Thursday, March 4, 2021

Our Covid Anniversary


Today marks the one-year anniversary of our family’s COVID journey, and for much of the past year, I’ve been telling myself a story that I have since chosen simply not to believe in anymore.

After we got sick and I wasn’t able to continue doing projects around our home and farm, I started to feel like I didn’t have as much to offer in terms of writing about our home life. There have been no reno/rehab projects going on, no big reveals, and really, not even all that much seasonal sprucing of our d├ęcor on the level of what I’d been doing and sharing in the past. 

{Related: Our Covid Journey}

I started to question what I could contribute to the homesteading conversation and how I could be of service to others with my life when my physical abilities had become so limited.

But several months ago, my thinking started to shift. It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to offer. It was that I hadn’t really gotten my arms around how our life was changing in so many big ways and how I could serve with purpose going forward.

At that point, I decided to truly lean into that process and embrace the person I was becoming instead of mourning the loss of the person I used to be.

July 2020: Home from the hospital and getting used to my heart monitor. Spoiler--I never really got used to it and was very happy when it was finally removed!


The first step for me in that journey was making space for my own personal growth. If you’ve been hanging out with me for very long, you already know that one of my biggest personal challenges is slowing down and practicing self-care. I am notoriously a go, go, go kind of person, and I almost always take on far more than any reasonable person would consider doing. As I’ve shared many times in the past, self-care doesn’t come naturally to me, and it’s a practice that I just keep working at every day.

So, of course, when something big happens, like what we’ve gone through over the past year, I didn’t have a built-in, natural process for giving myself respite when I needed it.

In fact, the day my sister and I were working on creating our face mask pattern and I was filming that video for you all, I was running a terrible fever that I was trying to dull with Tylenol just long enough to complete the project, and really, had no business being out of bed. 

{Related: Easy DIY Face Masks}

Simultaneously, I was working with a group of 30 other bloggers as I was running a huge Spring Home Tour. Plus, coordinating curbside pickups at our shop, trying frantically to get our online shop up and running, scrambling to complete a renovation that we’d committed to do for the Better Homes & Garden annual “One Room Challenge”, and still keep up with all of our normal responsibilities of running a business and maintaining our home + farm.

Are you tired just reading that?? I sure am!

When I say that slowing down is a challenge for me, I really can’t emphasize that enough. I figured that if we simply postponed the rest of our reno project, that would be enough of a work reduction to qualify as “self-care”.

I was sorely mistaken.

Again, any reasonable person can probably already guess how this story plays out.

The more I pushed myself, the worse I felt. The worse I felt, the more I feared that I wouldn’t be able to do the things I was so passionate about, and then the more I wanted to push myself to just….get…better….faster.

Not surprising to anyone else, I’m sure, but that’s simply not how healing works.

Late-July 2020: To break up the monotony of being bedridden, I spent parts of the sunny days under an umbrella on the deck to get fresh air--thanks to Mr. FCF and his brilliant ideas! Gotta love those medical-grade compression socks in the middle of summer too!

Before I continue with this story…a little disclaimer. How this all plays out, and how we get to the part of the story where I’m at today, involves a lot of self-reflection and personal growth. It also involves my own relationship with my faith. Saying that, I want to make it clear to anyone reading this that I don’t believe faith is the same thing as religion. I think it can be, but I don’t believe they’re necessarily one in the same.

Many of you know that, in my day job, I’m a psycho-social researcher with a doctorate in human development. One thing that my many years of research has taught me is that faith is best defined as belief in the absence of knowing. If we use that definition, then all of us are practicing faith at every moment of our lives because truth and knowledge and reality are only point-in-time interpretations of the available evidence before us. Therefore, religious affiliation (or the absence thereof) is not a pre-requisite for engaging with faith, and while you’re reading this, I hope you’ll feel free to substitute the specific words that align with your own beliefs (e.g., God, the universe, spirit, nature, etc.).

Now, back to the story…


Every day that went by, I was engaging in an increasingly futile battle of my stubbornness versus God’s will. I wanted to hold on to who I believed myself to be and what I’d been able to do in the past, while the universe was (and still is) pushing and molding me to become someone new.

Rather than stepping forward into a future that felt murky and filled with uncertainty, I was clinging to my own vision and plan for my life, unwilling to let go of the way I thought things should be.

The strange part is that this behavior was so starkly in opposition to my values and beliefs. In our family, we are committed to practicing radical acceptance. For us, this means openly embracing all parts of life as they come and just as they are.

October 2020: In addition to taking care of literally everything in our family and around our home, this amazing guy also ran a 5K to raise money for dysautonomia research. #besthusbandever


This doesn’t mean we don’t work for change, betterment, and progress. It simply means that we don’t reject what is because of what we wish it were instead.

Yet, that’s precisely what I’d been doing when it came to my own health and physical abilities.


RADICAL ACCEPTANCE

Radical acceptance is about acknowledging reality, not about judging whether that reality is good or bad. Whether I was aware of it or not, I was battling reality at every turn. The idea I had at the time, was that following the doctor’s orders, taking my medications, and showing up for rehab every day was intended for the purpose of returning to the person I was before

In truth, everything I was doing was designed to help me become a new version of myself.

Perhaps, with time, there will be aspects of my health and physical ability that will, in fact, look something like they did in the past. That’s certainly a possibility, and only time will tell. Yet, putting my life on hold and waiting for that to happen before I found ways to use my life in service to others was, quite frankly, serving no one. Least of all, me.

The way I saw it, my present reality was “bad”, and I wanted to go back to the “good” reality I knew in the past. Radical acceptance can only happen, though, when you stop fighting reality and start wholeheartedly accepting everything about yourself or circumstances. 

November 2020: Every 10 days, our grocery delivery arrives, and Rob disinfects every item before it comes past the entryway. Didn't I tell you what a swell guy he is?

Radical means fully and completely, and this idea is about total acceptance of the hand you’re dealt in life. This certainly doesn’t mean condoning or approving of situations that aren’t in your best interest. Far from it! The focus of radical acceptance is on fully embracing the circumstances of your life so that you can move through and beyond them.

The foundation of radical acceptance is rooted in the Buddhist philosophy that freedom from attachment reduces our earthly suffering, but you’ll find this idea at the center of most faith-based schools of thought. Radical acceptance is a practice, not a skill, meaning that it’s not something you can master and do perfectly, but rather, it’s about making small choices in everyday moments when we’re faced with hardship. Any way you look at it, it's a practice of faith.

Make no mistake, we all experience struggle. No one is immune. But also, we all have the power to choose how we respond to those struggles, and that can make a tremendous difference between whether more challenging life circumstances are an opportunity for personal growth or result in our unnecessary suffering. 


February 2021: Another one of many trips back to the hospital. We're working hard at my healing, but there are still many hills to climb.

 

WHERE WE'RE AT TODAY

It has officially been one full year since we got sick, and I ultimately ended up with a dysfunction of my autonomic nervous system that has disabled me in a number of ways. Today, I’m not able to stand for more than one to two minutes (on my best days) before my systems are overloaded. I swallow between 9-12 pills per day. I need assistance walking and doing quite a lot of the basic functions that I have always taken for granted. There are many days when I’m not able to even sit upright in bed.

At the same time, I am extremely privileged to be working with an incredible team of doctors who are trying to help my body heal. And I do mean team—in addition to my primary care doctor, we have a cardiologist, neurologist, hematologist, and vascular specialists on our team to support my recovery.

And I do mean privileged. I am fully aware of how fortunate we are to have access to the healthcare providers and technologies that we need, and I am humbled by that knowledge. Much of the world, even within our own country and local communities, is subjected to a serious poverty of wellness. The system does not serve everyone equally, and there is much that needs to be changed. We are not only committed to working for that change, but we have also made financial contributions over the past year to organizations fighting for those same goals because everyone deserves care.

Last week, we spent a half-day with a specialist for further testing, and we’re working diligently and collaboratively at creating a treatment strategy. With nervous system disorders, there isn’t a clear-cut, one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. Everyone's body works a bit differently, and what works for some can have little to no effect for another. It’s all about the iterative process of working through the options to find the right combination for every individual.

As you can imagine, this is tedious and, often, frustrating.

But we’re fortunate to have experts on our side who have loads of knowledge and experience to support us. We trust them, and we’re fully engaged in the process as we figure this out, together.

 

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

So, what does all this mean in terms of sharing the story of our life and home here on the blog?

When I really took a step back and paused to reflect on my values and what matters to me, I could see things much more clearly than before. For months, I had the (mistaken) idea that if I couldn’t do the big projects on the scale and timeline I used to do them, there was no value in sharing our story.

But I don’t believe that. In fact, I have never believed that. It has always been my hope that others would find inspiration from the projects we tackle in order to create their own version of The Good Life—on whatever scale fit best for them.

I had started telling myself this false story because I wanted to cling to a misguided belief that I was somehow in charge instead of letting go and allowing myself to grow in the way God intended. I had wrapped the value of our family’s story inside a blanket of made-up expectations about my worth and ability to serve.

But when I paused and reflected on some of the earliest words I ever wrote on this blog, I was reminded of my purpose. Three years ago, when we were just starting this online journal, I wrote:

Throughout this space, it's my intention to write from the heart; to share what's real and authentic. I believe that trying is more important than perfecting, and that a willingness to get messy is courage in action. I don't believe in avoiding fear or failure; instead, I believe in embracing what we can learn from hard things. And I don't believe in striving for anyone's version of ideal. For better or for worse, I want my life to be honest. I want my spaces to be lived in and loved on. And I want my days to be grounded in the meaning, purpose, and joy that come from living the good life.


Those words came from my heart, and they are my soul's purpose. Being reminded of who I really am at my core made me see that even this tough chapter is important to our story.

I would be lying if I tried to put a silver lining around these challenges our family is going through right now. Yes, I’m grateful for the ways these obstacles are re-centering me in my values and faith, but I’m not going to be dishonest and tell you that it’s enjoyable or easy.

That is, and always has been, my commitment in sharing our life here—to share what is real and authentic. So that’s what I’m going to keep on doing. You have my promise.

You also have my gratitude.

We try hard to acknowledge and reply to everyone who takes the time to reach out to us personally, but sometimes we can’t keep up. Please know that every word is read and means so much to us.

We are incredibly thankful for every note of encouragement and kindness we’ve received from you, because we know that we aren’t alone in experiencing challenges. We are humbled that you are gifting us with your gentleness and comfort even while fighting your own hard battles. 

We are grateful to everyone who has supported our small shop when a big box might be more convenient, because it makes a huge difference to our family. And we are so sincerely filled with awe that you show up to support us, read the posts I write, watch the videos we’ve made, and share our family’s story with others in your life.

Thank you for being part of our community. You will never fully know what it means to us, but we will keep trying to show you every day.

SHARE:

8 comments

  1. Id just like to say, thank you, and God Bless. Your words have touched my heart in many ways. Take Care You.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is the sweetest thing we could hope to hear, Ruthie. Thank you so much! If any part of our journey can be of service to someone else, then it has all been worth it. xo!

      Delete
  2. Kristie,
    Actually, I am at a loss for words. I am so sorry for the illness that you are enduring, but I can see from this post that you are strong and that your strength and your faith will carry you through. I have always enjoyed reading your posts and loved the many projects that you have shared. It doesn't matter about the projects but about your journey and your wellness. I will be praying for you and your family.
    May God guide all of those doctors in finding a cure and when they do, you will emerge as a warrior.
    Hugs,
    Bev

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are so kind, Bev. Just can't begin to tell you what your support means to us, and you have always been such a cheerleader of our family. I'm so grateful for you! xo

      Delete
  3. If you haven’t filed for disability yet, you should. I think you would easily get it!! I’m so sorry for your loss of your old life!! ❤️

    ReplyDelete
  4. I had no idea you had been this affected by Covid. Thank you for being transparent and sharing with us. So glad to see you will be sharing again... even on a part-part-time basis! Hugs!

    ReplyDelete
  5. It sounds as if you are very lucky to have a wonderful medical team. I find traditional doctors usually are tone deaf. Best of luck with your recovery.

    ReplyDelete

Blog Template Created by pipdig