As I type this I have bronchitis. A few weeks ago it was something else, a violent stomach flu. Sickness definitely slows our lives way down and sometimes that’s exactly what’s needed. We refuse to stop, so our bodies stop it for us. Thanks, bronchitis! Thanks, stomach flu! Man, I must be really stubborn to need two back-to-back lessons—especially after the bug. It was like my personal Apocalypse Now. I’m sure you’ve been there. And by the way, why do they call it a “flu”? You know me, I gotta know these things.
After falling down a Google rabbit hole, I determined that I probably ate poop on a salad. That sounds awful, I know, and I really hope you’re not eating a salad when you read this. If you are, I am very sorry. But those horrendous, toss-your-cookies-24/7 episodes often come from poor sanitary conditions at restaurants and well, I have been on a takeout jag. Why? You guessed it. I’ve been too busy to cook. I bet that sounds familiar too!
Anyway, I’ve been relatively healthy this year, so what gives? Well, clearly there are actual medical reasons, but that’s not what I want to explore today. I find it interesting that the two obligations I was dreading were set to take place during the weeks I got sick. Coincidence? Or was it my body saying “no”?
How often do you check in with your body before making a decision?
Can you actually imagine doing that? Checking in with your body (AKA your soul) to see what it needs? It could go something like this: “Darling, how does that feel? Are you up for this? Would saying “yes” light you up or drain your tub?” If I had asked those questions and listened to the answers (fatigue, racing thoughts at bedtime) I would have said NO and I may have sidestepped the snot and gore. But, what fun it is to learn about ourselves. Seriously, I do love these growth opportunities, they just keep coming!
But I have made new progress this year. Because I’ve slowed down to focus on my next book and to care for sweet Buddy, I’ve developed an even greater connection to my body. She no longer wants to move at an accelerated, hyper pace. She doesn’t want to “crush it” or jumbo size her plate so I can add more, more, more to the all-you-can-eat accomplishment buffet.
For an ambitious person like myself, this revelation can be a hard pill to swallow. It’s difficult when your body wants something different from your ego. My body is ferocious (and very sensitive). She will tank quickly if I make decisions that are out of alignment with my soul rhythm, and the older I get the more ornery (and gentle) she gets. I don’t really like speaking about my body as if she’s separate because obviously we are one. However, when my mind is going in one direction, and my body is going in another, it sure feels like we’re different. When that happens, I realize the consequences of behaving as if we’re separate.
Get a No Buddy
I love Skype. Living on a dead-end street in the Catskills, Skype is my favorite way to stay in touch with my friends—most of whom live in NYC or CT. So the other day, I was Skyping with one of my besties and I told him I got sick, yet again. Well, I love this friend because he has chronic medical issues too and he’s great at standing up for my body when I don’t.
Needless to say he gave me a spiritual tune-up and at the end of it we decided to become No Buddies. When invites and opportunities come our way, we run them by each other. If it’s a clear “yes” it’s obvious to both of us. If it’s a “no” but we’re on the fence due to scarcity mentality, guilt, or feeling left out, it becomes pretty apparent. At that point, we coach each other on the underlying emotions and it usually ends with a big ole “no”.
My body is very happy about my No Buddy.
Can we really be in optimal condition all the time?
Before I end this blog post I want to touch on another point. It’s OK to get sick. It isn’t always punishment or proof that we did something wrong. This is very important to understand. I’ve turned a corner when it comes to expecting peak health 24/7. Living with cancer has certainly helped me do that, and yet I’ve noticed that I have little tolerance for the smaller stuff (colds, aches, pains—the normal ebbs and flows of life).
Some seasons are strong, others are weak. Some days I’m creative, other days I’m stuck. Sometimes my marriage is solid, sometimes I want to live alone in an Airstream. That’s life. And maybe what life is continuing to tell us is that it’s all OK. The sunshine and the rain. The big bright breakthroughs and the dark nights of the soul. We can’t amputate our emotions and we can’t control our ups and downs. Fully accepting my complicated, miraculous instrument (AKA body) means leaving space for all of it. The highs, the lows, the wellness and the sickness, the stuckness, the flow. All of it.