One Step at a Time

Some great human once (roughly) said "Every great journey begins with a single step...(or some bullshit like that)."

Today I took my first step. I got new sneakers for Christmas from my wife. I slapped on my workout gear. I didn't comb my hair or take a shower in anticipation of getting wet with sweat. Then I smacked face-first into a detour. Turns out, I'm one chronically-ill exhausted-ass-bitch.

Often this exhaustion is existential and perceived as eternal. As I slip into the depths of the pit of despair (from The Neverending Story), my body cries out for Atreyu. When I push myself, it isn't likely to end well. Down into the sand bog I slip and suffocate. With fibromyalgia I have an upper intake limit for movement, stress, and other environmental factors that are largely beyond my control. Frankly, it bites. If you have ever felt like this, or if you have fibromyalgia as well, you may understand. Mad empathy and solidarity, fellow chronically ill peeps. Mad solidarity; may all of us find some kind of exercise that doesn't kick our entire ass.

Recently, I was laid up for a whole day after my flu vaccine. As a person who is already chronically ill who self-indulges regularly in a somewhat unhealthy dose of ableism, I was shocked at my knock-out. I am eternally grateful for the amazing care that my spouse and child gave to me. But sleeping for 24 hours left me STIFF. And not in a good way (ba-dum-cha). Even two days later my body is still feeling stiff, and I am still not 100% physically capable like I used to be. After all, all I had done was lace up my new sneakers from Christmas and walk in place...and anticlimactically I lasted a whopping 6 minutes before my whole body yelped in stiffening agony.


I'm working to get back to a place where I feel confident physically and mentally. Total acceptance of my stature and my mental and physical limitations is still quite a challenge for me, and with the dawn of every new day I have another gift: a chance to practice. We are more than our physical capabilities and certainly more than our outward appearances. I am more than my diagnoses, but I don't want to give myself excuses. Its a fork in the road between gratitude and ability.

I digress, I do sometimes look back and wonder just what happened.

At one point last year, I was walking 10-12 miles in an 8-hour shift and I was working out for 45 minutes one to two times per day. Then I proceeded to have a manic breakdown and lost my entire bowl of marbles. I started to take it easy after that...and then easier...and then even easier. Now, my body grumbles with discomfort in movement and in stillness. This is why I'm working to incorporate yoga into my routine. Moving in spite of my physical limitations IN ITSELF is yoga. Yoga ain't just all asanas and skinny white women and patchouli and flowery expensive yoga studios, after all, y'all.

Yoga asanas are the poses, and most of what Westernized yoga is boiled down to is the exercise aspect of yoga. But there is so much more to the practice. Taking it one step, one pose, one breath at a time is the key to what can be a lifelong devotion if you allow it to be. We don't all have to be doing backbends (but with practice, anybody COULD). Even your spooniest of spoonie friends can take a Savasana.

Today I took my first step. I laced up the sneakers and I marched for 6 minutes and that's all I've got today but I'm not going to degrade myself for that. Later I will try for another six minutes. Maybe even 10 if I'm feeling extra saucy. And that, my friends, is good enough. This rat race of life is full of potholes shaped like comparisons and pitfalls shaped like self-doubt. Despite all of this, I have the courage to push forward into uncharted, exhausted-ass-bitch territory. I hope that you do, too.

Take care of yourself today. Chronic illness be damned, body issues be damned, all of it be damned, we are surviving and thriving out of spite if nothing else.

Take care of yourself today, you lovely human. The world shines a little less bright when you don't sparkle. Just remember, I LOVE YOU, and say peace out to all those internal and external haters - yours and mine alike.

Until next time my loves,

Chelsea West

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