How You Get Through Is Enough

In my most recent blog post, which you can find here: I talk about the pitfalls of comparing ourselves to those not struggling with chronic issues. But I think it is also important not to compare ourselves to our fellow warriors, which is also easy to do. Many of us don’t have the benefit of surrounding ourselves with chronic illness/pain warriors in our daily lives so we surround ourselves with them in various forms of social media, read blogs, and try our best to stay connected. After all, these are the only people who truly understand our plight. The problem I find, which can cause us to struggle even more, is trying to compare how we are dealing with things to how our role models in the community are dealing with them. I’ve found myself on more than one occasion thinking, “Damn. They really have it all together.” Or, sometimes it’s not about having it all together, but how they deal with things emotionally.

The most poignant example that I feel illustrates my point is as follows: I have shared a little about my dear friend who recently passed away from a very long battle with cancer. I met her at work and she was my assistant manager at the time. Initially, I did not know she had breast cancer. She was in remission and was doing well. There is no other way I can think of to describe her, other than “a force.” Older than me by a few years, she had the energy of a five-year-old who’d just consumed 3lbs of sugar. We called her the Energizer Bunny. But more than just her energy was her spirit. She was vibrant and happy and always had a huge smile on her face. When she relapsed with her cancer and was going through chemo, she never missed a day of work and never, ever lost her smile and spirit. She is the reason I have a blog and the reason I started writing about chronic illness and pain. I watched her handle everything with such grace and beauty and be such an inspiration to so many people, I wanted to be like her. And here is where the but- comes in. But, I am not her.

It was during my time still working there that my health took a dive and I went through surgery and was searching for answers and trying to deal with my health and work and I was frustrated with myself because I was not dealing with it like she did. Here I was, not struggling, as I perceived then, on the same level as her and cancer, and I was flailing badly. Instead of power-housing through it like she seemed to, I was crying and beating my fists against the wall wondering why me. And then, I learned my most important lesson from my friend that I would only truly come to understand later. Talking to her at work, all before I would receive my two most impacting diagnosis, she would tell me very matter-of-factly, like I should have been aware of this all along, “You aren’t me. And I’m not you.” I’m pretty sure I laughed and maybe scoffed a little. Of course, we weren’t the same, right? I knew that. She continued to tell me that everyone deals with things a different way and that it was okay to scream and cry and ask, why me? She’d done enough of that too, but that she’d always been an inherently happy person and so it was natural for her to continue in that same vein and be optimistic. She added that it does help to look on the bright-side especially when the deck of cards is stacked against you but that I shouldn’t feel like I wasn’t measuring up because my way of dealing with things was different.

If it isn’t clear by now, her words had a profound impact on me. Even more-so now, writing for my blog and writing for sources whose primary readership are those battling chronic illness and chronic pain because I have read the comments left for me. Things like: “You are an inspiration to me.” “Your words are exactly my thoughts and feelings.” “I don’t know how you do it, I’m struggling just to get out of bed every morning.” I hear those words and many times I will write back and say I am just like you. There is nothing magical going on here and I struggle every day, just like you. I think sometimes people read these blog posts and wonder how I have the time, or how I manage my family on top of writing. My secret, that I will share with all of you reading in your little corner of the universe, is two-fold: 1.) I don’t manage every thing that needs to get done all the time. Sometimes chores sit undone. Sometimes I can’t write and need a long break. 2.) Sometimes I write to the detriment of other things that need to get done because it is therapeutic for me. When I get it out of my system, I feel a little better and feel like I can take a breath and tackle life again. I don’t want people who read my blog or other writings thinking I am Wonder Woman, because I’m not. I’m just a girl trying to keep herself afloat the turbulent waters of chronic illness.

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Happy Yule! Merry Christmas! Peaceful Solstice! Happy Hanukah! However you celebrate, wherever you may be celebrating, I hope it was joyful for you and I wish you peace and health in the coming New Year.

It is the day after Christmas festivities in our house. Christmas Eve is traditionally spent with my mom and dad at their house and any guests they might have. Christmas Day is just us and usually means a lot of cooking, but I can cook in pajamas and not have to worry how I look and can enlist the kids to help. It was a great holiday for us. The food came out great and on time, and without so much as one glitch. Yay for me! I had received my gift early, a silver-tipped Siamese cat whose name is Neptune and who is already fitting in with the family very well. My previous cat died a year ago in October and I really thought I was not going to get another cat for a long time. It’s still very hard knowing she is not here and I miss her terribly, but Neptune is a joyful addition. He’s about 4 months old, was rescued as a wee lil babe in San Antonio just before Harvey, as part of their feral cat rescue. He was abandoned by his momma and fostered by a wonderful and caring woman, who I am very grateful for. Neptune has really found a place in my heart.

I don’t know about all of you, but for me, there is always an after-holiday-crash. Between the excitement of gift buying and preparations made for meals and the kids being home from school, I’m always incredibly busy. Even as someone who struggles with chronic illness and has had to adapt and modify how much I do, I always find myself busy and then crashing hard after Christmas. Still, there is that mad dash toward the end of the year hot on the heels of Christmas, but it’s never with as much enthusiasm. New Years is nice enough and we always plan an evening of fun with the kids that usually ends up with watching movies and eating a variety of finger foods. The following day is generally clean up day and maybe some napping as we head into the new year.

This year’s crash feels harder than usual. I find myself feeling badly because my mom did Christmas Eve and I could see she was exhausted. She’s 70 years old and I should be the one doing everything for the holidays, but that kind of preparation from start to finish would leave me unable to function for a week. But my mom is from Cuba and Christmas Eve entails some traditions that I’m just not sure I could continue without serious commitment from all my children and my husband. As I write this, I am actually wondering if perhaps changing some of the typical Cuban fanfare for Christmas Eve would make it more do-able or perhaps changing the entire menu and doing something different might give my mom a break and inspire the kids to be more participatory and maybe, start their own traditions. Whether or not it is in a few years or a few months, eventually one or more of them will probably have a family or want to host the holidays at their place or maybe they want to bring their own dish to the table. Maybe it is time to be more flexible.

Today has been a mix of cleaning and resting. Since my recent surgeries and effort to recover, I have not been able to clean the way I might. Of course, the way I might typically exhausts me regularly and I certainly don’t need surgery recovery as an excuse. My kids have done their best to clean and keep up with everything, but I am cursed with OCD and so it’s been building up for some time now, though I have been able to squash it down because I wasn’t able to physically do it hobbling about with a walker. But now, with my cane, I feel like I have to try and so I have been really tired. I have been tackling one room as I can, sometimes not getting through the entire thing in one day. Today was my bathroom and vacuuming my bedroom. With new kitty, it has to be cleaned regularly or we both start sneezing. I think I have gotten done as much as I can get done today. As though the after-holiday-crash weren’t enough, it’s been gloomy and raining and cold all day and it doesn’t look like it’s about to change at all. This does little to inspire me to do much else but laze about, so I am pretty pleased that I have at least cleaned some, added to my blog and will do one more chore before I pick up a book and do something I haven’t done in recent months- read!

One last thing before I go. New Years is often about new beginnings. I don’t put much stock in resolutions because I think it sets you up for failure. I think it is a combination of setting an intention and doing little things every day to change your lifestyle, that helps you to change. So at midnight, on New Year’s Eve, set your intention for the year. Then every day hence, make one small change to your lifestyle that supports your intention.

To all my readers and your families: A blessed holiday to you and peaceful and healthy New Year.