This post marks one year of blogging, and this is my one hundredth post! The last twelve months have been turbulent, so I am grateful to still be here, writing. Life is a journey, but until recently, I didn’t realize that so often the journey is about renewal and rediscovery. Yesterday was my birthday, a significant milestone in life, and I feel as though I am once again ready to begin a new chapter. Last October, when I began blogging, I believed that I had it all figured out. Feeling fine, I had my life organized, with everything in its place, and a nifty master plan for the future. I was beginning to think I had discovered the secret to that elusive Wonder Woman Syndrome.
This spring, a bizarre illness knocked me down, hard. The illness seemed to come out of nowhere, and didn’t make any sense, and to make matters worse, I had a very difficult time getting the medical care that I needed for swift recovery. Without an official diagnoses or even satisfactory answers, I did what any tenacious and frustrated housewife would do: I tried a vigorous detox cleanse and blogged about my symptoms. All summer I attempted to purge my body of toxins and negativity, but by autumn, I just felt angry, vulnerable, and exhausted. I was grieving over something that had been lost, and though I didn’t know what it was, I really wanted it back.
When my children went back to school, I did not miss returning as an employee, nor did I regret my decision to stay home and focus on my health. I did, however, feel a little stab of guilt for failing to hack it in the “real” world. I worried about being seen as unreliable, and I was reluctant to make plans lest I’d have to cancel due to illness. This continued to feed the guilt cycle. After my husband and I quarreled about how difficult it was for us to attend social gatherings, I began to see how my illness affected him. He was tired, he wanted things to be better, just like me. So now a great question loomed in my mind. Would I spend the rest of my life in a cage , or finally break free?
Three weeks before my birthday, I visited with a medical professional about my concerns. All my recent test results were normal. On paper, I’mm a perfectly healthy person. In her opinion, my symptoms are in my head; I simply have anxiety. “You bitch,” I wanted to snarl at her, but instead I agreed to explore her theory. After all, I was the one who had requested a referral to a counselor at the beginning of the appointment. I did make one statement in my defense. ” I got sick this spring but couldn’t get the care I needed, so of course I feel anxious! No one ran any tests on me seven months ago, when I asked for help. I don’t want actual physical symptoms overlooked just because I have anxiety!” We agreed to meet each other halfway; she promised to check into my symptoms for legitimacy, and I took the first step in reclaiming what I had lost.
The first step in my journey began with kickboxing. A friend talked me into it. “I’m probably not in adequate shape to even try this,” I balked, but she insisted. “You’ll be fine. The class isn’t that tough, and it’s fun!” I puked and nearly passed out halfway through my first class. But my friend was right. It was fun, and I made an extremely important decision that day. I must take better care of myself, because I am worth it. Kickboxing is more than just an incredibly addictive treat — it has reminded me that I deserve to grow and develop. I have spent most of my life encouraging others, and now it is time to encourage myself. I deserve to invest in myself as much as I have invested in the lives of those around me.
We stay at home parents often discount our capabilities , perhaps believing that since we are not breadwinners, we have less intrinsic worth to offer our families through support and service. When we minimize ourselves and put our needs on the back burner, we suffer, and then the family suffers. I have been a wife and mother for one decade. I got married at the age of 23, just months after returning from a long deployment to the Middle East. Barely an adult myself, I hardly knew what I wanted out of life when I married a career soldier and became a young Army spouse. I threw myself completely into my family, doing and being everything for them. I was trying to be Wonder Woman, never quite living up to the standards I set for myself. That my friends, is the recipe for perpetual frustration.
Once I started to treat myself with the kindness that I deserve, I began to also give myself room to grow. I also began to forgive myself of my faults and understand that I am not the sum of my thoughts or limitations. It is no coincidence to me that this transformation has happened around the time of my birthday. Every new chapter of life is traveled on a new trail. While reflecting upon renewed life on the day of my birth, I had to ask myself what is really important. I may never know why or how I got sick, or the real source of my illness. I may even continue to battle illness for my entire life. Perhaps that is but a small detail of my bigger journey. Why waste any more time on fear and anxiety when life is out there to be lived? The only thing that matters is today, and what I want to do about making myself better — more kind, compassionate, loving, and adventurous — than the person I was yesterday.
After spending my entire life putting the needs of others ahead of mine, I essentially have no idea who I am. I have been angry because I miss being who I once was. Although I really can’t go back in time, I’ve been mourning the loss of a person who hasn’t existed in years. It is time to break out of the brittle old cage and make the journey home, to reclaim my identity and rediscover who I am by simply living my life. Yesterday I went to the school to pick up my daughters, and one of my favorite students recognized me. I hadn’t seen her since spring. She has a disability that makes her speech difficult to understand, but when she stepped forward, she spoke very clearly, asking where I had been, what was going on with my hair, when would she see me again? And she hugged me tight, three times. I could see that I was not the only one who had given myself room to grow, and it felt very satisfying.