About a month ago I was diagnosed with something called Pernicious Anemia. Basically this means I can’t process B12 which is A Bad Thing. I’m not making enough blood and feel quite rubbish. I’m still working on the treatment with my naturopath, the first try hasn’t worked out so we are now onto bi-weekly injections which I’m hoping will give me the boost I need. One of the side effects of this problem is fatigue and this week I have really been feeling it. Along with this a difficulty to concentrate or even do basic tasks; I seem to have low points that really take me down, so one day I’m reorganising the house and the next day I can’t work how how to eat my eggs. Frustrating it is.
Right now I’m trying to juggle the normal household stuff, homeschool and project manage the building of our house. This feels like a lot of different plates to keep spinning and the down times just make me feel under threat. There are things that have to get done, I simply cannot fail. And yet my body gives out, I am dizzy, breathless and exhausted. There have been days where it was too painful to walk. But the work is there and has to be done. In these moments I really feel like I’m bashing my head against a brick wall. Our future is within grasp but is feels under threat because my body isn’t working properly and apparently never did. Or never will.
The thing that I have been struggling the most is not just the horrid feeling of the symptoms themselves but the restrictions this places on me. I can’t do all the tasks I want to, I’m limited in my ability to be successful and frustration rides high in my consciousness. I am thwarted and not happy about it. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been reading Adrie’s posts with much interest. She has been talking candidly (what a blessing the honesty of other mothers truly is) about letting go of certain expectations and embracing some conveniences that make life easier and more pleasurable. I have to admit I understand her dilemma.
I wouldn’t put myself in Adrie’s shoes, what she achieves is truly remarkable, but I understand the inability to cut oneself a teensy bit of slack. I grew up with hard working parents and with stories about their hardworking parents and grandparents. My great grandmother had 10 living children, did all the washing by hand (her husband and 8 boys all worked in the coal mines) and cooked everything over a fire. She pumped water from the garden and had a mangle instead of a dryer. My Mum remembered doing washing with her when she was little and told me stories so vivid I felt I was there. Somehow, compared to that, any complaints I may have seem trivial and my own difficulties feel like laziness.
For example. I bake the bread for my little family, I enjoy it and do it happily. I’m not hardcore and do use my kitchenaid stand mixer for a lot of the kneading making things quicker for me. This week I wanted to do a quick rising loaf so used white flour bought from the store instead of wholewheat that I had ground myself. I added pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds (I feel compelled to add this detail) but still I feel like I cheated, took a short cut and that I am being lazy. I’m aware that this is silly, that many people consider baking bread to be a bit of an achievement and yet I can’t feel too pleased with myself.
If I get praise it sort of rolls off, I’m pleased but embarrassed and sort of think it is undeserved. I think if I can do it, then it is easy and nothing to make a fuss about. I compare myself to others and think ‘But look at them, look what they are doing.’ I wish I could do it all and yet the time, energy, space, opportunity isn’t there. But that feels like excuses, haven’t others done more with less, faced hardships and won through? Am I not simply spoiled? Will my life amount to nothing in the end? Nothing really special at any rate. Am I letting the boys down? Etc etc. And then all this navel gazing feels self indulgent and I am irritated with myself, instead of complaining shouldn’t I be doing? But the negativity is paralysing, it holds me in place like my feet are stuck in mud. It creates doubt which creates inaction which feeds the doubt.
I ask myself “Why can’t I cut myself any slack?” Partly there isn’t the opportunity, it is mostly just Stephen and I so we can’t call in the willing and helpful relatives, not without a plane ticket anyway. When one takes a break the other has to step in and that is hard. But honestly I simply feel guilty, like a big fat lazy slacker. All very puritanical for a raving heathen but there it is.
So how can I break this cycle? How can I learn to take pleasure in my own happiness? It is partly a learned behaviour. I know from what my Dad tells me that my Mum struggled with the same things when we were young, he had to force her to change her patterns and look after herself when she was making herself ill. Luckily I have my own lovely man who has done the same for me (and my Dad on the end of the phone insisting on it too!), but I have to continue on myself. Somehow I have to release the burden of guilt and invest myself in my own well being. In part I know I’m being prideful, wanting to hold myself up to a higher standard. But I find myself being mean in this state and, honestly, envious when I see others free of this burden. I don’t want to be a pinch faced meany casting scorn upon anyone who dares to enjoy life, so I need to lighten up.
I know this will benefit my family, I know it will give me the energy I need to be there for them. That’s how I can justify it to myself, for now. But honestly I’m not even sure what it would look like. So for now here is my little manifesto:
1. Take time to rest during the day. Occupy boys and lie on the bed, don’t look at emails or work on the house project. Rest.
2. Make simple meals that are nourishing and quick. Don’t feel guilty about buying lovely fresh foods that are health giving.
3. Try and do something fun like thrift shopping/ go for a tea with a friend/do some sewing etc once a week. Find a little time to be me. BUT if this doesn’t work out I will try not to see it as a failing!
4. Work every day on letting go of guilt, see it for what it is, useless. As my beautiful friend reminded me yesterday it does no good to hold it all in. As always her wisdom inspires me as do so many wonderful friends and family that I’m lucky to share my life with.
5. If in doubt drop shoulders, try to smile and get out the paints/storybook/popcorn. Be really present with the boys for some time each day, enjoy them, love them.
6. Let go of things that are not working right now, come back to them another time.
7. Accept imperfection. I’m doing my best and that is going to be my mantra right now. I am doing my best. Repeat ad infinitum.
That’s it for now. My capacity to process B12 might be pernicious but I am determined my character will not become so. My life is so full of blessings, I just need to look up and take time to notice. And enjoy.