Everyone is a storyteller and an unreliable narrator. Every. One. From the same basic facts one person could spin at least ten versions of a story. The worst, ugliest, least-fair version you can come up with is NOT the one that is most true, but it's the one we instinctively reach for. Especially when we are making New Year's Resolutions.
You see, New Year's Resolutions do not start from a position of power. They start from feelings of powerlessness, feelings of worthlessness. "I'm gonna take CONTROL!" We say to ourselves as though we are out of control, as though we are unruly children instead of well-educated badass adults who manage to care for ourselves just fine.
Eff that. But fine, let's start there, at that familiar place, and work our way out.
Step 1: The Worst Possible Narrative
When I make my initial list of things in 2019 that still make me cringe, the feelings I felt...I shudder. It's tempting in these moments to deny our feelings, to turn our frown upside down, so to speak. But 20 years of talking to trained professionals has taught me to face, name, and address those feelings. So I do this...
...and it hurts.
The list above names the things I think of when I think of 2019. Go ahead and write yours down before we go any further. Write as few or as many as you want. Call them whimpers. Over the next 7 days, I will help you turn them into ROARS.
Step 2: Whimper
When the New Year started, I was frustrated and increasingly scared. I'd been doing all of the right things for 12 months and I had gotten nowhere. I was spending roughly 25 hours per week (not including driving time) on my health. I was doing everything right but I wasn't seeing results...And people were starting to question why. They were starting to question Me.
I couldn't do 90% of the things my kids needed, from buckling little bodies into minivan seats to bedtime snuggles to giving baths. Anything that involved bending over for more than a few seconds could render me useless for days. The people who were helping me were starting to get tired of explaining what I was doing while I went to Pilates and acupuncture and MAT and physical therapy; why Mommy had to work out so much. Frankly, I was getting tired of explaining myself, too. I get that on paper my activities sounded vain as hell but that totally ignores who I am and why I was doing those things. It's a lazy analysis and it is maddening.
We were all out of grace in late May when they found the tumor. Then things finally started moving but major damage was done. The second half of 2019 would be devoted to a different kind of ReBuilding, one I hadn't envisioned.
Normally in the course of making New Year's Resolutions this is where the story ends. "I took too much from my family this year, so next year I will be SELFLESS and give myself NOTHING" as though this chapter in my life is a debt to others that could be paid via martyrdom or penance.
This is the whimper. Watch as it builds to a ROAR.
Step 2: Name Your Feelings
I still feel guilt, overwhelming amounts of guilt, for the amount of time I spent trying to fix my body. I feel shame for being so needy. I feel deficient and unworthy of my beautiful family as well as your attention.
I do NOT feel shame for doing everything in my power to manage my chronic pain, to keep my hope alive, of focusing on what I COULD do despite the way that work would be perceived.
Step 3: A More Generous Narrative
The lazy analysis that makes me feel guilty ignores the fact that I perservered when it would have been easier to quit. That it would have been easier to NOT fix myself and resign to a life of pain making sure everyone knew how hard I was working in spite of the terrible pain I was in. It would have been easier to martyr myself with no regards to what that would have done to my family.
I did NOT take the easy way out. I prioritized to getting to a point where I could be whole again, no matter what. I humbled myself and did a whole lot of work I didn't want to be doing, and I did it for the people I loved even though that wasn't always obvious.
I told my kids I was working out, the most benign version of my narrative, because I didn't want to scare them. I didn't make our helpers responsible for my health, my emotional state or express the depth of my fear. I had everyone focus on my work so much they forgot why I was doing it in the first place. I am privileged but even the Real Housewives don't spend 8 hours per week doing Pilates!!
I spent a lot of time on myself in 2019. I never gave up on myself. I fully committed to healing for the sake of my family. Everyone else may have forgotten my why, but I never did.
Incidentally, I haven't done Pilates since my surgery. I haven't needed it- my joints are no longer lax.
I am Tenacious AF. Hear me ROAR.