"small work", and how it changed my quality of life -

"small work", and how it changed my quality of life -

As my disabilities have progressed over my lifetime, there has been a mountain of grief that continually builds. I grieve every skill I lose. I grieve every pain-free day I will never have. I grieve the life I will not live. That grief has swallowed me, chewed me up, digested me until there is nothing left.

In a world of all-or-nothing, black and white thinking, I was taught that if you cannot do something perfectly, completely, then it isn't worth doing at all.

This kind of thinking was what kept me locked in place for a lifetime.

In my disabled body, I have limits, limits that are not only confined to the social model of disability. It doesn't matter what kind of society I am in, I would always have pain, chronic injury, excessive fatigue. The social model of disability, while helpful in regarding certain aspects of my disabilities, cannot wholly explain or heal the rest of it away, and rather enforces the "just try harder" narrative that has been hammered into me.

The most important skill I have learned over the past year has been to have self compassion, but, perhaps most importantly, a different kind of self compassion than I had developed before.

I had tried to accept my inability, thinking that since I couldn't do things perfectly, that I needed to be content with not doing it at all. For me personally, this was not helpful, and rather destroyed my self esteem and confidence, despite my best efforts to feel okay about myself.

Feeling capable and having a sense of autonomy from my abilities is crucial to my sense of self. I wish this wasn't the case. I wish I could just learn to feel content and comfortable with my body and changing abilities, but despite my best efforts, I just couldn't. Accepting that, rather than continuing to fight and force my nature, was an important step for me.

After many years of my physical and emotional health degrading, I knew I needed to try something different to survive.

For my 30th birthday a few weeks ago, my mother asked me what I wanted as a gift. I think my answer surprised her. I asked for the raw materials to make a three bin hot compost system.

The pieces of wood came pre-measured and cut. But it was up to me to do the rest. I took many hours over several weeks to sand each piece, paint them, coat them in a protective enamel, and then rub in a layer of beeswax to further waterproof it and smooth the edges. I then moved all my old compost into the bins, and have started the long process of cutting down my cover crop to add to the bins.

A year or two ago I may have told myself that if I couldn't measure and cut the wood pieces myself, then it wasn't worth doing at all. However, eliminating that part of the process made everything else possible. I still had to put in a lot of labor to build the bins, but the part I would have had the most difficulty with was no longer a barrier. It is an enormous privilege to be able to create accommodations like that for myself, but sitting in guilt and therefor not taking advantage of resources that could help only held me back further.

I have learned that doing things part way is okay.

It's good enough.

It is okay to accommodate myself to allow me to do more when I desire that in life. If I cannot finish a task now, I can at least get a start on it, and finish it up when my energy or time or resources are more convenient.

If I keep making mistakes, and it has started to wear on me, I can take a step back. I can take my time to observe and learn, coming back when I feel energized and ready to tackle the problem with fresh eyes. I can take the time to learn from things going wrong, rather than sinking into despair and smothering my self worth.

Doing little things here and there have often added up to much more than when I refused to start a task unless I could finish it.

I have found this lesson important not only to use resources more efficiently, to better the life of those around me, to reduce impact that I would prefer not to have, but important to my own emotional wellbeing.

I could have easily bought a premade compost bin. But, doing some of the work myself, learning through mistakes, growing my skills - it makes me feel capable. It gives me a sense of safety and confidence in my abilities, which is something I sorely need in a body like mine. It brings me peace. This slow, steady, manual work regulates my senses and my emotions. It brings me joy in seeing the work I have done pay off. And that joy, that building of my confidence, that sense of peace, that ability to feel like I can count on myself, is perhaps the greatest yield I have been able to harvest and preserve of all.

*Note: I would like to express deep gratitude to @appleturnover, whose words I have chosen to echo here, as I have never heard words that has brought me as much clarity as theirs. Thank you.

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