Warning: Real Talk:
As I’m sitting here 4 weeks post a major surgery, I’ve done quite a bit of thinking and feel inclined to share. I’ve been called Superwoman by family members, co-workers, friends, and people in the writing community. While I believe they all intended it as a compliment, and I rightfully accepted it as so because I was wearing many different hats and succeeding, society has conditioned us in this way. Leading up to surgery I was a stressed out, overworked, exhausted, chronic pain sufferer. I knew I was all of these things but wasn’t sure how to change any of them. Being a wife, mother, full time employee, homemaker, writer, volunteer – I was afraid if I tweaked any of these Jenga blocks the entire tower I’d strategically built, (or had been built for me) would come crashing down.
So I challenged the tower. I continued to pull out a block from the bottom of the tower, (a piece of myself) and carefully place it on top of the tower, (my already overworked body) and hope and pray it wouldn’t topple over. The other part of the problem? My kids watched me do All. The. Things. I thought I was setting a good example for them. Showing them I can be a parent, a spouse, a full time employee, a volunteer and STILL pursue my dreams and they can too. My husband watched me do All. The. Things. I thought I was making him proud. Showing him I can juggle all the balls handed to me, still help in supporting our family while also pursuing my dreams. My writing community watched me do All. The. Things. I thought I was showing them a well-balanced lifestyle on how to accomplish their writing goals. By sacrificing sleep, social outings, and by working hard. I pushed through the exhaustion, the chronic pain, the stress and didn’t listen to my body.
When I had surgery, my body said, “Enough is enough.” The outcome? I had a stress reaction to the surgery. Ultimately because my body was in such bad shape beforehand. Which made my stay in the hospital longer and prolonged my recovery. Part of this was beyond my control. The stress of my day job and being overworked were not something I could change. My chronic illness is not something I can change. Besides the chronic pain I’ve suffered for over twenty years, the past year it has caused a severe interruption to my life. Either waking me up in the night or not allowing me to fall asleep, taking pain pills that do little or no help and clouding up my mind. But I did play a role in my exhaustion. My determination to see something through or to accomplish my dreams is something I value about myself and I know it’s a quality others see in me. But when is enough enough?
Society has conditioned us to put the overworked, the determined above all else, the exhausted, the Superwomen and Supermen on a pedestal. To look to them and think they have it all together. They’re doing it all. How about we come alongside them and encourage them, but then ask if they need anything. Maybe ask if they need any help. Ask them if they’ve gotten 7-8 hours of sleep in the past, oh, I don’t know, month. Ask them if they’ve taken a self-care day. If they’ve gone outside for a walk. Maybe ask them if they want to meet for coffee. Being determined is part of me and my personality and it’s never going to go away. But I know, when my recovery is done I need to ease back into things or I’m going to be right back where I started. I need some new tools. First, is listening to my body and no longer pushing it past its capacity. Second, I may need to ease back on my writing, my job responsibilities and my volunteer roles. Doing less won’t mean I’m any less of a Superwoman. Because some days, just getting out of bed and fulfilling my roles is a huge accomplishment. One day we’ll talk about anxiety and depression. Today is not that day 🙂
Thank and hug a Superhero in your life!