What I am is what I am

I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways I’ve changed over the past year. While it’s easier to define what I’ve given up (namely, church attendance and pursuit of Christian faith), it’s also worthwhile to take stock of what I still have, the things that define me.

While forgiveness doesn’t always come easily for me, I generally try to make peace with most people. I still beat myself up over a few memorable moments over the years when I trash-talked someone else in an attempt to make me look better. It’s the kind of thing I’m only aware of doing once every few years and I feel bad enough for having done it that I really try to avoid it. (That said, I’m also not a saint. Some people do still bug me but I try to keep my complaints about them shared only with my husband, my snark repository, if you will.)

I guess on that note, I also think it’s a good thing that I’m extremely self-aware. I often know even when my behavior is inconsistent, even if I’m not always able to do better. If anything, I’m way too hard on myself, which I’m also working on. But I don’t think anyone could ever say I’m delusional or think I’m better than I am. I’m very aware that my words and actions affect others, even if again, I can’t always do better even when I know better.

I’ve also come to realize that even though I like some adventures and getting out of the house (and specifically greatly prefer to work outside the home), I also like for my home to be my sanctuary. I like to keep it relatively clean with a lot of empty space. My house in Michigan had accumulated too much stuff and we got rid of at least half when we moved down here. I discovered that I really like having less stuff. I’m not really a collector of anything.

On that note, an interesting study I found showed that living with more clutter increases anxiety. I tend to believe this is true because it increases mine. I’m not an insane neat freak; I don’t dust often enough and I still have two random cardboard moving boxes in my bedroom that I never got around to unpacking because I don’t know what to do with the contents.

But at the same time, I definitely reach a point where things are too messy for me. I have to go through semi-regularly and clear out the junk mail and the things I’ve stacked on my dresser so the counters and dresser top can be empty again. (Note to self: get rid of all those magazines you haven’t read.)

My husband often tells me that I focus too much on the amount of memory and brain function I’ve lost as a result of my multiple sclerosis. He says I’m still much mentally sharper than the average person even now. On the one hand, I can’t help but be sad about how much I notice that I’ve lost.

On the other hand, I recently got a glimpse that he may be right. I was in a job interview and I said I read medical journals in my leisure time and that I understand them (both are true facts and yes I’m a nerd.) The interviewer asked for an example and I talked about having read about how inflammation can strip away the myelin from nerve pathways in the brain. Luckily, I was at a medical company and the person I was interviewing with said her major had been neuroscience and she knew exactly what I was talking about. But afterwards, I realized that was a perfect illustration of what my husband always says about me still being smart, despite what I’ve lost.

I think another good thing I’ve learned about myself is that I really value knowledge and learning and that I’m perpetually curious. A lot of people aren’t. They’re just happy to consume entertainment and don’t care if they ever learn anything again. If they see something (for example, the name of a charity mentioned on a show), they probably aren’t even curious about what the charity does. But even if they are, I kinda doubt that most would get their phone and look for that information just to satisfy their curiosity and desire to find an answer.

I don’t ever want to stop looking for answers. In many ways, I think that’s why my attempts to follow Christian faith were so frustrating: they tried to give me the answers. And when there were no easily found answers, they encouraged me to stop looking and just trust that it was all “God’s plan.”

I hope I never stop asking, never stop wondering. The idea that the world is way too big for me to figure out gives me a sense of purpose, because I can keep chipping away at trying to understand.

I’m not perfect by any means. The fact that I can make a list of things that I think are some of my good traits is both challenging and uncomfortable. In the back of my head, I hear this little voice (maybe my parents’?) asking “just who do you think you are?” My inner voice tells me not to get too uppity and to remember my failings. I do remember all my failings far too well and I’ve made apologies where appropriate.

But the time has come to start recognizing what I do well. What unique gifts I have to offer to the world (or even that I have unique gifts to offer.) Many of the things that I’ve often considered flaws or weaknesses are actually good things, like my curiosity and intelligence and willingness to forgive.

Maybe as I continue to learn to like myself, I’ll have more to give others as well.

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