Monday, February 22, 2016

Sick day = Bonus day = Play day

I woke up with a runny nose. This is very unlike me. I didn’t experience my first Common Cold till I was in my 50s. Oh, I had the usual childhood illnesses, and I had the usual mother illnesses (bronchitis and strep, when the child had bronchitis and strep); but other than that, sickness isn’t an occurrence for me. Injury, yes; mental illness, yes. But the thing where people lie in bed for days and complain of aches and pains and congestion? Nope.

So there I was with this runny nose, cough, and limp body. And a really good, really fat book.

So I stayed in bed. I didn’t get dressed, didn’t brush my teeth, didn’t comb my hair.

Ultimately, because I am my mother’s daughter and staying in bed is Not a Thing We Do, I got up, made the bed, and retired to the couch. With the big fat book.

And then I had a great old day! A really great day!
I see now that I am still the accomplish-aholic I thought I was maybe growing beyond. Back in November, I wrote about feeling like a time waster, and my friend Sharon asked, “Have you taken some days to just do nothing?”

Oh, I did spend a whole day doing nothing. Well, nothing except 13 hours of Blacklist, but that was a day of serious depression. No joy in Mudville. I could do without days like that.

But a “mildly sick day” is like a “snow day” – you have permission to do nothing. So why does an adult in her Third Third need permission to do nothing? Because she confuses her self-worth with accomplishments, because she is caught up in “doing” rather than “being,” and because unlearning those things is a tougher nut than we know. If it’s hard to go from zero to 60, it’s also really hard to go from 60 to … less.

I read somewhere that people under stress take a long time to get well when they get sick. They realize that illness had managed to pull them off the treadmill and they’re not willing to get back on.

Years ago, on one of Tim’s and my first ski dates, I damaged my knee and couldn’t walk for about six months. Two days after that initial injury, I lost my job. The next day, in a freak accident (not my fault!), my good foot was fractured. (None of this is made up.) I got the message: the universe was telling me to slow down. If one broken leg wasn’t enough, eliminate her job. Still not getting the message? Break the other leg. And guess what? I slowed down. It was one of the happiest times of my life. I was newly in love, and all I could ask of myself was that I keep my spirits up. That was it.
I know I need structure to keep from feeling aimless, but I also need free time to maintain creativity. That’s a delicate balance; what’s enough of one or the other? There’s also free time to get and stay fit, free time to have a social life, free time to prepare meals. Oh, no! How easily I’m back at the 27 hours’ worth of intentions for a 24-hour day.
But I really, really liked my day of doing nothing. I didn’t think of all the things I wasn’t doing. My brain stopped whirling and I just felt pleasure. Simple pleasure.

Maybe what I have to do is schedule periodic days of doing nothing. And it’s not really doing nothing because I did read that whole book. Maybe it’s a whole day of “wants” instead of “oughts.” It’s my Third Third; I get to sign my own permission slips.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry you weren't feeling well but sometimes the universe sends us the message to SLOW DOWN..just like when you had your skiing injury. This happened to me during a really stressful time in my life. We need to TAKE time to "refill" our own cup of energy more than just "once in a while". And sometimes, as we get older, we forget how to do that. I put together a few ideas to help women practice self-care more consistently so we don't get completely wiped out all at once. It's on my website if you'd like to check it out. It's a self-care calendar and you can go day-by-day or pick and choose for yourself. I hope you are feeling better but definitely scheduled another day of rest and reading. :)


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