It was Wednesday again, the dreaded supermarket day. The weekly shopping trip is a big ask for me, especially because it is winter in New Zealand. The cold air is not my friend. It increases the number of Raynaud’s attacks on my extremities, and it affects my heart the same way. The shutting down of small vessels around my heart from the cold air I breathe results in a reduced oxygenated blood flow that causes shortness of breath and exhaustion.
As I drove to the supermarket, I felt decidedly grumpy at myself because I knew what was coming. As soon as I arrived, my first task was to find a trolly I could lean on as I went around. Two people passed me and were already browsing the fruit and veggies, while in the meantime, I was still shuffling slowly through the door.
Once I finally managed to start shopping, I could feel the tension. I am sure supermarket rage is a thing. It’s similar to road rage, except it involves bullying others with trolleys, not cars. I experience it every visit, with women clicking by me in high heels, their trolly almost taking mine out as they swish past and glare at me for going so slowly. Then there are the ones who can’t possibly wait for me to crawl past the shelf they are browsing, elbowing in front of me with a loud “excuse me” and customary scowl.
While the world seems like such an unkind place, I am interested to notice that I blame myself for it — I’m the one with scleroderma, so it’s my fault. I play the blame game at home as well, when my family has to complete all the tasks around the house that I feel I should be able to finish, or at the very least, start! I feel I disappoint friends constantly when I cancel plans due to sickness, and during family outings, I slow everyone down when I have to stop and rest.
It seems that I am not inwardly kind toward myself at all, and it seems that those around me aren’t, either. It all feels like a big mess of unkindness and intolerance, both inside and outside of me, and it’s very overwhelming. However, this week, as I was leaving the supermarket, something happened: a small miracle.
Having dodged several supermarket bullies and blaming myself as usual, my temper was frayed. As I approached the car, a man walked past, carrying a little child in his arms.
This wee girl was smiling at me and waving. All of about 8 months old and obviously having just learned to wave, she was waiting eagerly for the customary return wave. She had not learned the unkindness of the world yet — but more importantly, her tender life was untouched by unrealistic expectations and unfair evaluations of herself. She had no concept that she was anything other than just fine as she was.
In my unkind grumpy state, I was tempted to ignore her, as waving back seemed like another thing that would drain me further. But I didn’t, and conjuring my last little bit of energy, I offered her a small wave and a weary smile.
For a split second, everything seemed to stop as we locked eyes and she offered another huge beaming smile in response. In that moment, there was no unkindness. I felt good about what I had offered her, and she saw and felt my kindness through her innocent and untroubled self.
Something changed. The fog of my self-depreciation lifted and I felt some sort of healing taking place deep inside of me.
Offering an act of kindness to the world is helpful in making it a better place. However, I wonder if it’s harder to be kind to others because we aren’t being kind to ourselves first. It’s all intertwined.
It seems the kindness one feels toward oneself is actually the key.
I now believe that nurturing my inner self-kindness creates a power that can transcend my scleroderma and everything associated with it. Then I have something to offer the world — but in that order.
The things we learn through the eyes of babes!
Note: Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Scleroderma News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to scleroderma.