a woman with clasped hands prays as beams of light swirl around her

Living with Family and Faith over Fear

My husband, daughter, and I were driving home from my daughter’s basketball game, a trip of about an hour from a small, rural school. Along one of the country roads, Gary stopped at a gas station and came back with one of those little tree-shaped air fresheners that hang from your rearview mirror. He innocently hung it up, and the blast of fragrance hit me. Most people would have paid no attention to such a seemingly inconsequential action. In fact, it shouldn’t have been a big deal.

But after doing my research, I had spent the last month ridding our home of toxins and fragrances that can irritate the eyes and have other adverse health effects. And this felt like a slap in the face. It wasn’t a big deal to Gary, but it was a huge deal to me. I was panicked, having to ride an hour in the car, breathing in those chemicals. And Gary was angry, shocked that I would put on such a production about an air freshener. A heated argument ensued – one that lasted well into the next day.

Trying to educate – but not too much

Why do I tell this story? Well, in living with dry eyes, sometimes I feel trapped. Sometimes I feel like I now know almost too much for my own good. I want to do what’s best for me, but I also have to live with my family members, who don’t always eat clean, who don’t always use natural products, and who sometimes think what I do is a bit over the top. I have to consider their point of view; I don’t want my condition to dictate the way that they live their lives.

But on the other hand, I want to help gently educate them on the things that I’ve learned. Doing so is a balancing act, and I have to learn how to nudge rather than push. For example, I might focus on cooking healthy food that tastes delicious and casually talk about the health benefits of those foods as we eat dinner. I have to feel the room and know what’s appropriate and if my family is willing to listen.

Remembering not to live in fear

I also have to examine myself and make sure that I am not living in fear. You’ve heard the saying, ignorance is bliss. I miss the days before I had to worry about my dry eyes and what could contribute to making them better or worse. But I’ve learned that I have to come at these lifestyle changes from a place of grace to myself. I have to think that whatever changes I do make, they are only going to benefit me. But I can’t worry myself about little things like car air fresheners to the point that they cause more fear and anxiety in me than I would have otherwise.

I’m 42 years old, as of my writing this, and when I first developed dry eye, I worried a lot about having to live with it for the rest of my life. I still do sometimes. Developing a chronic condition like dry eye has made me realize that my physical assets are finite. As a younger person, I used to feel limitless, like I could do anything.

Now, I realize that I have a few hours a day that my eyes will feel somewhat okay and that by the evening, I’ll be putting in drops about every hour. As of my writing this, I’ve had several other recent health issues as well – some of them alarming.

Putting fear in its place

What keeps me sane is knowing that, ultimately, my hope is not in my physical body. I know that it will wear out. In fact, it seems it has already started. As a believer, my hope is in God and in his promise that one day, when this life is over, he will give me a new spiritual body – one without dry eyes. What he expects of me now, though, is that I use the physical resources I have, limited as they are, without fear and on purpose.

Fear can make us irrational. It can steal joy. It can turn a family car ride into an all-out tirade. But fear can also be put in its place. When emotions cool and our senses return, we realize what’s true and what’s important. I choose to live with love for my family and with faith that transcends fear.

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