The other day, I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day (just like Alexander ;)). There are just days like that, for everyone, ill or not, parents or not, in ministry or not. It was a hard day, so hard that even though I was exhausted that night, I didn’t want to go to bed because I was terrified the next day, which was my day off, would be just as horrible.
The next morning, I woke up, and initially had much enthusiasm for the day. I had two important tasks I needed to get done, both of which were decidedly un-fun: finalising my health insurance for the year, and spending a substantial period of time at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to get my Michigan title changed over to an Ohio title and get Ohio plates and tags on my car before the Michigan ones expired. As un-fun as both were, both had looming deadlines and needed to get done, and I was the only one who could do them: it was for my health insurance, and the title was in my name, so they weren’t tasks my husband could do for me.
Unfortunately, that enthusiasm vanished after I dropped my daughter off at preschool and returned home to get ready for the day. The chronic fatigue that accompanies my Ehlers Danlos Syndrome was in full swing. All I wanted to do was rest. I was tired!! Wasn’t my body telling me to rest?
Unfortunately, I am just really bad at listening to my body’s cues: or, more accurately, maybe my body just doesn’t give me good cues. For example, when I was pregnant, I had a very rough journey that was plagued by early labor scares and two and a half weeks of prodromal labor: real, actual, painful contractions, but that don’t send the body into active labor, just progress very, very slowly. Everyone told me once it was “real” labor, I’d know. And guess what! I didn’t! Real labor felt very similar to “not real” labor about until it was time to push. The biggest difference was I got a baby again. So how do you listen to your bodily cues when they’re not very good? (That could be a post on its own: and I think I will, in a couple weeks!).
Much talk goes into how self-care equals rest. And in a lot of ways, self-care does equate to rest. But sometimes, it means pushing through and doing tasks that might be hard, but are ultimately rewarding for our long-term health.
For me, the best self-care plan involves plenty of balance. If I tip the scale too far either way, into too much productivity OR too much resting, it’s easy for me to get stuck that way, and fall into unhealthy patterns. In 2016, I got stuck both ways, within weeks of each other, and since my 2017 goal is wellness, I am determined to have a better balance this year.
Since I couldn’t rely on my bodily cues, I relied on logic. If I would have put off these really important tasks, I would have just been much more stressed later. Any potential positive from the rest would be completely cancelled out later by the stress. So that morning, the best self-care for me was not rest, but pushing through. I put on my favorite outfit, got on my coat, shuffled off to my office to spend way too much time on the phone with insurance and to print out important documents, and, once I finally got all that squared away, went to the BMV.
I was so nervous going to the BMV, as I’m not good with new tasks, and since I had to change over a title, it was a lot more than the routine drivers license renewal I’d done before. But despite my anxiety, it was a smooth, and even enjoyable (…OK, as enjoyable as the BMV can possibly be!) process.
When I got home is when the balancing act came into play. I felt go go go, and wanted to go to the laundromat and do some laundry. But thanks to my husband’s wisdom, I waited to do that task, knowing I’d done a lot that was difficult for me earlier in the day and needed to slow down. And as soon as I sat down to eat some lunch, then the fatigue set back in, and then, having pushed through earlier, I was able to take that nap.
So, yes, absolutely, sometimes self care is a nap. Sometimes it’s slowing down to find out what you prioritise and what’s truly important. But sometimes, self care is pushing through. It’s getting up too early in the morning to go to a job you genuinely love, even though it’s sometimes stressful. It’s applying for that new job because even though the application process might be stressful, because it’s going to be ultimately fulfilling work that will bring you joy despite your pain. And, yes, sometimes it’s long phone calls with insurance and going to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. But for my self-care plan, I’ve got to push through. I can always nap when it’s over.