New Things

Unexpected New Things

Well, friends, it’s here. My new yoga DVD arrived on my doorstep on Saturday while I was away from my apartment. It was waiting for me, looking a little forlorn, when I walked up to my door. I opened it right away so that it wouldn’t feel so dejected. But now it’s been sitting on my coffee table for a couple days, and it’s beginning to accuse me of ordering it with no intent of ever using it.

Oh, no, little DVD, I say, trying to make it stop glaring at me. I do intend to watch you. It was just the weekend and—

Suuuuuuuuureit says, rolling its eyes.

Shut up, I say. You’re just a stupid DVD.

We’re not off to a great start, yoga DVD and I. But that’s okay. I’ll work on building our relationship tomorrow.

See, the plan was to give it a go this morning. I decided that the weekend wasn’t a time for failing at yoga for the first time, but Monday sure seemed like a perfect day to do it! I’ve been getting in the habit of getting up early on the weekdays and writing for a couple hours before I start my day. It’s been going well, and I haven’t missed a morning in a few weeks. I was going to get up early, write, and then try some yoga before I showered. After all, it’s halfway through May, and I haven’t tried my New Thing yet!

I woke up this morning and felt just entirely unenthused about the day. So I set my alarm again, figuring that another hour of sleep might do the trick. Instead of doing the trick, however, it made matters worse. My blood sugar got low for what had to be the fifth time since going to bed, and then I woke up nauseous and lightheaded. So, after struggling with my perfectionism, I rolled back over and fell asleep.

I’ll be honest: I didn’t get out of bed and into the shower until two o’clock. I feel better now, almost like a normal person. I’m not sure what caused the episode, but I missed my first morning of writing in like three weeks and I ticked off my yoga DVD something fierce.

However, I realized that I tried a different New Thing this morning: giving myself a break when I felt crummy and not feeling guilty about it (well, for the most part).

If you’ve ever struggled with a chronic illness or condition, you’ve probably struggled in the same way I do. I don’t want to be lazy, to use my diseases as an excuse for slothfulness. But I also know what happens when I try to push through the bad patches and pretend like they aren’t real. And you never know when they’re going to be. They don’t call ahead or make a reservation. They don’t give you a heads up the night before. You can try planning like every day is going to be a bad day, but that just leaves you paralyzed about doing anything that requires a lot of planning and effort. You can also assume every day is going to be good, but that just lands you in a depression when it turns out to be the opposite. And with issues like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, you don’t look sick to others, and they can’t tell how bad you feel. You are the only one who can decide if it’s a day to push through or a day to lie down and rest.

I can remember being a kid and waking up before school feeling sick. Common cold, allergies, sore throat, whatever. I’d tell my mom that I wasn’t feeling well, and her answer was the same every time. “You have to decide if you feel bad enough to stay home.” Man, that always seemed like so much pressure. The stakes were high! You didn’t want to end up looking like a faker if you started feeling better at ten o’clock, but you also didn’t want to go to school and end up puking on your classmates. What to do? I’m glad, looking back, that my mom put the decision on me, though. I wasn’t the kind of kid to miss school for nothing, so I learned from early on to assess myself and figure out what kind of a day it needed to be. I had no idea it’d be such a crucial skill in my adult life.

My perfectionism gets in the way of making the right decision a lot of the time. I’ll push myself to get up and act like everything is normal, and I’ll end up feeling worse for it the next day or have to take two days to rest when one would have done the trick if I’d listened to my body. But even on the days that I choose to rest, my perfectionism says nasty things to me the whole time, making me feel worse. It tells me that I’m a failure for not being able to function like a normal person. It tells me that if I didn’t work from home, this would be a huge problem. It tells me that other people have worse things and I’m being a baby.

But you know what? I’m not a normal person. I’m a person with two chronic illnesses that can really screw up my life, sometimes even if I do everything right. And I do work from home, so why am I feeling guilty about calling off at a job I don’t have? And I learned a loooong time ago that comparing our issues to others’ does no good. It doesn’t help them; it doesn’t help us. It’s one thing to count your blessings. It’s another to feel like you have to apologize for them.

So perhaps these New Things are not just a list of activities for the coming months. Perhaps it’s a new mindset. I’ve been doing certain things a certain way for my whole adult life, and some of them aren’t working out so hot, like making myself feel bad every time I need a few extra hours in bed. So here’s to letting the spirit of New Things replace old things that make us feel bad about ourselves.

And give yourself a break. Sometimes you’re the only one who can know when you need it.

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