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It's All a Part of Us
Is there sometimes an inaccurate critic that resides within each one of us? I know I have one. It can be a wrestling match of sorts. The critic is the one that provides performance reviews on how we are doing within any aspect of our lives. Unsolicited advice drives me up the wall. Perhaps we can be our own most brutal critics towards ourselves. It can be so easy to find ourselves assessing portions of our lives. We may be doing this in the area of health, relationships, finances, material stuff, emotions and more. I have found myself getting very tough on myself in all these areas at one time or another. It’s great in my opinion to keep an eye on progress & make improvements yet it is quite another thing if we find ourselves hurling negative commentary to ourselves that can chip away at us in a myriad of ways. When does the inner critic come out most often? We each will have our own answer. My experience is that the critic within makes the most appearances when I am physically & emotionally wiped out. Try as I do, there are times when I do get completely wiped out. It is usually my body that tells me first that it is time to take my foot off the accelerator & put some activities in the slow lane. How great to realize this yet how frustrating it can be to have to get to the point of physical & emotional saturation before it all becomes obvious. It is what it is though.
Recently, I read an article that indicated how pains in various areas of one’s body correlate to gaps in our lives. For example, for the past month my left shoulder has been in excruciating pain. It started in the shoulder & has continued to ramp up & has also travelled up to my neck & all the way down to my elbow. I don’t want to go too far off the land of reality with this information because I have join pain in several areas of my body compliments of psoriatic arthritis. The thing is that there are periods of time that I feel pain free & other times the monster of pain wells up to a beastly level. Maybe there is some truth in the article that I read I have come to believe. The article stated that pain in the shoulder usually means that a person has been carrying too heavy of a burden. That does not sound too far out there for me to believe. Last week I shared with you that I made a decision to slow things down & pull up the draw bridge & put the invisible crocodiles out in an effort to make improvements in my health which has declined with a neon light since mid December. To my credit I did slow down somewhat yet one little word kept undermining me & my plan to have a gentler pace during the last couple of weeks of January. The month is gone & I need to reset the date for my goals. The reset is the month of February. The goal remains the same. I am not completely burnt out physically & emotionally but I am close so I plan to get it right for February. Being a determined, feisty rascal means I will not give up. My heart’s hope for you is that you have a feisty rascal all your own that keeps you moving forward & hope filled. Since I was never a cheer leader I am not about to do the flakey “rah rah” thing. Let’s put some substance around challenges with some real life examples. Before we do this, I will share as well with you that I need to replace the word “just” in my vocabulary with the word “no” to see some real progress. The word “just” equates to an answer “yes” even when I am wiped out. But you know as I do that because we have an invisible “365” that we can look really good or well on the outside even when we are hanging on physically by our fingernails. My “just” is the word I use when someone asks me to do something for them. I think to myself, I will “just” do this & then take a break. The list of “justs” though does not have a natural conclusion…the “justs” could go to infinity it seems. I am terrible at saying no. Why is that? I asked myself that. The answer is that I know I am a people pleaser (I think I was born with that) & saying no is the most unnatural thing in the world to me. I want people to be happy & on the opposite side of that I don’t want to cause others to be disappointed. That is really a fancy way of saying that my inner critic loves to throw guilt on my shoulders. It is a silly kind of guilt though that makes no sense. For sure I am far from perfect. Guilt can be a barometer to fix something but guilt can also be an insidious little liar. In the cases where I feel guilty for taking proper care of myself by saying no when I should & instead say “ok, I’ll just do this & then take care of myself in the leftover time” I get the same result. The truth of the matter is that there is no leftover time if we put ourselves at the bottom of the “to do” list. I am lucky to make it half way through a “to do” list on any given day because I tend to be an overachiever too. We are programmed I think into believing the convincing liar that if we rest & refuel ourselves that we are being selfish & that is likely to lead to the lie that we ought to feel guilty about that. I say no to that emphatically. Ok, great, I have to put that no into practice. How about you?
Let’s take a look at a couple of real life perspective builders since this is not a “woe is me” party after all ever. Isn’t it amazing how you can have an experience like perhaps watching something in a film or on tv or someone can say something & at the time it feels pretty neutral but somehow you tuck it away & it becomes significant at a later time? Recently, I have had 3 of these examples propel themselves from the very back of my mind right into the front centre in significance. All 3 are sobering in a great way. The first centers around an interview I watched on tv about 2 months ago. It was an engaging interview at the time & after it was over I was at a bit of a loss for words. It was absolutely a gem of an interview. I wish I had written down the name of the gentleman who was being interviewed because the wisdom that was shared in the discussion is something that I feel so many other people would be comforted by. The gentleman was sharing the story of his wife & her decline as she was diagnosed with dementia 3 years ago. He described the person that he had fallen in love with & married & the heart break of seeing this highly intelligent, graceful lady fall into a state of remembering less & less about her life & her family. He shared his experiences with such love of his wife. He also was beautifully honest about his gut wrenching pain from going from being a couple in love to his wife not realizing that they were even married. He did not sugar coat his pain yet did not seek pity either. He did say that he sought help by talking to a counselor. This counselor said something profoundly comforting. This wise soul said that the gentleman’s wife had returned to the innocence of a very young child & that he felt that made the wife profoundly holy & close to God. The gentleman said that he had a total shift in perspective after hearing this & he treated his wife with an even gentler love. He found himself thinking of ways to connect with his innocent, sweet wife. His wife had been a painter however she had forgotten how to paint but the husband brought along an adult colouring book & crayons & visited her & both of them coloured together. He said that one day as they sat colouring together that his wife smiled at him & said “I would like to marry you one day.” He squeezed her hand & smiled & said, “Great news, I would love to marry you too.” How great is it to be able to share with honesty & find support & encouragement & hope even within painful experiences. The second gem that came to the forefront of my mind this week is something that my Dad shared with me a couple of weeks ago. At the time I read it I thought to myself, “isn’t that sweet” & that was about it. It turns out that it emerged into a message that I believe we could all benefit from hearing. My Mom & Dad are in the warm South right now & the lovely spot that they stay at is owned by an incredible couple from Montreal. (Yay, home of my favourite hockey team, the Habs) Even though I have never met them I know with absolute certainty that they are gems. My Dad shared with me that there is a plague that hangs in one of the rooms of the home away from home that they are enjoying. It reads, “Life does not need to be perfect to be wonderful.” It reminded me of something that I say so often to others “life is a beautiful mess.” Then I realized that the quote that my Dad shared was really an even more perspective builder or hope filled version of what I was already saying. Since I am a steadfast believer of giving credit to the creator of any art I went ahead & looked up the author of this quote. It hit my heart strings with a thud when I discovered that the person who voiced this quote was Annette Funicello. You may be aware that she suffered from multiple sclerosis. A couple of years ago I watched a documentary that her husband shared describing their lives as the disease devastated her body. Her husband continued to gently care for her & continued to look for treatments to help her. It was a heartbreaking story to watch. The part that was incredible was the husband’s vivid love for his wife. Sometimes I ask myself if these types of situations would challenge me beyond my breaking point. We really don’t know how strong we are though & we sure don’t know how strong pure love is. The quote is a gift that Annette Funicello left us with as just one loving legacy. The third focusing treasure that I happened upon this week that stayed with me is a quote by Helen Keller. She said, “What we love deeply becomes a part of us.” This is especially comforting I find when I work through loss. We each face loss in our lives in one form or another. The more people we love for example the more we may face this. Last week another friend was lost to type 1 diabetes complications. How do you make sense of this yet again? I don’t make sense of it at all. I just remind myself that her life & life in general is precious & remember that our family & friends remain with us in the love that we gave & received. That is never lost. Love absolutely lasts forever. And I like to say “to be continued” instead of goodbye when I get together with loved ones & this is no different. Life is not perfect. There are struggles for each one of us. The only thing that really matters though is that we have the gift of reaching out to one another in a loving gesture. We each matter. Our feelings matter. Our lives matter. We each have a purpose. We each stumble. We each deserve the love of at least one other person who listens with love when we need to lighten the load. There are struggles yet there are moments of absolute near perfection. Each one of us will have different versions of these near perfect moments. For me these include: laughter with family & friends,being silly before story time with our sons, the big goofy grin that our youngest son gets on his face after he completes a 1000 piece Lego creation, the happiness that our oldest son exudes when he shares one of his phenomenal writing pieces & receives genuine kudos from my husband & I & the euphoria from our middle son when he receives compliments for his polite manners & generous heart. And like last week I remind myself that although life can be a beautiful mess the real moments that matter are indescribably beautiful & that is where I choose to direct my steadfast hope. The mess, the beauty, it is all a part of us.
My heart’s hope for you is that you can be real with at least one trusted dear heart. May that person give you the gift of listening & the gentleness of the examples of the husbands mentioned earlier in this story. And like Annette Funicello said so beautifully, “life does not need to be perfect to be wonderful.” (Thank goodness, right.)
As always have a gentle week. Next Monday's story is in the creative ether.