A Lesson I Needed to Learn

I’ve always pushed myself to excel, whether I’m taking an exam or just hiking a mountain with friends.  I don’t quit.  Ever.  I might be dying on the inside, because the trail is so steep and I therefore can’t catch my breath.  And I might be praying with every ounce of strength in me that one of my friends will beg for a break, because then I’ll be forced to take one too.  But you won’t hear me asking everyone to stop for a drink of water.  No, that, my friends, is a sign of weakness. 

Trust me, I don’t make fun of people if they can’t do something physically.  I accept them for where they’re at and probably won’t think twice about it.   And if they have ailments that could fill a novel, I chalk it up to life not being fair.  But if I’m the one under the microscope, I do get a bit judgmental and expect perfection.  I expect myself to make it to the summit.  I expect myself to get a good grade. I expect myself to be strong, fit, and in control of the situation.

(Anyone else out there like that?). 

Oftentimes, I think that God has a sense of humor, and He definitely proved it when He created my soul-mate. Nate is one of the most caring, smart, fun, strong guys I know. I love him to death.  But he also has asthma, is allergic to peanuts, and sometimes has back problems.  He can’t control any of these situations.  And if he were to try to fight them, he could very well suffer some serious consequences.  He has to accept that he has limitations.  And somehow, he ended up marrying a girl like me.

Most of the time, he and I balance each other perfectly.  I keep us goal-oriented, and he helps me make time to relax.  But there are also times in which I might not react in the best way, and I’ve had to learn from those moments.  For example, he started having an asthma attack after we had shoveled the driveway last winter.  He stumbled his way to the house to grab his inhaler. I, on the other hand, was begging him to go on a hike with me.  He couldn’t.  And I’m sad to say that I felt a little upset with him. I mean, here was this twenty-six year old guy who couldn’t even handle shoveling the driveway.

Harsh thoughts, I know.  And I felt horrible just thinking about it.  But the truth is that I just couldn’t understand.  I understood pushing oneself through pain, but I couldn’t understand actually not being able to do what I wanted to.  I had to grow through that situation.

This year, I did some more growing…

My bronchitis in January — and then again in February — was horrible and left my lungs weak.  When I was at the doctor’s last, they handed me a small box and told me to use it often. It was an inhaler. 

I don’t do inhalers.

But trying to ignore that I needed it only left me breathless and coughing.  So I had to accept that I would need it until my lungs fully healed.  And through the process of wheezing and nearly dying when I just walked up a flight of stairs, I was able to see my husband’s side of things.  (Not that he has asthma so bad that he can’t walk up stairs. But you know what I mean).  🙂  Maybe I was even able to let go a bit of my control and need for physical strength.  Although I still won’t ever be a quitter, there’s no shame in taking a break.

Tonight, Nate and I are going back to the gym for the first time since I got sick, and you can be sure that we’ll both be packing our inhalers.  They’re even matching colors. Cool, right?

My doctor also diagnosed me with a food allergy.  I’m not severely allergic, like Nate is, but my body can’t break down those fake sugars that are in diet sodas, yogurts, and 100 calorie snacks. So I’ve had to say ‘goodbye’ to any of those products.

You know, perfection really isn’t about whether or not your lungs can handle what another’s can or if you have to avoid certain foods.  It’s all on the inside.  That’s really who you are.  So if you can’t do something physically, it doesn’t mean you’re less than anyone else.  Yeah, I’ll never be a quitter.  And I’m not done pushing myself either. I do need to start working out more regularly, and it’s going to be difficult at first.  But I also think that I’ve learned to appreciate what really matters and to let go of what doesn’t.  People should be viewed as human beings with feelings and with unique abilities.  Just because someone can’t climb a mountain, it doesn’t mean they can’t do something else better.  We all have gifts and talents. It’s not all about what you can or can’t do physically.

There’s a healthy way to push yourself physically.  Do you push yourself too hard or do you find a healthy balance?

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8 Responses to A Lesson I Needed to Learn

  1. Mandy says:

    Great thoughts! Funny, i’ve been learning some of the same lessons lately. About 2 weeks ago I fractured my knee. No walking, no driving for the next 4-6 weeks. For the first few days I determined that something as insignificant as the fact that I couldn’t put any weight on my right knee was not going to stop me. So I made dinner, did laundry, picked up the house…all hopping around on crutches. The people around all asked how they could help, but I didn’t want help. The Lord had to bring me to the realization that it was pride that was keeping me from admitting, “i need help!”

  2. theclambroll says:

    I have always pushed myself too hard physically–I hear you on that!! I would get a terrible cold and still push myself to go to the gym that day (claiming it would make me feel better, somehow…). Pregnancy is the first time I’ve had to be very honest about my physical limitations and learn to give myself a break. It’s been a difficult adjustment for me! Not being able to shovel snow, lug the vacuum up the stairs, etc. are all things that I originally scoffed at, but I’ve had to accept it. Certainly a learning experience. 🙂 I wonder if I will revert to my old ways after the baby is born…haha.

  3. Being tough on yourself can be a great thing…but we all have limits…and we need to know what they are so we can better push ourselves in the right ways and in the right directions!

  4. Meg says:

    There are definitely times when I need to be harder on myself and finish things I start. But most of the time, I tend to know my limits and have found it’s ok to admit I’ve got too much on my plate and need to take a step back.

  5. justmarriedgirl says:

    This is a lesson I need to learn over and over again. I am always pushing myself to be perfect, but usually, my biggest attempts usually result in embarrassment. I’m trying to accept that (a) I am so NOT perfect and (b) perfection isn’t even something I should be trying to acquire. If I can feel happy, loved and accepted, then I’ve done a good job (I hope).

  6. Tien says:

    I think it’s pretty normal to expect more of yourself than you do others. But man, you are a fighter! I try to find a healthy balance in this case, because I know I will dissapoint myself trying to perform something that I might not be able to do so. Let’s just say I always “try my best”. This is a very nice story, thanks for sharing. You and Nate are made for each other. And, don’t be too hard on yourself a’ight Nicole? 🙂

  7. Ellie says:

    Omgshhh this was such a moving post Nicole! So ironic how God allows things so that we’ll be the best individuals we can be in living according to His ways, and loving others as we love ourselves, huh? 😛

  8. sarahnsh says:

    This post really resonates with me because I have the exact same thing… I am someone who doesn’t accept anything besides perfection for myself, I never say that I’m in pain, and I’ll keep going until I fall over and can’t physically do it anymore. While my fiancee, he has allergies, just recently got diagonosed with heel spurs in his feet, and is very caring, sweet, but has these ailments and I won’t let anything bother or stop me.

    I recently had a wake up call, I got a lower back strain that was work related and I couldn’t sit, stand, or really move too much. I was in such intense pain that I would hysterically freak out because I didn’t know if it would go away and living in such pain would make it impossible for me to do my job. I had to call off time from work, which I never do.

    I know I shouldn’t expect perfection, but like you, I just can’t see myself doing anything except that. It’s rough to try to slow down and take care of yourself when you’re used to pushing yourself past your comfort zone.

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