You do not have to be good.Mary Oliver, Wild Geese
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
When I hear the word more, the first thing I feel is an overwhelming panic as I think about all the things that I can’t do anymore — things I was intensely passionate about — since contracting Lyme disease. The word itself feels like a judgement — and God knows I see it every where on the internet. Headlines scroll by on social media like obnoxious ticker tape:
- “6 Minutes to Start Your Day Right!”
- “The Best Strategies To Boost Your Willpower!”
- “You Don’t Lack Motivation, You Have the Wrong Goals!”
- “The Secret Formula for Highly Productive Creative Work!”
- “14 Days to Better Writing!”
Maybe those kind of articles and rah rah cheering sections motivate or help some people push through the pain to reach their goals. For me, each one is like a hammer on a gong that rings out my failures. Everyone else around me (as presented by social media) seems to have their sh*t together.
A good day for me is dialing down the negative self-talk and depression enough to leave the house and make it into the office, work a desk job for 10 hours, then schlep back home, eat dinner at 8:30pm (if I’m lucky and the trains aren’t delayed) and if I haven’t collapsed by then, I get to read for half an hour before trying to quiet my depressive, anxious brain enough to fall asleep. Rinse and repeat times five.
But that seems to be the bare minimum when I scroll through my Newsfeed.
Keeping up with the Jones’ is no longer about how much disposable income or material things you have. It’s about how much you can balance. The new superwoman (or man) works 40+ hours outside the home, goes to the gym five days a week, writes a book in her spare time, volunteers at the local women’s shelter, and if she has kids, chauffeurs them around to all their extracurricular activities, helps with their homework, and looks fabulous doing it all.
Now imagine doing all that while battling a chronic illness.
I have friends who do just that. And they are amazing women. I hurt with them when they hurt. I empathize when they suffer a flare, or are in so much pain they can’t get out of bed. Even knowing they have bad days just like I do, I still look at myself and wonder what the hell is wrong with me that my good days can’t be like their good days.
One of the benefits I have noticed after going dark on social media for the last few days is the absence of that little devil, comparison. Why was I comparing my tired self and bad days against someone else’s pain-free day that they were able to spend at the spa? Why the hell was I comparing myself to anyone else at all?!
Pain is not a competition.
I can personally attest that no one who lives with a chronic illness is happy to carry this particular burden. I give in to the grief at times — I whine and rage out loud, “Why did this happen to me!?” But I also have good days — days when my mind feels clear of the fog and I almost feel Lyme-free. Some days, I don’t look sick at all and I am sure that some people doubt my illness. And other days, I am at my breaking point, but still have to get work done, so I put on a brave face, take a couple ibuprofen and push my pain-wracked body a little further than I should.
In the end, I looked at that poor little word again. More. Maybe the answer is not to throw a fit and cry about how I can’t do any more than I already am. Maybe the answer is to be more compassionate…to myself. To be more gentle and kind and encouraging…of myself.
Only then can I be enough.
Joining the Five Minute Friday writing prompt challenge as part of my goal to write and publish once a week in 2019. Find out more here.
Image copyright loganban; Used with permission 123rf.com
A member of the Water Street Writers, Mikaela D’Eigh is a writer, poet, and lover of Scotch. She lives out in the country with two Egyptian gods disguised as cats, a herd of cows, and a flock of wild turkeys. Check her out at La Belle Dame Merci and on Medium for more articles, poetry, and shenanigans.