Once upon a time, my dears, the press didn’t mention presidential scandals. FDR’s post-polio challenges weren’t exactly a secret, but reporters and their photog consorts went to great efforts to minimize his handicap in print. Politicians’ mistresses—JFK, anyone?—were discreetly overlooked. Woodward Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke, and his wife, Edith, essentially ran the country—without most of the country actually knowing it.
The phrase above is said to originate with Oliver Cromwell, the 17th century political powerhouse who asked his portraitist to paint him, quite literally, “warts and all.” But in American politics, the tide really turned with Richard Nixon, a man whose foibles became too large, too public, and perhaps even too stupid to hide. And voilà: “warts and all” journalism was born.
Maybe it’s your job (or lack of one). Maybe it’s your marriage. Maybe it’s your health.
It could be a bunch of somethings. You’re allergic to pine trees but you live in the woods. Your tween needs orthodontia that you can’t afford. Your car has developed a disconcerting sound like safety pins being ground in a blender, but it never makes this noise for the mechanic. Your husband is acting different and you’re wondering if he’s ill or having an affair and it’s hard to tell which would feel worse.
I think some coaches do the world a disservice when they market themselves as sort of glamorous fairy godparents. They display their beautiful, seamless, jet-setting lives on Twitter and Facebook, and they imply–if they don’t come right out and say–that if you follow them and their formula, your life will be like that, too.
I’m not that kind of coach. My life isn’t pretty all of the time. Parts of it are weird. Some of it is downright messed up.
Note: I have lived with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia most of my adult life. Whereas once I struggled, fought, and suffered, now—even though I still work towards partial or full recovery—I live in the present with what is, and I live a darned good life as a result. Here’s how:
Your physical condition does not define who you are. As all-consuming as dealing with physical limitations can be, you are more than the things you can or can’t do. You are your ability to give and receive love. You are the unique sculpture that is your soul. You are your interests, your passions, your distinctive point of view. You are also not your societal roles, your bank account, or your stuff. You are simply, beautifully, miraculously you, the only you there will ever be for all time. It really is enough.
Any chronic condition waxes and wanes. When we have good days, we can scarcely imagine what it was like to be so sick. Unfortunately, it tends to work in reverse, too—when we have bad days, we can’t imagine feeling otherwise. Do yourself a favor. On a good day, write a letter to your future self, the one who’s having a bad day. Describe in rich detail what a good day feels like. Remind yourself that good days–or at least not-so-crappy days-do come back around. Print it out and tape it or post it somewhere where you can easily find it, no matter how sick or stressed you may feel.
There is really nothing in the world that is universally good or bad. Even the best thing in the world has a downside or two. And even the most terrible tragedy imaginable can contain a gift within it. How many good things have come out of your challenges? I guarantee you’ll find more than one.
Give people the benefit of the doubt. Operate from the assumption that they are doing the best they can with whatever they have to work with at the time. That guy at the mall who told you he wishes HE could ride the mobility scooter ’cause his feet hurt? He’s just trying to connect with you—hey, at least he didn’t pretend you weren’t there. And about those people who pretend you’re not there. They actually think they’re helping you by not making you feel self-conscious.