I have a very close friend. We’ve known each other for more than 20 years. She has been and continues to be the main emotional support in my life. She lives on the West Coast, and I, the East.
We usually talk on the phone (that’s right… on the phone… like, with our voices…) after I swim or after I ride my bike.
She is very busy. A mom, a devoted wife, business owner, active community member. She lives like I used to (one of the things that bonded us as friends early on): she crams as much as is humanly possible into a 24 hour period.
…I’ve realized that much of my self-worth was, still possibly is, tied to how productive I am, how much I do in a day…
In our conversations, we talk and laugh and just basically shoot the shit. She is usually running errands (which I love because it gives me a tie to the outside world), and I am usually resting. I cherish this woman and would be absolutely lost without her. So, what I am about to say pains me very deeply.
Our almost daily conversations always involve her asking me the question, “so, what are you going to do with the rest of your day?”
It’s innocuous. Simple conversation. Meant to be a harmless question one friend asks another to show they care.
The thing is that I always talk to her *after* I’ve done my “productive” efforts of the day. After I swim for roughly an hour, after I ride my bike 15 or 20 miles.
On most days, yes, that is truly all I “do.” And I am proud (very proud) of now having the ability to spend almost 2 active hours during a day. Some days, I might be called to teach a ballet class to children, or I might have to go to the bank, but for the most part my days follow the same simple schedule: swim, bike, meds, rest.
So the question, about the rest of my day, hits me. Hits me hard. Because I’m already done with my day before noon, her time. She doesn’t ever judge, and she doesn’t ever imply I should be more productive. I just feel like a worthwhile person should have an interesting answer to that question beyond “I need to take my medication and then I’ll probably sleep until dinner.” I have begun to dread the question.
You might think I should simply tell her about how the question makes me feel. I disagree. These are my emotions to explore. If I tell her, then that will make her feel like she has done something wrong, like she has been insensitive in some way (which, is impossible- she is the most benign, most selfless, most sensitive, most kind-hearted person I know).
My issue is with my perception of myself within the question, not with the question itself. And there is great value for me to try to explore this perception.
Why do I allow it to make me feel completely empty? Why do I allow it to make me feel worthless? Why do I judge my current life based on what I used to accomplish in a day before CRPS stole everything (including the ability to be productive) from me? And were my pre-CRPS accomplishments really that great, or was I just keeping myself busy to inflate my self-esteem and to keep myself from being bored?
The truth is, no, in fact, I am not a “productive” person by modern society’s standards.
However, I am finding ways to do the impossible. I have refused to resign my future to a miserable lonely life in bed crippled by CRPS. I am fighting my fate. I am figuring out how to adapt in order reclaim crucial parts of myself. My rational brain knows these things and tells my psyche to loosen its grip on my self worth.
Yet deep down, I feel like I’m simply pandering to myself if I dare congratulate myself on the tiny, and monumental, improvements I’ve made to my life in the past three years, four months, fourteen days. Why?