My new years resolution for 2022 was to be kinder to myself. I took a roundabout way of getting there in the end.
In October of 2021, I did my first round of mavenclad to combat my multiple sclerosis. It’s a chemo treatment usually used to treat different types of cancer, but my neurologist prescribed it so that my immune system would be wiped out. When it would regrow, it would hopefully be without the lesions. I was at my weakest during January and February, so this meant that I started the year unable to really go out and engage with it.
I have difficulty slowing down. After the chemo treatment, all I did for a couple of months was take it slowly. I resented it, however. My creative output is so high that all I could think of was when I could be back up to full speed. It took time, but I got there in the end. I viewed the mavenclad treatment as one more thing that I had to fight against, and I was determined to win.
It felt like my husband and I struggled a lot with our health this year. I tried to fill up my days with writing and painting, taking care of him, working out and working full time. It was easier to ignore the negativity that seemed to follow me for the first half of the year. I did realize a few things about being positive all the time. Sometimes, positivity can turn from being a superpower to being toxic.
I had a few talks with my therapist about this and the need to be positive all the time, to pretend like there was nothing wrong. I came to realize that it stemmed from my childhood and was a long-term habit of trying to keep everyone else happy. It was always easier that way. I was surprised to find that it had seeped into my own habits, that if I wasn’t happy all the time, or at least didn’t view the world as positive, there was something wrong with me. I came to realize that no one can be positive all the time…and that was okay.
Midway through the year, I learned to paint with a pallet knife. It was something I had always wanted to try so I started taking weekly lessons with a very talented teacher. The techniques she taught me breathed new life into my paintings and I was reminded of how much fun painting was again. I learned that I could do partial abstract painting, and my teacher helped me to think outside of the box. Later in the year, I had my first art show with my teacher and her other students. I ended up selling three pieces and it was such a neat experience talking about my art as an artist and having people react in some way to what I had painted.
I also learned about grind culture. My husband and I caught Covid later in the year. During the time that we were in the worst of it, I ended up having a dizzy spell when I got up during the night and fell. I sustained a compression fracture in one of my vertebrae. I was in an incredible amount of pain and for me, that’s saying a lot. I live with spastic cerebral palsy and relapse and remitting multiple sclerosis; pain is a constant for me, but I had never felt pain like this.
Slowing down is not something I had tried to do before. I was always writing, always painting. Having to stop all of that and just focus on resting was very difficult for me to do. I started seeing a chiropractor who told me to take time off of work and I ended up being off work for six weeks. Part of me wondered how much writing, painting, baking I could do in my rest time. After trying to bake a loaf of banana bread and attempting to paint a canvas, and causing myself a lot of pain, I realized that I would have to listen to my doctor and take it easy. All I had to do was rest and relax, sit and be still in order to help along the healing.
Truth was, I felt guilty not doing anything. That, by taking the time to let myself heal, I was somehow less of a person because I had stopped my creative output, or had it stopped for me. I was so concerned with how other people would view my rest period that I didn’t take the time to stop and wonder where this need to be active all the time was coming from.
It was a comment from a friend of mine that made me stop. I had posted about my feelings on social media, and she commented that guilt culture is an abuse that we do to ourselves. That made me stop for a moment. I was abusing myself? I talked about this with my therapist and she helped me to realize that I had held on to one thing from my father, the belief that if I was not producing, I was not a valued member of society. If I didn’t contribute in some way to the world around me, I was not worth anything.
That opened my eyes a lot and I was finally able to slow down and honour my bodies need to rest. It changed a lot of my habits and as I got better, I started doing something. I would time myself for half an hour. I would paint for half an hour a day or write for half an hour a day. I would never do both on the same day. I started actively listening to my body so that I could honour it. I got to know and understand what the pain was saying to me. It was wonderful to finally take my time painting. I was able to see how the painting was going to shape itself, spend time on areas and add more depth and life to the painting. My teacher had been trying to get me to slow down and I finally achieved it, in a roundabout way.
I had been so used to pushing through the pain that I had tried to push past this new pain, but finally had to listen to what my body needed. That was a new thing for me, even though it took me a couple of weeks to get to that point. I also started posting less on social media and gave into the joy of relaxing. I started reading more again and no longer felt the urge to write, or the anger that came when I was not creative in some way. The words and the brush strokes would always be there, but I learned to leave them be when I needed to and pick up the keyboard or brush when I felt the urge, not because I felt I had to.
Between my mavenclad treatment, having covid and sustaining a compression fracture, I really had to learn to slow down this year. As I was preparing to write this, I took a moment to reflect on why and what this year meant to me. It was only then that I realized that my tarot card for 2022 was The Hermit. That card is all about taking time away, withdrawing a little bit from the world around you so that you can withdraw into yourself and learn more about yourself so that you can make your light shine more brightly into the shadows.
Wasn’t that what this year has been all about for me? Resting and reflection and giving myself the time to heal. By giving myself the time I needed to heal and taking the time to learn to listen to my body, I was allowing myself the kindness that I deserved. Before 2022, being kind to myself had been difficult and I was too hard on myself. I’m still hard on myself, but at least now, I can recognize it and stop myself most of the time. I also learned that it’s not a sign of weakness to give myself time to rest, it’s a sign of strength.
I learned that taking my time with things can have fantastic results. I learned that I don’t have to rush everything, that the words and the paints will always be there. I learned that I’m worthy of kindness and self kindness. I learned what true strength was, the ability to love myself when everything in my mind is telling me not to.
I learned so much about myself this year and as I head towards 2023, I know that great things are possible. My card for 2023 is the Wheel of Fortune. I look forward to learning more about myself, to luck, expansion and the magic that 2023 will bring.