Being on vacation this last week has been something I apparently needed more than I knew. I know that most people, and I will include myself here, see vacations as indulgent -- and for some, they seem downright unnecessary.
Admittedly, I always feel a little guilty jetting off to some exotic locale to do little more than eat, drink, and lie on the beach -- but this time seems to have brought a revelation, albeit an unintended one to say the least. In one sense, it is an incredibly simple observation -- it is the fact that I am still here. Allow me to explain.
When I was diagnosed with HIV in 1998, things seemed incredibly grim. My CD4 count was 6, I was as gaunt as a rake and my outlook on life was bleak at best. I had, much like many others I suspect, resigned myself to an early demise -- and, in doing so, essentially given up on even the most meagre of pleasures in life.
I continue to be amazed at what we can do to ourselves psychologically, and how wallowing in self-pity takes its toll. I will not generalize this to all, since clearly many people have every right to do so. But in my case, and again I suspect the same of many others, this pessimism took a tremendous toll. I would never write my book, I would never paint again, I would never teach again and I would certainly never take another vacation.
And as I sit here now at the computer, taking a very brief break from this vacation that was never supposed to be I think to myself how much has transpired since 1998. All of us living with HIV continue to face challenges, and some clearly greater than others. I count myself incredibly fortunate to be able to vacation while others struggle. But what has struck me most this time is the simple fact that I am still here.
>This vacation has not been about palm trees, or beaches, or the fact that I am not the one cooking -- rather, it has given me perspective. Most definitely the money could have gone to something more practical, undoubtedly I could have stashed it away for leaner times and I, like everyone else, have bills to pay.
But I made a choice, and it is one I will never regret. And what I find particularly interesting is that it took lying on a beach for this revelation to come upon me so fervently.
I continue to have my good and bad days, again like most others. And it is all too easy to recall the bad, to dwell upon the bad, and indeed to exacerbate the bad -- trust me, I am an expert in this area.
Yet here I am on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, twelve years after my diagnosis -- thinking to myself, I am still here.
This vacation has certainly been about seeing old friends, enjoying palm trees and papaya and soaking up as much sun as humanly possible -- but this time has also been so very different.
It makes me wonder why these revelations are not more consistent features of my daily life. It makes me wonder why each day is not filled with this sense of happiness and accomplishment that I have survived in spite of my own predictions.
For some this will surely sound incredibly simplistic if not entirely naive -- fine.
All I know is that when I return to Toronto, the lens through which I view things will be markedly different simply because 12 years later I AM STILL HERE.