It's one of those nights where I am laying awake in bed, going over and over the day in my head, phrases and scenes crossing like a busy intersection, and I'm waiting for the green light that doesn't come.
The events of my day were what some would consider fairly ordinary, but some powerful things were going on behind the scenes.
Since I've come down with Shingles, I've been thinking more about my definition of health. It isn't the same for everyone. My husband, for instance, is on the extreme side of nutrition, reaching the point where every macro-nutrient is accounted for. He kills himself in the gym and has a fantastic physique to show for it. But his joints bother him. And he's only 33. I don't personally know anyone else who takes nutrition and training to the level my husband does. I know there are body builders and world athletes that have such a strong vision of their dream that they will not rest until it comes to fruition, or they completely destroy themselves in the pursuit. Their drive is admirable, but to my (albeit, untrained) eye, when you get to that level, you actually compromise some of your health. Some of the things athletes have to do to be competitive at a certain level are not healthy. I'm not just referring to performance-enhancing drugs, but more so to the destructive mentality behind the drive. The inability to take a day off from training, even when you have pneumonia and can't catch your breath (my husband). It turns into a dangerous obsession for some. I'm not advocating eating junk and being lazy, and I don't have answers for anyone else, but I think as I look toward turning 40 next month, I am trying to define what healthy is to me. This bout of Shingles showed me how disastrous stress is to my body, and it has made me realize that simply reading inspirational weight loss quotes and getting to the gym isn't addressing the part of my health I have overlooked for far too long, my mental health. I have made more of an effort to recognize my stress and try to make on-the-spot judgments about whether or not a situation really needs to be stressed over. I amazed at how much more relaxed I am. It goes back to not sweating the small stuff, something I thought was a cool idea when I first heard about it, but gave little thought to thereafter. Life is full of small stuff. There are bound to be disappointments but so little of it we have control over, and stress never fixes the problem. The Prednisone I am taking for my virus has had quite an effect on my energy and mood, but my intentional focus on my stress level is making me feel like I can handle whatever life throws at me. One task at a time, then on to the next. I have felt a lot more organized, grateful, content and even joyful. So two things I have identified with my ideal of health; less stress and more joy. I have been trying some new recipes and doing more stretching. It feels good to not be stressed about my weight or my body image, I'm healing the inside a little bit for now. And I'm staying on track easily.
So that brings me to today. It started like normal, getting myself and my kids ready, and rushing off to the bus stop. It was only twelve bone-chilling degrees and the bus was 15 minutes late, which threatened to make me late to work. My kids were complaining about how miserable they were standing in the cold for so long. My thoughts turned to California, and I smiled in anticipation of the day I never have to stand on iced-over ground and watch my sons' complaints come at me through chattering teeth. When they boarded the bus, I headed to work. Here is where I would normally stress out about the likelihood of being late. But today, I thought to myself, I am either going to be on time or I'm not. No need to stress about it, there's little I an do to change the outcome at this point. And I punched in 2 seconds before I would have been late. The patients I worked with were all pleasant today, no one complaining that their glasses don't work for them, so I considered myself lucky. Then the wife of Donald Driver came in to pick up her glasses. She had to be very discreet so as not to draw a crowd. In Green Bay, if you are lucky enough to encounter a Packer player or their family, it is a story you tell the rest of your life. People take it that seriously over here. And Packer fans are overly emotional. I found myself feeling a little sorry for her in that aspect, but she got on just fine without anyone recognizing or bothering her. To me, she was just a lovely woman in to pick up glasses. Had she not told me who she was (in near whispers) I wouldn't have known.
Tonight in my social work class, I had to give a presentation. It am quite a mess speaking in front of people, and especially a room of college kids half my age, but I had really strong information to give. I think I've blogged about the interview I conducted in preparation for the presentation, and that it was what made me realize what I want to do with my degree, work with special needs children and adults. So I waited to go last, because I dread public speaking that much. Someone else had done my same agency (the cerebral palsy center) as well, but she was horribly unprepared, with no visuals and a handful of misinformation. I wasn't prepared for the flood of feelings that washes over me as I gave my presentation. Nerves took me first, and my voice began to quiver as I presented slides that portrayed the work this wonderful agency does. I shared how much it means to me to see the services they have for autistic children, because of my own sons, and when I rounded the finish line, my last slide was about my reaction to the organization. The slide started out with a quote that is painted on the wall upon entry," you can't light the way for others without brightening your heart." I immediately felt a rush of tears spring to me, and had to pause to regain my composure, barely finishing without a scene. I told them that the reason I was so moved and impressed by the center is because they help without discounting the person. As I quickly started away from the podium, my instructor said that it sounds as though it had really touched my heart and I was choking back tears as I headed back to my seat, feeling foolish. But it did touch my heart, and more. It had a profound effect on me, but until I tonight I couldn't quite put my finger in what it was. When I interviewed the agency rep, she asked my reasons for wanting to get into the human services field, and I told her about my sons and our many challenges with autism. And I talked about my bestie, who's been with me through thick and thin, she has Cerebral Palsy, and had always been more resilient, brave and tough than I will ever be, what a positive role model! Then I right about the CP center and how they accept all abilities. The idea of everyone being accepted has so much impact on me, not just because of the struggles of what my kids deal with, or my bestie has had to deal with, but because so many times in my life I have felt not accepted/ not welcomed. And I realized that, standing in front of the classroom, my fear of speaking was stemming from being judged negatively. And everyone else was nervous too, I'm sure for the same reason. One young man confessed to having battled anorexia, and one girl cried about a family friend, a little boy fighting for his life from a rare skin disease. It was a heavy, heavy night, and I think even more good will come of it after we've all had time to process it all.
I started talking about my ideas of what health is to me, and I'm certain it will be a perpetually-changing list. For now, I think I've had just enough catharsis to get some much- needed sleep. Tomorrow is another day, filled with menial tasks and a heap of Statistics homework/class. Which might very well bring about a different sort of weeping altogether.
Hope you are all well. Thanks for reading.