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Friday, January 31, 2014

being willing to face the hard stuff

(This was a tough post for me to write and in the end I decided to be brave and post it in case there is anyone out there who needs a good reason to go ahead and put herself first.)

A year's worth of inner work culminated in a moment for me when I got the second phone call within a week from a doctor with less than ideal news.

As you may or may not know, this has been a big year for me.  Beginning last January with the decision to end the war with my body,  I have been on a wild ride that was much more than I bargained for.  My hard (painful) work and determined diligence has brought me the deep peace with food and my body that I was seeking but, more than that, it has opened me up to myself, to what I need, what I'm hungry for, and has stripped me of the barriers to my own happiness.  I have learned to do less, live more.  I am less agitated and worried, more present and content.   My life is largely absent of the self-judgement, excessive pushing and attempting to live up to (my own) unreasonable standards.

I am a different person that I was a year ago.

None of it has been easy and it seems ever time I succeed at one aspect (for instance sitting down and breathing instead of screaming my head off when the kids get under my skin), there is yet another piece waiting around the corner for me to work on.  Another place for me to exercise acceptance, to be in the now when I would prefer not to be (like when people are crying at my feet or wiping their snotty noses on my shirt).  Most days I feel some reward, some payoff for working so hard on myself, but I often feel like I have hiked and climbed and only made it to base camp while the mountain looms large in front of me.

It is an enormous undertaking to reinvent yourself.

It turns out I require a lot to care for myself.  (I suppose this makes sense when you have spent your entire life neglecting yourself.)  I need time alone, plenty of exercise, time to mediate and journal, time for yoga.  I need to not rush or have too much to accomplish.  I also need down time to do nothing and just be which, before last year, I have allowed myself precisely, well let's see.... yeah, never.   All of this makes me feel very needy and makes negotiating my needs and the kids needs a daily struggle.    Over the past year as I have made self-care a regular practice, I have fought the nagging feeling that it is a luxury and that too much of it makes me selfish. (I think people have written entire books on this sort of insane Mommy guilt and I should probably read one of them.)

I have made it my priority to be good to myself and present for my kids and to not let things, tasks, commitments to get in the way.  If it makes me feel like I can't breathe or like I want to yell, I work to do it differently or just not do it.  But life is busy and often inconvenient and stress has an insidious way of slipping in unbidden and unnoticed and suddenly I can't find time to play with my kids because I have so much to do again.

It is hard to be dedicated to your self-evolution and show up for the constant demands of motherhood.  In order to best care for myself and not take too much away from being "Momma" I have tucked my self-care into corners to have minimal impact on others.  Namely, I sleep less and try to do most of it when the kids are asleep.  I have made myself a priority but, sort of only when it is convenient.  I have tried to keep up with everything and just move slower or do things less perfectly.  Supper consists of veggie burgers and salad instead of the cool new recipe from Cooking Light, for instance, and the laundry isn't always clean.

Just a couple of weeks ago I started to see the integration of all this work and care.  Instead of stitching only the tiny fabric swatch in front of me, I could see how all the individual squares I had sewn were being woven into an entire tapestry.   I could see all my progress gathering from the various corners of my life to meet in the middle and take shape.  My broken pieces were being rearranged into something I recognized as me.

YES.  I was finally getting somewhere.

Then the doctors called.

To give the crib notes version of the story, suffice it to say that over the past 20 years I have had repeated expressions of autoimmunity in my body, the biggest one being Type I diabetes.  (Type I diabetes is caused by your immune system attacking the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas and killing them.  These cells don't regenerate so once they are gone, your body can no longer make insulin.  This is why Type I diabetes is called "insulin-dependent" and why I have an insulin pump attached to me 24 hours a day.)  I have actually had 4 different types of autoimmunity in my body, the most recent one being hyperthyroidism.

Over the past 6 months, as the regulation of my hyperthyroidism has reached new levels of difficulty, I began to really wonder about this trend.  What the hell is wrong with my immune system that it keeps attacking me??  And then, with the subtlety of being hit on the head with a sledgehammer, I realized:  I have never at peace with myself.  Why wouldn't my body respond in the same manner as how I function internally day after day, year after year?

This awareness made the work I was doing seem even more critical.  It was essential that I learn to be kind and aligned with my body.  It would take more than a few months to effect a lifetime of patterns at the cellular level but I would be patient but persistent.

I have been working and making so much progress in this regard.  So imagine how I felt when I got two phone calls from two different doctors with reports about some recent tests I've had.  Two of these autoimmune processes are not stable and my body is fighting itself, creating inflammation and unstable hormone levels.  If things don't turn around I will be looking at having my thyroid removed in a few months.

If you are wondering what I did as a more evolved person than I was a year ago receiving less than ideal news from doctors I will tell you: I sat and cried.  I put my hands in my face in frustration at the unfairness of it all and I cried.

Why can't my body and I just get on the same frickin' page??  How am I working this hard and getting these results?

After feeling a little bit sorry for myself, I suddenly realized the gift these results had given me.  I need to make myself a real priority.   The kind of priority you make if your health is in danger.  Because essentially mine is.  I need to take my self-care out of the dark of the pre-dawn, sleeping children hours and into the daylight.  I need to not apologize for the time I need, the space I need and however many yoga classes I go to.

The truth is that I may have needed this - an excuse, if you will, something to justify what I am already doing.   Something to hang my hat on and validate what I already know I need.  And you know what?  I'm okay with that.   If this is what will prompt me to make putting myself first without guilt than that is fine.  I'm lucky it isn't something more serious that has gotten my attention.

Sandi has been so supportive and wonderful.  We sat down with the kids and explained that Momma needs to make her health a top priority because if not I will be sick.  We told them I need more peace, less fighting, less tension, less worrying, anxiety and running around.  I need more help.  I need them to listen when I ask them to do something and not repeat myself 3 times.  They responded in a kind and thoughtful way that made me very proud of them.

I am going to heal my body from these conditions. I am going to listen to their message and make the changes they are asking of me.  I have given my notice to give up my PTO position.  I am going to take more shortcuts and put my feet up more.  I will order pizza or serve cereal when making dinner feels like too much.  I'm going to let my big ideas roll on by while I find some internal balance.  I am going to play with my kids more and not let any tasks or to-do lists get in my way of being a relaxed mom with them.  I am not going to care about the great scale of equality where I may have more time to focus on myself than other people (most of the time when my kids are well and school is in session).  I am going to say no to more things and not feel even a little bit badly.

"No, no thanks.  That doesn't feel like what I'm meant to do."

"No.  I can't make it."

"No  I'm not going to be able to help you with that."

"My pie has been sliced and there isn't a wedge for that."

"No.  I'm not the person for the job."

"No.  That won't make me feel good."

"Sorry. I have met my quota for giving today.  I'm out of stock."

"No thanks. I'd rather remove my eyebrows with a blow torch than do that."

Self care isn't a luxury.  It is essential.  My health depends on it.  If I had received a phone call with truly frightening news this is what I would do, this is how I would proceed.  Lucky for me I can do it with far less to overcome than some health crises people face.

Now that I sufficiently pushed the usage limit of the parenthesis in one blog post, I will leave you with a Maya story.

That night after we talked to the kids, I was playing with Maya and we were hiding under her covers and I was pretending to be nervous as Sandi was looking for us.  Maya scolded me and said, "MOMMA! You're 'upposed to be calm!"

That's right.  My six-year-old is holding me to the carpet.  I think that's awesome.  Feel free to the same.

1 comment:

Myra Berry said...

Suzanne, thank you for this post. Seriously. Thank you for the reminder of something we all need to do. I just did a post on suffering once again from SAD and how I mistakenly thought I had it licked this winter. Your post has driven this home for me: We, as women, mothers, caretakers, and individuals need to take the time to heal ourselves, our bodies, and our spirits. Please know I will be thinking of you in your quest to heal your body, and I think it's great that Maya is holding you to the task already. You have a great support system. It can be done, and I'm sure you will find that much-needed balance. {{{hugs}}} from Jonesport.

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