>> August 3, 2012
Since this post a few weeks back, I have gotten a lot of feedback and kind words from friends and family. Some of the response has been vocalized, and others have been quiet and respectful - but even those who did not mention reading the blog entry (but did) - those friends, their kindness does not go unrecognized. Everyone has been truly supportive, caring, and understanding. With the exception of one very important person in the whole equation: myself.
Unlike those around me, I have been increasingly hard on myself and less than kind. Why is that? I'm not sure, I have a hard time figuring it out. Even though I wrote that I have come to terms with living with chronic illness, and I have in some ways, it still doesn't mean that I am "ok" with it. I constantly strive for an insane level of perfectionism in all pieces of my life. I feel such internal pressure to succeed, to work out regularly, to make healthy meals for my family, to teach my daughter lessons in right and wrong, to perform at work, to dress well, to maintain a blog, decorate a house, and pull crafty items out of thin air - so being "sick", in my mind, just gets in the way. It's a constant blemish that cannot be erased with a good night's sleep, or a little cover up. And with such internal struggle and contast pressure, now that I am starting to look a bit different, well that's just the icing on the cake. It makes me feel like damaged goods.
So even though I said I was "fine" (and I am, really), I don't talk to myself like I am "fine". I'm mean, really really mean. I say nasty things and put myself down, because as I delusionally tell myself, "it will motivate me to work harder." (Seriously, have you ever heard such a load of crap??) But I don't think self-deprecating thought is limited to just me, or just people facing health troubles. I think in many ways, it can be a female thing. I think we all have such constant pressures put on us through (canned, cliched answer): media, family, workplace, and ourselves - that sometimes it's hard to remember to be kind. We were always taught growing up to be kind to others. Share your toys. Say "please" and "thank you". But do you ever remember the lesson on how to be kind to yourself? I am sure, at one point, back when I played with Barbies and wore a tutu and tiara around "just because", I was kind to myself. But along the way, I forgot how to do that. I don't know if I lost practice, or I forgot what "being kind", felt like.
But I should know, right? I am surrounded by loving people that shower me with compliments and kindness. I have a daughter that can't wait for me to arrive home each day. I have a husband that (shockingly!) loves me no matter what, and still thinks I am as beautiful as the day we got married. I have parents that think I can do anything and couldn't be more proud. So what am I doing wrong?
I read an article the other day on The Wellness Warrior, and I felt her words were truly speaking directly to me. Having recovered from cancer and taking hold of her health and well being by the skin of her teeth, she "penned" a truly brilliant post, Why Illness is not a Flaw. I happened upon the article by chance, but the timing couldn't be more perfect. After a particularly rough few days blaming myself for all that is wrong with the world and beyond, her ideas on how to embrace the wellness journey really resonated.
I won't try to speak as eloquently as she did - but I thought it was worth coming up with my own list. Reasons why I am not, in fact, utterly flawed and damaged. But maybe, in some small way, this illness is not a curse, like I tell myself.
1. I have never been in better shape. I am working out more regularly and more thoughtfully, than I ever have in my life. Being naturally on the slilm side (thank you Mom and Dad for those genes), I used to take fitness for granted. I would work out because I knew I should, not because I wanted to. Now, I workout because I enjoy it and feel better, mentally and physically when I do. I notice how my body feels if I've missed a few days. So despite being a few medically-induced pounds overweight (and by "overweight", I mean over my normal weight), I am still in the best shape of my life.
2. I eat better than I ever have before. I cringe to think back in my 20s, those angst-ridden, self-indulgent times. How I totally abused my body, staying up late, not sleeping much (not that I sleep much now), eating whatever was in front of me. No wonder my body freaked it's freak. Finally, I am actually reading labels and understanding them. Finally, I am stocking my pantry with real food, instead of items I thought were "good" ("low fat" in fancy script does not equal healthy). And finally I know the meaning of lean protein, organic, and sustainable. Although I am no where near perfect in this regard, and I make less than perfect decisions often enough, I am on my way to better eating choices. And it feels good.
3. I listen to my body. Shortly after I graduated college, I started to feel "off" - I listened to what my body was saying and went to see my Doctor for various tests and what have you. Sure enough, I was diagnosed shortly thereafter. Since then, I have (tried) to be more in tune to what my body is saying: get more sleep, take the evening off, rest a bit won't you?!? When my body tells me I need to take a break, or else I will get sick - I try to do what it says. I still struggle with making the right decision and turning the dial down, but at least I'm listening. That's half the battle.
4. I am reminded to be real and to be honest (with myself and others). People have told me, on more than one occasion, that I am a very guarded and private person. I honestly didn't realize that was the case. In some ways that makes me sad. Maybe people don't really "know" or "get" me. Granted, I've never been an over-sharer, but I've never really thought of myself as private until recently. Perhaps that's true. But being open about personal struggles, on this blog, and in life, helps form connections and bond with others. I am hoping do to a better job of being open and real, and perhaps it will pay dividends in terms of my sense of well being and connectedness.
5. I am reminded of what is important. Family, friends, and myself. I need to pay more attention to those precious items in my life, and living with a chronic condition reminds you that as important as work is, or striving to succeed, in the end, it won't hug you hello and it won't kiss you good night.
Okay - enough deep thoughts for today! I will be back Monday with more fun and fashion, no doubt. Happy Friday friends.