Archive | August, 2017

Wisdom from the Edge of 40

11 Aug



Three weeks of my life in thyroid pills

Today marks six years since my thyroidectomy. In some ways, nothing has changed. I just finished a weeklong battle with U of M just to have my thyroid hormone levels re-tested. I still struggle with a ridiculously slow metabolism and intermittent periods of fatigue, anxiety, hair loss and skin issues. Last year I mapped out a vision of where I wanted to be when I turned 40. I wanted to be stronger, faster and healthier. I wanted more time with my family and the people who matter the most in my life. I wanted more time to write and experience joy. I wanted to look forward and not backward and live my best life. With only three months left in my 30s, I’ve made progress but I am afraid I am falling short of my vision. Still, over the last decade of my life, and the last six years in particular, I have made some pretty significant realizations.

Life goes on whether you’re happy or not.

I have a one-track mind. No matter how many problems I have solved over my lifetime, there is always another one lurking around the corner. Meanwhile, time keeps passing. I keep getting older. My children keep growing and changing. The Earth continues to turn. I can choose to focus on the fact that I need to lose 15 pounds, or I can focus on all of the other amazing, wonderful things in my life. Focusing on the one thing that doesn’t fit my picture doesn’t change anything except my perspective and my mood. Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.*

You are more than your exterior.

My 2017 goals are to run my best 5K, squat 150 lbs., bench 100 lbs., and do real push-ups and pull-ups. I’m getting closer every day. Exercise is a daily priority, and I am physically stronger than I have ever been in my life. Still I step on the scale and feel like a big fat failure. I avoid photos, despise shopping and dread running into to people from my much-thinner past. Being thyroidless is no help to my plight, but it is my reality nonetheless. For my own sanity, I need to stop looking at my exterior as pass/fail. The way I look has zero bearing on my personal worth (or anyone else’s, for that matter).

There’s a difference between strength and resilience.

By definition, strength is the ability to withstand being moved or broken. I’ve been described as a strong person, but I don’t take that as a compliment anymore. If I am going to talk about thyroid cancer survival, then being strong isn’t going to cut it. Everyone has limits and this disease will break you to some degree. Resilience is the ability to bounce back. Resilient people may be broken and changed, but they can recognize and accept the things they cannot change. They surround themselves with a supportive community and they ask for help when they need it. My goal for my 40s is to build my resiliency…to seek meaning in whatever happens to me, to stay flexible and hopeful, and to nurture relationships with people who love and support me.

You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.

I get high on achievements and over-functioning. I really can do anything I put my mind to. So what should I put my mind to? There is a finite amount of hours in a day, and a finite amount of years in my life. I’ve learned that social media offers only the highlight reel of someone else’s life. I’ve learned that relationships are additive, not obligatory. I’ve learned that experiences are more valuable than possessions. And I’ve learned that saying no is actually kinder than saying a begrudging yes. So instead of scheduling my life, I will prioritize it. Because for every “yes,” I need to say “no” to something else.

You cannot achieve both balance and perfection.

True to my firstborn, Type A personality, I strive for perfection in everything I do. I am my own harshest critic. I also claim that I want more balance in my life. The truth is, perfection is an extreme end of a spectrum. It is actually the opposite of balance. Balance is the literal absence of perfection.  In my 40s I will be kinder to myself. I will strive for progress, not perfection. I will embrace the details of my life that are less than perfect, because they will show me that I have balance. I may not be the best, but I will be doing my best.

I started this blog the day I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Over the years, 10 Things I Hate About Thyroid Cancer continued to be my most visited and shared post. It was supposed to be the title of my book. I’ve amassed 200+ pages of gripes about what it’s like to live with this chronic condition. If I’ve learned anything at all, it’s that I am not going to survive perfectly. I have been broken, and I have grown and changed. My wish for you is not that you keep fighting, but that you live with intention. Choose happiness. Survive with grace. And my 40th birthday wish is that I can do the same.

*Haruki Marukami