It takes my mom, assisted by a caretaker, approximately two hours to get out of bed, showered, and dressed.
That’s every day of the week, and every day of her life; every movement involved in the task of rising to greet the day is a laborious effort.
If you’re the one helping her to get up and ready, you’re so tired by the end of it that you’re about ready to go to sleep. Usually, so is she. She might have to lean her chair way back and rest for a while before she has the energy to chew and swallow breakfast, let alone get it from point a. the plate, to point b. her mouth.
Getting her out of bed is heavy lifting. Transferring her into her shower chair requires more cumbersome movements. And showering, when you only have one working hand, and you need one gripped tightly around the shower bar for balance, isn’t quite a walk in the park. Nor is being able to wash under the arm of the hand whose greatest current claim to fame is that it’s successfully attached to a body. Not that it’s doing anything remotely to carry its weight–you shameful limb, you.
From the shower, there still stands the mountain of getting dressed. I’ll give you a clue: it’s considerably more challenging to dress a non-mobile grown woman than it is to dress a squirming, wriggling, tantrum-throwing toddler, for any of you who have done that.
Getting up is no easy feat.
I’m willing to bet you’ve done that already today. What’s more, I bet you barely noticed you were doing it. I would hazard a guess that besides the tribulations of choosing an outfit and getting your liquid eyeliner right, you didn’t find that act challenging in the least.
You willingly got out of your bed-nest, pushed back the covers when all you wanted to do was burrow deeper under them, and in some order, brushed your teeth, got dressed, washed your face, took a shower, worked out, ate breakfast. And then you set about to be productive. To do things that will ward against your feeling like a lazy piece of shit come sunset.
And still, at some point during the day, whether it’s lunchtime or 4pm, or 10pm, you will berate yourself internally. You will demand to know, “WHAT HAVE YOU EVEN GOTTEN DONE TODAY SO FAR, SELF?”
When the sun goes down and the street lights come on, and the neighborhood starts quieting to a still, you will be fervently convinced you did practically nothing all day. You’ll list the various tasks you never got to, the larger goals you failed to uphold, yet again. Another day, another opportunity to be successful and brilliant squandered.
“All I did today was paint my nails and poop.” You’ll think. “I’m a toad. I’m the worst. I could have done this, posted that, reached out to him, brainstormed my 10-year life plan, and instead I ate food and sent like two emails.”
You are not lazy.
You are not a machine.
You are not squandering your days.
If you got out of bed this morning, you successfully prioritized the promise of long term returns over the desire for immediate gratification.
If you brushed your hair, put on makeup, and got dressed, you effortlessly executed about a jillion physical movements and you made dozens of decisions.
If you simultaneously helped a partner or child or multiple children complete the same tasks you championed overwhelm, skillfully multi-tasked.
If you fed yourself and/or your family, you provided nutrients essential to everyone’s vitality.
If later on, you send two emails, and carefully consider the wording that will most effectively convey your point and do so with kindness, you’re triumphing over the dreaded blank draft, the blinking cursor. You’re giving two people who want or need your response just that. Do you know what a difference that makes to them?
If you go to work, or drive carpool; if you show up when and where you’ve promised you would, you are demonstrating to the people in your life that you are reliable, that you take your commitments seriously, and that you value your time and theirs. Do you know this is one thing we want most from each other? That your staying true to your word actually helps to build or repair the trust that others have in people as a whole?
If you grocery shop, you’re planning ahead. You’re taking measures to ensure you and your family will be nourished.
If you smile at the checkout person while you are there, you will be spreading waves of positive, loving energy into the whole world.
If you do a load of laundry from start to finish; if you take out the garbage; if you return one phone call; if you run one errand; and if you do only one of these things–you, my friend, will be doing the best you can. Which is kind of like another way of saying, “living brilliantly.”
It doesn’t matter whether your baseline is a chronic illness or the picture of health. You get credit for what you do.
If you’ve gotten out of bed, that’s already a lot.
If you’ve gotten out of bed, you are proclaiming your desire to be alive this day, to fully participate in life when you might otherwise hide from it. And hiding is easy. (Getting up is no small feat.)
Don’t stop for a minute to think of all the things you’re failing at. If you stop at all, let it be to marvel at everything you’ve already accomplished.
You, sweet buttercup, are doing just great.
Chin up. Back straight. Eyes open. Keep at it.