Joyce Minor

Finding the 'me' I used to be

Trying to get back into a normal routine after an extended illness is a bit like trying to find something you've misplaced, when you can't even remember where to look for it. Actually, I'm wondering if I ever knew how to do all the things I've had to hand off to John and others. Do I still know how to cook? Do I really know how to clean the house? I can't even remember the housecleaning routine that once was a weekly ritual I handled in half a day. Did I truly do most of the grocery shopping at one point? When was that? Was there actually a time when I did all those things almost automatically and did them well? It has actually been three whole months since I entered the door of Walmart, so one day this week I decided to go by myself to pick up a few things we needed. It was absolutely liberating to find myself in a store alone pushing my own shopping cart and choosing items for our dinner. But soon I found myself leaning heavily on that cart and skipping aisles as my energy waned. Truth be told, I barely made it home and into the house with just a few items to show for the effort. Yesterday I decided to try weeding our front-yard flower bed. That's one task I used to do that no one picked up when I dropped it. It was no trouble to keep all our flower beds weed-free and it took only a few minutes each week. But now, after almost six months of neglect, they're looking pretty bad. So today I donned a big floppy hat to shade my face and neck, slathered my arms and legs with sunscreen, and dived into our front flower bed. Surely I could clean up at least that one.
Hah! I was exhausted before it was half done. Apparently, I've been out of commission so long that my body rejects even the slightest exertion. I have no endurance. I think I'm feeling well, but after just five minutes, I had to stop. Will I ever be really strong again? Is it even worth it to try? Perhaps I'll never be relevant around here ever again. Am I needed? Was my contribution to family life even missed during all those long months when I couldn't do the simplest things that have always been my responsibility? Sometimes I feel like things might go on just the same with or without me. Why should I put forth the effort to reclaim my former place around here when the slightest task totally exhausts me? Maybe I should just sit and write and never actually involve myself in the everyday work of living as part of a family. Why should I attempt any task even approaching what I used to handle easily? Each time I do, I have to give up, and I wind up having a little private pity party. Sometimes it lasts just a few minutes, sometimes days. Eventually I always come around to realize that the whole "give up and give in" mindset is toxic. Defeatist thoughts like those are the very reason I must keep on pushing myself to take back my life. No, I didn't buy all the groceries, but I did get some. And the flower bed? I finished it today. No, I can't do all I used to, yet. But pushing myself a little more each day is a vital part of healing. I cannot allow myself to lose sight of the "me" I used to be.