I have Chronic Pain. Like many others I know, I wrestle daily to balance what I want to be real, and what actually is real. I don’t want to accept my limiters, generally fearful of what this might mean about who I am and what I am worth. And yet, these limiters remain real. And resisting them seems to equate to denying their reality. And so, I want to share three things I have come to accept about myself; three realities I have previously rejected.
Real Thing One: I am terrible in the mornings.
This morning began as many mornings begin; with grunts and groans and feeling perpetually late. I used to say it’s just a side effect of my medication, so I need to learn to take it earlier. Or I would say it’s because I get overwhelmed about the day ahead. I would blame my own laziness, my tendency towards late nights. I would say anything but what I finally admitted today: I am terrible in the mornings because I wake up in pain and brain fog. This makes me anxious about the rest of the day (hence the overwhelm) and snappy with my daughter (who initiates interactions that I don’t feel able to reciprocate).
Somehow accepting this new truth about myself invites a sense of freedom and hope. If I’m terrible in the mornings, then the self-flagellation rituals that demand discipline and achievement can be dropped! I don’t have to try and achieve 101 things before breakfast. I could just have breakfast. And welcome myself into the day as gently as I need to. Accepting I am terrible in the mornings sounds simply blissful.
Real Thing Two: I need help with the housework.
I sign up to the Spoon Theory, and try and to be mindful of my limited spoons of energy. But… I still expect myself to manage everything. Phrases like, “A tidy home is a tidy mind” reverberate through my very core. I struggle with brain fog more when surrounded by physical chaos, and knowing life is in order makes me feel more in control and at peace with the world. I use my ordered home as a talisman against insecurity ‘out there’.
Except that I have an additional limiter – I am a single parent who works from home. All my boundaries are blurred regarding my home and work spaces, and my foolish mind convinces me daily that I should be able to seamlessly manage to keep both in order. Every time I find myself asking my daughter to help, my inner wail is that if I managed things better I wouldn’t need to ruin her childhood by requiring her cooperation.
I know this is nonsense. Cognitively. I know she benefits from contributing to the household and that it’s actually a parental duty to let her – children like to help. My issue is that asking for help or inviting cooperation is tantamount to my admitting defeat – “I can’t cope” is what it says.
So today, I choose to accept that I need help with the housework. I choose to accept this, and let this acceptance govern my behaviour even though my head knowledge about what is good for me hasn’t quite reached my heart. I still don’t like it. I still wish I could do it all. But I’m going to stop behaving as though I SHOULD manage it all. From now own, mess is an opportunity for cooperative team work, not an indicator of my personal failure. I should pin that to my fridge.
Real Thing Three: I am allowed to be happy.
“The thing is,” I sniffed at my supervisor, “I have a really great life. I have great things in it and I’ve made great choices and it’s all I have worked towards, really. So why do I struggle so hard to accept this? Why do I resist happiness?”
Why indeed? I have observed for a while now that I seem to sniff the scent of happiness on the air, raise my hackles in suspicion and promptly scan the horizon for a new worry I could use to ward off the interloper. Is it because happiness and the relaxed sense of peace it brings is unfamiliar? I wouldn’t have said so. And yet, I historically I have treated happiness with suspicion. Wait for it, I breathe, something’s coming that you haven’t foreseen or prepared for. I get this as a double whammy – both as a Third Culture Kid and as someone with chronic pain. I both expect the world to change on me, abruptly erasing relationships and complicating my cultural identity, and I expect pain to arise unexpectedly, stripping me of abilities hitherto taken for granted.
But no more. Today I accept that I am allowed to be happy. That this doesn’t mean I’ve missed something important to worry about. Feeling my own happiness doesn’t ‘tempt fate’ or mark me as foolish or prideful in some way. Rather, it’s permission to reap my own fruit – enjoying both peace and prosperity.
These three realities are real, lived every-day elements of my story. Denying them, even these ‘little’ realities, denies some element of that, some element of my self. Accepting them, however unwelcome or unfamiliar they seem, opens me up to the wholeness and fullness of my story. Accepting the real helps my story to make sense.
What real things do you want to accept today?
Have you got life limiters? Perhaps you are dealing with a situation or circumstance that you’d rather not have to wrestle with. The tightrope walk between resistance and acceptance can be a difficult one. Where are you resisting what is real? Where can accepting reality give you freedom and hope?
Get in touch if you would like support and encouragement on your journey. You don’t have to do this alone. Peace and hope are within your reach, but accepting what is real might be the booster step you need to grasp it.