Good Better Best
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.
14 thoughts on “Good Better Best”
Lovely post Emmalina, and a great manifesto! One thing that’s been helping me lately, as I often wish we were further in our journey, had done more etc, is to realize what a blessing it has been that things do take time – how living on our land has taught us a lot about what we really want to do with it (different than we thought on day one). Blessings to you, and best of luck with your health!
Adrie you are very wise. Sometimes the process does give us time to evolve and develop our thinking, though it is frustrating at the time! I see you as being so far along in your journey, you are so young and have accomplished so much! I guess I need to realise we all have challenges, it isn’t easy for anyone. Thanks for checking in : )
I feel your pain Em, and completely relate to your self-deprecating tendancy. I think it’s a pre-condition to being female. And a mom. And a Libra. Oh, elusive balance, where art thou?
But take it from someone watching from the outside, there are many of us who are in awe of YOU and what you do and achieve. I spend many days admiring your many talents and wishing I could be more like you.
I am sorry to hear about your illness. I have never had anemia, but have had depression and remember how debilitating (and annoying) the fatigue was. With so much going on in your life, I can only imagine how hard it is to keep up. And knowing you’re a lot like me, that you like to get stuff done and don’t cut yourself a lot of slack, I know how tough it must be to be forced to slow down.
But sometimes I think that is exactly the message our body is sending us: slow. down. Easier said than done when there are a hundred things to do, I know. But if you are needing an excuse to relax and just chill, I can give you one: I have gift certificates to the Nordic spa (not sure if you’ve been, it’s wonderfully relaxing hot baths in Chelsea, Quebec), so I’d love it if you want to join me for a few hours of soaking, relaxing and forgetting about everything you need to do. Give me a call or drop me a line and we can set something up!
Are you serious?! Ok I’m going to skip right past the polite “Oh no I really can’t” to the “Yes please I’d love to when shall I pick you up?”!!! I’ll give you a call tonight.
Where is the emoticon for ‘weeps uncontrollably’ when you need it? xxx
Point 8: give your hubby a big smile every day, he worries about you.
Oh, and go to the spa with Karen. If you don’t, I’ll go and get my pasty legs out and that will scare a whole lotta frenchies not to mention Karen.
Ok Karen doesn’t need that kind of image with her all day. I think I will spare her that and go enjoy myself instead.
Btw I love you xxx
Emmalina, sorry to hear that you have been having a rough time. Fatigue messes with every part of your being. I know, as I have suffered with chronic fatigue in the past before I had children and is something I never want to go through again. I really have to watch myself and I know the signs now when I need to pull myself up. It sounds like you have some great points listed above. Hope you are able to follow through with them and take care of yourself too. There is a saying that I have heard which goes “If you are living for someone else, you are dying for youself”. Sounds a little morbid, but I think it has a lot of truth in it. Healing hugs to you, Jacinta
Jacinta, I really hear you on the chronic fatigue. I suffered with that for a couple of years, not a good time. Like you I’m very aware of any symptoms and I think that is why this fatigue bothers me so much, it took so long to get better so this feels like a setback. But the good thing is I know what is wrong and I know what to do about it, I’m planning on feeling better soon. And I’m learning to take a rest when I can get it : ) Thanks for your kind words and support, just the boost I need.
First, I read your post and immediately wanted to send a hug through the cosmos. Well, a hug and some yummy treats. I’m running anemic most of the time, and my body rejects B12 like 2.0 rejects brussels sprouts. However, for some unknown (possibly magic) reason, I don’t seem to get the extreme fatigue that so many others suffer from. Now, I’m not bragging, because after a lifetime of dancing and some really pathetic genetics, I’ve got the body of an 85 year old – arthritis, herniated discs, lopsided everything – and that can be pretty darn exhausting. I’m your basic nightmare. So I do understand the frustration of limitations. And I was going to give you all sorts of inspiration, and tell you all about how everything’s going to be okay, and then I read about your husbands pasty legs.
Now I can’t seem to focus on any of the witty/supportive things I had intended to write.
So, um, good luck with the legs and stuff.
Ah my beautiful, wise and elderly friend. I am surprised by how many (awesome) peeps seem to struggle with this issue. It’s like you decide to buy a silver car and then all you see are silver cars. Except with a vitamin deficiency and no one ends up with a nice car. I’m glad that the magical powers that fuels your awesome cooking has shielded you from the fatigue part and also from a hubby who likes sprouts because we all know how that goes.
I can understand that, given the vision that is now scalded upon your delicate inner mind of Stephen’s legs, that you may now experience some fatigue, dizziness and possibly need to lie down with a box of chocolates and the remote control. For a week.
Just so you know your very awesomeness and hilarious writing cheers me no end. : )
oh, loads of love to you! you are an incredible mama and your boys so lucky. i do hope the new tact helps! xoxo
Could you be sweeter? Thanks for your kind words, always appreciated : )
oh Emma! Where to start. First of all, I can’t imagine you as a meany the meany.
Secondly, know that our ‘best’ differs from day to day, moment to moment. Concentrate on being your best and if your best is store bought flour and farmers market ingredients, your best is pretty darn good.
Next, I will share something I read sometime in my sleep deprived haze in Emmie’s first three years….it is simple. It is the idea of drawing from a full well. If our well is not full, it doesn’t matter about alllllllll the things we do, because we are putting ourselves into somekind of spiritual/emotional debt in order to do allllll the things we think we should do.
Fill your well. And if that means your kids eat honey sandwiches with apples slices on store bought croissants for dinner, things will turn out just fine. You might have more energy left to enjoy bathtime and bedtime just a little more than if you knocked yourself out doing all the things you wished you could. Your children will not remember at least until they are a little older, if you ground the flour or gave them wonder bread.
Give yourself permission to be a minimalist and by this I mean, cutting out any and all tasks that drain you of the patience or energy you need to be a happy healthy mama.
It is so very hard to let go, and easier from where I am standing now. But do it, take care of yourself because they can’t do it for you!
Now, take one arm, wrap it around one shoulder, do the same with the other and squeeze.
That’s from me. If I were from Montreal, I’d send you a kiss for each cheek.
Now, will you pleas send me your address again …(there is no excuse for the fact that I have to ask all the time and never record it anywhere permanently).
I want to send you something very special, which I think will help with the b vitamin thing and your energy.
Ah Julia, you always set me to crying! As usual you are right, and the croissant dinner sounds yummy! I’m sure my children would actually love it. I don’t know why I turn myself inside out when actually they prefer much more simple foods that are easy to prepare. I always feel like I’m cheating unless I’m super stressed!
I do think I need to be kinder to myself in order to be kinder to others. I’m sure I won’t look back and think ‘wow I’m glad I made that dinner and yelled at my kids because I was stressed’. Crazy really. I wish you were here so we could have real cups of tea and hugs!
I’ll do you a deal, you send me your address and I’ll send you mine ; ) I’ll send you an email to properly catch up. Hugs and English kisses on both cheeks xxx