Every so often I re-realize something I already knew, with a deeper amount of understanding. Recently it was: No matter how difficult things get, there will always be small moments. There’s a meditation style (if I could remember the name of it or the originator I’d tell you) which allows a person awareness of their surroundings in an observant way. One of the best things to “observe” when dealing with chronic illness/pain is that it’s constantly changing. Nausea and pain never stay at the exact same level forever. They ebb and flow, feeling more intense then less intense. It was easy to focus on the lessening of my pain and that it would be gone soon; instead of focusing on how intense my pain or nausea was, I focused on the changes in between.
This was the form of meditation I used when I was first sick and therefore nauseous and in pain 24/7. I’m pretty hypersensitive, so I was never able to block out my surroundings. So, instead, I would focus on them over my own body. I would feel how sitting felt, the floor, the air, any sounds or smells, all of these things got noticed at once. The catch is to not have any judgements about the stimuli felt. If the air feels hot, that’s okay, but if you think about how much you wish it could cool off, that’s not (except everything is okay because it’s meditation, not bootcamp). It’s always helped me so much because it allowed me to stay in the moment without focusing on something that could be affected by my condition, such as my breathing. No more trying to meditate and getting stopped by lack of deep breathing or feeling like there was a rock jammed in my diaphragm.
The biggest way this helped, was it also taught me and helped me to appreciate small moments: the beautiful way hot tea steams, the way my mom’s fluffy dog snuggles up to me almost constantly when I visit, the warmth of a favorite hat, the company of a friend, or the beauty of a row of twinkle lights. Those moments are peaceful for me and give me an opportunity to be grateful for what I have, and to stay in the moment and enjoy it.
I’ve had a hard time in my personal life lately. What it’s made me even more sure of is how important it is for me to be grateful and content with what’s going on now. I’m trying to do that more and more. Are there things I want in my life? Yes, of course! But I’ve learned that if I focus too hard on the things I want, I miss out on the things I’m lucky to have. I know this is what everyone means when they say “count your blessings,” but as I stared at the beautiful twinkle lights in my living room, it was so calming, even when I was having one of the most stressful weeks in a while, that I couldn’t help but remember how lucky I am.
Valentine’s Day is coming up this week. I know it can be a difficult day for some people, especially if your illness interferes with not just plans, but in finding someone to even think of being a valentine. I know it’s going to be a lonely day for me as well but that’s okay. I’m going to challenge myself to be grateful AND show love. You do not have to be seeing someone romantically to show your gratitude for them and Wednesday will be the perfect chance.
If you don’t like to do this, or if time is limited (which is my case), it’s also a good time to treat yourself to some pampering and remember that you deal with a lot. Everyone has problems whether it’s chronic illness or not, and everyone likes to know they’ve worked hard and that someone cares. Show yourself that gratitude and caring!
My tradition has always been to buy myself a box of chocolates, take a hot bath, and just relax and watch Netflix and thank myself for getting through all of the challenges of the past year. I’ve also occasionally gotten a friend something when they’ve acted as a big support for me. For others, it might just be letting themselves think of all the ways they’ve stayed strong in tough times, or making themselves a cup of tea, or going out with family to a place that they enjoy, or even just sitting with someone they care about and enjoying that person’s company in the moment.
The phrase “self-care” gets tossed around a lot in the Spoonies world and all over the internet in general. I personally think sometimes it goes to far, because well intentioned people could take it as “ignore someone else’s needs for your own”. In my opinion (and it could just be me personally), true self care is the act of showing yourself gratitude, of lowering your stress levels, but of also helping others and being grateful to them. Humbling experiences, the kind when I ignore something I want or possibly need (which can wait… I try not to ignore important needs) to help someone else. That’s something that makes me feel calmer, useful, and in a position to look at my life and be grateful.
Whatever you’re doing this week, on Valentines day or any other day, it might help to think about what you have instead of what you don’t. I know it’s helped me a lot in times when my wants were creating more sadness than motivation. Whether you’re a Spoonie or not, I hope your week is filled with less pain and discomfort and more time enjoying what you love.