The savvy reader will observe that in keeping with THE LIST OF THREE (which has emerged as a minor focus of interest today, for reasons that escape me) I have mentioned exactly three friends in this post:
1. Berta 2. Jamie, and 3. Amy.
So my last post (CHRONIC HOPE, 7/29/12) was to be the last post about my bout with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (or any syndrome, for that matter – though that’s the only one I’m aware of having) because the conversation is, admittedly, a bit of a downer. But before we move on to happier things – like the fact that my book little book is making its debut in two boutiques and a bookstore this week – a follow-up seems necessary, if only to serve as a reminder that radical self care requires much more than dresses, rings and flowers. Beyond that obvious statement, a follow up to the “Chronic Hope” post seems necessary for three other reasons, as well:
1) It wasn’t overly hopeful (title notwithstanding)
2) It alarmed many wonderful people in my life; people who are concerned not only that I feel punk (as my mother used to say), but also that I am being unnecessarily hard on myself. As my wise and beloved friend Berta wrote, referring to my tendency to be self-condemning Re: this Chronic Fatigue thing: “I know saying ‘please don’t do that’ is virtually ineffective and not helpful, but please don’t do that.”
3) And this is important: I feel very sure that if it hadn’t taken me quite so long to really understand what it means to Love, Honor and Care for myself in the way my own little book prescribes, (like I said – I grew into my Promises slowly, with time) I wouldn’t be suffering from a chronic power deficit. This is what happens, you see, when you give away your power for two decades.
So, three things about those three things – because my friend Jamie and I are really into lists lately – especially, for some reason, lists of three (although she says “A, B, C,” and I say “1,2,3.”) I digress. The list:
1) I absolutely agree that relentless self-condemnation is never helpful.
2) I had NO idea how hard I was on myself until I removed very nearly everything from my TO DO list (for the first time in years) got profoundly quiet, and commenced listening – deeply.
3) Re: that giving away my power thing? I didn’t know better, and now I do. Or, maybe, I couldn’t help it, and now I can. In any case, It’s true that I gave away my power for two decades – because I was scared; because I felt guilty about having been a powerful but selfish young person; because I am the consummate people pleaser, have shamanistic tendencies, and am a diehard empath to boot. But those days are OVER, friends. They are decidedly, powerfully, lesson-learned-thank-you-Jesus OVER.
SELF CONDEMNATION and RECLAIMING MY OWN POWER and, oh, the information that bubbles to the surface when one clears the decks and spends a good amount of time each day in silent meditation.
On SELF CONDEMNATION, briefly.
At one point, a few (we’ll say three) weeks ago, I had the following conversation (via text) with my friend Amy:
Me: I had no idea how blisteringly hard on myself I am. Quieting the deeply buried (and now surfacing) voices in my head – the ones that have long told me that I’m pathetic for having succumbed to such ill health (among other things) – is harder than taming dragons.
Amy: Yes. But think about how cool it will be to have a tame dragon.
(With friends like these who needs therapy?!) At this point, I’m happy to report (happier than I can hope to express, frankly) that my inner work is, evidently, thorough and vibrant enough that I needed only to recognize the fact that these dragons existed to quiet them almost instantly. The degree to which and the speed with which I 1) acknowledged said dragons, 2) dealt with them lovingly, compassionately, firmly and 3) kissed them good bye once and for all surprised even me. At this point, getting quiet enough to hear them was the key.
On RECLAIMING MY POWER, briefly.
Don’t get me started. Or, let me count the ways. Since the list of ways in which I’m having a joyous time reclaiming my power would easily exceed a neat and tidy list of three, I’ll write about the one way in which I feel I must reclaim my power in the face of a chronic illness.
Now that I have “come out” of the chronic illness closet, as it were; now that I have decided to take a few weeks off to deal with this debilitating fatigue very directly, the question is this: how do I effectively deal with a “chronic” condition without becoming overly identified with it?
I believe the answer lies not only in radical self-care, dragon taming, and righteous optimism, but also in continuing to take responsibility for the decisions I have made which have led me to this point. And make no mistake: without this crucial step, I will never regain my power and/or energy. (Not to mention the fact that this is the least I can do for my friends and family – most particularly my sister and dear parents – who have worried about me and supported me through the years in ways that have gone above and beyond the call of duty.) Beating myself up, either consciously or subconsciously, is counterproductive at best, yes, and it’s important not to do that. But recognizing that I didn’t get here in a vacuum is every bit as important. I am tired because I have worn myself out over the years, making one disempowering decision after another. But this, too, I believe: Every last disempowering decision I have made was worth it for one simple reason: I “didn’t know better and now I do,” as I said earlier (and as I note in the book).
This is the magic formula, then, so far as I’m concerned – taking absolute, 100% responsibility for my mistakes – which have been as grave as any made anywhere at anytime – and refusing to cripple myself with guilt and condemnation. Instead, I will go about the rest of my life joyously employing everything I have learned from my mistakes to keep others (pray GOD) from making the same ones. This is the least – the very, very least that I can do.
My life lessons have left their mark, and the cumulative effect has brought me to a place of extreme fatigue and forced surrender. As frustrating – indeed as terrifying as this has been – I recognize the inherent gifts here. This period of profound quietude has forced me even further inward – where I’m finding more than just dragons. There are jewels here too; jewels of such magnificence that they bring me to my knees, again and again, in the little chapel at Montgomery Bell Park, where I have spent the better part of my days these past few weeks.
In any case, fear not, friends. I’m okay and getting better.
Sara Sharpe lives the wonderful, piecemeal life of an artist in Nashville, TN. She is an actor, a writer, a Holistic Life Coach (at Center of Symmetry) and the author of A Dress, A Ring, Promises to Self: an unconventional wedding planner for one. www.dressringpromises.com