We’ve been figuring out how to combine our wedding anniversary celebrations and chronic illness experiences over the years. David got sick for more than a year himself recently and has gotten to know what the underbelly of chronic illness feels like. As hard as it’s been, it’s also offered unexpected insights to add to my own.
These insights support the social nervous system or vagus – which is the branch of the nervous system that helps to inhibit fight, flight and freeze, and that enables us to connect with others and to feel that sense of belonging.
What’s been particularly enlightening for me has been to realize just how many things I thought were personality quirks of mine (my intense introvertedness, not wanting to get out that much even to socialize with good friends, feeling daunted by the idea of a “simple overnight camping trip” and so much more) – are actually part of having less margin due to living with a chronic illness for 20 years.
Who’d a thunk?!
It’s our wedding anniversary today: 7 years married and 11 years together already. What a gift and beautiful journey it’s been, even with the expected ups-and-downs – which have helped us both grow enormously in directions we only hoped for. And growth continues as we continue to learn how to work with all the comes up when you share your life so intimately with another. Thank you, David, for being such a loving, beloved, supportive, kind, connecting truth-sayer and best friend on this journey with me.
Tonight we’ll enjoy an easy BBQ on the porch so we can both eat the same thing given my ongoing food limitations due to sensitivities (I’ve been zero carb for 2 years now. It’s made a big difference in my gut health and energy levels, which has been the great motivator to keep going).
I wrote this post 3 years ago about how we celebrate every year – and it’s all just as relevant today as it was in 2015. We’ll be heading to the mountains for our overnight trip over the weekend and we can’t wait.
Anniversary Celebrations and Chronic Illness
A week ago David and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary in Rocky Mountain National Park, where we’ve gone each year since getting married there. The picture above was on the night before our wedding, hanging out in the cool early summer weather, watching the sun set. Hanging out on a deck in sleeping bags is one of our favorite things to do each year.
We’ve been learning how to simplify the trip a little more every year so that we can really make our wedding anniversary celebrations and chronic illness that is a part of our life work for us. It’s something that David enjoys as much as I do.
Kawuneeche Valley is on the other side of the continental divide from where we live in the Boulder, Colorado area, a little less than 3 hours away. It means “valley of the coyotes” in Arapaho.
David drives, which is one of the things that makes such a great escape possible. It’s a vast improvement from 5 years ago when I couldn’t sit up long enough to go anywhere, even as a passenger. Hurray for the little gifts.
The views of the Continental Divide when we drive over Trail Ridge Road are magnificent.
Going through the mountains takes us to a whole other world. That alone helps it feel like a real vacation in so many ways.
Last year it was raining when we arrived but it was heavenly to be out in nature and to revisit the spot where we said our vows to one another. We saw a coyote earlier on the day of our wedding and walked out with three elk as our witnesses.
One of our favorite experiences is seeing moose with their new calves. We’ve been lucky enough to see at least one every year. Some years they’re been right by the roadside.
As part of integrating our anniversary celebrations and chronic illness needs of mine, we have rented places with kitchens and beautiful views. In our first couple years we rented cabins and spent an entire week near the park but after a few major disappointments with places that failed to meet their online photo descriptions, we started staying at a local hotel. Our latest recipe has been to go for just one night. Simple has turned out to be amazingly satisfying.
We’ve also made some changes to our food plan after making some great meals together in the first couple years when we went for a few days or a week.
As my food limitations have increased, we’ve worked out how to combine our anniversary celebrations and chronic illness of mine by bringing all our meals for our 24 hour vacation. It’s easy, no stress, and it means we can hike a little ways out into the valley and enjoy the views and the solitude. At any time of day.
This year we brought our meals with us and had supper in one of the meadows at dusk. No more trying to hurry through a dinner I couldn’t really eat during the best hour of the day when all the wildlife is beginning to emerge.
The elk are curious and calm, and they are everywhere.
This year we also saw a bear, sandhill cranes, and two moose with their young calves on our evening walk. This was our third sighting of a pair. They were out in the middle of the day near where we had lunch and were the best send off as we headed back home.
Getting away, even for 24 hours – gives me a sense of gratitude.
For the sights and smells of spring.
For the surprises we find in the forest … like these fairy slippers.
And for the annual sitings of (more) baby moose.
I feel gratitude for the views. The abundance and the beauty. The gentle breeze on my cheek.
The puffy clouds and distant mountain ranges.
I appreciate the fact that I can walk a little farther each year.
I feel thankful for my health, just as it is. For being able to sit now instead of needing to lie down when I rest during our walks.
And, most tender and life-changing of all, I feel gratitude for having David in my life.
In the little everyday kind of ways – someone to make supper-plans-in-the-meadow-at-dusk with. Someone to learn how to negotiate and explore conflict with. A fellow traveler to keep practicing daily life with. Sometimes this means sitting and recuperating at my snail’s pace with a view of the mountains while he takes a more rugged hike. Other days it’s about making our way together as he finds how to have his life force and vitality while I learn to go at my fairy-slippers-doing-their-jig-in-a-glacier-like pace.
I treasure the experience of being in relationship – slowly and gradually, I am learning what it feels like to be “coming home.”
This relationship journey is a precious experience. Sharing some of the joy with you that comes with this part of my life is a sweet and tender bonus.
Here’s to the things in your life that bring you an ounce and more of happiness and contentment. A moment of peacefulness. A breath more of space to be able to be with things as they are. Wishing you iotas of respite in the midst of your chronic illness life.
And just one little tidbit more. We discovered that there’s a webcam at one end of Kawuneeche Valley, which is managed by the national park service. We got married about 10 miles up the valley from where this picture gets taken (it refreshes every 5 minutes). We get to look at our meadow any day of the year, year round. Sometimes there are even elk hanging out in from of the camera. How’s that for a resource?
Wishing you well as you find your own unique and special ways of integrating anniversary celebrations and chronic illness needs to support fun, connection and getting little breaks.