If a task is difficult, it is automatically bad, and to be avoided. This philosophy wove its way through most of my life. I found my life quite simple this way — depressed, quitting any project that took effort, feeling sincerely that taking care of my diabetic health was too much trouble. I still wrestle with that last one, sometimes, although I shake it off fairly well, most of the time.
Whence came this distorted view of life? For this method of dealing with life leads to resentment, anger, sadness, and a life of dissatisfaction, due to unfinished…well, unfinished everything. I held 18 different jobs, most for two years or less. I attended at least 6 colleges before I finally graduated seventeen years after finishing high school, and in two of those, I dropped everything and changed majors in the same school. I married and divorced three men, and two of the three marriages featured me refusing to try to reconcile differences that I, myself, created in the first place. During the years of my last marriage, I did stick — I tried every method I could think of to resolve the one critical issue between us. My failure did nothing to convince me that hard tasks were NOT bad.
I failed most miserably in caring for my health. Although we had less information in 1974, I did understand the harm I was causing myself. I remained most visibly in a state of low self-worth through all of my failed attempts at living by the rules of good diabetes management. I pushed my body to every extreme but death itself — bypass surgery for very serious heart disease at age 38; near-diabetic-coma following Diabetic Keto-acidosis, at age 19, after refusing to use insulin for ten months; I started smoking at age 11, and by 13, I smoked a pack of cigarettes a day, (I still struggle with the urge to smoke, even after circulatory problems that make walking very painful.) I lived a large percentage of my adult life with blood sugars measuring over 300 most of the time. I had fem-pop bypass surgery on my left leg to repair Peripheral Arterial Disease, but still refused to exercise. In every one of these circumstances, I acted on the notion, in my mind, that if they were hard to do, they must be bad.
I have decided that this philosophy is rooted in failed perfectionism, poor self-esteem, and fear of consequences if I finished a task badly, or wrongly. These feelings rose when I was in high school, although I was already an “avoidance” personality. The hardest part of that period of my life? I did very well in school — almost straight As, third in my class. Yet I still feared failing, and believed I’d do better quitting than finishing badly.
Then pile on top of those feelings my observation that I could get by quite well not trying anything too difficult. I became more of a mediocre person, because if I paid too much attention to my life, I’d be so discouraged, I couldn’t carry on. In my late thirties and most of my forties, I had some good periods — jobs and friends from whom I drew strength. But more often, I
sank further into depression, and by 2007, I reached so low a level that I hit bottom, and considered, just for a moment, how much easier to just let go of this unhappy life. I checked myself into our hospital’s psyche ward in the fall of 2007, and after the second time, I got my first professional helping hand — a psychologist named Dr. Margaret Morrison, who understood my defenses and refused to accept my bullshit.
Also, during my thirties and forties, I depended heavily on my sister, S. With her patience and willingness to tell me she loved me, even when I was my most messed up, she guided me gently into accepting myself, flaws and all, and forgiving myself for all the crap I pulled in my life, and then learning to put that behind me. I wasn’t a fast learner, but S. introduced my to some resources that really helped: the law of attraction, from Abraham-Hicks, and The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz. I still depend on these affirmations every day for balance and peace.
In the last few years, I finally learned to forgive myself for all these failures; I am, after all, only human. Misjudgment is part of being human — no one is perfect, not even me. With self-forgiveness comes self-love, and suddenly I find that some of the hardest things I do are really good for me. I will likely always be a part-time procrastinator, but I stick with activities much more easily than I used to. I have been at my current job, in the hardware store, since 2005 — that’s eight years, and longer than any other job I’ve held. I met some really understanding, loving caregivers at the Maine Medical Center for Endocrinology and Diabetes, and living with diabetes is easier now than it was through most of my life. I am exercising daily, and I’m still employing my Marble method to break bad habits. I now understand that if something is difficult, then it’s difficult, but not necessarily to be avoided. And as a result, my life is far more full of great opportunities — to succeed, or through failing, to learn.