Lessons

I had a four day weekend for Labor Day, and being sick today turned it into a five day weekend. Last week was crazy busy at work and I really pushed myself to complete some tasks that were critical. I got home exhausted every evening, so my house was in terrible shape by Friday, and that was with my daughters helping clean after school each day. I was very tired when I got up on Friday morning, but I decided to clean house anyway. I've gotten a bit smarter about it, though - I clean for thirty minutes and then rest for thirty minutes. Or twenty minutes, or ten - the point is to balance activity with rest. So I made it through Friday pretty well and the house was clean by the end of the day.

The girls went to their dad's that afternoon, and they each took their dog along, which left just me and Oskar, my shadow-weenie, at the house for three days. Talk about vacation! I was too tired to go out Friday evening, even though I had planned to go listen to some music with a friend. So I stayed in and studied instead. I took my medication at bedtime and realized then that I had run out of gabapentin. I didn't think much about it - I've been taking it for a month and I knew it helped, but I didn't know how much until about three am on Saturday morning. I woke up feeling like someone had given me a severe beating. That was the end of sleep - I gave up and took a tramadol, then just laid there, waiting for it to kick in. That took a couple of hours, and it was an imperfect relief. It took a few hours to get going, but I got out around 11 to pick up my medication. By then it was too late to take a bridge dose. I waited and got through the day, and the rest of the weekend went pretty well, pain-wise. By Monday, I had come down with something - I was running a fever and had a sore throat, itchy nose, watery eyes, the whole bit.

Today I am home, resting. I know I need to be at work. I WANT to be at work. But I also know that if I push myself too hard, like last week, I will just end up sicker, and having to take more time off. So here I am on the couch. I am not good at taking it easy. It is easier just now, though, because I've started my masters program and I have reading and homework to do. It is great to feel productive even when I'm sitting on the sofa with my feet up. Another thing I've been doing during these forced periods of inactivity is crocheting - I have finished a large afgan and have started on another. I have to take breaks with that because sometimes my elbows and upper back hurt too much to crochet, but I can usually manage a few rows. Making something helps me feel that my time isn't wasted, even though I can't do what I really want to do.

It sounds sort of crazy, but I miss doing laundry. I miss hanging clothes out to dry when the weather is nice. I miss push-mowing my half-acre of grass. I miss gardening, digging in my vegetable and flower beds. I miss pruning the shrubs and using the weed-eater. I miss how my property looks when I can take care of it, but more than that, I miss feeling able. I miss moving with ease and not thinking about how to balance myself, how to turn, bend, or twist to minimize the pain or damage I might do. I miss feeling physically strong.

As my physical strength and ability deteriorate, my emotional and mental strength grow. That's one good thing. Not that I wouldn't trade the growth for supple muscles and smooth-moving joints, for days and nights without pain. I would, in a heart-beat. But awful things usually have a component of good, and I am getting better at looking for the silver linings. I can't lie and say I'm glad to be sick. I can't say I'm glad my relationship ended. I can't say I am happy to have to change everything I do and how I do it. But I can say that being sick has forced me to take care of myself, to think about how I live and how I work. I can say that it is better to be out of the relationship if the man I loved so much didn't have the courage to face me with his fears, or to face my illness. I don't know if that was at the root of why he left, but given that he became distant as soon as I became sick, I think it's a pretty good bet. I can say that I am learning how to take better care of my body, to stop forcing myself to keep going even when I am exhausted and in agony. I've been pushing myself since I was a child, and I have learned that I can't do that anymore. What's more, I've learned that I don't have to.

I think I always believed, right or wrong, that in order to be loved and lovable, to be worthwhile, I had to perform every single task perfectly. I had to do everything exactly as everyone expected me to. Maybe those expectations were never real, or never there, but that doesn't matter. What matters is I perceived it that way. Now, I see things differently. These days, I don't push myself to be worthy or lovable. I love myself. I'm already worthy; I don't have anything to prove. I do the best I can to complete my work and to do well at it. If my house is messy, it's ok - I know it will be clean again when I am rested and feel better.

If I had to find a silver lining in all this storm-cloud mess, it would be the self-acceptance and appreciation I've developed. I am strong. I may feel weak, but I don't give up - I know how to hold on and keep going through the hard times. Now I'm learning how to rest and take care of myself. It is a lesson that is long overdue.


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