In early 2011 I spent three months offline and out of my office recovering from extensive surgery. Truth be told, it was life-saving, life-changing surgery. And that made it non-negotiable. For women like me, non-negotiable is often the only way self-care gets done.
As a power-charging woman you don’t like to think about being on injured reserve. You’ve got too much to do and too many people depending on you, but the reality is, shit happens. And it happens while you’re busy doing other things.
It’s called life.
And for those of you over the age of 40, it’s a reality that grows more likely with each passing tick of the clock.
The risk is there for even the healthiest and well-balanced of women, but I know many more women like me who are juggling an inordinate number of plates in the air at any given moment, and that reality is a bitch.
That reality means when you least expect it and can least afford it, an illness or injury crops up that requires your attention. Requires your self-care. And all those plates you’d precariously balanced in the air come tumbling down.
I don’t have the best track record for self-care, or for stopping to smell the proverbial flowers. Like you, given a choice I’d run the engine until the service light came on.
This time around, however, I got smarter. I decided to heed the advice of the docs in white coats who were telling me I’d need a good twelve months to recover (yes, that’s right – I said twelve months).
The first three weeks in the hospital (part of it in the ICU) I had no choice but to listen, but once I was home an amazing thing happened – I kept listening. Not so much to the medical professionals, but to something I’d never given much credence to in the past – my body.
It let me know when I needed to rest (and I needed to rest a lot). It told me when I needed some exercise, when I needed to eat, when I needed to physically connect with others. It told me when I simply needed to do nothing (and I did nothing a lot). And as the days and weeks went by, the connection between my mind and my body grew more simpatico. They became BFFs. And my energy in mind and body began to grow exponentially.
At first I was only working an hour a day. Walking to the mailbox and back. Reading one page of a book. Gradually, like a flower unfolding and expanding, my reservoir of strength began to blossom and I began to feel like my old self. Only better.
What would have happened if I hadn’t listened to the experts? To my body? If I’d decided to push myself beyond my capabilities at a time when I was most vulnerable?
Absolutely. Yet that’s what you find yourself doing because of a belief system that says: “If I don’t do it, it won’t get done” or it won’t get done to your satisfaction. You have a very hard time relinquishing your responsibilities to others, but it’s important to remember that you have a responsibility to yourSELF as well.
And as much as it hurts to admit it, while I was out on R & R the world kept turning without me. Things kept getting done. Time kept marching forward, but when I was ready, it welcomed me back as if I’d never been away.
Are you guilty of short-changing your self-care? How does it show up in your life (be brutally honest – you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge). Please share your thoughts here in this sacred space.