Most nights I worship at the church of 3 a.m. I’ve always been a light sleeper, going back to the birth of my two children in my mid-20s. Once they were born, my ability to sleep through the night took a direct hit and never really recovered. Like most parents, I learned to live on less sleep and more caffeine to get through the work week.
“It’s exhaustion at the cellular level.”
But nothing prepared me for the physical, emotional and spiritual fatigue, and the ongoing insomnia I would experience when I became chronically ill. It goes well beyond the occasional night or two of no sleep. It’s so much more than being “tired.” It’s exhaustion at the cellular level. I wake up exhausted. I go through my day exhausted. I return to bed exhausted.
Between chronic fatigue and pain, I look for ways to cut back on the number of “things” I have to do throughout my day. I pay a fee to order my groceries online and have them delivered rather than having to spend an hour or more shopping, bagging, loading and unloading them once I get home.
I split up the number of errands I have to do over the course of a week rather than over the course of a day the way I once did them. I take my shower at night because while for most people a shower invigorates and enlivens, for me, a shower is followed by the need to sit, to rest, to recover. I accept fewer new clients in order to properly give the clients I have my full attention.
I pay my bills and order just about everything online. The UPS guy and I are on a first name basis. Amazon Prime is my BFF. On the rare days I have more energy or a lessening of symptoms, I make a big pot of homemade soup that can be reheated throughout the week when I’m too exhausted to cook. I’ve gotten good at ignoring the dust bunnies in the corner. I take a lot of naps.
“In a society that holds productivity as unequivocally good, to do less feels like a moral failing.”
Here in America we don’t celebrate the art of doing nothing or embrace the purposefulness that comes with having to plan out a lot of downtime. Those who are deemed the most ambitious are always busy-busy-busy. “Busy” is synonymous with “successful” which leaves those of us who have to budget our time and energy more wisely with the “lazy” moniker.
Despite my needing to do nothing for hours each day, my work ethic and ambition haven’t gone anywhere. It’s my work ethic and ambition that call my “doing nothing” laziness; and laziness is cause in our go-go-go society for shame of the highest order. In a society that holds productivity as unequivocally good, to do less feels like a moral failing.
“My whole life is a balancing act of trying to be productive, but not overdoing it and paying for it with exacerbated symptoms later. I’m an expert tightrope walker.”
As someone who used to define herself through her work ethic, to become unable to act upon that work ethic the way I used to is nearly intolerable. My whole life is a balancing act of trying to be productive, but not overdoing it and paying with exacerbated symptoms later. I’m an expert tightrope walker.
Perhaps the way for me to experience a sense of grace about all this is to view what I am doing through a different lens. A lens I often ask my clients to use as they examine their own lives. Part of my “job”, my “work”, although it may not look like work to most, is to take care of myself. I must care for my health with as much attention as I pay to the clients I’m hired to coach. This new lens will enable me to view this “sick” version of me — this person I never planned to be — as enough. And through this new lens, rather than being here to “do” it’s enough that I’m here to “be.”