I wake up most mornings with my head throbbing in pain; the first rays of the sun penetrate my skull like shards of glass when I open my eyes.
My bones feel like granite in my body, heavy and lumbering, as I salvage my last few moments in bed before forcing myself to my feet to begin the day.
Those first few moments are like shuffling through quicksand. I can feel my heart pounding in my chest like a jackhammer. Paralysis quivers up and down my face as I adjust to the light, and a distinct feeling of motion sickness comes over me as I get dressed.
My body is my enemy.
After having lived with a strange concoction of viral and bacterial infections for the past few years, I can say that chronic illness is not what most people imagine. It is not the array of curiously severe symptoms that make living with this illness such a trying affair, at least not in and of themselves. What makes chronic illness such a soul-wrenching battle is the sheer amount of time spent coping with these symptoms while remaining unable to go out in the world and experience the fullness of modern life.
This gradually chips away at the very fabric of one’s spirit. In other words, it is the existential cost of illness that makes this such a profoundly difficult task to undertake.
Another unsettling thing about living with this condition is that it reverts me back to childhood in a funny way. It is similar with old age, in the sense that I am constantly relying on other people to support me, whether it be financially, physically, or emotionally. I feel like I am stuck in my youth and can’t really move into adulthood like a normal young person.
This puts me in a gray area where I have all of the resources to move toward success and independence, but I am without the physical capacity to do so. I am vulnerable—like an open wound just waiting to be inflamed.
Everything in my body implored me to resist life, especially when it came to romance. I’d been unwilling to seek out a romantic partner for a long time, afraid that I would be rejected for my condition or that I wouldn’t be capable of loving someone with all of my physical challenges.
After an unhealthy romantic stint with a friend that ended in total disaster, another friend of mine recommended that I get on Tinder to help get over this hump in my life.
I’ve never liked the idea of online dating. It always seemed superficial to me, like something important was missing that could only be found through genuine human interaction. Still, I took my friend’s advice and made a Tinder account—and my cynical reservations were put to rest pretty quickly.
I soon learned that all human interaction is genuine. The initial judgments we make about people are made in a matter of moments. And when we meet people for the first time, our conversations are mostly superficial out of sheer necessity.
I don’t believe we can determine our romantic interest based on a few pictures and a couple of sentences; we can only learn about someone by spending time with them. But an app like Tinder opens the door to spending time with a whole host of people we wouldn’t have access to otherwise.
I’m sure we would all like to believe (myself included) that we will make eye contact with someone at a bar or a coffee shop and it will be love at first sight. We’ll go up to them and make some witty comment, leading to a deep conversation that inevitably results in realizing that this person is everything we’ve ever wanted and will bring us endless happiness.
The truth is, people are too weird for that. Most of us are awkward, neurotic, overly emotional, a little annoying, clumsy, a bit stupid, and perhaps even outright strange. The point is that we need to find connection wherever we can get it, and if that can be done by swiping left or right on our phones, then thank God for that.
Surprisingly, it worked for me. After going on a series of dates and meeting a number of interesting, confident, and spirited women, I’ve settled into a relationship.
I have come to the place where I feel more confident and have a deeper sense of what I am looking for in my romantic life. Of course, there is no such thing as perfection in this world, and our romantic lives will always be a work in progress, but I feel rejuvenated by this newfound sovereignty and redeemed in some way from all of the heartache that came before.
It has been a long time since I’ve been committed to and responsible for another human being, and I am excited to learn and grow through this new phase of my life. We take care each other, hold each other up on our bad days, and rejoice together on our good days.
Although we walk our paths separately, our roads come together in support of each other’s journey. We have chosen to mutually uphold love and understanding in respect for the personal and spiritual development of the other, and this is the most I could really hope for at this stage of my life.
What I hope to share with others is that our limitations don’t have to get the best of us. We shouldn’t resist doing the things we want because of the challenges we might face.
And online dating isn’t the worst thing in the world—embrace opportunities for love wherever you can find them.
This life is too damn short to get bent out of shape over our situations. Learn to say “yes” to the present moment and garner as much wisdom as you can from what you experience there. This is our life’s journey.
Although we will always experience pain and resistance, we must always continue to strive for happiness, health, and love. There is no other way.
Author: Samuel Kronen
Image: Toa Heftiba/Unsplash
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman