After a recent bout of the ‘snots’ – my term for what more polite people call allergies – I was telling a friend about my methods for dealing with the onslaught to my sinuses, throat, chest, and tummy. I described the numerous bowls of steaming salted eucalyptus water I inhaled under a towel (an excellent start to a cleansing facial, I might add), the four times daily neti pot nasal rinses (supplemented at 3 am a couple of nights), and sleeping (if you can call it that) on three pillows to encourage drainage. I spoke of drinking so much water it will take a week, at least, for my pee to have any color, of having to hold a pillow over my ribs when, as the nasty, viscous white gunk finally made its way down, the need to cough with every deep breath arose. I spoke of forcing myself out into the sauna we call summer in Louisville for a daily ritual of walk, sweat, breathe deeply, sweat, cough it up, sweat, spit it out, sweat some more.
My friend listened sympathetically. We’ve been friends long enough that this ain’t the first body fluids talk we’ve had. But when I stated that, thanks to my ministrations and natural methods, my health was much improved after only three days, she countered, “but, if you’d taken sinus pills wouldn’t that have helped just as much, and maybe even faster?”
She had a point. Knowing that friends are there, mostly, to keep us honest, I had to laugh while I replied, “yeah, but I’d rather tell myself that it was taking care of myself that made it stop.” We both laughed. I coughed. And when I came back from the bathroom, after spitting out the lingering snot, my friend changed the subject. That too is what friends are for – to let us be who we are without getting caught up in self-absorption.
After this conversation, on the drive home I thought about my statement – about the things I tell myself. Most of us, I believe, tell ourselves what we want to hear, what strokes the ego, what strengthens the image we want, or need, to have of our self. That doesn’t mean it’s not true, but neither does it mean it is.
Do I tell myself I can, and do, take care of myself because I need to hear myself say it, and have that affirmed? Or do I say it to make myself feel superior to those who choose a different path, who take a pill and go on? Am I serving a persona, a self-created image of myself as “different” from the mainstream, when I choose holistic methods (for choice requires conversation with self, after all)? Or are the methods I choose arising from what feels natural to me, ways of supporting my own uniqueness?
Or is all of this consideration simply navel gazing? Does it matter what I tell myself, or why? I hold that it does. I believe that it’s important to understand if the messages and choices erupt from the structure surrounding my wounded self, built to defend against further wounding, or if they arise from my authentically vulnerable and unique self. If I don’t know the source of what I tell myself it’s too easy to get caught up in self-protection, which really is self-absorption, to go through life as a persona rather than a person.
I was in a relationship with a persona once – the persona I’d built behind that structure that protected and defended me against being hurt. The problem was that I DID hurt as that persona – that girl and woman who was always “fine,” who didn’t need any help with anything, thank-you-very-much. I hurt worse being her than I did the spring I got the flu so badly my hair was painful. Back then I hurt even worse than during my midnight heart attack. Those events were only physical. Existing in that persona created soul-level pain, psychic pain that nearly caused me to disappear, certainly caused despair, and spilled out onto those I loved and who loved me.
The only way to break free, to become a person, was to begin listening to what I was telling myself, and why, to question the source of my messages and choices. And despite the time and energy and thought it takes to understand the source of what I tell myself, I’d rather be in relationship with the person I am now (who I find rather interesting), than the persona I used to be. She wasn’t really much fun - with or without the snots.