I haven’t known what to say here since my comprehensive exams ended. I made it through the written portion and I defend this monster on Wednesday, so I guess I’ve been preoccupied. Plus I’m getting married and while I am less concerned with the wedding than the marriage I see this as a day where I can show the world how much I love Jason, how happy he makes me, so I want it to be perfect – not for me, for him. So I guess I’ve been preoccupied. And I suppose it’s not helpful to say things like, yes I still have headaches, no I haven’t gotten totally better at being brave about them (maybe a little) and yes my balance still sucks. I suppose I’ve been so preoccupied I didn’t even acknowledge those things to myself. I didn’t check in with myself at all. It was just one of those times where we’re all just trying to get through it, so I hardly felt it at all.
So comps are over so I can focus on what makes me happy (after the defense that is), I can focus on Jason, my family, my friends and maybe even some fun. And I can focus on my research, my reason for being here in the first place. I have to stop being preoccupied. I have to be present with myself. I have to tune back into my own story.
I went to the dietician the other day. Having seen my ability to be the fittest person in the room diminish badly after surgery I decided I needed to alter my diet to keep my rampant cholesterol in check, and so that I could feel some control, some power. I have been steadily and healthily losing weight, learning what work outs I can do and pushing myself further every day. I’ve made pretty good progress, if I’m not too tired I make it to the gym and I swing a mean kettlebell around! But I went to the dietician, thinking I was doing great, not recognizing the stress the exams and all the other general life responsibilities had put on my body. My weight had yo-yo-ed around in a matter of days, and I was making excuses, well I’m heavier today because I’ve been lifting a lot, plus I drank a lot of water… it was so silly because I was happy with my body until I had it broken down into numbers. I was so tired but I had been running on this adrenaline that wasn’t letting me ever rest, even when I was sleeping. My mind was always racing and nothing was good enough. It’s hard to feel like your whole life’s work is being evaluated and not know the outcome yet, and I had taken that pressure and put it on every part of my life. I wanted to be awesome. So the dietician asked me how I was, she weighed me, she asked me what had been going on. I kept rationalizing any bad food decisions I had made (though they were few and far between – my diet is more of a habit now than a diet). I immediately showered her in a barrage of excuses. I wanted to prove myself. This was about more than my diet. I had found myself in a perpetual state of proving myself. She almost argued with me, telling me I’d followed the diet to a T. Finally she stopped me and asked me, who I was trying to impress, who I was trying to please, who had put me in this space where I was constantly balancing expectations and whose expectations were they that I was slamming so hard against? She asked me who told me I had to do all the things I felt I had to do.
I told her no one and in that moment tears filled my eyes and I realized, all the work I had done to forgive my body, to allow myself respite, to be comfortable with my abilities and disabilities had been so precariously balanced. One semester of absolute stress, one period of feeling I had to prove myself and it all crumbled around me. I’m not totally comfortable being the girl with the headaches. No, it’s not always funny when I slam into a wall, I laugh to cover the tears that well up as my muscles take another hit. I was so tired in that moment. I looked up at the woman who has so graciously been helping me take control of my health. She had tears in her eyes and she told me, “something major happened to you and no, it shouldn’t define you, but it can affect you. Let it be a part of your life and be forgiving”
It can indeed affect me.
For so long I let it be a central part of my life and then one day, I had to let it go, to refocus, to prioritize other things. What I had to learn, and what I think I did learn in that conversation was that it can’t be at the center of my universe but I can’t erase it either. I can’t be preoccupied. I don’t have that luxury. I have to always be present with myself and my body, and sometimes that is hard.
And I had to remind myself (not to sound cocky) that I am already awesome.
Yea, I’m awesome.
I know, I sound so brazen, but it’s true. I’m freaking awesome!
So I won’t be so preoccupied. To care for others as badly as I want to, I must care for myself.
That being said, I sure as hell won’t let something as silly as a brain tumor, a headache, or any other stumbling block get in the way of me loving the man of my dreams, being there for my family, and completing research that can help us help each other. This is a part of my life, but I’m still in here, learning from this and moving forward.
I study trauma, the media and how that all operates online. How do we cultivate a space to cope with communities online and what’s productive about it? And how can we use that to help people? And sometimes I have to step back, remember why I do what I do, and help cultivate that space myself.
Peace and love –