Anyone who knows me knows that I am always moving, making, creating, fixing, learning, caring for, singing, dancing, doing yoga, working.... People see me as a strong woman who can do whatever she sets her mind to. And I am. Except for when I'm not.
It has been extremely humbling to come face to face with my limitations this past year. My health kept declining, but I kept pushing on until my mind-body said NO MORE! Reluctantly I stopped working, cut out most of my yoga classes and sat myself down. And laid down. I started taking naps, when I could get over my need to be productive (still working on that one). I'd binge-watched a show or three on Netflix. I started actually going for a walk once in a while instead of wishing I could as I raced to work, kid pick ups, cooking meals and teaching yoga. I started meeting friends for a coffee or a meal once in a while. I started noticing how out of practice I had become in small talk. I started noticing what is going on inside of me. I started looking at what I would do if I could do anything I wanted to, rather than just hustling for the next buck.
Covid played a big role in my slow removal from social life, as it did for many. Each of us has our scars from this pandemic. After becoming suddenly jobless and plagued with fears of not being able to provide for my kids, I got on financial aid and then eventually was able to return to work as a nurse, something I was never going to do again. Never say never.
I started taking whatever work I could get, and before I knew it I was working 7 days a week. I was starting to pay off the debts I had accumulated during the first months of the pandemic. I was able to switch from the food bank back to normal grocery stores. I could even afford to buy clothes again for my kids. It felt so great. I was falling asleep at the dinner table and whilst driving, I was forgetting things at an increasing rate, but I was hustling and felt good to be back in control.
Then came the diagnosis of emphysema in 2021. I had to make some lifestyle changes, which I did. My lack of meaningful human connections, other than caring for my kids, suddenly came into sharp focus. I realised that I had worked myself into a very lonely corner, and I had no idea how to find balance. I realised that smoking and drinking had become my friend substitutes, and the people who I had surrounded myself with suddenly disappeared as soon as I stopped partying. It was a profoundly lonely time. I set about overcoming my addictions on my own. I knew that the ongoing stress of unresolved issues in our divorce as well as the slowly increasing signs of PTSD, my kid's and my health issues, guilt over having almost no time to spend my kids and juggling three jobs were a recipe for disaster, but like my fellow optimists out there, I figured that if I just ignored the little warning signs, everything would just tick on as it had.
It didn't. I fell apart, and spectacularly. I wish I could say that I was savvy enough to have had a burnout the correct way, the way that allows you to keep your job and then get reclassified. My boss even tried at one point to explain it to me. But I couldn't get into my head that it could be okay to just be sick, to stay home on sick leave. I felt such guilt over not being there for the refugee women and babies I was serving that I decided to just quit my job. I figured I would just increase my hours at my other, less stable job. A week after giving notice at the first job, the second job announced that they no longer needed any of us after 2022, and in the same week I was let go from teaching yoga. Everything came crashing down all at once.
I realised that it was time to let go of it all, all of the ideas and thoughts about what my life should be, how it should look. It was time for surrender.
That is where I am now. I don't have a clue what the future holds. But the fear that I was gripping onto, white-knuckled, as I raced through life barely able to see what was going on right in front of me had to go. Every day now I wake up and let it go. I let go of expectations, fear, guilt, shame, whatever it is that I recognise in that moment. I make myself go to bed now when I am tired, instead of forcing more productivity out of myself. When I need a break, when life gets too much, I let myself watch a show, listen to music, play a game with my kids, whatever - and leave the worries outside. When I realise that I have picked up some fear, anxiety or negative thoughts again, I let it go. And I let it go again, and again. And so goes my day. I stop and look at my kids. I marvel at their intelligence, their kindness, their strength, their resilience. I count my blessings. What I am most grateful for is my new-found ability to take care of myself. That was hard one to locate and put into practice. It keeps trying to slink away, or it gets dragged away by guilt or shame, but I am learning to lean into self love, and when I notice that I am no longer doing so, I lean back in again.
My full time job, until I find work to pay the bills, is to love and care for myself, to daily give myself permission to heal, to rest, to do what I need to come back to a state of health. My joy lies in getting to be there for my kids, cooking them food they love, having time with them, simply being the mother I want to be - present, loving and being a living example of self love in action 🦋
how are you loving yourself today?