Since my Lyme diagnosis, I’ve been relating to myself differently. I feel extra protective of my health and sensitively attuned to the details of my daily routine: what I eat and drink, who I spend time with, how my days are scheduled. It makes me feel like a newborn baby to myself in a way I really like and don’t want to let go of, even as my health gets stronger and this level of care is not really warranted.
Or maybe it’s always warranted, for all of us, and that’s the whole point.
Maybe we don’t need to be sick to be precious. Maybe the task of being human is enough to justify living with a steady stream of TLC within.
When we were kids, we had to be projectile vomiting or bleeding enough to require stitches to stay home from school. Both of my parents worked and we were on the poorer side of the middle class spectrum, so a sick day for the kids pulled my mom away from where she needed to be and carried deeper repercussions.
My mom managed the stress of her juggling act by conveying to us that even when you’re sick, you’re not really sick. You can push through can’t you? If you want to stay in bed with chicken soup you’d better be dying and you’d better be able to prove it.
The messages were extreme and left their mark on me, like a muddy footprint on a welcome mat. By the time I became a mom, I was careful not to repeat these parenting styles. I doted on my kids when they weren’t feeling well. I afforded them mental health days. If something was going on and they weren’t up for going to school, I took their feelings seriously, kept them home and worked around their needs.
The guiding light of my parenting was: mother in total opposition to how you were mothered.
As is typical with most course corrections, I swerved hard to the other side of the road and created a whole new kind of extreme in my life. My tolerance for my children’s discomfort and suffering was approximately zero. I had none. I was sucking up their hurts like a vacuum hose. And my bag never got emptied.
I was not giving my kids a chance to work through their stuff and on top of it, I was not giving myself the kind of gracious, attuned and loving parenting I was giving to them. I was going deeper into masochism.
When a person at my office would call in sick, my first thought was always: “Really? Are you really sick? If you wanted to, you could take a few ibuprofen and come in.”
My next thought was not even a thought. It was just my typical deadly cocktail of anger, helplessness and betrayal. Like someone taking what they needed for themselves equaled less for me. Now I had more to deal with and less support. Thanks a lot.
When we’re stingy with ourselves, we live in scarcity and we see other people’s capacity to treat themselves with kindness as a direct hit. We justify our inability to let ourselves have what we need by upholding a world view where this is “just how life is”. Life is hard, deal with it. To see self care and ease and joy in another person is to have that belief system challenged in a way that hurts. But is also important.
I don’t believe masochism is our natural state. I believe we learn masochism. Self love, gratitude and admiration are our natural states and our work is to regularly scrape off the illusions and wounded feedback that pile up within our psyches telling us otherwise, just as we clear icy snow from a windshield before it’s safe to drive.
One of the most exciting, liberating and life changing things I learned along my path of healing was that it’s never too late to re-parent ourselves. It’s never too late to be your own baby and to love on yourself, protect yourself, choose differently for yourself and care for yourself in the ways you require. You don’t have to be sick. You don’t have to sacrifice some part of you or prove your worthiness. Your miraculous existence in this very moment is proof enough.
Hope this speaks to your heart and inspires you to be extra gentle and kind to yourself today.