There was a mushroom in my meal at a nice restaurant in San Fransisco at the beginning of my birthday weekend in wine country. The lightheaded, tired sensation which begins my reaction came quickly. I have a chronic mold allergy which is managed well unless an unforeseen exposure to fungi occurs. So annoying. Some explosives happened in the bathroom after I tried to puke up my amazing shrimp and pasta meal.
Control has become my mode to manage my illness. My life is controlled by the word “no”, no mushrooms, no black pepper, no soy protein, no dairy – anything fermented like beer, vinegar and other fun things. I have become slowly building the tolerance and enjoyment to wine. This vacation had been the dream for several years as I began to enjoy a glass here and there. I knew I would have to recover from the wine trip, but the mushroom came out of left field. No matter how careful I usually am, an exposure can still happen.
For the past twenty years or so I have told any waiter/waitress about my allergy. There is never a meal ordered where the mushrooms have to be removed. I only order meals were a mushroom would be accidentally added instead of forgotten to be removed. Those of you with allergies know what I am talking about. It had been eight years since my last exposure. There have been a few near-misses and a slight hint of something here or there. I had wondered if an exposure would be as big a deal now since I am so much healthier than I used to be. Nope, not a thing, apparently. I reacted the same as last time. What I wasn’t prepared for was my onset of anger and frustration over the exposure. It was a true accident, but what the loss of control opened my eyes to some deeper issues.
In this year’s theme about excellence, I can tell you this past month of recovery has taken me out of the game. I have been in brain fog, inflammation, secondary infection from the inflammation, weight imbalance and all the anxiety that comes from not being at my best. I gave up recovering on my own and went on medications to help me kick it. The medications worked, but those also caused general fatigue. If I took my own instruction about giving myself grace on my bad days, my prolonged weakness might not have seemed so bad. I didn’t take my own advice.
Let’s talk about my deeper issue. My humanity and my imperfect body cannot always run at top speed. I control my environment because I haven’t learned how to survive without it. I have missed out on a lot of joy because of it. Previously, loss of control would come at the high cost of tiredness and fatigue. I have lived so long controlling where I am and what I eat I have no idea what to do otherwise.
So, does excellence arise in my life only when the environment is controlled? Or do I need to redefine excellence in my own life? In this past month, was anything excellent? Yes. I was too tired to yell at my girls. My girls enjoyed a quieter mom. My body had to rest. It was forced because I couldn’t do anything else. I understand better what a high resting heart rate feels like in stress. It will make me more empathetic towards friends and patients struggling with anxiety or infection. I read three novels. I pushed myself at the gym (once my heart rate had returned to it’s normal rate) and realized I am capable of more than I thought when I am at my weakest.
Yes, excellence should be redefined in my life. It is not what I do for people or how much I get done. It’s doing and being who I am in each moment to the best of my ability, whatever that looks like each day, especially in weakness. Excellence does not need to be overwhelming. It can just be the by-product of showing up and being present in the moment for myself, my loved ones, and those around me. Excellence doesn’t need to be a giant laid out plan. It is just the daily choices which accumulate to a life well-lived.
In weakness or strength and everything in between, let’s give ourselves a moment, take the pressure off and show up for the next moment in whatever way we can. For me, it means looking at what control is keeping me stuck and what I can let go of so the next exposure doesn’t bring so many butt-hurt moments.
My wine glass is raised to your moments of weakness where taking care of yourself produces excellence. Cheers.