Every Day Resilience

“Living with an autoimmune disease has caused me to re-define words I thought I knew. Words I thought I understood. Words like strength, weakness, and pain don’t mean what they once did. Their definitions have grown and expanded, because living with a chronic illness causing chronic pain is hard. And I’m doing it every day.”

The paragraph above is an excerpt from my personal essay, “Every Day Resilience.” I am pleased to share that my essay has been published in Fahmidan Journal Issue 15: Thyroid and Autoimmune Warriors. You can click here to read it in its entirety.

Saving My Tears

The other morning, as I drove home, I heard the song “Save Your Tears” by The Weeknd on the radio. I had taken myself to my favorite neighborhood cafe for some outdoor reading and writing time. 

“Save Your Tears” is a song I’ve heard a fair amount of times. Usually it’s a song I listen to, a song I enjoy. But this time, it actually brought me to tears. 

I parked the car and sat inside for a bit. I didn’t want to run the risk of seeing any of my neighbors, I didn’t want to have to try and explain why I was crying, because I wasn’t quite sure. 

I don’t think it was any one thing.

Actually, there were a number of reasons I could have been crying. 

For over two weeks now, I’ve been dealing with a pinched nerve, which at its worst led to tingling down my arm, into my right hand and fingers. It has created pain and tightness in my neck/shoulder area. It has made everyday things like brushing my teeth and washing my face harder to do. But that wasn’t why I was crying.

Since my son’s high school hosted Open House, about a month ago, I have had extreme pain in both my knees. It’s difficult to bend and pick up something that I dropped. It’s too painful to squat and pull weeds out of my garden. So I plop down onto the sidewalk and weed my garden and then have to figure out a way to get back up. But that wasn’t why I was crying either.

I think it was the lyrics, the simple repetition of “Save your tears for another day.” 

Because I do that, all the time. I save my tears for another day or another part of the day. I stop myself from crying in the Ralphs parking lot, as I load our bags of groceries into the car. I don’t cry as I unlock our front door, but wait until I get inside where no one can see me or hear me. 

And that is the bottom line — where no one can see me or hear me. Because it’s been my experience that me crying — out of pain, or fear, or frustration, or weariness — makes those around me uncomfortable. Which means on top of me trying to take care of myself and let the tears out, I’m left trying to soothe and reassure my family while downplaying my tears and whatever it was that caused me to cry in the first place.


Except the other day during my virtual therapy session. I cried. I cried multiple-Kleenex, nose-running, red-blotchy-eyes kind of crying. Because I generally keep everything in. I am so good at biting my tongue. At keeping my stoic game face on. At not letting on how hurt I really am. How much pain I really feel. And how much help I need.

I wouldn’t say I felt “better” after my crying session. But I definitely didn’t feel worse, either.

The Healing Journal

I recently finished working my way through Emily Suñez’s beautiful book The Healing Journal: Guided Prompts and Inspiration for Life with Illness.

If you read my blog on a regular basis, you might remember that twice before my blog posts were inspired by prompts in this lovely book. (You can read “I Am Alive With Creativity” by clicking here, and “My Illness Does Not Define Me” by clicking here.)

I finished reading the book and answering the writing prompts, but I haven’t finished healing. And that’s part of what makes life with a chronic illness so complicated. You never really completely heal from a chronic illness. 

There is no finish line. No specific treatment plan in place, that once you work through all the steps you’re “better.” It doesn’t work that way for me. It doesn’t work that way for a lot of people. There is no ideal world of “fully healed” to strive for. 

What I have found in the more than-a-decade that I have lived with my autoimmune disease, is that healing is a continuous process. Just as my symptoms go through periods of flares and remission, my feelings about my invisible disability ebb and flow as well.

My illness, and my healing, will forever be a part of me.

Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies

Sometimes you come across a book that you didn’t realize you needed to read until you’re in the middle of reading it, and you notice you’re running low on sticky notes because so many pages need to be marked.

That was my experience reading Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life From Someone Who’s Been There by Tara Schuster.

Ms. Schuster’s book is another wonderful example of how writing the specific actually makes it universal. Ms. Schuster and I had extremely different childhoods. Our adult life experiences are quite different as well. I’m older than she is, married, and the mother of a fifteen-year-old son. Yet, I found so much to love in this book. So much that spoke to me. So much that said, “Wendy try this. Wendy, you need to do this. Wendy, pay attention to this part.” 

Here are just some of the passages that I found to be deserving of sticky notes:

“What you are about to read is a guide to healing your traumas, big and small, in the pursuit of creating a life you will adore and be proud of. You don’t need to have had a mess-wreck-disaster childhood like mine for these tools to work for you. These lessons in self-care will be useful even if you had super-stellar parents who nurtured the shit out of you. This book is for anyone who simply needs to take better care of themselves — anyone who wants to lead a life they choose, embrace, and fucking love.”

But I decided it was time to stop comparing my pain to others’, time to quit telling myself that I shouldn’t feel this way, and time to start focusing on how I actually did feel, because that was real.” 

“Buy the fucking lilies. You are worth seven-dollar lilies. You are worth the thing that instantly makes your life better. I’ve heard people talk about their favorite exercise class this way. I’ve heard people talk about an order of guacamole with their tacos this way. I’ve heard people talk about the ten-dollar, ten-minute massage at the nail salon this way. That small, pleasurable thing that makes you feel like you are treating yourself — do not deprive yourself of this. Buy the fucking lilies, take the class, order the guac, get the massage.”

“Above all else: You are worth the lilies. The small, attainable luxury of lilies is not something to stress about, it is not something to deny yourself, it is something to make plans for and embrace. Small things that make you happy ARE a part of taking care of yourself. If you can’t put your money where your mouth is and say, ‘I am worth the lilies,’ or ‘I am worth six-dollar beef jerky’ or ‘I am worth the almond butter that makes me actually look forward to the morning,’ then why are you working so hard at your job anyway? Seven-dollar lilies won’t ruin you and they won’t make you poor; they will make you stronger. You are stronger when you treat yourself well. What are your lilies? Please go buy them today. If you feel weird about it at all, just blame me and then enjoy the fuck out of your flowers.” 

“What feeds your well? What’s the thing you love to do that makes your heart glad? Is it flower arranging? Is it people-watching at a café? Is it reading a book in a park without knowing what time it is? Is it going back to that dance class you used to love but for some reason stopped taking? What makes you so happy that it gives you rest and ease and feels so damn good that it sets your soul on fire with inspiration? These things that inspire us are often the easiest to lose sight of. We give them up because there is just so much ‘to do’ in a day. We are ‘very busy,’ after all. But you do not gain strength from denying yourself pleasure and being so serious about your life. Instead, keep your well full, and be astonished at the power, the motivation, the brilliance that you will inevitably find in the rest of your life.”

“What I have learned is that you are stronger when you give yourself incredible kindness.” 

Many more pages are marked with a peach-colored sticky note. In fact, Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies inspired one of my April blog posts. (In case you missed it, you can read it by clicking here.)

There is just so much goodness in this book. Reading this book feels very much like having a super close friend right next to you, helping you to see your own wonderful-ness. A super close friend who wants you to see the sparkly brilliance within yourself. To which I say, “Thank you, Ms. Schuster. I’m working on it.” 

One additional note, Ms. Schuster has written a second book titled, Glow in the F*cking Dark: Simple Practices to Heal Your Soul From Someone Who Learned the Hard Way. You can bet it’s on my wish list!

Teacher: One Who Loves

“The simple definition of teacher is one who teaches. But the reality of what it means to be a teacher is so much more. There was never one typical school day, because what I did or didn’t do in that classroom wasn’t entirely up to me. It involved my students — their participation, their preparation, their personalities. Each student brought a different set of previous experiences, a different set of learning styles, and a different set of challenges.” 

The paragraph above is an excerpt from my personal essay, “Teacher: One Who Loves,” and I’m so pleased to share that my essay was recently published on HerStry as part of their Women at Work series. You can click here to read the essay in its entirety.

And just a friendly reminder — Teacher Appreciation Week is May 8-12, 2023! It’s a great time to get in touch with a former teacher (yours or your child’s) and thank them!