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So as many of you know, I’ve been working through a major flare of my disease, Ulcerative Colitis (UC). I’m a little over a month out of the hospital and doing extremely well. I’ve come very far, and for that I am so grateful. But I don’t want to focus on disease right now…as I was saying to a friend the other day…everyone has their “stuff.” Everyone has something they’re dealing with that can be troubling or trying at times. But what I have noticed through this experience is that there are massive amounts of personal growth that can be gained in these times.

When I entered the hospital on August 17th, I was dealing with a lot of different things; mentally and physically. I was four months post partum, I was exclusively pumping breast milk for my baby, I had raging hormones, and a moderate case of post partum depression. After coming down with a breast infection called mastitis for the second time and having to take antibiotics, my body hit the “off” switch and said, “shut it down….she’s not listening.”

So my doctor advised I go to the hospital for my UC symptoms that had begun to rage. The hospital is not a fun place, but I knew I needed rest and more care than I could be given at home. So I went. And for six days I got round-the-clock care. I was low. I was mad. It was unfair. I’d think, “I am 35 years old…this is not how it should be.” I now realize there are major flaws with that type of thinking. As I said before…everyone has their “stuff.”

But sometime during those six days, my mind started to make a shift. I allowed the sad feelings in for a bit. I allowed the anger. But at some point I decided it was enough. I was absolutely surrounded by love and an outpouring of support from family and co-workers, and I started to see the beauty in this extremely dark period. There is a quote, many times shared during times of real tragedy. “Look for the helpers.” Well we had helpers….holy cow did we have helpers.

I decided I could no longer take them for granted. I realized that I had been living my life chained to a hamster wheel that I forced myself to get on each day. And that is not to say that I didn’t love everything I was doing…quite the contrary. I love my husband, my family, my dog, my job, and I even love carting the kids to their myriad activities…but I wasn’t taking them IN. I was moving too fast. I wasn’t engaged. I was too tired to engage because my mind never stopped turning. I started to realize my MIND was the hamster wheel.

After exiting the hospital, I started to make a conscious shift. I reached out to a friend who struggles with this disease, and she gave me amazing advice. She said, “take this time while your body is healing to do things you don’t get a chance to do. Read that book you always wanted to read. Go through that closet that you can never seem to get to. Find joy in things outside of the norm.” When you can’t work, you suddenly find yourself rethinking your identity. I started to understand myself in a way I hadn’t before.

I realized I had become complacent in my life. I had become a bystander. And it seemed as though I was watching my life happen almost like watching a movie, rather than actually experiencing each moment. I was MISSING IT. So I picked up that book I’ve wanted to read for years, Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth.” I started meditating for five minutes at night and five minutes in the morning. I stopped watching TV and escaping to Facebook so much. I discovered that those things were taking me out of my reality…and I was on a quest for real time. Right now. What did I want to do RIGHT.NOW.

I have become the partner to my husband that I want to be. I am living each moment with presence (as much as I can…I fail all the time but I’ve stopped judging myself.) But most importantly, I feel lighter. I feel like I can take all these moments in and handle them. I can give people grace. I can accept what is….because what is…is all there is. I have started setting goals for myself, because as a mom I often put everyone else first. And it’s damaging. Even my little meditation sessions allow me some “me” time that I didn’t take before. Don’t get me wrong…sometimes I have to FORCE myself to do it. But I never regret it. Those cleansing breaths propel me through my day.

So my question to you is this…what are those things that you want to do for you? You have goals that you’re too busy for…I’m sure of it. But what’s stopping you? Deep down we all know the things that hold us back. And for some reason we can be drawn to those things over and over again. For me it was escaping into technology. But I’m sure it’s different for everyone. But let now be the time that you free yourself. Right now. Read that book. Start that journal. Take that class. You only have right now. Get off the hamster wheel that is your mind!

I have been so fortunate and I am filled with gratitude for this life and this chance I’ve been given. My hope for you is that life doesn’t have to kick you in the butt for you to realize it! BUT…if it does, I want you to know that sometimes in the dark, you can better see the light. Go chase that light today IronParents.

Hear Jenn’s podcast here: https://leangreendad.com/2015/08/27/044/

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