On Being Better

One morning last week I had coffee with a dear friend. After, I drove home, climbed into bed, and pulled a pillow over my head for three hours. She was probably in the same place: taking longer to recover than the time we spent together.

But it was worth it. Not for the coffee, which was excellent, or even the quiet morning of conversation, which was delightful, or even the lunch of Korean beef stew she had prepared, which was delicious.

She understands—she’s a mom with chronic headaches too.

We talked about the usual things—our kids, their troubles at school, the challenges of their busy lives. But also—how hard it is to be sick when someone else is relying on you. The phases of disability. And what it means to be better.

Why is it that when you’re sick or in pain, every day, better is such a loaded word?

Better is a frame of mind. It means admitting something’s wrong. Why is it so hard to admit that without feeling shame?

Better is okay to put aside. It’s okay to pretend: “I’m just fine the way I am.” Even if: I can’t do as much as I used to. I can’t do as much as everyone else. I’m out on disability. Or any of the other things that get me down. Sometimes, a little bit of denial is perfectly fine.

Better comes in small doses. Yesterday I didn’t get out of bed. Today I walked to the mailbox. I declare: I’m better.

Better is a moving target. One day’s better is another day’s sick.

Better is a little bit of sunshine. Wow, that feels good. One sunny day can really turn things around.

Better is one day where I only have to take care of ME.

Better is beyond your control. If you’re sick, you’re already doing everything you can just to get through each day. Being expected to heal yourself—when all the doctors you’ve seen couldn’t—is obviously impossible.

Better is different for everyone. Just because my friend and I both have headaches doesn’t mean we’re both fighting the same battles. She gets better as the day goes on. My pain gets worse. No one knows what you’re going through except you, even if your daily battles have nothing to do with illness or pain. Everyone’s carrying something up a hill, every day. No one can forgive you for not being better…except you.

So today, do whatever it takes to lighten your load, even a little.

Put down that pack.

Take yourself, just as you are.

You are just the way you are meant to be.

You don’t need to BE better.

You can do this the way you are.

And someday,


Things will GET better.

But YOU don’t have to make them that way.


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