“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”
I was later than many in my generation to begin using social media – I didn’t understand the purpose of Facebook until I moved, leaving my family and friends a country away as I began married life to a service member on the opposite side of the country. When I first established my Facebook account, the above quote was one which I would have considered a guiding principle in my life.
And, somewhere along the way, I forgot my guiding principle.
It’s easy to forget – I could make excuses all day long about our culture, the pressure to keep up with others, the (often times, self-driven) pressure to maintain a semblance of normalcy, and the desire to ensure that everything goes according to my plans.
But, the excuses are not the point.
I had a tooth extracted this last Thursday. My mouth is still bugging me, easily controlled with Acetaminophen, but I have had several people tell me how they bounced back after their own dental procedures. And, I have been beating myself up because my body is not bouncing back.
In fact, my autoimmune issues have seemed to flare in a manner I haven’t seen in a long time. Muscular exhaustion, which I can now accurately liken to walking around having just come out of sedation; cognitive impairment which renders the simplest conversation, even with small children, difficult; joint pain in my hips, making me inwardly cringe at the thought of going upstairs. When complaining to my husband, who has no history of needing any dental work, how I don’t understand how I can be barely functioning four days later, he accurately surmised my stress-level heading into the oral surgery, and the after-effects of sedation have led my body to have a CFS crash.
Yesterday, I wrote about mercy – and when I awoke in the middle of the night to feed my youngest, my guiding principle hit me squarely in the chest.
I have spent the better part of four days now trying to meet this unattainable level of normalcy – bouncing right back after a minor oral surgery procedure.
But, for me, there isn’t normal. And, for my body, it wasn’t a minor procedure!
I have been trying to pretend everything is normal, beating myself up as the dinner doesn’t get made, the dishes don’t get washed, the toys don’t get picked up, and the laundry doesn’t get washed. Instead, I’ve been focusing on the basic needs of my children – feeding them boxed food, changing diapers or wiping butts, allowing them far too much screen time than recommended for small children by the APA, trying to lazily play Ryder to their “Chase” and “Marshall” characters, and resorting to my husband doing the laundry.
When the quote came to me in the middle of the night, I realized I was not being compassionate with myself…
I have forgotten I have limitations to my physical health!
I have forgotten I have a lower threshold of tolerance to medication, even basic ones such as Acetaminophen!
I have forgotten how something so innocuous to others can so drastically and radically alter my ability to function “normally!”
I have forgotten to extend compassion and mercy toward myself!
I’m not writing this post for anyone to feel sorry for me…
Instead, I’ve finally realized what the issue is, and I will focus on tackling it – I need to go back to basics and give myself some compassion. I need to stop comparing myself to others, and remind myself that sometimes, when battling chronic autoimmune issues, my pain tolerance and my reaction to medication are more heightened than the average, healthy individual. I will need to allow myself, after grocery shopping this week, to take the time needed to rest – and not beat myself up for doing the bare minimum to keep my household running. I need to rescind offers to reach out and help others with activities, knowing that something as small as a conversation is taking far too much energy from what little I already have to give my children.
And, I will need to be okay with the slower pace of life.
As a mother, I can’t be everything to everybody. There comes a time where I have to recognize my limitations, and model self-compassion to my children. I have to let myself off the hook, and recognize I can only do so much. If mothers aren’t willing to be merciful toward ourselves, and we aren’t able to be compassionate to ourselves from time to time, how can we fully extend compassion and mercy to others?
So, now I recognize – I have to be willing to allow myself some time to step back.
After all, it is the merciful thing to do…