Chronic Illness & Comfort Zones or 'Nesting in Happy Valley'
Yesterday I was in what they call ‘Happy Valley’ …
It’s where my son Jake goes to college and it’s the nickname of Penn State University. I have no idea where the nickname originated, but I would imagine it has something to do with the general disposition & feeling in that incredible college town…
Everyone is HAPPY. Seriously….EVERYBODY. They love it there and if you’ve ever visited or been to a beloved PSU football game, you would very quickly see why. It’s an incredible place. I wanted to go to college there so badly back in the day.
I didn’t get in, though. lol
But Jake did (yay Jake!) & yesterday we took the road trip to State College, PA to bring Jake back for his sophomore year and into the townhouse that he’s sharing with a few buddies this year.
I can’t believe that summer is ending. Boo.
I always get a bit nervous when traveling to…..well…..when traveling pretty much anywhere outside of my comfort zone and within the 25 mile radius of my couch. I think anyone with chronic pain/illness can probably relate.
It’s not that I don’t like traveling or going to new places..I do! I love it! It just takes work and planning which can be kind of a pain in the butt because you have to pack your meds and plan around whatever treatment regimen you follow to make your life easier.
It’s like going to the beach with a toddler. You can’t just go. It requires pre-planning.
I had a big day yesterday that was all due to going outside of my comfort zone..
I made the 3 1/2 hr car trip here which is always a challenge in and of itself. Long car rides=extra stiff legs=OUCH!
But its ok…I deal with it. And it’s totally worth it.
When we got to Happy Valley, we went out to dinner and then I helped unload the car 🚗 a teensy bit. So already, with all of those things alone….it had been a very successful day for me!
Then we got to his place and I found myself doing the obligatory, ‘mom makes up the bed’ thing which I think any mom who has ever had a college kid understands….
There is something so deep in our bones…in our marrow, I think…that won’t allow us to say ‘goodbye’ to our little ‘apple dumplings’ until their beds are made. It’s as if we are afraid that if we don’t make their beds and do our finest work with the fluffing, tucking, & hospital corners that they will somehow end up sleeping on the streets under a bridge with the bums. (That could totally happen, right? 😉)
There’s also the fact that, because of my illness & often inability to do everyday tasks, my kids were taught to make up their own beds at a pretty early age thanks to my hubby. Not to mention the fact that my son has already been through a year of college and managed to make his bed on his own just fine without me.
NEWSFLASH: He can make his own bed, woman!!!
But I just had to do it anyway.
Maybe it’s more for us, the mom’s, that we do it. With every fluff and tuck we are saying our own special goodbye and making the bed seals it with a kiss.
This is my 4th year in a row of moving my adult children into college dorms/apartments/townhouses of some sort, and up until this point I have luckily always managed to escape having to wipe down their bathrooms before putting their stuff in it….another one of those ‘mom’ things we HAVE to do for some reason. A cleaning team could have just been there for all we know, but it doesn’t matter…. we won’t be able to rest easy at night until we know that that bathroom is wiped down!
But I’ve been lucky up until this point because my kids’ roommates parents have always gotten to this important task before I could (darn! 😉) I love the look of determination in those mothers’ eyes as they slip on those yellow rubber gloves and embark on a bathroom scrub-fest in the hopes of removing the germs of every college kid that came before them.
In all honesty, I look at them with envy, in a way, over the fact that they have the energy & physical capability to do that scrubbing after a day of unpacking, setting up a new room, and probably packing & running around like a maniac shopping for last minute things the day before. Not to mention,traveling from wherever they came from!
They can scrub after that?!! Impressive! Knock yourself out…..
However…..this year, Jake has his own bathroom in his room so there’s no other mom to pick up the slack. My husband was going to do it as he’s used to that (I’m not exactly a cleaning maven at home either….haha)
But I did it today!
I actually had the energy to do this ‘bonus task!’ Hooray? haha
It wasn’t exactly a massive bathroom by any stretch of the imagination and it took a total of five minutes to just wipe it all down (there was no scrubbing involved here, trust me) but I did it. I made the bed AND wiped down the bathroom!
I felt like a rock star. A mommy rock star.
Now here’s the thing, if you had asked me earlier in the day yesterday if I would be able to take get up early, make that 3 1/2 hour car ride, go to dinner, help unload, help setup Jake’s room, make his bed, and wipe down his bathroom I would have told you absolutely not….there’s NO WAY I would be able to handle all of that.
But I did handle it somehow….and I wasn’t overdoing it at all. For some reason,yesterday I just happened to be able to have the energy & ability to do that.
Which really is a lesson in being flexible. I think often we get so caught up in our routines and what we ‘know’ about our bodies. We have worked so hard to get these diagnoses and figure out what’s going on with us. We have done days, weeks, months, years, sometimes decades of trial and error as to what our schedule can look like so we can live productive, happy, & meaningful lives with as little pain as possible.
But….sometimes we can use to be a little flexible. Go outside of our comfort zones without hurting ourselves. You never know what kind of new things we might be able to do if we’re just willing to ‘wiggle’ a little bit.
There are some times…actually , a LOT of times…where I have felt like less of a mom because of my illness. I feel ‘less than’ quite a bit. It’s not as often anymore since my kids are now adults, but I did just have an incident this week that really threw me for a loop and hurt me deeply.
I do know now, though, that where I lack in certain areas, I make up for an a lot of other ways. But sometimes that self-inflicted mom-guilt can be excruciating. Thankfully, between all of the work I have done between my awesome FB group, “Attitude of Gratitude w/ Chronic Pain” (AoG) and my Chronic Pain Anonymous meetings, I tend to not ‘go there’ and dwell on it very often anymore because I know it doesn’t serve me. At all. I simply do the best that I can and have accepted that that is good enough. And it is! It has to be.
Life is so hard. It hurts sometimes. And the emotional pain can be so much more painful than the physical pain ever could.
Yet sometimes you are gifted these gorgeous gems that make it all worth it. Gems like the way I felt after wiping down Jake’s bathroom today. That ‘Rock Star/I Almost Feel Like a ‘Normal’ Person’ gem.
I’ll go throug the hard stuff to get to gems like today any day! As long as I keep GRATITUDE & LOVE in the core of my head & my heart, I can clearly see the gifts I’m given daily…..even in the most mundane of things (like wiping down a bathroom for my son!)
Good luck in your sophomore year, Jake! We love you and are sooooo proud.
(and I miss you already.)
**NO WAY!!!!!! We are on our way home as I was finishing up writing this piece, the song “Mysterious Ways” by U2 comes on. And it goes:
“If you’re gonna kiss the sky, better learn how to kneel.”
Kneel! As in wiping a bathroom! And by doing that kneeling I got to ‘kiss the sky!’ (okay…maybe it’s a bit of a stretch, but I like it so I’m going with it! ☺)
Have a great day gang!
ps. If you live with chronic pain/illness & are looking for a community to share with other like-minded peeps in a positive, no-complaining environment….send in a member request to join AoG! We’d love to have you!