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….