It’s all good stuff. And because it’s good stuff, I don’t feel like I deserve a break. Why do I need to take care of myself when this is all for me?
This is a story about breakthrough and self care. It’s a little bit of a journey, but I promise, it’s worth it in the end.
Last week, I got sick. A cold for the first time in three years.
Three years is a long time.
Last spring, my husband came down with a nasty virus and I simply chose not to get sick. I felt it coming on and decided that I would not go down that route. Through taking excellent care of myself and meditation, I somehow avoided getting sick.
I was stoked about the power of my own mind.
Throughout these healthy years, I’ve been gleeful, giddy even, with the notion that I had transcended beyond being able to catch the common cold.
And then my luck ran out. It started last Tuesday started with a throat tickle… I felt a little “funny” (which I swear is the medical term).
By Thursday it was a full blown cold. I couldn’t choose out of it. I couldn’t avoid it. I couldn’t push through.
In retrospect, it’s no surprise that I got sick.
The last two months have been jam-packed with a home renovation that has gone way over budget, lots of travel and temporary residences, a friend's wedding, a company summit for We Happy Few Theater Company, and a promotion at my coach training program.
The bottom line is: life has been a lot lately.
But I feel like I’ve got nothing to complain about. It’s all good stuff. And because it’s good stuff, I don’t feel like I deserve a break. Why do I need to take care of myself when this is all for me? When it’s all very exciting in the grand scheme of things? Boo hoo, Raven. There are people with real problems in the world.
With everything going on, I haven’t upped my self-care game. It’s the classic story of “I don’t have time for that!”
On Wednesday, when I was feeling “funny”, I brought all of this up with my coach. He reminded me that when I have a lot going on, even if it’s all great things, my self care has to INCREASE - not go out the window.
He challenged me to actually practice what I talk to my clients about: Sourcing me, getting my needs met, not just pushing harder.
Okay, okay, I get it… On Friday, I took the day off.
I gave myself a little grace to be sick. I gave myself permission to stay in bed, to cancel my clients, to not travel to North Carolina like I had intended, to eat whatever my body said it wanted, to watch a lot of Netflix, and to do it all WITHOUT GUILT.
I rested. I healed. I woke up on Saturday and had renewed energy.
I learned my lesson and was on the upswing! I figured it out - I was getting better. It was all behind me now and I had the breakthrough. I got through the rest of the weekend like a champ.
I got back to DC yesterday afternoon and my husband started coming down with something.
I didn’t even think twice about it. I threw myself into supporting him. We had an easy dinner. I unpacked our bags and straightened up our room. We went to bed early.
This morning, he felt “ok” but I didn’t. I was feeling sick again… It came back!!
I’m exhausted. I’m achy. And overall, I’m a little pissed.
I thought I made the breakthrough! I learned the lesson! I gave myself grace for a whole day!
So what went wrong?
A friend just asked me how I was doing. I was honest and said I wasn’t feeling well and that I was frustrated about it.
“What do you need?” she asked.
I usually blow this question off. I don’t know! I don’t need anything. I need to get my shit together. I need not to be sick. There’s nothing to be done. Instead, I answered her.
“I need to go back to bed. And I feel like that’s definitely not an option.”
“Because I did that on Friday and I’ve been better the last few days. Today I just feel down again and it doesn’t make sense. So I’m relating to myself as a baby and I don’t have time for that shit.”
And then she said something that really cut through to me. “Ahhh, yes,” she said. “ Illness is only allowed to get better consistently and having its ups and downs isn’t a thing.”
There it was. The real breakthrough: I was treating illness and self care as a task. Something to be checked off the list. Something to be solved.
I realized how silly it was to expect that I had solved the human condition. I guess I thought that giving myself grace was a thing that only lasted a day.
The truth is that she’s right and I know it.
I am angry about the fact that I’m still sick. I feel guilty about the day I already took off, the meetings I already rescheduled, the calls I haven’t been present for, and the rehearsal I missed.
And once I miss one day of work, I have an unwritten rule that I can’t miss another. What will people think of me?
But now I’m finally coming around to the reality that I can’t just check this one off the list. Self care means being there for myself, no matter how long it takes. It means being there for myself first, so that I can better be there for others. It means trusting that all of the great things in my life will still exist once I’ve healed. And it means taking care of the person that made all those amazing things happen - me.
I cancelled my morning calls and got back into bed.
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