Monday, August 1, 2016

Certain Inalienable Truths

Welcome to August! At the end of this month I will celebrate my 38th birthday. I've never been the kind of person who stresses about getting old because I wouldn't trade my current life for the drama of age 18 or 21 or even 25 for anything. I like myself at almost 38, and I understand myself. At this age I've also acknowledged certain inalienable truths: I will never slow down; I will promise to slow down repeatedly to my family and in writing in this blog but will fail to actually do it; and it turns out I am a sick person.

I've pretended the latter isn't true for a long time. If you read this blog regularly I have promised time and again to be kind to myself and take it easy. Do I ever? No. I've also pretended that I'm not a sick person despite 18 years of dealing with Crohn's. I've worried that acknowledging that I'm a sick person means I'm defined by it. I have recently decided that is not true.

I promised, promised that after my hospital stay in May I'd do better. I'd slow down. I'd take it easy. In some ways (with exercise in particular) I did, but it's really not in my nature. I have to be realistic about it. I spent my entire week in the hospital doing work. I responded to email. I caught up on writing. I worked the entire time.I remember a city manager contacting me and saying "Why are you responding to email? Aren't you in the hospital?" In retrospect it was ridiculous. I felt like if I didn't work it would prove that I couldn't handle it. But what I've realized at the wise age of almost 38 is that working hard enough has never been my problem. The quality of my work, proven by my connections and professional reputation, has never been a problem. The problem has been the voices in my head telling me to push harder because it would never be good enough. But today I acknowledge that truth: it's always been good enough. And being sick doesn't mean I am failing either professionally or personally. It's part of who I am, and I can give myself time to heal and figure it out without compromising myself or my work. 

But that doesn't mean it's in my nature to slow down. I'll do the best I can to accept that I've got to heal, but I will still jump back into life more quickly than I should. It's a weird balance, and I'm not even sure I've got the balance figured out. Okay obviously I don't. I will always be a work in progress.

A few weeks ago I had a large, stressful life surprise, and it's turned out to be the push I needed to really do some brave things I've wanted to do for a long time. As unexpected life events can be this one has turned out to be a blessing. Over the next few months I'm focusing on life balance. I'm really excited to do some fun new projects and focus on other things I love. I'm focusing on getting back into running and cross training every day when I feel well and giving myself a break when I don't.

I finished my course of steroids a week ago Saturday, and by the middle of last week my Crohn's symptoms were back with a vengeance. It was like I hadn't taken any steroids at all. This week I'll be at the University of Michigan running the gauntlet of tests, and I'm hoping they show something. The most frustrating part of Crohn's is that sometimes it's hard to figure out what's happening. I spent a week in the hospital in May and was released while being told I had an infection "somewhere but we can't figure out where". Terrific!

How am I handling things in the meantime? Yesterday I ran a 10k. I ran 54:23, only my second time ever breaking 55 minutes. It was my second fastest 10k ever, and I was second in my age group. Today I am WAY more sore than I should be after running 6.2 miles, but that soreness makes my body feel alive. It feels normal. It feels like I've pushed my body not like a sickness I can't control. And I love it. 

In the twilight of my 30s I'm finally able to face my Crohn's with the respect it deserves while trying to still be my perfectionist, overachieving self. It's a balance that doesn't make any sense to most people, but it makes sense to me. There's another inalienable truth I've accepted: the race is long, and in the end it's only with yourself.       

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