The events you are about to read might sound like fiction but I assure you that I lived (and suffered) through every minute. The cause of the events of the last two months of my life could be described as Murphy’s Law or bad luck or a test from God. Or, is there another, more logical answer?
Call it what you will: perfectionism, being anal, OCD, type A. But I prefer to think it’s just me doing my very best at whatever I do. Why would I want to settle for anything less than the perfect vision I have in my head? All my life, I’ve tried to be the best I can be and to succeed at whatever I’m doing, whether it’s a job, assembling a piece of furniture, writing one of my books or even exercise and my health. And I won’t give up until I get what I want. I’ve been known to spend countless hours on even the simplest task. Don’t even get me started on untangling a cord or knot in a shoelace. I also feel the same helping someone else with their projects. I enjoy seeing something through to its successful completion. And you see, that’s a big part of perfectionism: being successful. Doing something the way you envision doing it, is success. And when you start to lose those “successes” it can feel like a major loss to a perfectionist.
So here’s how my story started: It was about 2 days before New Year’s Eve and I hadn’t unpacked my toiletries from our holiday trip. With the shower water running, I realized I needed my razor. So I ran to the bag, plunged my hand into the side pocket and drew back a bloody finger. I quickly wrapped it in a bandage and took my shower. After, I examined the cut. It was very deep and sort of filleted so I figured they couldn’t stitch it. The pain was terrible and the bleeding didn’t stop for 2 days. I may have caused some nerve damage because even now, it’s sensitive to the touch.
Let me back this story up for a minute. For the past ten months, I’ve had a progressively worsening pain in my left armpit. My doctor ran the gamut of tests (including Xray and MRI) and sent me to PT, which actually made the pain worse. She’d pretty much shrugged her shoulders, so I moved on to a different doctor who believes I have a brachial plexus injury, which is basically a nerve damage thing.
Now, fast forward a couple of weeks after the finger incident. My daughter and I got lice. Yep, I said it. I know, so disgusting, but one of us picked it up at school and gave it to the other. So being the thorough person I am, I took to the Internet and began every treatment on our heads. (Side note: I also ironed our hair with a flat iron. That was my idea. Fry those suckers up. And it worked.) If you are familiar with lice treatment, you must use a special comb after you do the shampoo. So, I’m combing my daughter’s hair, tiny groups of hairs at a time and my back is killing me (yes I have a bad back too). So I grab an ice pack and stick it in the waistband of my pants. Well, the combing took a long time and by the time I took the ice pack out, my back felt numb. I went on to treat my hair and then got ready for bed. In the mirror, something caught my eye. I had a bright red ice pack burn to my skin about the size of my hand on my lower back.
About a week and a half later, I went to the dentist for a crown. Perfect timing right? I’d just been through the follow up lice treatment and I was treating my back with every oil and cream I had in the house and I was also using the heating pad on my shoulder and armpit for the growing pain there. While being injected with the Novocain, the dentist hit a blood vessel. I didn’t realize it at the time and had never heard of that. But I did return home to an inch and a half long bruise on my cheek next to my mouth. It was a hideous purple and as the days went on it turned every color of the rainbow. And the odd thing was that it sort of had two sections. The bottom half stayed reddish purple almost the whole time while the top half changed colors. The bruise stuck around for ten days! I told my husband he should wear a tank top when we were in public.
My perfect (I’m not talking swimsuit model, here, just healthy. I typically don’t even get colds) body was falling apart causing me a lot of anxiety which of course is bad for your health. On top of all this, my “success” in the book world was “failing” as well. Not living up to the perfect plan I’d established. It seemed no matter what I did or how hard I’d tried I could not get traction with sales. But I hadn’t felt beaten yet. I was still hoping to power through all of this and make my way back to myself.
As you know, a woman’s hair is an important part of her life. So when the lice thing happened I went over the top to murder those things. I had my husband cut three inches from my lovely long hair. No I didn’t cry. I ran the hair dryer over it for two half hour sessions and I flat ironed it frequently. Well, all of that dried out my scalp and I got dandruff.
So here I am with my sore finger, burned back, bruised face, flakey head, mystery pain in my arm pit, trying to work three part-time jobs, get noticed in a flooded book market, teach my uncoordinated daughter to drive without killing me, and get into the zone to write my next book that may or may not sell. No problem. Keep in mind this all started just two months after nursing my husband following his back surgery. Then Thursday happened.
I’m driving to pick up my daughter from school and five minutes from there, I start to feel faint. I shake my head, blow the AC in my face and talk my way there. She took the wheel and drove us home, me with my head between my legs. Once there, I couldn’t get out of the car. She ended up driving me to urgent care. Side note: I’d had coffee that morning (after breakfast) and hadn’t eaten lunch. I’m not a big caffeine person. At urgent care they said I had high blood sugar and a bundle branch block. You can Google that one; it’s not life threatening but it does cause dizziness. They sent me home as I was feeling better but half hour later I went to walk my dog and almost fell over getting the leash. I got in bed and for the next five hours I had waves of nausea and feeling faint about every fifteen minutes. At about 9:30 I almost dozed off when it hit me again. Hard. And this time I think I panicked. My chest became congested, I coughed, my hands tingled and my mouth dried up. My husband took me to the ER and the whole way there I thought I was dying. I thought of my daughter and how she would get along without me. At the ER, they ran a bunch of tests including the CT scan I was to have for my armpit. They couldn’t see the cause of that pain or my dizziness or determine if what happened was related to my existing issue. Really they didn’t have many answers and they didn’t even mention the bundle branch block. So I went home with a handful of meds and an awareness that our minds have a huge impact on our health and pretty much everything that happens in daily life. I had to understand that I’m getting older and my body is no longer “perfect” and the things I do in life don’t always have to be perfect because that unrealistic expectation can be detrimental to your well-being. I also reminded myself that I used to have this little voice in my head that said, “Don’t worry. Everything is going to work out.” Somewhere along the line of the last couple of years, I lost track of that voice, and in its place was lots of doubt.
Maybe it was bad luck or maybe God was testing my strength or maybe he was just telling me I’m not perfect and life can’t be perfect so live with it. I find this ironic because in all of the books I write, my main characters are ALWAYS flawed and real. In my latest story, Compulsive, Gray Donovan is a compulsive liar. Like all my female main characters, she is the hero of her own story, overcoming her imperfections. And yet for the longest time, I expected nothing less than perfect for myself.
It doesn’t matter why these events happened; Shit happens. And it made me come to a few conclusions:
1. Don’t equate your expected perfect result with success. Otherwise if you don’t achieve that, it might just feel like failure when it’s not.
2. When something goes wrong, try to understand why. Maybe it happened for a reason that’s more important than your plans.
3. Be willing to compromise and take things in different direction than you set out.
4. Understand that change is inevitable. Make it work to your advantage.
5. How you see something is how it is. Your view is your reality. So be careful not to think the worst when you’re thrown a curve ball.
6. Don’t look at others to compare your success with theirs. Look at them to see what they’ve struggled with and how they made it through and gain strength from that.
7. Finally, know that there are always people around you who are willing to listen and help you through things. For me, that’s how I accomplished #6. I have a lot of extremely strong friends who’ve been through a hell of a lot more than I have and their stories give me inspiration.
Please don’t take this to mean you shouldn’t always do your best or strive for your own form of perfection. Because I don’t intend on slowing down. I’m only learning acceptance, renewing my positive energy, and cutting myself some slack when I need it. That’s right. I’ll be around. So, look for more books from me and find me on social media. I’m always excited to meet a new reader so please say hi if you see me.
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Thanks for listening.