For as long as I can remember I have always taken on a lot. I like challenges. I thrive on achievement. I have many different roles which I just about manage to multi-task my way through on a daily basis. I secretly pride myself on it. And until recently, my high energy levels and sheer determination always got me through: “I have no ‘off button’” I would joke. I confused self-care with being selfish (see earlier post). I thought that if I could identify and express my emotional needs and sometimes even ask that they be met, that was my self care in the bag. My body however had other ideas. How wrong I was.
Last week, for the third time in three months, I found myself bed-bound with flu. I hate being bed-bound. I hate not doing anything. I hate feeling guilty about not doing anything. So for me to be bed-bound was a big deal. And each time the illness that triggered it affected me more severely and for longer: whatever message I was meant to be getting, I clearly wasn’t listening.
I have a slight fear of time: rather than see it expand around me, I constantly feel it tightening its grip. There is always a battle in my head between the list of things I would like to get done and the ever-shrinking amount of time left in which to do them. This provokes a kind of semi-permanent, adrenalin-fuelled, low-level panic which makes it impossible to be present, let alone enjoy it. And whilst I didn’t feel it until recently, obviously this was exhausting; continuously raised adrenals were taking their toll on my body. It had had enough. What it was trying to tell me through forcing me to rest and what I was failing to get, is that busy achievement mode was no longer serving me.
So at first I thought I would de-clutter my diary. And that helped. A bit. But I still felt manic about the remaining stuff in there and the everyday chores that never feature. Which is when the penny dropped: that it is not so much about the number of commitments you schedule but about the way in which you respond to them.
So my self-care challenge is now this: to try to approach everything I do and each role I have in life, regardless of how much or how little is in the diary, WITH EASE. To surrender to the moment as though time is no issue. To get done what I can and to screw the rest. To trust that I am still acceptable even when I am not achieving. To stop resisting rest.
It is not going to be easy but I am determined to model what I preach. To let the Warrior in me take a well-earned backseat and to follow the lead of my Buddha. As Emma Derman Teitel wrote “to rest is a radical act of dissent from the collective devotion to speed.” So here’s to being radical! Who’s going to join me?
Do you feel the constant need to achieve? Do you resist rest? What might self care look like to you? Please share your thoughts in the comments below so that we can all find inspiration from each other!
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