Image by Pedro Simoes. Used under a creative commons license.
I’ve been wiped out these past couple of days. In bed. Sleeping. And then when I’m not sleeping, lazing, because I don’t feel like reading or I don’t seem to be able to concentrate on a book for very long.
It’s been frustrating as I’ve had to cancel all I had planned. Meals with people I wanted to catch up with. Meetings and celebrations.
I needed to stop, but I ignored the signs. The whispers that said: You’re going too fast, you’re being that whirlwind again. You’re booking in too much. I carried on, thinking "It’s nearly the weekend, it’ll be fine." I did all that I needed to, being where I said I’d be, doing the things I said I would do.
And then yesterday, my body took over and my body said:
My head hurt, my throat was sore, my brain felt fuzzy.
I picked up some groceries and got home. Kettle on for a hot water bottle, pyjamas and soup. Then put myself to bed.
Your body always knows.
If we don’t listen to ourselves, our bodies make it clear. Stop. Lie down. Sleep. Rest. There’s something you need to know, so just listen.
The lesson I forget
When I first read about the importance of self-care was I scoffed.
Yes, Ok, when you’re run down, it’s fine. Go to bed sleep it off. Keep the fluids up and go to bed.
But on a daily basis? An hourly basis?
"People will think I’m selfish. I’ll become one of those girls who is so concerned about herself, she never has time for anyone else."
We’ve believed that anything less than full participation at all times is that word we dread: Uncommitted. Flaky. To us that feels like that phrase: A bad friend.
We think we need to be productive every day. We need to have something to show for ourselves. After all, we are the brainy ones, the ones that will make something of ourselves. The ones everyone expects a lot of. You know, THOSE ones.
We’re quick and efficient so we can manage everything well. Which we do. Rarely do we forget birthdays or appointments. We tell the bank the very day we move house. We can DO life, and we set ourselves a high bar of achievement.
Which is why we find the nothingness of being ill such a challenge. The state of 'doing nothing’ does not come easily. I wanted to start this newsletter by explaining to you all that I HAVE read two books today, as if to prove something - to show that I’ve not wasted the day.
But it doesn’t matter if I have done nothing. In fact NOTHING was exactly what I was supposed to do.
You see, when you get ill, you’re out of balance.
There’s usually something to learn.
The first hour in bed yesterday, I slept. Then, when I awoke, I was still trying to be productive. I wasn’t trying to ‘work’ . Nope. But I was trying to ‘make the most of the time in bed’. There was a little pattern that emerged that looked something like this:
Get cup of tea Choose favourite book Read 3 pages Eyes start closing Put down book Pick up phone Check email Check Facebook Choose another book - one I haven’t read for ages Read 5 pages Check phone Tell myself to concentrate on book Get another cup of tea and a snack. Sleep Wake up Check phone Check Facebook Make another hot water bottle
I had no appointments, I had no deadlines. I had no calls to make, nor was expecting any important communications.
I just needed to be. I need to give myself time to love myself. And time to consciously relax my hip, which has been giving me pain.
I needed to let myself rest. Relax. Put my phone away and pile the books on the floor. I needed to practice the art of doing nothing and being ok with that. Not being the organised, cheerful, efficient self that I am for the rest of the week. That other people appreciate and I relish. But just the me who needs quiet and peace. Just me, with no distractions.
In this space I realised this was what I needed to know. That I am enough as I am, that I am not defined by what I can do or my role. By how much I meet expectations or not. By whether I achieve all my dreams or create myself a big fat failure.
In every moment, I am perfect. I am all I need. I do not need to self-improve. I do not need to measure myself or my success. I am complete, whole, loved.
I can just be.
And I thought about the things I’ve missed out on - birthday party, a lovely meal with my friend, a meeting with someone new with lots of potential. And I felt a moment of disappointment, as those moments have passed.
But we can rearrange and there will be other years.
This time, these moments, I spent with me.