a work in progress

my monkey mind

There’s a quiet that creeps in on a Sunday morning following a night with no plans that’s different from all the others. It hits you hard – the reminder that you said no to something so that you could say yes to nothing – and the feeling of a weekend that just a few hours earlier was full of possiblities will soon collapse into a just another Monday.

I used to think that was the saddest thing in the world, saying no to invitations, I mean. I felt it was a clear indicator of defeat, that I had learned through painful trial and error that I can no longer do the things that used to come easily. Going out and standing on my feet for hours and walking into situations without clear exit strategies and ample seating were luxuries belonging to a version of me that left a long time ago.

But then the invitations dwindled down to nothing – or almost nothing, rather – and I realized that their silence was much harder to stomach than simply saying no. I preferred the hemming and hawing over plans, the frustration of having to make the decision to do something and pay for it later or miss out entirely, over not being invited at all.

Having a chronic illness when you’re young-ish is an odd thing. As you go through the stages of life you’re often left to wonder, Is what’s happening the result of my health, or is this just what everyone goes through as they get older? The answer, I find, is usually a combination of the two. Most of my friends, for example, are married and have babies. They’re not enjoying boozy dinners and improptu brunches like they used to. I’m hearing about fewer things to do because less is actually happening. I mean, let’s face it…we’re no longer in our twenties.

But other times, usually after I log onto that dreaded Instagram, I see proof that life went on despite my quiet phone. While my social calendar remained thin others made plans. People that I used to know well are practically strangers, and groups of which I was I was once a part went on without me.

It’s difficult to think about all that I lost since I became a person who has to constantly consider how I physically feel, and it’s easy to let my mind slip down that rabbit hole, naming each as I scroll. It’s easy for sadness to completely hijack my weekend as I torment myself, wondering where it is that I went wrong. Did they stop texting because they grew tired of me feeling poorly all the time, or was it something I did?

There’s a part of me that thinks that finding the answer to my questions will keep this from happening again. That if I can correct a behavior the next time I’ll avoid feeling rejected, lonely, or lost ever again. But the truth is is that it won’t, and sometimes questions are better left unanswered. Everyone, whether they struggle with illness or not, deals with uncomfortable feelings as they navigate the rises and falls of life. I recently gave my toddler niece a book on this topic…I’m absolutely not joking. She’s two, so she sometimes has emotional outbursts when she can’t quite sort out what she’s feeling or calm her “monkey mind” as the book says.

The author’s advice is to feel our feelings, but then then to let them go. While the recommended reader’s age range is three to five, it’s clearly not a lesson I learned in childhood, and one that I continue to struggle with today. But it’s true! It’s not about distracting myself with an activity or beating myself up for not being grateful for the friends that continue to stand by my side. I have permission to feel a little rejected, lonely, and lost for missing out, but then I have to let that go.

I hope you woke up this morning feeling perfectly content, but if you didn’t, you’re not alone. You don’t need anyone’s permission to be upset that things aren’t better, but you have it anyway. So take it, feel it, and then just let it all go and move on with your beautiful life.

Because what else is there to do?

Happy Sunday, everyone!

xo Anne

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