Monday, June 10, 2013

Creating My Fears Away

It's safe to say that being diagnosed with life-threatening food allergies was not part of my five-year plan.  Avoiding gluten and other foods to make my tummy and skin happier was one thing, but coming to terms with the fact that I would definitely get knocked off first during the hunger games is another.

Any career with a high assassination risk is totally out.  As is Asian food, trail mix, and even stopping by the wrong stall at the fish market.  I have to think about reminding all future boyfriends to lay off the gumbo and the granola.  My kids will have no idea what marzipan or calamari taste like.         

As soon as the allergist put the tiny drop of super-diluted shrimp protein on my back, I felt like a hole was being burned through my skin.  My eyes started to water.  And I did something I never do (except right before I watch Game of Thrones): I got scared.  Allergies that appear in adults (particularly those to shellfish) are typically very severe.  Only a handful of people outgrow them or experience milder reactions over time.

And when I walked out of the office, I felt something I never have before: like the world was a dangerous and unfriendly place with threats lurking around every corner.  It felt a little like a real-life game of Super

Now I have to carry these with me.  All the time.  Even to the beach or to a girl's night out.  Even to my wedding.

I'm going to a place where people are less familiar with deadly food allergies (and epinephrine).  Where reading the English-language instructions on an EpiPen will be impossible for most.  Where I don't know exactly how to convey "if I consume a product that contains ANY TYPE of shellfish, I will need immediate medical attention" with the same urgency that I can in English.  Where almonds (and their cross-contaminated nutty friends) lurk on every cake and candy and pastry ever and on the sticky little fingers of the children I'll be living with.

In a word: yikes.  

In the Baccalaureate address at my graduation, the chaplain talked about ritual.  She said that ritual is what we turn to to make it through the tough times.  To mark beginnings and endings and to reflect on the joys and sadnesses of our various phases of life.   Whether it's in church or some other way, we all turn to these patterns somehow or another.  And as I sat down and got out my felt, I realized with comfort that I have my own.  With every transition, I create.  Whether it's small gifts for friends and family at college graduation, new socks to prepare for winter, a handmade toy for a baby shower, or a handmade felt EpiPen case, I mark changes with art.

So as I sit here, making a non-English-speaker-friendly, easy-to-find case to use for my EpiPens once I get to Germany, I'm soothing my fears with felt and thread and meditation, and ritual.

I may not be able to control every environment, but for this moment, I am queen of felt and fabric and floss and scissors.

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