“My goal is to be training for another half marathon by this fall.”
“Yeah? Well you may want to take it slowly.”
He didn’t say it in a way that pitied me or laughed at my ambition–just a word of caution. I left the doctor’s office in the end of April confident that I would have a diagnosis and cure by middle of summer, and I’d be working hard to be back to normal by September at the latest. I’d be running my next 5k by the fall, and working my way to a half marathon by spring.
You know how kids just kinda throw themselves around and cry when they’re so unbelievably tired? Sometimes I feel that tired. My body feels so tired that I could just cry. I have to rest after very little activity. I’ve made no effort to have an active lifestyle again. I’m not really sure what to do with myself because the way I used to exercise doesn’t work at this point in my life.
I don’t know if it’s lack of motivation, fatigue, or the feeling of defeat that keeps me in bed instead of getting up to do something active. I’m told I need to try exercises while I’m in a sitting or lying down position (rowing, recumbent biking, swimming, leg presses, etc.). Part of me thinks that’s dumb and I should just suck it up and run, but then my heart rate is at 120 when I’m just trying to make a smoothie in the morning. So maybe being vertical isn’t the best.
I feel defeated and useless and a bit dramatic. I feel the need to justify why I feel the way I do or why I can’t do certain things.
But you know what I’m learning? I care a lot about how people perceive me and I don’t trust in my identity or justification.
Have you ever noticed how much we feel the need to justify ourselves? Whether we say it out loud or just think it, we are always trying to justify ourselves. We can’t stand being misunderstood and we are always trying to explain away our actions. We can’t let our actions and decisions speak for themselves because we’re afraid of what people may hear when we act.
No, I won’t go on that walk with you because it will make me really tired and I need energy for later on. I’m not lazy though. I do love exercising. I miss it actually. I just have this syndrome that makes me tired all the time and makes me intolerant to most light exercise. I promise I really do feel terrible and tired. But I don’t want you to think I’m overdramatic about it. I don’t feel THAT terrible.
That’s what I want to communicate all of the time. I want you to know the reason why I’m less engaged or less apt to be active. I want you to know how I really am or wish to be. I want to control the image you have of me and I’ll do it however I can: Through social media, conversation, even this blog.
How can we keep ourselves from trying to control what we want people to see from our lives?
This is the part where you would expect me to write about the answer, but I’m writing more to figure it out for myself.
Identity is everything. Who we believe ourselves to be is really the root of why we do what we do. You believe you’re a failure so everything you do comes out of that identity. You see everything you do as if you’ve failed in some way and you’re constantly falling short. You act out of the fear of failing and even when you succeed, you’ve failed somehow. Everyone around you seems to succeed more than you and you feel like you can never get it right.
Maybe you don’t see yourself as a failure, but what is your identity?
We constantly want to control what others think of us because we have no idea who we are or we are not confident in who we are. But who determines who we are?
I want you to believe that I am strong, but willing to be vulnerable and weak. I want you to think I’m not a complainer, but I don’t want you to think I’m fake in my positivity. I want you to think I have a genuine faith and trust in Christ. I want you to value my writing and think I’m good. I don’t want you to pity me. I don’t want you to think I’m being dramatic about my illness. So, I will do and say things to make you see me this way. I will carefully calculate my words so that I control how you view me.
I’m trying to control how I am perceived, but I don’t get to decide who I am.
That sounds very against the way the world is headed right now. It’s a very glorified ideal that people get to decide who they are. But there is freedom in embracing who we were created to be, rather than striving to determine who we are. The journey is in discovering who we were created to be.
We have a Maker who was very particular in how he created each one of us and we have a Savior who redeems and justifies us.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” – Psalm 139:13
We were created on purpose with intention. I love the imagery that God knit us together. This implies that he was working on every stitch and detail to make us into exactly who he wanted us to be. Our identity is already chosen for us! There’s no more guessing.
And because we are a people who so easily forgets who we are and turns away from God, our identity was solidified with Jesus on the cross.
“Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then condemn? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” — Romans 8:33-34
It doesn’t matter how strong I am because Christ is strong in me and for me. I can be vulnerable and weak and I can share my struggles knowing that I am loved by Christ and I am justified, not by what I say and do, but by Jesus.
Can I let you think what you want of me because I trust that I don’t have to justify myself anymore? Can I stand being misunderstood? Can I make decisions without worrying about what people will think? Can I be vulnerable and weak without worrying what others will say about me?
I can try. And I can try to stop obsessing over what people think of me and start embracing the fact that God not only created me on purpose, with intention, but he also sent his son to die for my failures and shortcomings.
There’s nothing that can change my identity—not even my own actions. I’m not defined by my failures or my successes.
So I’ll just post this blog, praying that God uses it to help you see who you are. I’ll try my best not to worry about all of the things people might assume of me. I’ll try not to judge my success based on how many people respond. I’ll try to laugh if you call me dramatic, dumb, weak, ignorant, or any other identity I fear.
Who then condemn? No one. Not even myself. So I’ll try to let it be.
**P.S. I head back to Cleveland Clinic on September 28th to meet with a POTS specialist. I will find out more about how to personally handle this illness and possibly work toward finding the cause. I’ll update after that visit.