I knew a girl who was waiting for a transplant and, like most of us, she was very ill. She and her mother were tightly wound together and her mother went with her everywhere. I remember a day when the girl was in the waiting room with a soda sitting on a table directly in front of her. She turned to her mother and asked her to hand her the Coke. I was astounded that her mother obliged and reached over her daughter to lean forward and hand her the drink that was nearly within arm’s reach.
I also know a girl who had just had chemo, had contracted a terrible lung infection and insisted on going to work anyway. She didn’t want to be a “wimp”.
There are two sides to the Lazy Scale and it’s not always easy to know which way to tip it.
I don’t know that you could ever call me “wimpy” but you certainly could get away with calling me spoiled. Growing up, I had very little domestic chores due to my illness. My mother waited on me in hopes that making things like eating convenient, that I would do more of it. When I was sick, my parents would move heaven and earth to get me what I wanted just to make me feel better, even for a second. (I have also observed this dynamic in many of my chronically ill friends.)
Today, I do very little around the house. My husband does the vast majority of cleaning, laundry and cooking. There are times when I will pass on doing something because it requires me to get off the couch. I have battled a shopping addiction that put me in debt around $10,000 because I didn’t know how to tell myself “no” when I really wanted that new shirt or pair of shoes.
I am aware that none of this is making me look very good. I can only hope that my confessions here have not made you so disgusted that you click away never to return. The reality is, however, that these patterns were established so early in life that I have to work very hard to break them.
There is a fine line between indulging oneself because you are sick and crossing that line into entitlement. There have been areas where I have been able to change my ways. I no longer shop as though I am rich. I worked hard to take away my underlying belief that I deserve whatever material thing I see because it’s shiny, I want it and I've had a hard life. I am no longer in debt and it’s been that way for many years.
As for helping around the house more…I really need to work on that if I don’t want a divorce.
In my daily life, I am very driven and unbelievably lazy at the same time. I often beat myself up for the lazy part but at other times I think I am being too harsh and excuse it as “relaxing”. Because of my history, I can often have internal arguments about which way I fall on the Lazy Scale. Neither side is usually the victor; confusion wins.
There is a flip side on the Lazy Scale. There is the part of me (and I have also observed this trend in many of my chronically ill friends) that will take on too much and meet demands that need not be met.
This is especially evident when it comes to my job. There have been times when I was in full-blown pneumonia and still insisted on going to work. There have been times when I was experiencing acute rejection and I scheduled my injections of massive doses of IV steroids around my work schedule. Keep in mind, these were not jobs in which I was responsible for saving the world. These were low-paying receptionist jobs, deli clerk jobs or pet sitting jobs. For all of these, it would have been perfectly acceptable to call in sick.
There is a feeling inside of me that the delicate balance of the universe will crumble if I stay home from work one day.
There is a feeling inside of me that, in order to play the role of “working person”, I must never succumb to illness. Perhaps this comes from a feeling of inadequacy. Perhaps this comes from a fierce loyalty to my employer. Perhaps this comes from a deep resistance to admitting my physical short-comings. My guess is that it is a combination of all of these.
There is strange dichotomy that pulls at those of us that have lived a long time with illness. There are the patterns that keep us from becoming fully independent and those that encourage us to push beyond a necessary limit. All that we can do is work to unravel the patterns that keep us from fully engaging in our lives and focus on how to care for ourselves when the body needs rest and healing.