(This photo is very current and if you look at my eyes closely you can see that my irises are not aligned. This means my vision is blurry that day.)
Yesterday at work I was putting together the spring newsletter. I needed a specific photo so I was searching through the archives on our terminal server. Anniversary celebrations, barbecues, Christmas parties, vacations, awards… then I saw myself. Four years ago, in the kitchen at work, making Christmas centrepieces with two coworkers. They were gifts for each of the group homes that we operate and I had come in on my day off to help. My daughter was two and she was right in the middle of it all, “helping” too. I wore my favourite jeans, embellished with rhinestones, layered tank tops, and a hand knit sweater. I was smiling at the camera while I swept up pine needles from the floor.
As I looked at the computer I felt what I always feel when I see photos like this. That childhood feeling of injustice. “It’s not fair!” I want to whine. I feel the loss of my health most acutely when I see photos of myself active and healthy.
When I gave birth I felt invincible. My body did exactly what it was supposed to and it did it well. My labour and delivery were short and powerful and everything went better than I’d hoped. That feeling of invincibility carried over into the next couple years. I wore my baby on my front and would walk an hour to the mall. I wore my toddler on my back until she was 3. I worked part time, stayed home part time and really felt like I was giving her the best of both worlds. We played hard, we walked far, we loved well. I did my job well, even with my reduced hours, and I was strong. The physical aspects of my job were fun and challenging and I always felt like I accomplished something at the end of the day.
But now to even think about most of those things is exhausting. Not just the movement and physical strain of carrying a toddler or the endurance needed to teach some of the courses I taught, but basic stuff. Like, in that photo I’m wearing jeans with no stretch in the denim and an actual bra. I can’t do either of those things now because it makes it too difficult to breathe. Not fair!
But then I remind myself that part of the reason my health deteriorated when it did is probably because I pushed myself too hard during the time of that photo. I didn’t sleep enough, didn’t eat well, didn’t slow. My immune system took enough hits that it started to go haywire and here I am today.
So instead of focusing on what I lost I can be grateful for what I’ve gained. An appreciation for what I can do, an awareness of the importance of rest, and deeper relationships brought about by vulnerability.
I hope that’s what I see when I look back at photos from this era of my life.
(This post brought to you by the bus ride to, and subsequent wait for, my endocrinologist appointment.)