It’s a quiet morning. The sky is grey. And slowly, I am working on improving my Japanese.
When it comes to language learning, I find it challenging. Language is such an inherent part of identity–who do we become once we learn a new way of expressing ourselves in the world?
I’ll be frank: language learning can be grueling, anxiety-inducing, and sometimes downright embarrassing. I am far from fluent in the languages I can speak. Still, I find my process of learning so very rewarding.
My process: using creative writing and literary translation as my primary tools for language learning.
Currently, I am focusing on Japanese and am writing poetry in Japanese. Eventually, I would like to begin writing short stories. When writing, I write in Japanese (or any other language) first and then translate to English. For me, this method feels most natural. Today, I am sharing a poem.
涼しい風が吹いて、 遠いところに動物の遠吠えを聞いて、 まだ野花の綺麗な色を見ます。 ここにいる。
The Quietness of the End of Summer
A cool breeze blows,
animals howl in the distance,
and the beautiful colors of wild flowers
have captured my gaze.
I am here.
The night sky’s quietness, the glittering stars,
gradually my breathing slows.
Still, I am trying to hear the last song of the cicadas.
The closest I came to learning anything about Old Norse tradition was taking a course on Germanic languages (thank you, Professor Robinson) and studying the rune poems to learn about the runic alphabets. That’s it.
Still, I found myself entranced by the voice of Einar Selvik singing the poem “Völuspá,” which tells the Norse creation myth. Certainly, I understood nothing of the words, but the passion of his voice brought tears to my eyes. Such is the power of music.
Völuspá tells not only of the birth of world, but also its death and rebirth.
Fifteen years ago, I realized that something was terribly wrong. I felt tired, sick, and in pain. For two years, I searched for an answer. At various points, I was convinced that I was just psychosomatic, it was all in my head–it didn’t help that my doctor was dismissive of my condition and did little to help. Ultimately, I learned the name of my condition: fibromyalgia.
I wrote quite a bit about my journey with fibromyalgia between 2011 and 2015. For the past six years, I have remained relatively quiet on the topic and this blog for a variety of reasons. However, I would like to share with you a little about my journey.
If I think back to 2008, when I first received my diagnosis, my mind immediately remembers the laundry list of medications I was asked to take just to function. I spent more time at hospitals and clinics than at any other time in my life. I joined a support group that caused me to realize that there was some other way that I wanted to live…
I wanted to find a path to living a life that held meaning to me and not one defined by my illness. I believe I found it.
I became vegan (now pescatarian), started meditating, doing yoga, and taking walks regularly, and began scaling back on the medications I was being asked to take. Ultimately, I went from taking approximately eleven medications to taking three. And for the past four years, I take only one…and it’s not for fibromyalgia. Instead, I go regularly for acupuncture or massage to help with pain management.
Choosing to Do Things Differently
Living with fibromyalgia means living with uncertainty: uncertainty of what one can do, how one will feel, etc. It is understanding that one’s sense of self-efficacy will be shaken if not shattered. There is nothing quite as humbling as waking up to realize that one can neither move because of pain nor remember a particular word (or two) due to brain fog. One’s body can become an enemy as it seems to work against one’s mind. As a result, one’s self-concept may begin to unravel–it certainly did for me.
I’ve spent the past decade redefining myself, constructing a new self with the fragments of self that survived pre-fibromyalgia, filling in the missing parts with who I have become. Certainly, everyone changes over time. However, developing a chronic illness in adulthood, in particular, means having to accept a change in a well-established sense of self-concept as well as deal with the potential fallout of being ill. A long-term battle between who one is and who one used to be can ensue.
So, what can you do?
Choose to experience life differently.
For a long time, I was unhappy with my very nomadic life of living for only few years in any one place. However, now, I believe that my nomadism has been beneficial to my understanding my life with fibromyalgia. With each new place I have lived, I have had a chance to experience the world in a new way. Eventually, I came to the thought: why not remain open to experiencing myself differently, not just the world?
The challenge was no longer to hold on to an old concept of self, an old identity–it was to see and embrace a new aspect of self. Who am I now? How have I changed? What have I learned? Where do I want to go now on my journey?
Choose to ask yourself questions that open yourself to a newer you.
I realized that there was nothing to fear in being different from who I was. In the uncertainty of my condition, I found certainty. Having fibromyalgia has taught me (repeatedly) to be mindful of my physical and mental limits. It has confirmed for me certain goals and allowed me to discard others. I have become a kinder person to myself. Also, I am very curious about how my illness will continue influencing my perception of the world around me.
Remember: be who you are, embrace who you will become. In the interim, work on creating a life full of meaning for you. Let it be a life not defined by, but informed by your challenges.
Rewarding oneself is not particularly uncommon. We reward ourselves for a variety of reasons, usually after accomplishing something considered a goal or an important task. If a quick internet search on the topic of rewarding oneself proves anything, it is that, at its core, people are seeking reasons to feel better about themselves.
How we choose to reward ourselves also varies. However, some examples are going out to eat, shopping, or taking a vacation. Using food, in particular, may tap into childhood experiences, where food may have been used either as a reward or punishment, based upon behavior. Ultimately, how you choose to reward yourself for your achievements is how you choose to reward yourself.
Lately, I have been reading about motivation and engagement, particularly within the workplace. After all, I spend a great deal of my working, and understanding how and why I am working is important to me. Just so you know, I tend to be a more intrinsically motivated person, which has its benefits and drawbacks. Regarding engaging with life, I am finding my flow.
Journeying toward the within is lifelong. When I first started this blog, just over a decade ago, I little knew my direction, only that I was moving towards something or self that was different from what I knew or had come to accept. Ten years later, I have come to realize that…
This, of course, may seem rather strange, considering my background as a therapist. Being a therapist doesn’t mean, however, that you have your own psychology completed sorted. After all, therapists need therapists, too. It may be far easier to see the problems of others and understand how to effect positive change than to see and make changes in one’s own life.
I am certain that I am not alone in this thinking pattern of feeling good as a reward. It is telltale of a life defined by expected perfection and overachievement. It can mean a life of never feeling quite good enough and of rarely, if ever, acknowledging what one has done…because there is always some way that one can improve or that something more that should be done. An accomplishment becomes a brief signal that for a moment you can feel good about your existence.
Such a difficult way to live life…
Feeling good about yourself can be an everyday experience. It comes with acknowledging your existence as being meaningful–that as you are, you are worthy. Worthy of what? Worthy of self-love, self-care, self-regard, self-trust, etc. The life you have built up until now is yours to do with as you will. It isn’t a race that you either win or lose. It is simply a life, one that can be lived positively (if not always happily).
So, where do we go from here? Well, I have a couple of recommendations:
Start simple – Think/write about how you have been viewing you and your life up until now.
Inform yourself – Learn about ways you can improve enjoying who you are in your everyday life.
Step back – Take time to yourself, just for yourself, to do something/experience good.
I enjoy reading. Here are some books that I have been using to help my journey:
Feeling good about yourself, if it is unfamiliar to you, may be likened to forming a new habit. Let’s be real, it will take time, consistency, and a patience. There are various theories and approaches to how one can form a habit. My recommendation is to keep it simple and focus on the moment you are in and how you are feeling.
You may not always feel great about your thoughts and your actions. However, you can always feel good about who you are and your existence.
Nel silenzio della mente e nella distanza del cuore, dove la nostra storia adesso vive, trovo i nuovi capitoli. Quei momenti oscuri che, nel passato, non volevo affrontare. Quelle parole brutte che non volevo ascoltare. Quei pensieri che non volevo pensare.
Volevo solo l’idea di noi e la fantasia di pensare che mi amavi.
I am honoured to have been asked to participate in John Cabot University’s Black History Month 2021 celebration. Many sincere thanks to Alexandria J. Maloney for inviting me to join her esteemed panelists in this discussion on our experiences living and studying in Rome.
Please, join our discussion . You can register by using the following link: Event Registration.
“La Pioggia” Stamattina, nella tranquilità dell’alba, mi sono svegliata. Non potevo più sentire la tua voce, solo le gocce di pioggia sulla finestra ed il suono del mio respiro. Le mie mani toccavano lo spazio vuoto accanto a me. Ho provato l’euforia di essere libera… di essere senza di te.
Si trova la pace nel silenzio del cuore. Domani e dopodomani, il mio mondo è ancora mio. Posso crearlo come desidero.