Tag: Self-Care

31Aug

It’s All in the Wrist

I have tendinitis in my right hand and wrist. Have I mentioned that here before? It’s relatively inconsequential in the grand scheme of life; I can’t lift much with my hand, and Dan has to chop the vegetables for dinner, but it’s never struck me as anything to write home about. Perhaps part of that is because the tendinitis started under the dumbest possible circumstances: I opted one day to carry a far-too-heavy grocery bag to the car rather than going out of my way to get a cart, and the next day, I couldn’t hold a fork. I wore a splint on my hand for a bit, tried anti-inflammatories, electrotherapy, and corticosteroid injections, and then decided that I’d just live with the stupid thing. After all, it’s not like I could take three months off using my dominant hand in order to let it rehabilitate. I’ve got things to do, places to drive, a household to care for. Rest wasn’t even on the spectrum of possibility for me.

That, dear friends? Was four years ago. Four. YEARS. Last week, I had a come-to-Jesus moment in which I realized I’ve been living with a gimpy hand for nearly half a decade just to avoid three months of recovery time. Algebra may not be my strong suit, but I’m pretty sure this doesn’t even out. (Cancel out? Equal out? Blerg.)

Wednesday was my Duh Day, and I strapped the splint back on before adding up the next three months and putting them into the calendar as milestones. The final one is on Thanksgiving Day, when I will be able to eat turkey with my right hand if it still remembers the mechanics. The timing of this feels like no accident. Six days into rest therapy, and the reasons for gratitude are already piled up to my ears… though to be perfectly honest, I’m having a hard time differentiating between gratitude and guilt.

I’m really ridiculously bad at letting others take care of me. I first noticed this tendency in myself the day during junior high when I got faint in class but instinctively turned down my long-time crush’s offer of water and attention. (Commence six weeks of private head-desking in my diary.) Being as little trouble as possible is a virtue in my weird brain. I want to do All The Things myself, thank you, and the scenario most likely to drive me demented is having to rely on others for the basics of life.

So, pretty much exactly what’s going down right now.

For the last six days, my husband and girls have been taking care of everything for me from food preparation to deodorant application (#truelove), and only one of us is chafing under this arrangement. It’s like I’m still in junior high, unable to grasp that someone’s caring actions might be rooted in genuine care for me. I have been tempted dozens of times to fling off my splint and this whole three-month recovery attempt because it’s too hard—because accepting the gift of rest is far more difficult than working my tendons to shambles. The next twelve weeks lurk beyond the limits of my imagination.

This is the same strain of ridiculous, however, that prompts otherwise sane adults to ignore injuries for four years. Rejecting help out of misplaced guilt is dumber than giving yourself tendinitis. I know this, no matter how poorly I demonstrate it. The fight begins and ends in my head.

It helps, actually, to look down at my wrists, the source of so much maddening incapability right now. On the right one, I have metal guides velcroed into place; on the left, a grace note. Helplessness twinned with gratitude, my limitations the backdrop for gift. I am still frustrated with myself and still predisposed toward guilt; I hate having to ask so much of my little family, cheerful though they are to pitch in. This time is good for us all though, I suspect. My girls are going to learn to clean the bathrooms, and I’m going to learn to chill. We’re all going to survive these three months, and maybe by the time Thanksgiving rolls into town, it won’t be the recovered hand that I’m celebrating so much as the recovered ability to rest.

(Also, the amazing left-handed typing skills that are sure to kick in aaaaaannnyyy time now… right? Right?)

20Mar

Snapshot From the Tangle

I’ve written before about my inability to grasp cause and effect, due in particular to my early view of God as a cross between Mrs. Rachel Lynde and Jabba the Hutt. If you grow up under the jurisdiction of an almighty micromanaging gangster, of course you’re going to have trouble correlating your decisions with their outcomes. (“What flavor of ice cream would you like?” “God only knows…”) I’ve been considering another factor in my powerless-but-responsible mindset lately though, and if “overwhelm” were a noun, that’s what it would be.

I’ve been going through a rough personal patch for several months now—unexplained health issues, mental and emotional shut-downs, never enough internal resources to go around. Dan keeps assuring me that I don’t have to apologize for the efforts we’ve put into finding a solution, that my wellness is a priority. Here’s where the overwhelm comes in, however. When I try to puzzle out the calibration of mind, body, and soul, all I see is a tangle of interconnected Christmas lights. Miles of them. They loop around every facet of my daily life, stretch far into the past, and disappear above the rafters of my consciousness, and you might as well ask me to solve differential equations in my head as to find the one burned-out bulb.

Here, in no particular order, are some of the possible culprits I’ve come up with:

  • Undiagnosed food sensitivities or allergies (If you say “coffee,” I will hurt you)
  • Airborne pollution
  • Stress for All The Reasons
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • A curse from the stoplight gypsy
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • An undiscovered source of mold
  • Disturbances in The Force
  • Thin-skinned-ness
  • Spiritual dysfunctions of all kinds
  • Those unpronounceable chemicals on cereal boxes
  • Adrenal fatigue
  • Delayed onset culture shock
  • Recurring trauma from events in the past
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Some medical mystery solvable only by House, M.D.
  • Chronic worrywart syndrome
  • GMOs
  • Lack of gumption
  • Karmic retribution
  • Mental decline due to compulsive Facebook scrolling
  • Unresolved relational issues
  • Secondhand smoke
  • Not enough exercise/sleep/security/time/confidence/fun/self-discipline/sunlight/peanut butter cups/[basically just insert anything here]
  • General inadequacy of being

More mornings than I’d like to admit, I look at myself in the mirror, think “Oh no, not her again,” and then slump through my day as if I’ve been sentenced to an eternal three-legged-race with Jar Jar Binks.

Jar Jar

I’m simply not up to troubleshooting the infinitesimal connections that make up a holistic self. How do others do it? Where do they find the internal wherewithal to dive into the tangle and emerge with a clear map of their wiring? I’m always left slightly utterly in awe when a friend tells me she’s suffering from adrenal fatigue or mold poisoning or (if she’s Italian) ailment of the liver. I couldn’t even tell you for sure if I have a liver much less how it’s affecting my overall sense of self.

This is the kind of post that I struggle to finish because I want to tuck the ends neatly in on themselves and say That’s that. I like solutions and “once upon a time”s and big-picture perspectives with proper story arcs in place. At the same time, I know how much of life takes place in the tangled betweens, how staking a claim in uncertainty helps us live it with intention. I know that writing this aloud may very well mean the difference between fearing overwhelm or greeting it as plot development. I know that an in-process self is one of the most generous gifts a person can give the world.

I’m trying to remember that it can be a gift to myself as well.

I’m taking life much more slowly these days, partly out of necessity and partly because I trust the loved ones who keep waving stop signs in my face. I’ve been putting green stuff into my breakfast smoothies and grinning my cheeks off (take that as you will) at Zumba and experimenting with anti-anxiety supplements. I’m veeerrrry slowly unclenching my grip on expectations for productivity, and even though letting goals slip through my fingers looks like the opposite of progress, it feels like sanity. None of this is helping me identify the burned out light bulb, mind you. I’m still eyeball-deep in snarls of theory and inconclusive medical tests, and I sort of wonder if I’m doomed to spend my life as a delicate wilting blossom of bafflement. I’m here though, in the heart of the tangle, learning and growing and claiming each small choice and effect as a badge of honor. As a gift.

image source

5Jan

Resolution for the Un-Invincible

In college, I used to stay up all night so often that four a.m. almost lost its filter of delirium. Sometimes I’d put my favorite Ben Folds Five album on repeat while I caught up on work. Other times I stayed up for the pleasure of ambling down lamplit paths with a friend in the deep Texas hush. In retrospect, I can’t figure out if I’m glad that I befriended the night back when my only real responsibility was keeping up my grade point average or if I want to shake some sense into that college girl who didn’t recognize her perpetual exhaustion for what it was.

I still have to remind myself that the skinned-knee tenderness at the front of my emotions in the week following New Year’s Eve is fatigue, not inadequacy. It’s so easy to underestimate my need for rest. I see it clearly in my daughters, the link between sleep-deprival and total personal fragmentation, but my perspective blurs when I look at myself. Even all these years into adulthood, a part of me still insists on believing that grown-ups are superheroes.

If I were to adopt any one resolution this January, it would be this: to approach bedtime with mindfulness and gratitude instead of careless disregard.

This isn’t an easy one (though what resolution ever is?). There’s something prowling and nocturnal in my makeup, and the thinner the hours stretch, the easier it is for me to believe myself invincible. Time loses its price tag. I see the dark and the quiet as valuables that someone has left out on the curb, and I have to fight every thrifty, curious instinct in me to leave them be, to declare the day sufficient unto itself.

Right now, though, I’ve cleared enough of the post-holiday fatigue to remember just how smoothly the gears of life slip into place when I’ve gotten enough rest. This seems too basic and obvious a point to bother writing out until I consider how often I neglect it. Sometimes the simple truths of our biology are the hardest to approach with reverence or even acceptance. Thus the resolution: to end my days with gentle determination, to respect my own need to recharge, and to treasure sleep as if it were my greatest asset in 2015.

Because, in some ways, it is.


How about you? Any self-care strategies you’re focusing on in the new year?

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