Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dear Ellen, With Love...HAWMC #9

Thanks to HAWMC I'm doing this exercise in self-love that every chronically ill person should do.  Write a love letter to yourself.  Tell yourself how wonderful you are.  Remind yourself of the things you have accomplished despite health obstacles.  Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of the good things others see in us that we might miss.  This helps us to be better at our jobs as health activists and advocates.  What would you say?

Dear Ellen,

Stand in front of the mirror, and instead of walking away because you don't like what you see, take a moment and look at the face staring back at you, and consider the journey the girl in the mirror has been on...

Each mark on your body, every line on your face is there for a purpose:

++ The scar that crosses your left cheek courtesy of Duke the cat when you were 2 is now almost hidden with age, but you learned to hide it and even modeled with it.

++ The crinkles around your eyes from smiling too much while playing with children and their horses in the sun.

++ The scar on your left leg from the tumor removed when you were only 13 yrs old, and alone.

++ The scarred fingers and hands from creating works of art now all over the world.

++ The stretch marks from carrying the babies the doctors said you'd never have.

++ The varicose veins on your legs mark the genes you and your grandfather shared.

++ The hands you think of as ugly are the same hands of your mother and grandmother, who held you, prayed with you, fed you and disciplined you.  Those hands of yours made works of art, wrote long letters, and reached inside of untamed horses to help them create life.

++ Your arms were once strong and are now weak, but their weakness taught you the healing importance of accepting help from others.  The weakness in your arms helped you develop empathy.

++ Your eyes have seen birth and creation, death, secrets and disasters - and wonder.  Because of them you saw your babies first smiles and first steps and will soon see them walk down the aisle to be married to their loves.

++ The fat on your tummy and thighs represent rainy days - they are your reserve when your body is weak and sick.  The imperfect texture of your body fat is your protection from harm, like a warm blanket in the cold.

++ The worry lines across your forehead that were never there until you started advocating for other patients.  They show how deeply you care.

These are the illustrations of your story.  You have wondered about the bodies of your family and friends who have gone on before you - when they were prepared for burial did anyone look at them and wonder about their story?  their journey?  Did anyone take the time to 'read' their story?  Were they moved by what they saw?

Stand in front of the mirror, and really look at the girl who looks back at you...

The marks you see are the battle scars of a survivor.  You endured accidents and abuse and nearly died due to a medical mistake.  Many of the scars you carry are marks of love so great that you put your body in the way to protect another.  Some of the scars are there because you chose to continue loving despite the danger to do so.  You were not sorry when you were wounded, so don't be angry or sorry now!  The imperfections you see and try so desperately to hide are the signs of your greatest assets.  Those who love you see these for what they are - the outward signs of a person who has refused to give up or change due to the challenges thrown at you. You see childish weakness, but they tell you they see strength...

Because of your weaknesses, you are mighty!

Now stand up straight and be proud of who you are... lines and scars and imperfections and all.  Raise your hands and your face to the sky and live each moment with awareness of every molecule that surrounds you.  Use your strengths and your weaknesses to help those in your path, and make your path wide, and long.

Go to your grave because you used this body up.  Leave nothing left for disease to take from you, and give those you love gifts of memories that make them laugh, and smile and stories of chasing dreams that they'll re-tell to the shocked faces of others!


So now you've read my letter... what will you say in your letter?

Comment by Fabulousandsick on April 11, 2011 at 1:08am
Great Job. I love the idea of writing yourself a letter to remind yourself of who you are and the journey you have taken.
Comment by Ellen S on April 11, 2011 at 1:59am
Fabulousandsick, I think it's a great exercise to look at one's self from the outside - from another perspective.  Why don't you give it a try?!
Comment by JordanB on April 11, 2011 at 1:11pm
I'll admit, when I saw this as an option I immediately panicked and started looking for something else to post. I'm not one hundred percent sure why, but I worried about writing a post singing my own praises. You've allayed what fears I had. Emotional and empowering, you proved the worth of the exercise to me.
Comment by Ellen S on April 11, 2011 at 3:53pm
Jordan, I did too!  I had to go 'outside' of myself to do this one.  I had to think of how I look at others and their lives, not myself, because I think it's ingrained in most of us that looking at ourselves in a favorable manner is not okay.  As my friend Pam said on Facebook, there is a difference between pride and self esteem.  It's a very, very hard thing to do, for me anyway...I'd much rather look away.  I can't wait to read your letter :)
Comment by Amy K on April 15, 2011 at 1:07pm
Beautiful post Ellen... you are most certainly a survivor and woman of beauty!
Comment by Tiffany Peterson on April 20, 2011 at 12:19am
absolutely wonderful!!! Definitely one of the toughest posts I've been challenged to write!
Comment by Joyce Cline on April 22, 2011 at 1:24pm
absolutely the best way to describe couldn`t have been said any better ellen,i love the way you can explain things to help us all understand,keep up the good work.  joyce
Comment by Ellen S on April 23, 2011 at 9:24am
Thank you guys for all of the encouragement - it means so much!

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