The art of granting oneself grace, of having some self-compassion, doesn’t come naturally to me…I’m more inclined to be hard on myself. (I think that many of us are that way! The old adage of “being your own worst critic” can be pretty accurate) But finally, as 2018 progresses, I can confidently say that I am learning this art. I’m noticing my own strengths, as well as my areas that need some work, without experiencing anxiety at the thought of not having “it all figured out” all of the time. (You might be wondering where on earth I’m going with this…but I promise, it does tie in to tonight’s musings 😉 )
At the beginning of June, I wrote about starting a shopping ban, inspired by Cait Flanders (check it out here): I mapped out how it would work, laid out my lists & ground rules, and decided it should be set for June, July & August. I felt fired up to blow that shopping ban challenge outta the park!! I figured it would be a home-run! ….ha!! More of a major strikeout instead. That shopping ban has not flown at all for me! Wah-wah-wah…
This is where the self-compassion comes in.
Normally, if I set out to do something and don’t stick to it or fail to reach the end-goal, I end up deeply disappointed in myself. In the past, I would tend to almost equate my self-worth with my to-do list. (Did you fail to get that A+ Lace? Then that means YOU are also a failure) No longer is that my M.O. (& thank goodness, because how unhealthy was that?!!) Now I can take a look at myself, my emotions & actions, and offer myself grace. The shopping ban was a huge flop, yes (…and I nearly began beating myself up internally again…I thought I could prove to myself that I was more creative & resourceful than I give myself credit for, that I don’t need to online shop to help myself feel better when things get tough…I almost listened to the little voice that began to say “See? You CAN’T do it after all, you’re a failure“)….but it flopped because my attention, energy and willpower were called to bigger things. Things that were more urgent. Things that I could not have foreseen when the shopping ban goal was set on June 1st….
A few hours after writing that post, I received a text from my mom that one of her dearest friends on this earth had passed away that morning, and very suddenly so. My heart cried upon reading that message. It was shocking. And so unfair…so very, very unfair. This wonderful lady, let’s call her “D”, had one of the most gentle, and truest of souls. It always seemed to me throughout our many encounters that D was unfailingly selfless; thinking of others instead of herself, especially if those “others” were animals; she was their voice. Although D and I were not personally very “close”, we were close in a different way: she & my mother are true friends. D adored my mom, and I adore my mom, and that bonded us. We shared that in common. And when D passed that day, I could feel my mother’s pain. As well as my own.
D’s passing seemed to create within me this hyper-awareness of the urgency to really enjoy each moment of each day to the fullest, because that’s what she did. To focus on the absolutely amazing little things, like Lydia’s smile, Cody’s cheeky giggle, or Evy’s angelic disposition. I didn’t realize it then, but my focus & energy moved away from some shopping ban, and set it’s sights on soaking up the moments. Savoring the joy. And we all moved forward in June with our hearts a bit heavier.
The following weekend, after an evening out with some of my closest friends, terrifying pain set up camp in my body. It took me by complete surprise, and the intensity of that pain stirred up some very unwelcome anxiety. It began with a wicked headache and cramping stomach, that I attributed to the few bevy’s the gals and I had the night before…but something just didn’t add up. I hadn’t had many drinks over the entire evening, and this pain was just…different than any kind of hangover. I hoped it was somehow just the alcohol, that it would pass that day…but that wasn’t the case. It morphed in to a violent stabbing pain between my shoulder blades…something that can be a warning sign of darker things at play internally, especially for women. As the days went on, by our darling baby girl’s 1st birthday mid-week, I was in so much pain that I could hardly function. In fact, I could hardly make it through her special day!! As the day turned to night, it became apparent that sleep wasn’t in the cards for me, good old pain was making sure of that. And no combination of extra strength tylenol and super strength motrin was touching it! As I lay awake in bed most of that night, struggling to find a way to lay that relieved even a hair of that wicked pain, old memories of the night of Christmas 2016 kept flashing through my mind. That was the night that my body went in to shock from my appendix nearly bursting…with our sweet baby being only 15 weeks inside the womb at that point. That evening marked the beginning of months of hospital stays, scary surgery & procedures, and of not knowing what was to be for that sweet angel inside of me. I hadn’t felt pain like that in so long…and I wasn’t emotionally prepared for it to be back.
The following morning, I asked Scott to stay home from work so that I could rest, and then go to the hospital emergency room. It was the last thing I wanted to do…I had so many thoughts running through my mind: I don’t want to go there!! What if they have to admit me? How will I continue to nurse Lydia?? Would they have to fly me to Winnipeg again? How long would I be gone for THIS time?…I can’t handle being away from the kids!! What if I have to suddenly stop breastfeeding Lydia…how would I even do that? And then, just as I was about to chicken out and stay home, one final thought surfaced: what if it’s your heart? That was all I needed. I was off to the emergency room.
After a dear friend convinced me not to flee from the sight of the overflowing E.R. (thank you, Kat!!), and spending many hours going through an EKG, extensive bloodwork, tons of questions from the Doc, a Chest/Heart X-Ray, etc etc etc….I finally got the verdict. The Dr walked in to my room, and said “Well, we got ALL of your results back…and on paper, you look AMAZING!” THANK GOD!!!! From what we can tell, my heart and my body are doing just fine, I don’t seem to be in any imminent danger. That was all I wanted to hear!! Of course, that left us with the question of what on earth was causing that insane pain at that point in time (we have since learned that it seems most likely from my ribs rubbing in the back, bone on bone really hurts!!), but the most pressing fears were extinguished, and I could breath a sigh of relief.
Since then, it’s been a lot of self-care for my physical body, because the pain is still here. But taking the time to focus on caring for this body of mine is worth it. It’s the only one I get, after all!! With all of the anxiety stirred up as a result of this little chapter, I will openly admit that I have shopped online more than I would like to. (At least, I did when I could barely move without pain at the start of this whole mess. Not so much now.) But you know what I’ve come to realize? There are worse ways to cope. (Granted, there are probably better ways to cope too…but I’m doing the best I can. See? Giving myself grace.) I can always return what isn’t needed, they are smaller items anyways, and it doesn’t do any lasting damage to me, our bank account, or to anyone else.
With all of this self-awareness, self-care, and reflection of 2018 thus far, something else ended up showing itself to me. A dissonance within me came to light: if I was going the extra mile to care for this physical body of mine, if I was taking a page out of D’s book to soak up the joy & be present in my life every day, if I was re-committing to my fitness goals with BeachBody, if I was facing the past memories of pain in 2017 and feeling through the anxiety instead of suppressing it….what purpose did my almost nightly glass or 2 of wine serve? Something was out of whack with that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that no one should have a drink (or however many they want) every evening to “unwind” (or serve whatever purpose they feel it does)…but I began to see, and more importantly to feel, that it was no longer serving me or my goals. And in the smaller sense, if I was looking at a shopping ban…shouldn’t alcohol be one of the most unessential items possible? Why would I spend money on that during a shopping ban? It just didn’t add up anymore. Also, the number of times I have only had 1-2 drinks and yet still woken up the following morning with a headache (or full blown migraine!) and a sense of irrational sadness is too many to count. There’s a medical truth known as “cognitive dissonance” that can actually manifest itself in the strangest ways, be it physical pain or anxiety, etc. Cognitive Dissonance occurs when a person has beliefs, thoughts or behaviors that directly conflict with one another. For example: thinking “I want my liver to be as healthy as possible!” while also consuming wine on a semi-daily basis. Or, “I want to soak up each moment“…while also wanting to have a glass of wine to numb the fear I often feel regarding Evrett’s condition. While that glass of wine helps in the moment, one can’t selectively numb out, and the shame that was growing in me told me that I wasn’t living according to my beliefs, not truly. Close….but not quite.
I’m not saying that dissonance is what is causing my stabbing pain…but I’m not saying it doesn’t play a part, either. I suppose I can’t really know that answer with any degree of certainty…but what I can do is remedy that cognitive dissonance. That semi-nightly 1-2 glasses of wine isn’t adding value to my life, it doesn’t “help” to take the edge off or relax me…not in the long run. And as a self-proclaimed minimalist, I don’t keep things around that don’t add value to my life, or bring me joy….so, buh-bye for now, alcohol. I’ve had barely anything in these last couple of weeks, and I can already see that I sleep more soundly at night, I wake more excited for the day, and best of all that gnawing dissonance within me is fading away. I’m excited to see where this alcohol-free road leads….I’m treating it as an experiment in self-love: not setting an end-date or saying “I’ll never have another drink!”, nothing so extreme is needed. I simply want to see if I get more out of less with alcohol, as I have with so many other aspects of life during my minimalist journey.
And you know something? Feeling this intense physical pain, as well as the emotional pain that has come from this month of June at times….flowing through all of that with no wine to numb the sting is something I am quite proud of. More proud than I would be to sit here writing that I am succeeding at some shopping ban 😉
I am giving myself grace, and quite possibly the highest degree of self-care I have ever taken. And it feels pretty damn amazing!!
~How do YOU exercise self-care & give yourself grace? Please leave a comment and let me know. Cheers to being present!!