Yesterday, my friend Heather posted something like this on Facebook: "I think it's important to recognize and celebrate the little accomplishments in life. Today I am proud that I woke up early and hit the ground running. What achievement can you celebrate today?"
I've been working on the same illustration in my journal for the past week or so, the one above, and felt like seeing this post was kismet (also: do I not have great friends?). And I agree with her; celebrating all the little things is important!
Since posting my story last week, I have been blessed and humbled by all the messages I've received -- from friends and readers and newcomers to this blog. When I posted it, I felt scared. There's a lot of personal stuff in there, and not all good you know. I was afraid of negative thoughts and reactions. I met up with friends that evening, so I wasn't just sitting at home waiting for replies. In fact, I felt the need to just...fade to the background and hold space for whatever would happen next.
But something else happened the moment I pressed publish: I felt free. There's a little collage above my desk that I made awhile ago that says, "And now I'm free." My father came over a couple of weeks ago and saw it and I swear he got choked up a bit and said, "That's good, Sam, that's really good." Now, this is a man not known for huge outbursts of emotion, but who's been softened by the passing of his wife and best friend of almost 40 years. In that moment, I felt like he got it: got why I had to move out, why I needed space for awhile, why I'm doing all this.
One of my favorite songs says, "I never knew what freedom was until I learned what prison means." And it's so true. We all construct prisons around ourselves, limiting beliefs or ways we think the world are. We construct these walls with the fear of the unknown and complain when we can't see the sun anymore. I certainly built my own over the years, and now, with each day, I'm joyful because I'm living. Not just surviving, not just going from moment to moment, but living a full life of family, friends, work, play.
At work yesterday, I found myself saying, "I really am enjoying this [organizing the shoe department at Target; it took 8 hours]! I spent so many years not being able to do things, I'm just happy to be up and out and doing this. It doesn't really matter what it is!"
And that's the truth. When it comes down to it, I'm so full of joy I could burst. And yes, there's still the sharp pang of loss and sadness, but I've found that both can exist in the same space. I can hold them both. I can be both happy and fearful. That doesn't mean that I only have joy in one space in my life and sadness in the other. But that they drive each other. Lend perspective. Allow me to know how deep each goes.
So was my six month anniversary a huge victory? To me, yes. Maybe not to others. Except you've shown me that there's great power in sharing your story and making your victory something that can help others.
One question I got was about how to find joy in living with fibromyalgia or a chronic illness. It's so hard to find happiness when you're falling deeper and deeper into a depression. And I'm not going to sugarcoat it -- it fucking sucks. It does. I'm not going to try to lend platitudes or positive affirmations. In sharing my story I've found strength in speaking my truth. So here's a little advice.
1. It's going to suck. I know it does. It's going to be doctors' appointments and medication and sleep schedules and couch/bed days. You're going to be in pain or be limited and wish you could do something, wish your body would just cooperate for once. I know. I get it. But it'll get better. Not easier, but better. I say this as someone who lived her whole life in that swirling mess of UGH and thought I'd never get out of it, but did. I did. And I had like, no hope it would happen (hence my joy at doing even the littlest things). Give it time. Know someone's gotten halfway out of that suckiness. Email me. Message me. If I don't answer, I'm asleep (I do have my own days of low energy, so know I read things right away but may take a little time to reply).
Do some doodling in you art journal. Smoosh paint around with your hands. Write swears in big strokes of marker or pen and vent all that frustration and anger and sadness. It'll feel good to get it out. And you can then transform your page/spread into something beautiful. Because you are beautiful, broken bits and all.
2. Celebrate every little thing. Did you get out of bed today? Make some lunch? Run an errand? I know we're taught that these are things "normal" people do, but I've learned that most of the normal people out there are struggling just like you. Go to Target and get some star stickers and give yourself a star each time you accomplish something. Some days, getting from your bed to the couch can leave you gasping -- give yourself a gold star. Celebrate it and fuck what society says. You got to the couch today. You went to your kid's soccer game. You made it to the grocery store. Every little thing -- get a star. Put them where you can see them, so on the bad days, the really bad, awful days, you can look up at the board or wall or poster and see that you can do so much. And have.
And know there will be good days again.