The New Self

Good Saturday morning, friends!

I took a little break the last couple of weeks from the newsletter while the fam and I were on the road for vacation. Vacation felt different this year for me. In the past, I have run a long marathon at a sprinter’s pace all the way up until the last minute of my workweek so that I could “shut it off” for the duration of vacation.

It was busier than normal leading up to vacation this time, but nothing like in the past. I pulled no late-night writing sprees. I fit what I could into the time I allotted and then rested. Out of necessity, rest has become such a high priority in my life in the last year that there’s no hesitation in my “Yes” driven brain to say “No,” firmly and adamantly, to over-stressing my body and mind.

As a result, there was nothing to “shut off” on vacation. I shifted my placid, peaceful existence from my deck in Ashland to a deck in South Carolina. I set down my computer for the majority of the week and picked up some great books I’d love to tell you about sometime. I gave my brain a break from writing and allowed my body to do what it was able to do, testing it a little to see how it would handle additional physical activity. 

What I’ve learned in the last 16 months of chronic illness, doctor’s appointments, and diagnoses is that rest is serious business and recovery is molasses slow. There have been several times in the last year and a half that I have said out loud or to myself, “I think I’m starting to feel like myself again,” and then three months later, I look back at that period in awe and wonder at how not myself I really was. And then the cycle repeats.

I think I am starting to feel like myself again, you know? But it’s a different self than pre-COVID. This self can’t handle the stress of pushing beyond her mental capacities like she did before, lovingly and passionately. This self seems highly functioning, but she loses more words than she’d like, and when she types, sometimes she forgets how to spell words and lets Google help. (This is an embarrassing admission for the writer who prides herself on spelling and grammar.) This self still rises slowly and works as much as she can, with breaks, and then takes walks, slowly, and then sits on her deck to absorb the chaos and chatter of the natural world in her backyard. This self can only focus on one thing at a time and doesn’t hear anyone else when she is required to text or think or read. This self is abstaining from alcohol most of the time, sleeping eight hours a night, drinking just one cup of caffeinated coffee and 80 gallons of water, and eating ice cream whenever she darn well pleases.

This self never thought she’d be so grateful to do things like golf 18 holes with her daughter and not die, or boogie board at the beach and not die, or paddle board in the marsh and not die, or walk for hours on the beach and not die. There’s so much I have taken for granted every day of my life, until March of 2020. Since then, every day I breathe without pain in my chest, every day I don’t notice my own heart beat, every day I manage to laugh and cook and stand and talk all at once and be present with no brain fog leaves me in awe and wonder, tears forming in gratitude at the amazing and miraculous way our bodies can heal, do function, are able to still do things they worried they might not ever be able to do again.

This self will never go back to being her old self again. And isn’t that a wonderful, beautiful thing?

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

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