Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Thoughts on Being Perfect, Sickness, and Positivity


I've always said that my arthritis (Ankylosing Spondylitis) is a blessing and curse.  It is a curse for obvious reasons, namely pain in my hips and spine and stiffness in my back that troubles my sleep.  It is a blessing because it forced me to take care of myself early on in life.  To exercise and eat well.  To value my rest.  It is a blessing because it forced me to change my mind set.  To think positive, to appreciate the pain-free moments, to take part in all I desire to to the best of my ability, and even pushing beyond sometimes to my great surprise.  With arthritis (and all things, I hope) I think I am pretty good at focusing on the plus side.  I try to downplay the negative side.  I don't like it.  I wish it weren't the case.  But, why focus on it?  I think that most people would never know that I am "sick," that my immune system has gone haywire and is attacking my joints, that on the bad days I pray that my spine never fuses into a hump back, that I worry I'll be a burden on Matt someday. I just take care of myself as best I can and try to remain optimistic about the future.  I almost feel I can will it into being with my positivity so I try not to even think about all that can go wrong most of the time.  But, there are the bad days....

This post has been slowly taking shape in my mind since a recent conversation I had with my sister, Lisa.  She was reading a super-mom book that was, to make a long story short, sort of putting her in a funk because she wasn’t the never ruffled, always on time, perfectly organized soccer mom with immaculate kids and home that the author portrayed herself as.  I told my sister that the author was probably brushing past or glossing over all the parts that didn’t shine like she wished they did.  I told her, with a little reflection, that I do this on my blog for the most part and that people do it in Christmas letters and probably all sorts of places.  I mean, for me, the thought is why focus on the not so desirable parts?  It’s the other parts of life that I adore—that I strive for.  I am all about putting a positive spin and finding the silver lining in even disheartening situations.  And I enjoy that people think I am a positive person, as I have been told I am.  I want to be a positive person…why would I want to be anything else?

But, there is something to the idea of owning all of yourself, all of your life, by accepting and noting all that you wish was perhaps a little different.   Without noting these things how will we know when we’ve gotten past them?  How will keep up the notion that we are, in fact, real live human beings who are not always smiling under sunny skies?  With all the positive gloss sometimes that fact could be lost.   

We are all just people and none of us is perfect, no matter how hard we try to be.  We all have days we wake up grouchy.  We all say things we wish we could take back, sometimes haunting us for years.  We all have laundry that gets piled up and family members who drive us up the occasional wall.

I’d be giving the wrong idea if I only give the impression that my life never has its turbulence.  It certainly does.  Whose doesn’t?  Admittedly, I am very blessed and that is part of the reason why I should feel desires to only focus and highlight all the awesome, wondrous, mind-blowing, great things that happen to me each and every day.   There are so many blessings and they outnumber the downfalls.   That is why I don't tell you all the bad parts.  There are so many other things to discuss.

But, all that said, I really admire the open and honest blogging of Tania from Ivy Nest.  She shows the beautiful, radiant side of her life and also, the blues and melancholies, too.  Or  Becky from Life for Us would be another admirable example of sharing life with all that it entails from happy anniversaries to dreams lost.  There are several others.  It makes them both such real people to me.  They are not some absurdly unattainable domestic and social goddesses that I can never live up to.  I admire that they shares themselves, the great and the not-so-great.   Their blessings seem to outweigh the downfalls by far (they are both excellent at appreciating the small, simple joys of this great life), but they own the setbacks just as much as the rest of it.  Lisa suggested that I should do the same on my blog, especially if I admire it on someone else’s.

Maybe she is right, but it’s challenging for me to be down so publicly when I have so much to be thankful for—that it is somehow ungrateful.  I know that I do not like to surround myself with people who have only complaints—about their health, the weather, their house, their kids, the finances, their car, their job, their parents, and on and on.   Why would I want to share my tribulations with everyone and the whole world?  Why put that negative energy out into the world? 

I guess to find out you are not alone.  I guess because someone might have some advice or at least words of comfort for you.  I guess because that is the truth of our life whether we like it or not.  I guess because we might learn something, or teach something to someone else.  I guess there are lots of good reasons and it’s probably an ego thing not to—to only paint the bright side of things…that life will be good as long as the Christmas letter says it was.  That isn’t true.  In the end the troubles find you whether you pay attention to them or not. Whether you share them or not, and actually they probably find you faster if you don't share them and try to manage it all alone.  I don't think we're meant to take on all life's struggles alone.

I felt an unexpected sense of kinship when I learned that Miri’s daughter,Sarah, has an autoimmune disease, like I do.  And Miri and I both had to wonder that neither of us had known that about the other.  We'd both kept it to ourselves so well.  While both of our households and the illnesses contained therein are undoubtedly vastly different they share this common unpleasantry to tie them together just a bit.   What that does for either Miri and her daughter or myself is questionable, but just to know for one moment that I am not alone in trying to struggle on with a brave face despite my stupid immune system, that was good for me.  To feel the deepest, sincerest sympathy and hope for that family as they struggle to good heath when one’s body has hijacked itself, that was good for me and I hope some of the energy of my love and sympathy made it to Sarah and Miri and was good for them, too.  It was soul affirming for me somehow.

Life is not always good.  I know that.  I also know I will always be the kind of woman to hone in on the bright side of things-- in my day-to-day as well as in my blogging.  But, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a grey side and that everything is rosy.  It just means that the brightness will always look brighter because you have the dark to compare it to (if you choose to compare and I do choose to).  Trials and tribulations are unavoidable.  That is life!  The least I can do is accept them, not just gloss over and downplay, and know that they will make the bright seem even brighter when it returns.  And sometimes it helps to share with friends who care because they may be the buoy you need to ride out the storm.

1 comment:

  1. I had a friend, a casual one who wanted to be more--a good and close, constant friend. However, she talked of nothing but her medical problems, how someone stole her artistic works and sold them as her own, what her four ex-husbands were doing to her to make her miserable. There was never a bright spot. Oh, her mangy dog was all she ever spoke of positively. But, he was always sick and mangy. I finally had to scrape her off my plate when she was encroaching on my life and demanding I sort of be miserable with her. If I mentioned any of my pains (you know what they are, probably), she just brushed it off.

    Sharing the good and the bad is what one expects from friends. I probably have more dark moments than bright ones, but what good does it do to focus on that? Yes, I would like to be perfect, not overweight, not disabled, not old, not living in a house falling down. But, not many people want a steady diet of my complaints or complaints from anyone else.

    Neither you nor I am dying, so there is no need to focus on the bad stuff. From your dancing cape and pictures of you having fun, it seems you are enjoying life now. I must say, I lived a life of healthfulness (except for sinuses and allergies) when I was young, so I cannot imagine being in your position so young.

    It does not seem that Matt would ever consider you a burden.

    Yes, we all want to be seen as successful, whether it is immaculate children or great housekeepers. Really, I did have immaculate children at all times in public. At home, they were dirty ragamuffins in outgrown clothing. That was tiring but I don't regret it. If a woman does not have a career, she is more obsessed to be seen as a successful homemaker. She has to justify herself and her not working to others.

    One advantage to being older is that my friends all have some "condition." I am probably the healthiest of all the people my age I know. At least surgery will completely solve my problems. At my 45th reunion, I was limping. My friends thought I had arthritis, and I had not yet gotten my diagnosis on spine, knee, ans shoulder. All five of the women had high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, and a variety of other ailments, none of which I have yet. (knock on wood)

    Yes, all the people my age struggle to stand or walk, or something...so, it's better for me...lol.

    You don't have to be perfect.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and ideas. I value the advice and friendship that you share with me!