It’s crazy, right?
My acupuncturist made the statement to me a few weeks ago and it’s still rattling around in my head: What if there’s nothing wrong with you?
Those seven words damn near made everything inside me grind to a halt.
My god, what if there isn’t anything wrong with me? What if my weight is just what it should be? What if the fact that I’ve never been married and never had children is what was supposed to happen? What if none of my relationships with significant others were supposed to work out? What if my aching joints and fluttering heart are trying to tell me something more valuable than just what’s physically going on?
I think many of us are conditioned — some at a very young age — to make value judgments on everything. This is good. That is bad. We have to always have everything good and nothing bad.
Because that is the key to a happy life.
So much so that when the “bad” things happen (and they always will), we get so wrapped up in how awful it is, we can get stuck there and it becomes part of our story.
I have arthritis.
I can’t keep a man.
I haven’t had kids, either.
My muffin top seems to grow wider every day.
My heart flutters from time to time and no one can seem to tell me why.
And all of it swirls round and round in my head until the only conclusion I can reach is how very, very wrong and bad and horrible I am. Because none of that is “good,” right?
Ergo, I must be bad.
But what if all of this was supposed to happen? And instead of it all being bad and horrible, it just simply is.
I have arthritis because of a bacterial infection that put me in the ICU for three days in 2009. I developed the arthritis from the infection. But you know what? Because I was sick (literally and figuratively) from all the medications they wanted to pump through me, I searched out alternative treatments and that’s how I found acupuncture. And it has truly changed my life.
I can’t keep a man because the first one dumped me rather unceremoniously only a few months after I slept with him (lost my virginity to him, too) because he didn’t think the emotions were ever going to follow. You think that didn’t damn near kill the naive, 26-year-old me?
I was down for a while with that one. But I have to say, with time and perspective, I’m glad it happened. Ripping off the rose-colored glasses gave me a sense of pragmatism in relationships that I really think has helped me be true to myself.
Not being able to hang onto a man has made the having kids thing pretty tough, so those two kind of go hand-in-hand. When I was a girl, I had the dream of the white picket fence and the minivan with the children buckled in the back seat. I read the romance novels and watched the love-story movies and came to the conclusion that at some point, the marriage and children were supposed to happen.
Because they haven’t, I must have done something wrong, right?
But what if that’s just the hand I was dealt? What if marriage and children were never in the cards for me? I have to honestly say when I take a real hard, honest look at the no-children aspect of my life, I’m okay with it. I have moments when I see a cute kid and think, I could have done it. I could have raised a pretty cool child.
But then I’ll pet-sit a particularly rambunctious, needy dog and watch the clock until I can head back home to my independent (but loving) cats and my Netflix and no real need to get up and let a canine out. And I realize there’s absolutely no way I can have a child.
If the responsibility of a dog is too much, a child is absolutely out of the question. I know that.
The growth of the muffin top is because of what I eat. My metabolism when I was younger was sharp, honed, and so very, very helpful. I had a roommate in grad school who would practically claw her eyes out at what I was able to eat and not gain a pound. Looking back, it was pretty disgusting.
Time and a slowing body and pre-menopause have all combined to point me down a path of cholesterol checks, blood pressure readings and discussions of medications.
I went to a recent high school reunion (first one I’ve ever attended) and couldn’t figure out why everyone looked at me strangely when I made such an effort to come up and greet them. The expressions seemed to say, “Did you even go here?”
It took me until halfway through the night to realize it looked like I ate the high-schooler I used to be.
I found myself one of the “Hello My Name Is” badges, filled it out, slapped it over my breast and (this is no joke) within minutes, people suddenly opened up and gleefully exclaimed, “How have you been? How are your folks? What’s new?”
Crushing blow? Hell yeah it was.
Did it make me feel even more wrong? You bet it did.
But the funny thing is I’ve done a lot of work in the recent years to get myself to a point where I’m okay with who I am. I have lived the vast majority of my life worried what other people thought. I had to do what mom and dad said — I couldn’t disappoint them. (There was no fate worse than that.) I had to be the good girl. I had to fit in, look the part, be normal.
What the hell even is normal? Seriously. If you lined everyone up on a scale of “normal,” where would the cut-off be? Where would people suddenly cross into abnormal?
I’m working on my weight. Yeah, I know that sounds like a cop-out, but I am. My cholesterol levels at my last check-up had reached a point where the doctor wanted to talk meds. I don’t want to do that, so I asked if I could work — seriously work — on my diet.
So I’ve tried the lentil pasta. You know what? That stuff is pretty damn good.
I’ve gotten no fat cottage cheese, sour cream and shredded cheese. You can make surprisingly good recipes with low fat and low carbs in this day and age. We’re pretty lucky.
And my muffin top? Take it or leave it. That’s where I am right now and anyone who is horrified or doesn’t like it, well, quite frankly, that’s their problem.
The heart fluttering has been going on since I was in my early twenties. I suffer from panic attacks and for that, I am medicated. I need something to level out the serotonin in my brain. I have a feeling that my family has lived with undiagnosed anxiety disorders throughout the centuries. I’m fortunate enough to live in an era where we have medication and it helps me, so I’m staying with that.
I’m also on heart meds for a first degree AV block. I’ll probably need a pacemaker at some point, or maybe I won’t. The truth of the matter is no one can really predict anything.
And that brings me back to the original idea. What if there really isn’t anything wrong? What if all this I’ve just described in my own life and everything everyone worries about every day simply IS.
What if all the stress we have about about potential threats and outcomes is actually causing said outcomes? What if our constant focus on all the bad becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy?
One of my favorite quotes comes from Master Oogway in Kung Fu Panda: “One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it.”
So, ultimately, what if the true key here is to shift our thinking and how we look at the circumstances in our lives? What if we take out the fear and worry and don’t give what we perceive as the “bad” things any power over our thoughts and lives?
What if it isn’t even bad?
What if real freedom lies in not defining our circumstances in absolutes? What if freedom comes from just being?
When you find yourself swirling in the sometimes-overwhelming thoughts of all your ailments and symptoms and issues and worries, take just a moment or two and ask yourself, really ask yourself: What if there’s nothing wrong with me?
And see what comes up.
You might be surprised at what you find.