The introduction to a big work-in-progress…a HEART book, not a head book. 🙂 I hope you enjoy.
“Angela! Angela! Can you hear me?” Through the fog of confusion the voice called me back to clarity as my eyes opened and my sight began to return. I felt Sidney’s hand grasping mine and heard another voice tell me I would feel a squeeze on my arm. The sound of air swooshing rhythmically was timed with the increasing pressure on my arm, and I realized I had passed out again.
“Again?” came my voice, sounding weak even to my own ears.
“Again,” came the confirmation from Sidney, voice firm with the mix of concern and comfort.
“Well, at least let’s get me off the ground then and in a proper chair,” I snapped, and Sidney knew I had fully returned to consciousness. The paramedic talked to me for a bit, and I declined the trip to the hospital. Again.
Even though this was more than a dozen years ago I remember this time in my life clearly. Later that night, as I sat in the living area of the small mobile home Sidney and his best friend were renting, a nice place for two single college students, I talked out my feelings of frustration and fear. “How can I start school again next week if I couldn’t even make it through a full shift at work without passing out?!”
Sidney (Then boyfriend, now husband) listened to the litany again – how I’d always been able to keep my crazy schedule before. 24 credit hours at a time – double majors in music and theatre arts. How just 6 months ago I could swim a mile in under an hour, and now I didn’t trust myself to walk up a flight of stairs by myself. I had spent my entire adulthood jumping every hoop set before me. And I had often adopted a few extras whenever someone would ask for my help.
But now I couldn’t keep pace. My mind wanted to, but my body couldn’t. I’d lost weight – shedding from an already slight frame that struggled to keep at a healthy 115. I had plummeted to 95 pounds. My hair was falling out. I was constantly dizzy when I stood up – and that feeling wouldn’t always clear up. My already-low blood pressure wouldn’t even register on the doctor’s tests sometimes, forcing them to use the electronic monitors instead of the cuffs. I was inextricably sick. And I’d done it to myself.
Four years of pushing myself into as many checkboxes as possible had brought me here – to a place where my own body rebelled against me. Who takes on three part-time jobs with a 20+ credit hour schedule? Who chooses a second crazy-schedule major like Theatre Arts on top of an already insane major/minor program like Music Education? What kind of person does that, anyway?
Someone who is more concerned with doing what’s expected of her and pleasing others than with being healthy and finding a place of self-power. Someone who allowed others to set the path before her. The path that would best serve “the amazing potential” they were so quick to point out.
You should do this. Be sure to take that. We’d love to have you in this club. And could you lead this class for me, too, while you’re at it?
Somehow, somewhere, I had thought that just because you could do something well it meant that you hadto. That because you could theoretically squeeze it in (during your dinner hour between dance class and theatre rehearsal) that you SHOULD agree to take that on, as well. At the height of this madness, I would leave my dorm room at 5 or 6 am and finally sit down at 12:30 am that night. If homework was due the next morning that I couldn’t put off with charm and quick memory, I would have to do it then.
What I learned the hard way is that a schedule like that – no, a LIFESTYLE like that – isn’t sustainable. Not for very long. Slowly but surely, I was burning up my adrenal gland until there was nothing left. Through pure stubbornness, I gritted through my near-daily fainting spells until semester’s end, thinking I would “rest and get better” over the three-week break. But just the effort of faking a smile at home during Christmas for the two days I was there had quickly consumed what little energy I had managed to accrue, leaving me passing out again the next time I went to work. And that’s when I realized I could no longer live this checkbox path that others had laid in front of me. I had to find my own way.
So, with one semester left to complete my Bachelor’s degree, I went home to my parents’ house to recover. I moved back in with them and six hours away from the future that had seemed so certain and picture-perfect before. Student teaching, a school already waiting for me to finish my degree, marriage once Sidney graduated. Check, check, check.
Now when people ask me how I “manage it all” as though I’m living some insane schedule, I laugh. If they only knew what torture I’d put myself through before. My life now (homeschooling five kids plus running a business) is a cake walk by comparison. And I take care of myself better. I walk the path I want to walk and don’t bother with the checkboxes others heap in my path.
What I learned, crumpled in weak imperfection on the floor, is that failing teaches you how to succeed with power. With your OWN power. (Click to Tweet)
I could have marched to their beat and toed the line, but it would have been a scattered and impotent light. In the imperfection of my failures came the power of successes, and that is so much better. (Click to Tweet) So much stronger. So much more real than anything other people dreamed up for me.
Will you dare leave the perfection of the checkbox road before you? Embracing the journey of uncertainty means embracing the possibility of imperfection succeeding. And nothing could be more powerful than that!