Tuesday, July 26, 2011

30 Days

Thirty days ago ... I took to my bed. I only got dressed when going out of the house was imperative. I didn't often venture even so far as the couch. I only cooked when I felt like it and didn't shop at all; everyone had to fend for herself (I did share my meals when I made them but more often they shared with me). I watched cartoons and cooking shows, carried on conversations with people from across town, across the continent, and around the world. I read theology and Sufi poetry, WebMD and personal stories of chronic illness. I meditated and prayed, sought solace and slept. I skipped swim meets and music lessons, parties and family holidays.

A couple weeks into my sabbatical, when my body had rested enough that my mind started to come back online, I began to notice how little I was enjoying myself. I was finally able to do what I've said for two years that I needed to do to get a hold on recovery yet all I really was doing with myself was to lay here and fret: I castigated myself with shoulds and oughts and you reallys and why don't yous. My scourges were my assumptions of other people’s expectations. I compared myself to superwomen and saints and stories that I really didn't know the half of (you know that dark side that no one writes in their blogs). Look what they've done... see what you ought... a real woman/writer/healer/mother wouldn’t be so lazy/forgetful/emotional/incompetent.... And I thought, "goddammit! I can't even be sick without beating myself with the guilt-stick?"

I felt stomach-churning, muscle-aching, joint-burning, head-bursting pain every time one of these self-flagellating thoughts burst into my mind. Usually long before they ever became conscious thoughts, my body was punishing me on behalf of this guilt. Eventually I began to associate the pain with the punishing guilt and I could do a little in-the-moment therapy to relieve the worst of the symptoms. But I couldn't prevent those demon-voices from sermonizing again and again.

About the same time as I was making this pain-guilt connection, I went to lunch at a friend's. She is an astrologer and for an early birthday gift, she read my chart. As she listed for me the planets and their positions in my zodiacal houses (and interpreted that all into English because I am fairly illiterate in astrology), I was struck by the fact that the same things I beat myself up over are the very things that she proclaimed "my gift to offer the world". All the lazy, selfish navel-gazing, she called an ability to see deeply into myself and present it (myself) as a teaching story. The fact that I am neither a great scholar nor an outstanding psychic, leading me to feel incompetent in both fields, is, according to my chart, a stunning ability to synthesize nearly indigestible quantities of almost irreconcilable information from academic and intuitive sources into approachable and understandable ideas. (Who knew?)  

Everything about myself that Christian fundamentalism and my family told me was evil, conceived in wickedness, rebellious, bossy, an over-active imagination, too analytical, thinks too hard, lazy, crazy, or wrong was, in fact, divinely created uniquely to be me.  A gift from God, through me, to the whole rest of his creation. 

That shakes the very foundations of my soul.  I hope it breaks them into tiny little dust-mote fragments, suitable for rebuilding into the belief of my own beauty and worth.   That may take a little more lying around on the bed to accomplish, though; I hope my family continues to have patience and tolerance….


  1. Finding strength in our weakness. :)
    Usually, those who are quick to judge don't have the foggiest idea of what they're saying.
    You are the only authority when it comes to your feelings, your needs and your thoughts, you and only you are able to determine what is it that you're going to do next and the reasons (or complete absence of them) to do so belong to you, only.
    I strongly believe that, in this life, we've been given the gifts we need to get by, perhaps those who feel useless are just unaware of their infinite skills at whatever. :)

  2. Pulling for you. Watch them there bed sores.

  3. Everyone has a super power and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

  4. i am glad to see you coming to a place of rest and healing, minus the guilt. I need to work on that. I have been really down on myself...feeling like a wimp for my inability to function with nausea and vomiting.

  5. Love this. I am similar to you.

  6. I love this phrase the most, because it's a gigantic mirror to myself: "My scourges were my assumptions of other people’s expectations." While going through treatment for my stage IV cancer, the chemo itself was far less of a scourge than my perception of other people's expectations, and I entered into a three year mind fuck that only ended this summer when, in a dramatic climax of crazy, I finally GOT IT that I don't anyone a damned thing, and that this mindset works for such as us who have been brainwashed our whole lives by fundamentalism to believe that we exist only for others. It's a tired mantra, the one I make to myself: "God made it clear to love my neighbor AS myself, not MORE THAN or TO THE EXCEPTION AND EXCLUSION of myself." But I keep doing it, hopeing that I will successfully reroute those sad neuron paths and find, through adequate self-care, a tree-lined avenue out of the masoleum of guilt. Good luck to you, too.