I’ve spent a lot of time on self-reflection in the last few years. My friends and family note how much I’ve changed since my surgery, but this journey started well before that and is going to keep going for the rest of my life. When I make a mistake, I kick myself and question whether I’ve really changed at all. I have to remind myself to step back and acknowledge my growth and accomplishments. It does no good to beat myself up just because I slip here and there. The thing about self-reflection and awareness is that it’s not a 100% all-of-the-time state of mind. Regardless of how aware we think we are, how much we think we’ve progressed emotionally, or how enlightened we think we are – when we’re faced with a stressful situation, sometimes we revert back to what we used to know. It’s a habit, it’s what’s comfortable, and it happens almost subconsciously. We say and do things even though we know better. We hold things in even though we’ve vowed to express them. We hurt people we love and we get hurt by people who love us. What I’ve come to accept, is that I’m totally, completely, and tragically human – and so are all of you.
Recently, I came across a blog post about things to remember when everything is going wrong. I clicked on it thinking, “everything is temporary (including the happy mood I’m in right in this moment). I should make sure I have as much knowledge for dealing with hardship as possible so that I’m even better prepared next time the tides shift.” The things listed in this article all rang true for me and as I sat with it, I realized how far I’ve come in just a few years. I find myself remaining humble, fully aware and appreciative of how far from perfect I am. There is always room to grow.
The big flare that led to my ostomy surgery turned my life upside down. Looking back two and a half years later, I am so grateful. I was lost. Treading water. I was making the same mistakes on repeat, stuck in unhealthy friendships, never pushing my comfort zone, and just really feeling like I was spinning my tires and getting nowhere. I am incredibly lucky to have had a net to catch me while I was down and support me while I couldn’t support myself. I was given the opportunity to reevaluate what I wanted from my life and as I was reading the article, I realized a lot of the overarching themes were ideas that I had discovered on my own.
My top three takeaways from the blog post I read are:
1. In life, patience is not about waiting; it’s the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard on your dreams, knowing that the work is worth it.
This was crucial for me as I was recovering from my surgeries. Being so weak you can hardly walk is frustrating to say the least, and your only choice is to be patient and persevere. It was clear that the barriers I was facing were going to be there regardless of my attitude, so I made a conscious decision to do my best to have a good attitude. I persevered, I pushed myself, I was patient, and guess what? It was so worth it.
2. A scar means the hurt is over and the wound is closed. It means you conquered the pain, learned a lesson, grew stronger, and moved forward.
We all have scars. Big, small, figurative, literal. As an ostomate, my scars stare at me every day. They are a constant reminder of what I’ve been through and they are never going to go away. Some days my scars make me angry. Some days they make me sad. Some days it’s really hard to pull myself out of my pity party. But, my scars are also a constant reminder of how far I’ve come. How strong I am. Where I am today. I can look at my scars and say “wow, remember when you couldn’t walk? You just ran a mile.” Learning how to take care of my ostomy was the scariest thing. I got incredibly anxious every time I had to change my bag or went to a new restaurant and had to figure out what I could order. My scars had not yet healed. Two and a half years later it’s water under the bridge. Every day I move forward.
3. Do what makes you happy and be with whoever makes you smile, often.
This is something I’ve been working on. I had all kinds of fabulous realizations while I was in the hospital thinking about my life, but I think this was one of the most important ones for me to implement. Many of the decisions I’ve made in my life were because I wanted to fit in. Instead of learning what it is that makes me happy, I’ve focused so much of my energy on what would make other people happy (and what would make them like me). I’m a people pleaser and probably always will be, but I’ve been working on making sure that I’m the first person I please. How do I do this? I’m still working on figuring that out, it’s a big change to make! One of the more straightforward changes I’ve made has been who I spend my time with. I spend my time with the people who make me smile most and really try to limit the time I spend with people who encourage bad behaviors, make me feel inferior, or are just all-around toxic to my mental health.
My perspective on life and how I believe it should be lived has evolved drastically and I can’t help but feel proud of myself. I’m still not perfect. But I’m not so lost anymore. I don’t feel like I’m spinning my wheels or treading water just trying to get through each day. I wake up every morning and focus on believing in myself. I make a conscious effort to live in the moment, trust my intuition, stand up for what I believe is right and learn from my experiences (good and bad).
You can read the other suggestions from the blog post I found at here.