I think we've all heard the news from mental health professionals that "compartmentalized" living is not healthy; that we are supposed to be whole people who bring our essential selves to every interaction rather than being one person in one situation and another in another. We've also heard the litany of examples of people who compartmentalize and who therefore represent the worst of human nature: Ted Kennedy, capable and committed senator, terrible husband and father. Bing Crosby, beloved entertainer, apparently mean and semi-violent husband and father. Bill Clinton, incredibly intelligent man and President, terrible husband.
Well folks, I'm here to extol the virtues of compartmentalized living. Because I've just come to the conclusion that, for people with a chronic disease, it's the only damn way you can get out of bed in the morning.
The past week is a case in point. Last Sunday I was thinking I'd be tits-up by Monday, lying in the hospital with god-knows-what infections. Tuesday I was home but worn out. Wednesday I was on the phone with a client for 2 hours on a project. Friday I was back at Hopkins for follow-up. Monday I was at a meeting with my biggest client, a major organization I guarantee you have heard of.
Oh...did I mention my mouth started bleeding on my way to said huge client? Yup. Platelets, shmatelets. I was walking down the street toward the building and started to get that horrible metallic taste of blood in my mouth. One part of me (the non-compartmentalized, whole part) thought, "Oh no! I'll have to call and cancel again! But I already had to cancel last week for being in the hospital!." The part of me that lives separately from the part that is sick said, "Stuff some goddamned gauze in there, don't smile too widely and get to the damn meeting, blondie." Which I did.
Which I rocked.
Which made me think, on my victorious walk back to the metro to head home, that this whole notion of being your whole self all the time is perhaps an idea created by people who have no issues or challenges from which they sometimes need to hide. If I were to let the sick girl make all my decisions, I'd never leave the house. I'd give up on any attempt at parenting or working, and I'd probably never shower or say hi to anyone. It is only when I tell the sick girl to shut her cakehole and let the Living Person With a Job and a Kid and Life to Live (who happens to have slackdaddy bone marrow) go about her business that I really, truly enjoy my life. It is only when I decide, firmly and resolvedly, that I am a person who happens to be a wee bit sick some days--rather than a sick person who sometimes has days that don't suck--that I feel like I'm the person I recognize as myself. And I just don't believe that that is unhealthy--compartmentalized though it may be.
So, just for today, if there is something you're carrying around, some burden you can't seem to lay down, something stopping you from being the person you really believe you are or should be--put it aside. Pretend it's not there, just for today. Do and say everything you'd do or say if that burden were not on your mind and heart. Be the happy, fun, cup-is-half-full person you'd be if that burden were not on your mind and heart. Try it for one day. See if you like it. And then see if maybe you can't find a way to make that burden something you live around, rather than something that keeps you from living.
And don't worry what the TV psychologists say. Anyone who can choose to feel lucky, choose to be life-affirming, choose to follow their dreams no matter the obstacles, is better off than someone who is always authentically him or herself, depressing schmuck though s/he may be.