many gifts

Things have been so busy these last two months. I can't believe today is March 1st - it seems impossible. The beginning of this year has embodied a great deal in short amount of time: five birthdays in our immediate family; a nasty, long-lasting flu for Kai, a quick trip to Portland, and the busiest, most demanding time of year at my job... and some disappointing long term health news.

Good mixed in with some bad. Even a little rain.

In mid-January, some test results of mine came in, and I've been indecisive about sharing them. It feels overly-personal, disinteresting, and self-important. But it has been a long time since I've sat down and written out a post that felt natural and honest, and today I decided it's the right thing for me to talk about this here. After all, I crossed the overly-personal line on this blog a long time ago. And more than that, I've written regularly about my ambitions, my feelings of failure for struggling to finish (or start) things, my disappointment at how I structure my time, or how my day job is a means to an end and my creativity is limited to stolen hours during the week, etc., etc. This new development - or more accurately, new information about my situation - is directly related.

I was diagnosed with a neurological disorder, which essentially leaves my brain sleep deprived - and therefore exhausted - all the time. In some ways this news was relieving, as I've been trying to figure out what was going on with me for several years. But in other ways it was heartbreaking, because it means that there is essentially nothing I can do about this situation.

I've always admired hard-working people. I've always desperately wanted to be one. Instead I know that I'm a very motivated person; I have intense desires, and I'm by nature a planner, and am very good at working backwards from a goal and seeing what steps are needed to get there. In my imagination, my hard-working self stays up late, gets up early, and squeezes every moment of productivity out of each day. My imaginary hard-working self gets up at dawn to get her run in; then she comes home and measures, cuts, sews, designs, and gets back on the computer and does research, follows-up with emails, edits photos. Dare I say it: she even updates her shop on a regular basis.

But I'm not that imaginary hard-working person. I used to be closer to her, a few years ago, but I believe we will only continue to drift apart. My reality is that I need more sleep than the average person, I will always want more sleep than I'm getting, and it's likely with time that I will sleep more and more. Staying up late, getting up early - these things are not a possible reality for me. It seems so simple, and so small, this sleep dilemma. But there are days when I am moving through a fog, struggling to maintain focus or complete tasks, actively fighting through exhaustion. Exhaustion, I've come to understand, that feels more like what healthy sleepers feel like after staying awake all night. And there are physical and emotional price tags for this.

But this is not about complaints. Actually what I mean to write about today is: gifts. All kinds of gifts. And the gift that I'm trying to get at here, in this rambling explanation, is that in some ways this diagnosis is a gift. That stay-up-late, get-up-early, hardest-working version of myself? I used to beat myself up for not being her. I knew I was tired, sure - but I thought maybe I just didn't have the mental fortitude to "tough it out." I hated myself for what I perceived as my laziness.

And now I know that that's simply not true. In fact now I know that what I do manage to accomplish is nothing to be sneezed at, given the realities of my neurological situation. I also can now recognize how lucky I am, that many aspects of my lifestyle already align with the way I need to care for myself given this situation.

This is the silver lining, here. There are things that are a struggle, that will continue to be a struggle, that may become more of a struggle in the future. But I don't have to tell myself I'm a bad person for this physical way that I feel. It's not a failure of my work ethic. It is simply how it is, and I can fight with it - as I do, and will continue to - but now this fight has changed. I no longer feel I'm battling my own secret laziness, some deep dark "bad" thing about myself. I am industrious, I am motivated. I am just also very, very tired.

Isn't it sad that we feel this way in the first place? The pressure to always be harder-better-faster? The efficiency machine? What strange hypocrisy that I love traditional, slow handiwork and yet I just admitted to you that my own slow progress is a thing I have despised about myself.

Good gracious do I have things to learn.

So I thought it was appropriate to talk about this today, joining in for gratitude Sunday. I am grateful for the things that this situation will teach me. I have claimed for so long that I want to learn more patience, more appreciation, more mindfulness; to live slowly, to value each moment. It's not something I have made great progress on on my own. There is nothing to do with this news but to dive back into that process. I can pity myself or I can see the gifts that this situation is giving me.

It's good to write that down, publicly.

Continuing along these gratitudinal lines:

- I have received the most beautiful packages in the mail, recently. A enormous, heart felt thank-you to old friends and new ones, from far away places... your beautiful gifts are incredibly touching. It is an honor to receive them.

- I am grateful also for the returning health and strength of nearby friend. May this year bring you strength, and health, and happiness, and maybe even a trip to Japan.

- I am grateful for my family. All of you, near and far. I am lucky to have you.

- Today I am grateful for some rain, and the way it makes the birds rejoice.

- And I am grateful for the ocean, and living near it, and the opportunity I have to go and see it and smell it and take a great deal of peace from it. I intend to go there right now.


  1. I hope you enjoyed the smell of fresh rain by the sea today Elizabeth :)
    I loved reading this open and generous post this morning - thank you so much - the talent and skill you have for textiles and sewing is evident in your love of that slow process. It is obviously a necessary and essential part of who you are and that is wonderful!
    Sending you much love and a big hug

  2. I really admire how you have chosen to view this upsetting diagnosis. It must be so difficult to go through life exhausted all the time! Your beautiful talents will no doubt serve you well as you learn to adapt to your new, slower life. Wishing you much rest and rejuvenation in this journey.

  3. Wishing you well on your new journey. I hope you can make peace with who you are and find where you want to be going.

  4. Wishing you peaceful moments.... Take care of yourself! Be gentle with "you".....

    Linda in VA

  5. Every good wish as you find your way in your realigned world.

    These illnesses that leave us exhausted - I have autoimmune conditions the effect of which is, I imagine, somewhat similar to what you are experiencing - are truly doors to different yet equally rewarding ways of living. Kudos to you for your courage and your acceptance, from someone a little further along her own weary path x

  6. although i have no such thing like you
    i recognize a lot
    yes, live slowly and value each moment
    enjoying the things which are

    wishing you well!