Lately I seem to be in another delicate state of health. When I left my job I was hopeful that increased time to take care of myself would result in improved health (physical at least, if not emotional), but so far my body does not seem to want to cooperate. I find myself quite often feeling exhausted, achy and weak. In the last couple of weeks there have been several instances when I had to get back in bed for a few hours after dropping the kids off at school. And there may have been a day when I never got out of my pajamas. This has been a not-so-pleasant reminder of my years of chronic illness. My conditioned pattern of panicking and becoming weepy when I am unwell is deeply engrained and tries its best to surface on these occasions. However…I know that I don’t have to perpetuate this reaction; I have a choice about how I respond to my current circumstances.
A few weekends ago I had planned to join my parents at a performance of an opera at a local movie theater. But when my alarm went off that Saturday morning I realized that I was too exhausted to make it. I got back in bed after texting my mom and felt all of the things I usually feel when I have to miss an experience due to my health: angst about whether I had made the right decision, worry that I had let my parents down, and fear that I was missing out on something really interesting. But then I took a deep breath and reminded myself of some truths: I had pushed myself energetically that week with a doctor’s appointment, a chorus rehearsal, a memorial service for someone who passed away just as his adult life was beginning, a high school parent tour, and a day in the city visiting the SF MoMA with my mom (in addition to the usual driving of children to their activities, shopping, cooking dinner, etc.). I needed a break. My aching body clearly craved my bed. I reminded myself that canceling plans can cause me to feel sad while also being the right thing to do. And a few hours in bed doesn’t have to mean more than what it is. It doesn’t have to mean that I’m becoming chronically ill again. It doesn’t have to mean that I will never attain the level of health I desire. It doesn’t have to mean that I can never be counted upon. It can be, quite simply, a nap.
After my helpful self-talk I closed my eyes and drifted off to dreamland, secure in the knowledge that by listening to my body I was honoring what I needed and allowing myself to shore up my energy so that I would have a better chance of participating in the next thing to which I am looking forward.