In a culture that prides itself on productivity and independence, what does it look like when you’re stripped of those things?
I typed this question out and looked at it for a really long time. I wanted to answer this, but I didn’t know how to approach it in a way that will move me forward in healing while promoting introspection for those on the other side of the screen.
At the end of the day, the only way to do that is with honesty.
I battle myself with how much to share and what to keep to myself. There is a distinction between vulnerability and oversharing; vulnerability is received in community and shared amongst people who have earned the right to know your heart, oversharing is… well, information dumps on the internet to whoever will pay attention. Blogs feel a lot like oversharing to me most of the time. I think that’s why I’m hesitant to share the nitty gritty of my process in healing from Lyme. As something that has profoundly changed me, and continues to, in ways so large I don’t even know they’re happening, I have a prideful ownership of my story.
Secrecy has become a form of self-preservation and isolation a deep comfort.
A friend graciously reminded me that we were designed to be in community (as in not living in secrecy and isolation. Which means I’ve been doing it wrong. Nothing new here!)
So what does actually happen when you’re unable to be active in true communities?
(Hint: the answer is easy)
It’s a mess. The answer is a mess happens.
Haha you thought I was going to have a cool, smooth, intelligent answer. Those aren’t common here, you may want to find a different blog to read.
We know we’re supposed to be in community as that breeds joy and fulfillment. But sometimes disability gets in the way.
I’ve lost friends,
I’ve been hurt by the ones I thought would show up for me,
I’ve been doubted and disbelieved
Those are passive statements, those things happened to me. I didn’t deserve them and I cannot change them.
Instead, I can look at the other half of the equation and I can take (some) responsibility. By no means am I undermining the extent of my illness and the disability that has come with it. I was mentally and physically unable to do most things. But I’ve also started healing, and in these times it is important that I recognize my role in the loss of community I’ve experienced.
I’ve burned bridges by turning away,
I’ve been scared to try again,
I’ve hid the whole truth from those with listening ears,
I’ve made easy choices instead of right choices.
And I’ve done all of those things in the name of control. And because my life has been a shambly mess of all the hard things, I needed a few things to be easy. So I made choices to reflect that. Never knowing when a seizure is coming, when a mental crash is on its way, when the nausea will be too much, etc etc etc puts you on the fast track to embrace the ‘just go with it’ attitude.
Unfortunately for me, community is not rebuilt, joy is not fueled, and fulfillment is not familiar within choices that breed control, ease, and predictability. Dang.
Let’s jump back to the first question: In a culture that prides itself on productivity and independence, what does it look like when you’re stripped of those things?
In short, it looks like a chance to reject the isolation that hyper-focused productivity and independence bring. Mark E. Moore says, “We’ll never know our true selves in isolation. We know ourselves to the extent that we are known… our character is forged on the anvil of our community.”
Disability did the grunt work for me, it stripped me of productivity and independence.
Now I get to surrender control (because none of us really have it any way!) and make the courageous choice to simply be with the people around me.
My hope is that through this, I can change those statements:
- from “I’ve burned bridges by turning away” to “I’ve built bridges by running towards others”
- from “I’ve been scared to try again” to “I’ve cultivated support to overcome fear”
- from “I’ve hid the whole truth from those with listening ears” to “I’ve shared the ugly and sad parts of my healing with those who care”
- from “I’ve made easy choices instead of right choices” to “I’ve allowed trusted people to fully see me”
Remembering that I’m in a body with disability I can’t control, I’m simply along for the ride and will continue to embrace the ’just go with it’ attitude. But there are things I can do to make that ride better, like working towards returning to God-given communities. And knowing that I’m still allowed to ask, “Wait, who’s in charge here??” when it gets hard.
I wrote this on September 4th, but as I continue to heal and come into my ‘new normal’ I kept returning to these thoughts, so I figured it was time to share. Let me know what you think in the comments and subscribe to get my updates sent to your inbox!