I sat down to write you guys a post about all things back to school, because MAN do I love me some September. Back to school is many Penelopes’ idea of heaven: an excuse to splurge on fresh school supplies and new organization for the kids and a time to implement new schedules and processes. For many of us, it also means our homes and routines are restored to us after the relative chaos of the summer months. Bliss.
This post is not, however, about Back to School bliss.
The truth is that, for the past 8 months, I’ve been struggling with a few moderately serious health issues. None of them life threatening (and for that I’m hugely grateful) but, the reality of my life since the New Year has been that I felt pretty darn horrible almost every day.
Just to get out of bed to do the mundane tasks of every day life took twice the amount of effort it had before. And mentally, I was wiped out. Not a good combination. The physical drain was real and challenging and frustrating.
But the mental battle was what really got to me.
I constantly felt like I was letting people down because I couldn’t keep up the pace I was accustomed to. Even though I had the full understanding and support of my family, friends and co-workers, I wasted a lot of energy feeling like a failure.
And ALL of my “Penelopeness” was put to the test. I wanted to be organized and clear-headed and super-productive. My whole identity was wrapped up in these adjectives being used to describe me. But I wasn’t any of those things. And I haaaaaated that I wasn’t. Sure, everyone in my house was fine, but I was getting done a fraction of what I normally accomplished in a day and I knew that.
I felt shame. I piled guilt on myself.
I want to be transparent here and say that no one, not a single person in my life, is responsible for the internal struggle that I battled. This was 100% my own war. I take full responsibility for the time and energy I wasted spinning in the shame/guilt tunnel.
It took about 6 months to get diagnosed and come up with a treatment plan that would get me back to health. And, I’m very grateful to say that, after 2 surgeries within 2 weeks of each other, and a few additional weeks to heal, I am feeling 90% better and like I’m inhabiting my body fully once again.
So, what did I learn from all this? What’s the take away here?
Truthfully, I’m still unpacking that question. Maybe writing this post is part of that discovery process. No doubt I feel more grateful than ever for my health, and more compassionate than ever towards others in various health struggles. That’s a no-brainer.
But, the part that I am really pushing myself to work through is how, when I face similar struggles in the future, I can do so with more inner peace. Less internal strife. More energy towards healing and self-forgiveness. Less wasted time and mental anguish.
Ultimately, this experience has been a perspective-shifter. A wake-up call that I have a lot of work to do in these cavernous parts of my personality in order to live a more full and intentional life.
I think of the time I wasted over the past 8 months and I’m realizing that maybe it wasn’t “wasted” at all. Maybe that time was me being in the trenches of growth. Of pruning. Of challenging myself to overcome some parts of my personality that hold me back from my fullest potential. Of growing past solely finding value in the things I can get done, and instead finding peace in what I am, that day.
I’m thankful for the Penelope tribe, a place in which I can be my most authentic self and know that there are others who really do “get” my struggles. It’s more healing and inspiring than you know. It is definitely cathartic to open up and explore these challenging topics together.
Annnd, next September, watch out world. Back To School ain’t seen nothing like me.