Looking Back with Authenticity

By Jorie

As we exit 2018 and enter 2019, there’s a topic I want to touch on that I think is important for all of us to remember and practice.

Scrolling through my social media feeds these last few days has left me feeling both inspired and defeated. Inspired because I’m so happy to see people sharing their favorite moments and memories from 2018 like a highlight reel, yet defeated because most of the time, no one ever shows their obstacles. The times they battled silently. The moments of darkness that are inevitable. The struggles that occur between the glimpses of good.

I don’t say this to be pessimistic or to encourage people to always share their negativity–no–my point is that life simply isn’t always so glamorously grand. It isn’t truly a photo album of amazing memories and happy times all the time, but more like a zig-zagging rollercoaster of good and bad, ups and downs, twists and turns. And I believe each part should be celebrated.

I, for one, had an absolutely incredible 2018 overall. I was able to travel more, I attended Headache on the Hill, I made new friends and had good times with old, I practiced gratitude and mindfulness better, I married my soulmate, we bought our first house together, and much more. I can’t think of many moments in my highlight reel to speak of that were terribly bad.

Here’s the thing, though. Throughout ALL those wonderful memories I made, in the background I still…

  • Battled crippling social anxiety that prevented me from exiting my comfort zone very much,
  • Suffered from bipolar disorder, which included depressive lows and a few manic highs as we adjusted my medication throughout the year,
  • Fractured my foot two days after my wedding by falling down our basement stairs,
  • Faced worsening problems with my chronic illnesses and chronic pain, which has made life increasingly more difficult to navigate,
  • Struggled with my job and keeping up with working enough hours as well as contributing quality work,
  • Had a hard time with my social and family life, and as a result grew a bit more distant to certain individuals that I really care about,
  • Took the brunt of harsh criticism and judgement based on assumptions others made about my chronic illnesses and level of disability,
  • Juggled the stress of medical bills, insurance issues, and yo-yo-ing medical treatments.
  • And more!

These were all things that continued to plague me through the bountiful joy that occurred for me in 2018, and will probably follow me into 2019 as well. And that’s okay. These are things that I’m continuously working on, they’re things I’m learning to accept and adapt to, and they are simply a part of this thing called “life.”

It’s imperative to acknowledge the good with the bad in everything. I personally surveyed my 2018 and I still find it to be one of the best years of my life, despite the perpetual strife I listed above that seemed to follow me around like a cloud above my head all year long.

So why do I think it’s so essential to take note of all our negatives? Primarily:

  • To balance our perspective,
  • To keep us in gratitude,
  • And… because our struggles are usually what shape us and strengthen us.

Negativity doesn’t have to be negative, though. Say what? I know that sounds confusing, but this is exactly what I practice each and every day with running this blog, raising awareness, and advocating in general. I do my best to put a positive spin on the negative events in my life in order to (hopefully) inspire others and show them that they can feel worthy through living a life of chronic illness, chronic pain, and disability.

As some of you are well aware, my mantra in my personal life and for this blog is “Everything, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it.”

When I posted my 2018 highlight reel on my Instagram, I included mostly good memories because, as I said, 2018 WAS a great year for me… but I also added 2 that likely weren’t seen as positive in the eyes of others. I imagine they probably paused and wondered, “why would she include these things among her good times?” However, they have become positive to me, I found my own ways to make them good.

The first one I posted was when I got my first wheelchair and disabled placard last summer. It was an extremely emotional decision on both parts for me to make that choice, but it was absolutely necessary. Having the benefit of both of these aids has ended up being immensely helpful and I’ve discovered that both of them have added to my ability to advocate for myself. Being in my mid-20’s and needing these aids isn’t easy, but knowing I’m doing what’s right for my health is empowering.

When someone sees me in a wheelchair or using a disabled placard, they automatically think, “oh no, what’s wrong with her?” But instead, they should think, “wow, that’s great that she’s using the tools she needs to make life easier for her.” I don’t think of it as a “poor me” situation, it’s more like a “go me!”

The second one focused on the fact that my Granny’s health declined in 2018. An eternally healthy woman who I jokingly compared to myself because I was always sicker than she was, my Granny fell ill mid-summer and never quite recovered. She was diagnosed with colon and liver cancer, experienced infection after infection, and lost her energy and strength. As a result, she was confined to the hospital when my wedding rolled around in October and was unable to attend.

I couldn’t accept this reality, so I went to her instead on the wedding day. Trey and I visited with her and took photos, and my aunt and uncle helped FaceTime the wedding to her that afternoon. This negative situation was turned into a positive and I now look back on it with elation that I was able to include her in my special day. I don’t look at her as “a sick person” in this photo–I look at her as my loving, caring, perfect grandmother. Yes, the world continues to turn and her health may continue to decline, but I don’t focus on that. Instead, I focus on the time we have left together and cherish each moment.

So I invite you all, dear readers, to reflect back on your 2018 with honest clarity instead of with false, rose-colored glasses: remember the good times joyfully, remember the bad times with gentle truth, and know that both create a unity that is uniquely your own experience. Both need to be present in order for you to live your genuine life, like a yin and yang. May your highlight reel always reflect the true YOU, the good and the bad balanced in harmony.

Here’s to a beautifully authentic 2019.

Header Image Credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/back-view-daylight-environment-fall-623080/

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