New friends sometimes say, “you’re so brave!” or “I couldn’t live without cheese!” when they learn about my dairy allergy.
I wasn’t always allergic. Until adolescence I ate just about anything and it has only been in the last half-dozen years that my allergy became more serious. It isn’t life-threatening but neither it is something with which I can mess around. Reading ingredient lists and not taking risks on potentially safe foods is my normal. I even take these steps when I dream about eating food;on the rare occasions that Dream-Lydia doesn’t take these precautions, a nightmare about my allergic reaction ensues and I jerk awake heart pounding, touching my lips to see how swollen they are before I realize that none of it actually happened.
When someone says these things I think what they really mean is I can’t imagine living that way. That is, they don’t know what it’s like to ponder cross-contamination issues or to recall all of the sneaky places that milk products or other allergens hide when you’re eating at a buffet restaurant or a potluck. I’ve had similar thoughts about people with other medical or social differences, to be honest, but what I’ve learned is that courage has nothing to do with how one thinks they might react if there’s a seismic shift in what their bodies need or can handle. There’s only what needs to be done today to stay healthy or what substitutions to make or alternate routes one can take for the best quality of life. Normal isn’t a list of little boxes to check off or a line drawn in the sand between those who have it and everyone else.
It’s just life.