Last Tuesday, on the heels of my son, my daughter and my husband all taking turns with a cough and fever bout; I found myself starting to cough. I would come home from work, collapse on the sofa out of sheer exhaustion and pretty soon my body would begin to ache. I would suffer through dinner and then run upstairs to get ready for bed. My home remedies helped some…warm salt water gargles, honey, ginger, turmeric paste, neti pot…you know the drill. Truly though, only when I tumbled into bed after squirting my Sleep Well Spray by Arbonne did I feel any relief. I would cough all night, keeping myself and my husband awake, although he was still recovering too, so his cough and mine made quite the inharmonious medley! Next morning I would feel strong enough to drive kids to school, take myself to work and the cycle repeated. Ordinarily I would have taken time off. I am NOT one to expose people to my germs intentionally. But, this was the week of culmination with the installation of a project that I have, with a committee been working on for two solid years. We had vendors from out of town, in town for the installation. This was not a week I could be out. I didn’t have to be around people much, so I hid out in my office and washed my hands and wiped down my work space with Clorox frequently.
Only on Friday evening after this cycle repeated for the whole week, did it occur to me to check my temperature – 101! Right – of course, that’s WHY I felt the body ache. Why on earth had it not occurred to me sooner? After all, isn’t that one of the first things I would have done with my kids? YES! Yes I would have! And I would have faithfully recorded the temperature from both ears on my phone, so as to provide an accurate recount to the pediatrician who I would have called by day 3 of them feeling half as crappy as I was feeling.
You get where I am going with this yes?
We parents don’t do nearly as good a job with ourselves as we do with our kids. And I TEACH THIS for crying out loud! This is my platform right? Oxygen Mask on yourself first! What is it they say? Do what I say, don’t do what I do!
I have a point to this long recount of my week – and I promise it is not to get any sympathy.
The story continues – I go to urgent care on Saturday morning. My husband, who has been home hacking up a lung all week has NOT yet seen the doctor but is continuing to feel like crap. I harangue him into going to urgent care – he agrees. My UC doc didn’t see it fit to give me antibiotics, but his did! What??? We are living in the same house, strong probability that we have the same bug. So I continue my home care all weekend; long weekend I might add, and so the doctor was not available to see me till Tuesday, when I still continued to feel like crap, while said husband, on day 3 of his miracle z-pack was back and work and feeling a lot lot better.
So what’s the point of this, aside from the obvious message to take care of yourself?
See the one thing that I did differently this time, that I almost never do when I get a ‘little cough and fever’ is that I rested.
As I said, I was in bed most nights by 8pm. On the weekend, I did the barest of minimum that I could do and asked for help when I couldn’t. There was one stretch on the weekend when I sat for over three hours! Can you remember the last time you sat for three hours reading while you were not on vacation?
And I rested.
I read 3 books.
Not for personal or professional development.
What a novel concept.
And I am NOT being facetious. I truly can’t recall the last time I read for pleasure.
Not an audio book.
An actual book!
Well, actually it was on my Kindle, but it still counts!
So, there’s more to this story though. It is not just a message about rest. Although that’s a fine message in and of itself. I can venture to guess that most of you reading this DO NOT take nearly enough time for yourselves to rest.
Life doesn’t permit rest.
I’ll sleep when I’m dead!
Yep, I have given all those excuses myself.
The message here was that in prolonging the visit to the doctor, something that was not intentional but just so happened because of the way the days fell, I got to truly tap in to and listen to my body (and all its aches).
See, if I had gone to the doctor on Friday which my husband was pushing me to do, then by Sunday, I would have been on my feet, running around at full speed as usual and the messages my body and psyche were trying to send me would have been lost in the noise of my life.
Because I had no choice but to dramatically slow my pace down because my body demanded this of me, by sending me signal after signal; I discovered that I have the capacity to truly listen to the quiet whispers of my soul. Not just during meditation and mindfulness and journaling. But anytime. While driving to the doctor; while attempting to warm soup for myself, while checking my temperature, while just sitting and reading. This is a topic for another post, but I promise you once you experience this, you will NEVER want it to go away.
I realize now that I had been getting signals to slow down for weeks, perhaps even months. For no apparent reason my right hip flexor started to hurt to the point of tears and many sessions of chiropractic care were needed, then my back started to hurt, then my left wrist (and no I don’t have carpel tunnel) and then my right. I texted my chiropractor the weekend before we left for our camping trip that I was in level 8 pain in my back and my body was completely out of alignment. I couldn’t stand straight without pain. Yoga helped me that day with reducing the pain level so I didn’t go visit him for an adjustment.
On the heels of the camping trip, I came back 100% pain free.
3 days, out in nature with nothing to do except be present to the sounds of birds, watching the endless ocean, shooing raccoons (day 3, the little guy got away with our final marshmallows and then had the nerve to sit up in the tree taunting us, while we sat trying to make s’mores with graham crackers and chocolate!), sighting deer; scrambling up rocks, skipping stones, hiking and just absorbing the beauty of God’s canvas with majestic sunsets and sitting that final night by campfire in awe of the clarity with which we were able to see the Milky Way and satellites in orbit.
Came back, hit the ground running to get ready for school, work etc. but my body said NO! Not yet. And you just read the rest of the story!
Our bodies are incredibly adaptable. We can take on a lot. The one thing we are NOT supposed to take on on a consistent basis is oodles of stress. The stress hormone Cortisol is only supposed to be released in the case of true danger and for 90 seconds to 2 minutes at a time. Thereafter we are supposed to normalize and that hormone is meant to dissipate and our counter-balancing proteins are supposed to kick in to ensure that our immune system is supported which DOES get impacted when we are releasing Cortisol.
So what happens when we are continually living in stress. Either real (physical danger) or perceived (well…everything else!)
Yup, our immunity is grossly compromised.
And then illness happens.
There are ways to support yourself in the midst of your crazy hectic life that allow you to take time for yourself. More on this in later posts.
Teaching you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first so that you are better for the people you love, the community you serve and the world you seek to change. It’s ironic that all this has happened. This month and next, I have been given 4 different opportunities to talk about the Oxygen Mask analogy. I guess, I needed to hear it myself and live it real time so that I could truly embody my talk.
The thing I most need to hear myself, is the thing that I am being asked to talk about. This is truly an opportunity for me to practice what I preach.
And of course, as I just proved to you with my story above; it’s a work in progress.
This is one job you can never quit.
Much like you can never quit being a parent.
So settle in for the long haul.
And remember to be kind to yourself.