For years I tried to uphold the Wonder Woman myth, convinced that I could continue to work at full steam, not held back by motherhood or menopause or anything else that flew in my way. But when faced with the reality of life with psoriatic disease—chronic pain in my hands and feet, aching in my bones, and fatigue that was sometimes so crushing, I couldn’t walk from my house to the end of my block — I almost gave up on creative work. The revisions to my manuscript felt overwhelming, the blog felt like a ball and chain, and I didn’t have the energy to teach, much less hustle up students.
How was I supposed to raise a teenage daughter?
But I’d given up on pieces of my life before and later regretted it, frustrated because I’d failed to meet or even pursue my goals and dreams. I had to figure out how to simultaneously rest and take care of myself while continuing my creative work and contributing to my family.
Here is what I’ve learned from the necessity of my illness. Here is my recipe for becoming a new type of Wonder Woman:
1) Extreme Self-Care
Self-care was never at the top of my agenda. Since I was a college freshman, pushing through exhaustion fueled by heavy does of caffeine, was my modus operandi. But when my acupuncturist told me my body was cold and depleted, I recognized the need for real rest. In the past few months I’ve learned to check in with myself continuously and listen to what mind and body require.
Instead of a to-do list in the morning, ask yourself what you need to do to take care of yourself. And continue to ask the question throughout the day as you move from one activity to another.
Maybe you need to put your feet up after doing chores. Maybe you need to move and stretch after sitting at your desk. Maybe you need a snack or get a glass of water to keep your body fueled and hydrated.
Extreme self-care is about awareness, another form of being awake and paying attention to what your body is asking for in the moment. Not ignoring your acidic stomach, or stiffness in your neck, or whatever it is you put off because you’re too busy.
2) Extreme Patience
Extreme patience means keeping your eye on the long-term result, staying with something no matter how slow and frustrating the process may be.
When I was diagnosed with psoriatic disease, I hoped the drugs would bring immediate relief. The first meds helped the pain in my feet, but they tore up my stomach. The next option could be taken intravenously, but could potentially compromise my liver function. There was no magic pill. When I met with my acupuncturist, she told me she thought she could help, but I would have to be patient. My situation was complicated and we’d have to address one issue at a time, move slowly to see what helped.
Practice extreme patience in one area of life and it transfers to others.
Patience with the healing process led to patience with the daily grind of writing and revising my manuscript. It let me see that my blog needed time to evolve and become authentic. By the way, extreme patience and extreme self-care lead to patience with family, friends, and co-workers. Trust me. Do these things for yourself and the people around you will be grateful.
3) Slow way down
Focus on one task at a time. Take pleasure in the work at hand. Choose two or three agenda items a day at most. Stop running so many errands. See what you can live without.
4) Create Partnerships and ask for help
Just as I was about to bail on teaching this fall, my friend and fellow writer/practitioner, Robin Bradford, stepped up and offered to help. When I told her I was too tired to promote and market, she recruited for me and made the class go. Tracking Wonder teacher, coach, and consultant, Jeffrey Davis, advocates for doing it together (DIT) rather than doing it yourself (DIY). One is draining; the other is energizing.
It is not easy for many of us to ask for help. But when you bring people in as creative partners, it benefits everyone and it’s makes the job more fun.
5) Be clear about your priorities, about what matters
For me being Wonder Woman means creating something of lasting value in the book I’m writing, serving others in my capacity as teacher and coach, providing ideas and inspiration for women artists on my website, and being attentive to my husband and daughter, awake and present for the life we share.
What’s your definition of Wonder Woman? How might you accomplish all of your goals and dreams while taking exquisite care of yourself? Let me know in the comments box and I’ll incorporate for a future post.