
In Mexico, most expats are trying to live a better life rather than minimize costs, so talking about support services is part of daily life. They share resources and the cost of things. Now, I have a driver/assistant, a gardener, a pool person, a cleaning lady, and a personal chef, and I still send my laundry out.
Initially, I was resentful of this help — not because I wanted it, but because I needed it. I don’t have the energy or the strength to do much of what the staff provides. On really bad days, if I don’t have energy, I may not eat. If you read my column, you know I welcomed 2020 with a “severely malnourished” diagnosis.
However, I realized this was the life I was chasing when I was healthy. I no longer have to look at beautifully manicured lawns and wonder about life behind the gate. I live that life now.
Though I may need my staff, the fact that I can fulfill that need shows me that life is still good. A change in perspective was warranted, and I’m glad to have these folks in my life. I provide a job, and they provide support. It’s a win-win all around, in spite of lupus.
Note: Lupus News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lupus News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lupus.
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