Shifting my Answer to: What Have You Been Up To Lately?
I can tell when it's coming, and it feels like I have to brace myself emotionally as I work up the courage to answer to the "what have you been up to lately?" question. It seems innocuous enough, but these seven words can trigger an avalanche of self-doubt about my current situation and path in life. They can spark the guilt I have about being unable to work right now, exercise the way I used to or even just socialize and engage in activities with friends. Despite this question being a common one, the same feelings seem to bubble up whenever it is asked. Though there is some worry about whether the person I am speaking with is judging me, often it is the critical voice inside my own head that causes me to experience doubt and distress.
I know that the heaviness and unspoken expectation attached to this question is often self-inflicted, but I still feel pressure to have exciting news or progress to share each time I answer it. However, life with chronic illness has come with many restrictions on what I am able to do. Sometimes, focusing on this makes me feel guilty, ashamed and frustrated. Without the ability to update friends and family with traditional "accomplishment oriented" news, I can fall into a spiral of feeling inadequate or idle.
I would feel so much less stress if someone asked me instead - "what's been making you feel full of joy? " or "what's been on your gratitude list lately?". It's all too easy to get wrapped up in what we are doing and feel like that is how our success and worth is measured. This is certainly how I operated for a long time and still slip back into sometimes.
Recently, I listened to a lecture where the idea of "being vs. doing" was articulated in a way that clicked completely. Instead of focusing on what I am doing, why not focus on who I am being while I am doing? If I let go of judgment, I can flow with my circumstances and focus on being the best version of myself in every moment. Am I approaching my challenges with grace and courage? Acting in a way that makes me proud of the person I am? Maintaining hope and a positive outlook?
“I am a human being, not a human doing. Don’t equate your self-worth with how well you do things in life. You aren’t what you do. If you are what you do, then when you don’t…you aren’t.” - Dr. Wayne Dyer
When we can't control our external environment or our health circumstances, the one thing we consistently have control over is who we are being as we move through these challenges. Are we being supportive and loving to ourselves? Speaking kindly to ourselves and others? Celebrating little victories? These are choices we can make on a daily basis. Focusing on the things we can control is one of the best ways to take our power back.
For me, I want to be a person who is grounded and present. Who acts from a place of calm inspiration instead of emotional reaction. Who believes that she will heal, can heal, is healing. Who looks for the good in every day. Who remembers important days for friends and family and reaches out with a supportive text or note. Who finds ways to keep growing and learning (even if it's from podcasts and audiobooks while lying in bed). Who makes others feel listened to and heard. Focusing more on who I am being than what I am doing, feels empowering and freeing.
This shift has helped me to speak more confidently when friends ask me what I have been up to lately. Even if it's the same list of doctors' appointments, daily 20 min walks, and other fun chronic illness management tasks, I can share from a place of pride about how I am doing those things and who I am being while I do them.
When you get caught up in feeling self conscious or guilty about "not doing enough"; rewrite the story in your head to support acting from a place of love in every moment. If all you do in a day is wash the dishes or take a shower, that is completely okay. Your power lies in letting go of equating your value to your "doing list", and choosing to step into being, no matter what your day looks like. I hope this is as helpful to you as it was for me. Sending love and healing energy to everyone 💛