I would like to report I am hale and hearty, that all is well in my world. After all, I ate yummy food for brekky with kind & funny people in our cozy house where I sit right now looking out on my sunny garden. Should I wish, I can wash myself or my dishes in clean running water. I’d like to say this is all I need. But in truth, I cannot.
The externals are in place. My life looks fine. I look fine (thanks for noticing!). But I’m a bit rattled & raw inside because of my commitment to self-care.
Self-care doesn’t always feel great.
For example, this Thursday, I walked the mile or so from my house to Riverside Medical Center for my yearly mammogram. I see this as part of preventive-care for personal wellness. Self-care 101.
I also see this as a form of elective pain and discomfort. I don’t have to do it, but I choose to. To celebrate my positive but uncomfortable choice, I lined up a pedicure right after the exam. As we all know, the small luxury of a massage chair and warm foot soak goes a long way toward evening out the painful indignities of having intimate body parts smashed and scanned by a stranger.
Did the pedicure help? Maybe. I really like looking at my toes. But did it even out the pain? Not really. Here’s the thing about pain: We don’t pair pain with self-care. Healthy people don’t like pain. We think pain should be avoided. We think pain is bad. But is it?
Before I continue, let me assure you: I do not like pain. I do not seek it out. I am not a masochist. I think the motto No Pain No Gain is rubbish!
I treasure joy & pleasure & happiness. I would like to figure out how to ramp up the energizing feelings and diminish the draining ones. But it is impossible. I’ve noticed that a good deal of a good life involves deep feelings — including pain and discomfort. And current research backs me up on the impossibility of diminishing one and not the other.
“We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.” ~ Brené Brown
This wisdom came to mind when someone sent me this message:
“In my own opinion, I think what I see which is a barrier to me wanting to use you is your constant reference to yourself and your own struggles. You sound bogged down in your own challenges which doesn’t make you sound available and/or effective. It sounds self preoccupied. I would make others your focus online and shape your messages in another voice. Otherwise it doesn’t give the reader hope or uplift them.”
The comment made me pause. Do I tone down my struggles so people will want to “use” me? Is that the purpose for this site? Should I share only the un-bogged down bits? Change my voice? Should I abandon or tidy up references to my pain? Should I write more selectively, hopefully, upliftingly?
Like my writing models Anne Lamott and David Sedaris, I think one way to redeem a challenge — aka sh***y experience — is to turn it into material. So, will I take this advice? Nope.
I will keep doing what I’m doing which is write to figure out what I think. Write to get out of my head & open my life in case you connect and feel less alone. Write to share stories in the only voice I have: mine. Write so that I never waste a struggle.
I’m glad for the opportunity to process that. But I digress.
Back to feeling rattled & raw.
Why these feelings? Because not all self-care is delightful & delicious. (And not all hopeful & uplifting writing is always hopeful & uplifting.)
Often, painful & draining emotions breathe in the same space as energizing emotions. Positive, proactive choices — a source of energizing emotions — can come with a heaping side of discomfort.
As some readers know, I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis — a somewhat rare autoimmune disease — about two years ago. Treatment since then has made life mostly quite manageable. I am grateful! But I’ve had a rough patch since the new year. For seven weeks I explored the limits of frequent to constant double vision. Meds adjusted. New neurologist found. Vision clear. Thank! Goodness!
Because of MG, I’m now considering self-care that looks like major surgery. And *spoiler alert* it also looks like a low-budget blood-and-guts horror film — if you google images for thymectomy. I had to put my head between my legs for a few minutes after that visual onslaught. (When the light-headedness passed, I felt vindicated for my choice to be an artist/writer/teacher.)
This elective discomfort is up for consideration because I’m all about self-care. Long-term health and well-being matter to me. I want to do what I can so that I thrive. Reading the literature and discussing the procedure with two neurologists, I understand the risks and the benefits. No guarantees, but greater likelihood of fewer meds over time, and the possibility of remission.
I’m figuring out insurance, vacation/travel dates, how much emotional support I need & have, etc. so I don’t have a date for surgery right now. What I do have is choices.
Today, I practice self-care with these choices:
I choose to love and accept my body. I choose to love and accept my life.
These choices are mine. These choices are about self-care & well-being. These choices do not feel easy or great. They feel scary. They feel tender. And they feel brave.
Here’s what I know about a thymectomy (surgery):
It will be very uncomfortable. And I will heal.
It will leave a scar. And I will still wear my bikini.
Here’s what I know about self care: Self-care is kind of like my writing, a mixed bag. It doesn’t always feel great, but it can still be helpful and even empowering.
Over to you:
What are you doing for your personal health and well-being? How do you practice self-care?