I often compare my fitness to my past self’s or to others. It’s something that I cannot get past, even though I know I shouldn’t think about what others are able to accomplish.
I recently had a garage sale, and getting ready for it meant two things: 1) going through each nook and cranny of the house and 2) sorting items into toss, sell, or donate piles.
I had to do the sorting bit a little at a time. I can’t just go all day as I used to. I remember marathon packing or organizing sessions in college and as a kid, but my body doesn’t give me that kind of stamina anymore. This is something that all chronic disease and chronic pain sufferers and specialists reiterate over and over again: pace yourself. It’s often hard for me because I get “in the zone” and become so focused, but I’ve done my best to hold myself back from overexertion.
The hardest bit was actually sorting everything. Making decisions about plates, bakeware, and old clothes as easy-peasy. However, facing my college and postgraduate notes, articles, and books was extremely difficult. I had to leave my PhD program so suddenly for such a difficult reason beyond my control, so that work feels very unfinished. In addition, I look at my notes and articles, and I realize I don’t remember any of it. None. Nada. Zip. I recognize the names of works and characters like Sir Orfeo or Roland, but I can’t remember the details. I know Sir Orfeo is the medieval incantation of the Orpheus of classical myth, but other than that… I remember marching in Roland and that it’s of French origin, but what was the war and who were the characters? It’s so hard to face the reality that my mind isn’t as it was in college or as a kid.
I understand and am thankful for the fact that my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome symptoms and chronic pain aren’t as bad as others’. I’m not bedridden, and I can function usually without OTC painkillers or even prescription-strength. But my mental and physical fitness seems to pale in comparison to everyone else’s around me.
I suppose the best I can do is just continue doing what I’ve been doing. Go to my appointments, treat myself kindly, and eat as well as I can. I can’t let comparisons to others weigh down my estimation of myself. (Though, this is so much easier said than done, in my humble opinion.)
I also need to redefine “fitness” as it pertains to me. I can’t remember social graces like thank you cards, if I’m in pain or fatigued I don’t register emails or texts, and I get overwhelmed easily. I have to make my peace with that and hope friends and family understand. I can’t remember things I’ve read or movies I’ve seen unless they’re ones I’ve experienced many, many times. I doubt myself a lot because I sometimes can’t remember work processes, and so I ask questions. I cannot expect to keep up with the brilliant academics on my Facebook feed who are at conferences and working in postdoctoral positions. I cannot expect to be that Regency-era lady who is excellent at timely correspondence. It’s a constant struggle to make myself believe this is okay, and it’s normal for me. I’m doing as well as I can, and that’s all I can do.