You know you haven’t written in a long time when you not only forget your password, but the website with which to log in. It’s not that I haven’t thought about you, or the blog, because I do– virtually every day. It’s just been a tough month or so, and I guess when the tough gets going, it just doesn’t always feel like writing.
The times when I don’t feel well really can push me into a downward spiral that I feel isolates me from the rest of my world. I often times feel very alone when I don’t feel well. Sure, everybody has had a stomach ache or a headache or whatever, but for me, every single time I don’t feel well, I worry that it is somehow related to the cancer. You have to understand that living with cancer can sometimes add a whole new layer of worry and sadness to things.
Going for an ultrasound of my abdomen a couple of weeks ago was scary, and I’m not being dramatic. The technician got eerily quiet all of a sudden and told me that the doctor would be in soon enough to explain things. It turned out that I had a kidney stone, but that wasn’t explaining the stomach aches (I still don’t have a concrete diagnosis on that). It took them all day to get back to my doctor with the results because they were studying my liver so intently. Thank g-d they didn’t see anything, but a stomach ache doesn’t just feel like a stomach ache to me anymore. It feels like, g-d forbid, it could be so much more.
And when I don’t feel well, if I can’t eat well, then psychologically, that begins to take a toll on me also. If I don’t fuel my body well enough, I don’t have enough energy to work out, and my whole world seems to spiral out of control. I’m not obsessive (if I’m busy and don’t work out every day I don’t think about it much, but to not be working out because I don’t feel well is a whole other ball of wax), but I do realize the benefits of exercising not just for my body, but for my mind as well.
For a long time, I thought that the whole point of me reading and blogging and learning new things and meditating and exercising and juicing was to better myself, my life, my physical and emotional health.
I began to see it as a way of safeguarding. A way to make sure that nothing bad could ever happen to me again. If I did these things perfectly, then somehow, I would be OK.
Somewhere deep down inside though, I knew that was magical thinking. I also knew that it was probably pretty normal in my circumstances and even somewhat rational, if you think about how you may feel yourself while living through a trauma. You just want to think that you have control, over something.
The truth is, we do have control over some things. Not all, but some. But thinking that if I eat a salad every day I will never get cancer again is, I am now beginning to understand, a little bit wacky. After all, if it was that easy, then wouldn’t we all just be eating salads all of the time? (This is not to negate how awesome it feels and how truly beneficial I believe healthy living is).
I love my heroes and heroines, but sometimes, they sure do make it look easy, don’t they? Sometimes I just want somebody just like me to say that I don’t have to be perfect to be OK, to be healthy, to be happy. That actually striving to try to get it perfectly (use non toxic sunscreens and cleaning products and lip glosses and giving up meat and dairy and gluten and only eating cashew cheese and training for a half marathon) can actually, truth be told, make you feel a little bit crazy.
What stopped my in my tracks were the intensity of the last two work weeks. Still on Cloud Nine after our fundraising event for the Jimmy Fund a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t expect to come back to the office and have work knock the wind out of me. There have been tons of changes in my office lately; a new VP to get to know, construction, a team member going out on maternity leave, learning a whole new database system that I’ll have to be using every single day when I talk to clients, etc. I have been doing my best to try to imagine a giant shield between myself and the rest of my colleagues when they talk about their concerns around all of the changes (I will say that having the toaster in the conference room did throw me off a little bit). As if I could somehow protect myself from their anxiety. I can’t.
But this past week, I literally didn’t know what I was doing, where I was going, or what to tackle first. All of a sudden I became totally overwhelmed (like the shredder in my house just stopped working one day and I started crying). Where to even put my to-do list? Phone? Outlook? Old-fashioned pen and paper? That’s how crazed I felt, that my own to-do list, even just creating it, was somehow overwhelming to me. Not every week is like this of course, thank goodness, but between wrapping up the fundraiser (more to come on that fabulous day!!), tough cases (taking care of inebriated and suicidal people) and training on the new database and then moving everything out of my office again (first time was for the painting, now it’s for the new carpeting), I couldn’t even get through the day without thinking about a vacation (or a brownie).
What bothers me the most, I think, is that I don’t have the creative juices right now to read, or write, or just think. I am not the best at handling stress and to-do lists, this seems clear, especially now that I’m so in tune with my mind, body and soul. I am, more than ever, realizing that I am being depleted left and right, not nourished. But it doesn’t feel like there is time for nourishment.
We all have responsibilities that we must tend to, that’s just the way life is. But is there any wiggle room? What can we take off of our plates, to allow more room for spiritual growth and the kind of joy that’s found in the little nooks and crannies of the day (not even the kind that you plan for) and feeling present, not like your mind is on that task that you know needs to be completed by next week? I’d like to get better at this. Not only for the peace and quiet that my mind aches for, but for my body and my immune system as well.
And then I had another striking thought: That I am really the only one who can do this for myself. Not SHL, not my parent’s, not my boss. That I don’t need approval anymore to take it easy, that for some reason I’m invested in seemingly “doing everything,” when really, all I want to do is some good old-fashioned nothing. It’s as if the day I got cancer I pushed an “on button” that is hesitant to be turned off, for fear of what? That people will see me as lazy, or boring? That if the off switch is pushed, I’ll be missing out on life, which is a big no-no for anybody, let alone somebody with cancer? I’m not sure.
Speaking of getting better at things, what I’d also really like to get better at is staying present with the gratitude, while letting the universe expand my abundances without me feeling guilty, worried, or tripping over myself to please others. Case in point: My boss looks at the schedule to see if I can take a mental health day this week, and I thank him so much and tell him that I can do whatever works best for HIM, that I end up making it sound like he is doing me such a huge favor that I barely deserve. The truth is, he is doing me a favor, but we are so short-staffed and I work so hard, that I believe that I do deserve a little “me time,” especially after I’ve given so much to the company despite my health issues. When I do this, I am beginning to realize, what I am actually doing is devaluing my worth. Am I worth a mental health day? You better believe it. And though that may be the culture of my workplace (keep going despite x,y,z), it’s just a reminder that it’s not my culture. Or it doesn’t have to be anymore.