I am embarrassed to show up here today after an absence of two months. However, I have several excellent excuses.
Wow, that’s pathetic. Actually, pathetic is how I’ve been feeling lately. This time I can’t even blame it on my job, which has been only moderately crazy. The real challenge has come from my personal life, where a pressing family matter has been bubbling for months. The details are too sensitive to share in these pages, out of respect for the beloved ones involved, but the stress has been extreme and ongoing. And try as I might to avoid it, I’ve found myself embedded in the drama. Frankly, this has taken a real toll on me.
There are lucky ones who can compartmentalize their lives in such a way that what happens in one arena stays confined and doesn’t spill over into the other aspects of their lives. I don’t know how they do it. I am a single, complex organism and all of my parts go everywhere with me. I can’t put my heart aside when it’s time to use my stomach, for example. The heart gets in the middle of everything.
The result of all this is that I’ve allowed a difficult situation to take center stage in my life and consume more than its share of my energy. I always thought I was cool in a crisis, but now I see what really happens. In the lexicon of stress management, the body’s reaction to a situation the mind perceives as threatening is called fight or flight, or its new name, fight, flight or freeze. That’s what I do: freeze. I function, sort of, existing in a blubbery state in which I somehow manage to go through the motions and do what has to be done, believing that only I can do it, but it’s a thin façade of competency. Behind closed doors, I am running on fumes. Once the storm passes, I collapse, depleted.
I hit the collapsed, depleted stage last Tuesday when I got clobbered by the flu. Burning with fever, weak and exhausted, I found myself confined to either the bed or the living room sofa for eight solid days. On the plus side, I lost six pounds and now actually like the number on my bathroom scale.
My husband Ret immediately declared that my emotionally drained condition made me vulnerable to the nasty virus that assaulted me. Maybe he’s right. This man knows how to relax. One Sunday last winter, we both decided to have a lazy day, which is something I have very little experience doing. Ret read the paper, watched football on TV and lavished attention on our dogs. I watched football with him – and washed a few loads of laundry, made a quick trip to the grocery and fixed dinner. At the end of the day, we compared the number of steps recorded on our Fitbits: Lee, 5,352. Ret, 623. He says I don’t know how to have a lazy day.
I encourage my yoga students to practice self-compassion on the mat and not to compare themselves with anyone else. I remind them that they are human beings, not human doings, and that even God rested on the seventh day. And yet I struggle mightily to grant myself the same consideration. My to-do list most weekends is two pages long, and if I don’t scratch off every item I’m tempted to look at the weekend as a failure. I’m not sure who invited this taskmaster into my brain, but I think it’s time to fire her.
While lying on my sofa last week, coughing up a lung, it dawned on me that resting was the only thing I needed to be doing. (It was literally the only thing I could do.) And it was OK. The earth did not slip off its orbit. My family managed to muddle through their days without any help from me whatsoever. My employer stayed in business, the sun came up every day and my dogs loved me even without makeup. Although my ego doesn’t like to admit this, I am really just not that important in the grand scheme of things. What a relief.
And so, in the spirit of this new-found freedom, here is my official weekend Permission Slip:
Lee has permission to do absolutely nothing this weekend. NOTHING. No-thing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Nil… Unless she decides to go shopping.