Doing What You Can Even When It Seems Too Small

There’s all kinds of things wrong with the world, and everyone has some issue that they get fired up about. Recently, the Women’s March made waves around the world.

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And lots of women were out there marching for lots of different issues. Pro-choice, Pro-life, women demanding equal pay, women demanding a safer world, women standing with Standing Rock, women who won’t tolerate being talked about they way certain Presidents talk… almost any issue you can think of.

BEN GARVER — THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE  A sign carried in the Washington DC Women's March was delivered by Paul Johansen to the Shire  City Sanctuary for Febuary exhibit of art from the women's marches.

This was a march for like…everything. It seemed like every issue that people get fired up about was represented, even both sides of arguments showed up. Pro-lifers were marching right along with pro-choicers. Yet there were still some who just couldn’t find an issue to cheer for, so they protested protesting!

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But all of these people all over the world with all these views have something in common. They all went through a series of universally human steps:

  1. They felt a fire in their belly about something.
  2. They made up their mind to take action towards real change.
  3. They took whatever action they could think of.

Take me, for instance. I was diagnosed with endometriosis as a high school senior, but it wasn’t until my senior year of college that I started feeling the fire in my belly for health activism. At the time, I didn’t know a word for it, but it was health activism. I saw the discrimination of myself and others who don’t “look” sick, and were written off as liars, party girls, drug addicts, or attention-seekers.

Once the fire in my belly got hot enough, I reached step two: I NEED TO DO SOMETHING.

I cannot accept the way things are. I know that people can learn. I want to teach them. I want them to learn the science of these illnesses and health in general! Health education is so, so lacking in America. I can tell you exactly how a plant uses water and sunlight to create energy and grow and what makes a plant healthy or unhealthy, but I graduated without even knowing what all my lady parts are even for and how diet can drastically affect how your body functions. As Trump would say, “SAD!”

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But here’s the kicker. Everyone everywhere has gone through steps one and two, but so many people give up before step three. Why? It’s not because the fire has gone out. It’s because any action we can think to take often seems too small. I’m just one person. I’m not a politician, I can’t control laws. I’m not an educator, I can’t change what people learn in school. I’m not a doctor, I can’t cure people. I’m just one sick person. There’s nothing I can do.

Either that, or we reject the ideas we do have. I could start a fundraiser, but it would annoy my friends and family. I could protest, but what if I’m alone? I could donate money, but where does it go and what does it do? I could write things on the internet, but literally everyone does that and it would be a drop in the ocean.

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I decided to go for it. What could I think to do? Well, I was a creative writing major. I could write something – what? A blog. Because it’s free and (in theory) the whole world could read it. Could. Probably wouldn’t, but it was possible. And what about my school? The discrimination that put a fire in my belly all happened at my university. I needed those students, specifically, to read what I had to say.

How? I decided to make posters. Just black and white, 8 1/2 by 11, self-printed posters.

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Aww look at my old url. Anyway, I posted these all over campus, occasionally getting scolded, and feeling quite sure no one would ever read them or my blog but whatever. Like I said, I had to do something.

I got an email from an anonymous person thanking me for bringing this issue forward, but it was one out of the dozen or so emails I got telling me to please stop so it seemed like not a lot. But then a really crazy thing happened – a girl stopped me on campus and said “I recognize you… you’re on those posters!”

We ended up having a seat on a bench and talking for upwards of thirty minutes. She had a bone marrow disease (I wish I could remember exactly what) and had struggled so much with faculty and other students not believing how sick she was. She was vibrant and full of life and of course, didn’t look sick. She told me that seeing the posters made her feel less alone. And she thanked me.

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So this one little thing that I was sure would make no difference… made a difference. This dumb thing that was the only thing I could think to do actually did something. What I thought would be too small to notice was noticed.

I did what I could and it made a small difference.

I did what I could and it was worth doing.

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Nowadays, I’m still pretty sure everything I do for this fire in my belly is too small. Womens’ healthcare costs remain high (LORDT that is always on my mind) and we have some lawmakers now making things harder. People still post hateful notes on cars parked in the handicapped spot if they’re driven by a healthy-looking individual. This blog has won some awards, but I get about 50 views a day, post super irregularly, and still get a lot of hits from people looking for info on David Bowie.

Most days, this feels too small to be worth doing.

But occasionally I get someone thanking me and telling me how much it’s meant. And I have to think that for every person who says something, there must be more people who don’t speak up, but who glean something from this. And hey, I even had the head of the UNT disability office call me to chat and make sure they were doing all they could for their students.

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So just know that even if it seems too small, do it. Do it for the fire in your belly, do it for yourself, and do it for the world. Think of how much better a place the world would be if everyone did what they could!

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The Spoonie Experiment Reviews: Pregnant Paws

That’s right, it’s time for more King of the Hill!

Today I want to talk about an episode called “Pregnant Paws” that I watched while I was struggling with PCOS and infertility, so it hit close to home. It’s an adorable episode that you can watch right here:

And here are my thoughts on what this episode has to say about invisible illness and in particular, PCOS and infertility.

The episode opens with Peggy walking the family dog, Ladybird, in Hank’s old underwear because she’s in heat and they’re out of doggie diapers. Much to Hank’s mortification, of course. But Peggy has a ready defense- she wouldn’t need to wear anything if Hank would get her spayed! Hank says he’s going to breed her…someday. After all, she’s a pure bread bloodhound! Peggy points out that Ladybird is 13 years old, probably past her puppy prime.

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Then a lot of nonsense happens concerning Dale becoming a bounty hunter and Hank propositioning his boss for dog breeding. But we get a glimpse of the deeper, more emotional story beneath the surface when we see Bobby and Luann getting Ladybird ready for her “big date.”

“I can’t believe it. Ladybird’s gonna be a mommy. Seems like only yesterday mom and dad brought her home for me, on account of not having any brothers or sisters to play with. If I’d been old enough to talk, I’d have asked for a monkey.”

So Bobby got Ladybird in lieu of siblings when he was still not old enough to talk? That seems odd, doesn’t it? Most families wouldn’t be replacing the hope of siblings with pets when a child was still so young…

Moving on. Ladybird “does the deed,” and Dale gets certified to be a bounty hunter. Hank and Peggy take Ladybird to the vets office to get a doggie pregnancy test and Peggy says the office “gives her the deja vus” and reminds her of when they were trying to get pregnant.

Flashback…

Hank: “So Doctor, is she going to be a mommy?”
Doctor: “How do I say this without breaking your hearts? … No.” Peggy: (crying) “Oh God…”
Doctor: “Damn.”

Ah, doctors. Amirite? Anyway, Peggy reacts in a very familiar way: What’s wrong with me? And Hank and the Doctor assure her it’s not her fault. Then the Doctor throws Hank under the bus and says its his fault. Here was have Hank’s famous narrow urethra – an ongoing reference in the series usually played for laughs because it’s just funny to hear Hank Hill say “narrow urethra.”

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But this episode, we’re going to see the serious toll it’s taken on their lives. This is one of my favorite things about this show. It can speak very candidly about these darker things, like infertility. It can show the devastation and heartbreak, but still embraces the humor in the situation. Anyone who’s gone through anything like this can agree that laughing to keep from crying is a real thing, and an effective one. Comedy has always been tragedy. But I’m waxing poetic a bit.

A side bit of humor and truth for anyone who frequents doctors: Hank’s doctor points out that he had his suspicions of Hank’s condition when it took him 30 minutes to produce a urine sample.

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I have always been a nervous pee-er. I hate doing urine samples. SO MUCH PRESSURE.

Anywho. So the doctor tells them a few things they can do. For one, Hank needs to relax more, because the stress is making it worse. This applies to basically every form of infertility. Between hearing the doctors say that stress is bad for your overall health and hearing others say “relax and it will happen!” stress simply can’t be talked away.

The doctor also suggests Hank wear boxer shorts – if you’ve ever tried to conceive you know that one. And offers to recommend “a series of sexual techniques.” To which Hank responds “A SERIES?!”

Peggy then brings up something she saw on the news called “in-vitro fertilization,” which I (and pretty much everyone else) will shorten to IVF. She tearfully explains that Hank’s “boys” are mixed with one of her “girls” in a test tube. Hank will have none of this, calling it “science run amok.”

Peggy begs Hank to try it and Hank remains firmly against it, despite Peggy crying. Of course, in an actual infertility journey, there are things to try between unassisted conception and IVF, but of course we’ve only got 30 minutes so that seems like the end of that.

Back in present day, we find out that Ladybird won’t be getting pregnant either, as she has a narrow uterus (what are the odds). This seems silly, but once again King of the Hill takes it into a surprisingly emotional scene. Hank sits on a bench at the dog park talking to Ladybird about his feelings.

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“I know it hurts, Ladybird. I’ve been there myself. I just wish I could scoop up your pain in a little plastic bag and throw it out.”

I don’t care who you are, that’s one of the most touching things I’ve ever heard. Log that away for the next time you need to comfort a friend during hard times. In all seriousness, it’s a beautiful picture of empathy.

After another dog…ahem…expresses interest in Ladybird, Hank talks to the owners about their plight. As it turns out, they got their dog from a breeder with a dog they thought couldn’t have puppies. They inform Hank that there’s all sorts of stuff you can do – diet, hormones, body work, surgery. Hank excitedly invites the “brothers” (they’re not brothers) for a beer to hear all they know.

We cut back to Dale’s antics for a bit, then see Hank and Bobby taking Ladybird’s basal body temperature. Ah yes, nothing quite like logging your temperature every day and trying to make something of the tiniest changes. Anyway, this is understandably upsetting to Peggy. After all, when her doctor told her she couldn’t have babies, Hank was completely unwilling to hear about anything they could do about it. But some strangers convinced him the effort was worth it for a dog?

Wives have long competed with dogs for their husbands’ love and affection. It’s not uncommon for a man to come home after a long day of work, greet his wife, and sit down to pet and cuddle with the family dog. That can be pretty hurtful. But this is a whole new level.

The next morning Peggy wakes up alone and shivering with no blanket. She finds Ladybird wrapped up in the blanket while Hank gives her a “body awareness” fertility massage. Damn it, Hank. You’re being a gigantic butthole. I’m mad just watching this again. And remember, THIS IS A CARTOON. How are you doin me all these feels?

Anywho. Bobby comes into the backyard with a hormone dog biscuit looking for Ladybird and finds Bill. He explains to Bill that Ladybird is going to be a mommy and he’ll have a puppy again, just like when he was one year old. Bill laughs and says Bobby’s got it all wrong. Hank and Peggy got Ladybird a whole year before Bobby was born.

“As I recall your mama was having trouble getting pregnant on account of your daddy’s narrow doohickey and eventually they just gave up on ever having a child of their own so they did the next best thing.”

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And now I’m crying like a baby, because in the big middle of me working through infertility, I found a kitten on my doorstep and took it in. And gahhh EMOTIONS OVER HERE.

But this is still a comedy show. So Bobby asks Bill if that means he’s adopted. Bill, meanwhile, has begun munching on the hormone biscuit and says he’ll only talk if Bobby bikes to the store to get more of them.

But back to things that are infuriating: Hank tells Peggy that Ladybird has been accepted to an IVF program out of state. But remember, back in the day Hank said IVF was “wrong.” Oh shit. Peggy just about looses it and murders him. I mean that’s what I would have done. But Peggy threatens to leave, which I guess is an ok reaction. I’m still pulling for murder.

And now back to antics (this is an emotional rollercoaster). Dale steals Ladybird for a while to do his bounty hunter thing.

Peggy heads out with a golf club and I’m like “OH SHIT HERE WE GO” but she’s planning on beating the mower with it, not Hank’s skull. Pretty good, though. Hank does love that mower. But Hank is still there and tells her Ladybird is missing. Peggy is genuinely worried because of course she loves that dog too. Her beef isn’t with Ladybird.

So they jump in the car. Peggy is navigating using an address Dale left. Hank muses “I wish Ladybird was here. She doesn’t need a map.”

Oh no you didn’t, Hank. Here comes the crazy eyes.

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She accuses Hank of acting like he loves the dog more than his human wife when they find Ladybird locked in Dale’s truck in the Texas sun. Moreover, the truck is surrounded by attack dogs. Hank prepares to go save her.

“Are you loco? As soon as you step foot out there those attack dogs will attack you to shreds. I bet if I were stuck in a truck, you would leave me there!… all week I have watched you jump through hoops to get Ladybird pregnant, and you never jumped through any hoops for me.”

Oh Peggy. I want to bring you a tub of ice cream and share it. I’m sure in any infertility journey, it feels one-sided at some point. I know it did for us sometimes.

So Hank explains that the reason he never put a thermometer in Peggy’s ear is because it would kill the romance. With Ladybird it doesn’t matter because she’s just a dog. In my opinion? That’s some weak shit, Hank. But Peggy is happy to hear Hank say he loves her more and tells him sometimes she needs to hear it. Then Hank continues in his ignorance and asks if she wants to get pregnant. She says she doesn’t know, but she’d rather have another baby than another puppy. To her confusion, Hank agrees.

We then flash back again to see young Hank and Peggy playing with the puppy together, laughing and kissing, and Hank explains that he believes that playing with that puppy relaxed him enough to eventually get Peggy pregnant. This really wins present Peggy over because let’s face it, if a guy brings up wanting babies it usually ends an argument.

Maternal instinct awakened, Peggy takes the wheel and backs their truck up close to Dale’s. Hank prepares to open the door and snag Ladybird. With both his and Dale’s door open, he creates a small, fenced off square for Ladybird to pass safely from one car to the other.

“Be careful, Hank. Nine times out of ten they go straight for the crotch– and I see ten dogs out there.”

Ladybird gets across and they “get the hell out of there.”

So we have a happy ending. Bobby wasn’t adopted after all, and Peggy and Hank are happy again. They play with Ladybird and still giggle and kiss each other like they used to. While Hank’s “apology” or explanation wouldn’t have made me personally feel better, everyone experiences infertility differently, and that’s what this episode was all about.

I think that doing the medical side of infertility can still be romantic- supporting each other, helping log temperatures, people can bond over that. But it’s not for everyone. Peggy would have liked the thoughtfulness of it, but Hank expressed thoughtfulness in another way: by bringing her a puppy. Really that’s no small thing, it’s a huge investment of time and money. Just like IVF is.

This is just one story of infertility, and it’s a sweet one with a happy ending. Peggy and Hank don’t end up having another baby, but they overcame infertility the first time and rekindled their relationship the second time. Each member of a couple will experience infertility, grieving, and hope in their own way. But it’s important to bridge the gap and support each other on your individual journeys.

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I hope you enjoyed this episode as much as I did! And if you’re currently in the big middle of infertility diagnosis and treatment, know that I wish I could scoop up your pain in a little plastic baggie and throw it away. It’s hard, and I’m so sorry. But find the things you can laugh at. 🙂 And love each other.

SPOONIE OR SENIOR CITIZEN?

Let’s play an exciting new game called:

SPOONIE. OR. SENIOR CITIZEN.

First up: the kitchen pantry!

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Whoa nelly, that’s a lot of vitamins! So? Spoonie? Or Senior Citizen?

Next: the bathroom cabinet!

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Miralax! So much miralax! What do you think? Spoonie? Or Senior Citizen?

Third: the shower!

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Interesting, a stool! That seems to suggest Senior, but it could still be a Spoonie. What do you think?

Next: do they own a SMTWTFS pill box?

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Oh man, this one is still up in the air folks!

Finally: the jewlery box.

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Oh man, this is a real doozy. A medical alert bracelet is very senior citizen BUT it’s kind of trendy and cute– a spoonie, perhaps?

Spoonie or Senior Citizen? The world may never know.

There are no winners in this game. Only losers.

Guest Post: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Breastpumping

Hey everyone! Today I want to welcome Natalie from MaternityAtHome.com! She’s got some great info here on breast pumping, which is great general health info but especially important for chronically ill mothers who may need to pump in order to stay on a medication schedule or accommodate a sick day or hospital stay. Check it out, and be sure to visit her blog and show her some love!

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5 Things You Didn’t Know About Breastpumping

Motherhood is a perplexing but otherwise extraordinary experience for most women. There are so many things you need to do, and attaining the knowledge for each and every thing is just something that will elude you.

One scenario that almost always plays out after giving birth is the choice between breastfeeding or breastpumping. They both have their pros and cons, but there are some hidden gems within pumping that most new mother’s don’t know about and that might just push you towards making that decision much easier.

With that said, let’s take a look at 5 things that you likely don’t know about breast pumping and how they affect your daily life as a new mother.

  1. You have more time to rest: Breast pumping is not just for the on-the-go mother who is limited by a career. Stay-at-home mothers can also reap the benefits of breast pumping too. New mothers need their me-time, and a breast pump can be the perfect solution for racking in those extra minutes of sleep, or chores around the home.

    By using a breast pump that is actually good, stay-at-home mothers can rely on their stock of breast milk to ensure a well-fed newborn. Having a supply of breast milk is also especially important for premature babies or multiples, who may require extra attention in the home.

  2. Others can connect with your baby too: Using a breast pump can give your loved ones a chance to connect with your baby as well. Breast pumping can give you the rest you need, but can also be a way for your significant other, or other family members to develop a healthy relationship with your little one.

    You will appreciate the small acts of kindness others show by helping you with feeding! Imagine the happiness your baby will be bringing to yourself, and those around you. Your bundle of joy can bring happiness to everyone.

  3. You can monitor a baby’s eating habits: This is another major benefit of breast pumping that you may not have known. Every baby is different, including your soon-to-be newborn. It’s important to keep track of how often and how much your baby is eating and growing on a daily basis. The amount of milk each mother can store varies from woman to woman. By using a breast pump, you can actually monitor the intake of your baby’s feeding frenzies to their smaller snack times.

    Breast pumping and feeding your baby this way will give you the most insight on how your little one is doing. Don’t become frustrated if eating patterns you have found begin to change, this could be a good sign your baby is growing and on track to start solid foods.

  4. An emergency supply can be a savior: In rare instances, after surgery, while taking medications, or during illness, you may not be able to breastfeed. You should find out all of the information you can from your doctor, to continue to breastfeed when you or your baby is sick. Having expressed milk saved in the freezer for unforeseen circumstances will help you and your baby immensely.

    While this may not be a common occurrence, having a mother’s breastmilk on hand can be more nutritionally beneficial than relying on formula in times of need. Breast milk can be stored in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

  5. Breast milk is healthier than formula: Breast milk vs. Formula…many new mothers struggle with the idea of giving their baby breast milk versus formula. While formula is a quick fix for those who may be unable to produce enough breast milk, using a breast pump can build up a supply of vitamins, nutrients, and antibodies your baby needs from your breast milk!

    There’s a long list of benefits your baby can receive from your own breast milk, and as a mother you have a unique formula perfect for your growing baby. Nothing can compare to the beautiful benefits of a mother’s own breast milk, and a breast pump can be the perfect solution for having all your baby needs right at your fingertips right when your baby needs it.

There you have it. These 5 things really make breast pumping an appealing option for new mothers over breastfeeding and formula. When it comes to your baby’s health, it is better to stay natural and give them that has worked for thousands of years, so breast pumping is the ideal in between option that takes advantage of both breastfeeding and using formula.

Job 16: On Comforting Friends in Hard Times

I try to read the Bible every night (though this has really fallen through since Baby arrived) ((same with posting here on a regular basis)) (((you might have noticed))). And something in the book of Job really stood out to me.

If you have a chronic illness, physical or mental, you’ve probably had well-meaning friends try to offer advice on how to get better. And you’ve probably heard it at just the wrong moment or in just the wrong way, and felt hurt or annoyed. You, after all, live with this every day. Don’t they know you’ve done research and tried lots of things? Don’t they know you’re trying to get better? Why can’t they just listen and comfort you in these hard times?

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Job did have a sort of illness – he was covered in painful skin sores. But that’s really the least of his many problems. See, Job was a good guy. But Satan argued to God that Job was only good and faithful because he had a comfortable life. So God allowed Satan to rough Job up a bit to prove he would remain faithful. Job lost his children, all his worldly possessions, and his health in one day. And he wasn’t all “God giveth and taketh away” about it either – he was sad, and he was pissed! Most of the book of Job is him cursing the day he was born, yelling at God, and yelling at his friends.

And that brings us back around to where I started – well-meaning friends. What did Job’s friends have to say?

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Well, they tried to figure out what Job did to deserve this. I mean he must have done something bad, right? Clearly this was a punishment. Victim-blaming is as old as the Old Testament. Have you had anyone suggest that you somehow brought your chronic illness on yourself?

They also hypothesize that Job’s dead children probably brought their deaths upon themselves, and say that Job’s lucky his punishment wasn’t worse because he probably deserved something much harsher. Thanks guys! Very helpful.

So here’s the verse that stood out to me:

“I also could speak like you,
    if you were in my place;
I could make fine speeches against you
    and shake my head at you.
But my mouth would encourage you;
    comfort from my lips would bring you relief.

Yet if I speak, my pain is not relieved;
    and if I refrain, it does not go away.

Surely, God, you have worn me out.”

-Job 16:4-7

I’m sure we’ve all wondered what we would say to someone with our illness if we were healthy and had never experienced it. We all hope we’d refrain from offering that well-meaning advice about what they should or should not have done to get themselves into that situation. We hope we wouldn’t “make fine speeches” or “shake our heads.” We hope we would encourage them and comfort them. But there’s no way to know.

And I’m sure there have been many times when you thought “if I speak, my pain is not relieved, and if I refrain, it does not go away.” Blogging feels that way sometimes. Here, I try to offer comfort, encouragement, and catharsis. But does it make me better? Does it matter at all?

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“God, you have worn me out!”

Well, back to Job’s story. After arguing with his pals for a while, yet another well-meaning friend arrives with even more tsk tsks and unhelpful advice. And Job is wondering out loud about life, the universe, and everything between occasional outbursts and his freaking annoying friends. But he never says “God, I hate you!” or “There must not be a God!” or anything accusatory. He cries out to God about how hurt he is, how angry, and how sad. But he passes Satan’s test.

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And while he’s tearing his clothes and crying and yelling and his friends are still trying to explain how he kind of deserves all this, God literally parts the sky and goes “SHUT UP, YOU GUYS ARE THE ACTUAL WORST.” Then he takes Job aside and asks him some rhetorical questions, using them like a kind father to explain how little Job understands about life, the universe, and everything. Job agrees, and again, never says anything like “well if I were God…” or “I don’t think the universe should be this way!” He simply acknowledges that he is small and knows little.

The God goes back to Job’s well-meaning friends and is about to really let them have it, but Job jumps in and says hey, they’re also dumb little humans. And he can’t hold that against them, and he asks God not to hold it against them either.

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So here’s two things to take from this:

If you have well-meaning friends who have tried to tell you you’re not working hard enough to get better, or that you wouldn’t be sick if you hadn’t x, y, or z, remember that they’re just dumb little humans. Think of life, the universe, and everything that you don’t understand, and empathize with their stupidity and ignorance.

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And also remember that God empathizes with you. Any moment he might be ready to open the sky and really tell those well-meaning people off. He feels your feels.

And if you’re not of the Christian disposition, I hope you take something from this story as well. You’re not alone. These well-meaners are as old as the mountains, and generations upon generations have had to deal with this crap. You don’t understand everything either, and all us humans just have to muddle through life, the universe, and everything together.

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I’m going to end this with the benediction my church ends each service with, because I think it’s a beautiful blessing to send someone off with.

“May the Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord look upon you with His favor, and give you His peace.”