Friday, December 18, 2009

Self Care

My body is telling me to rest today. It actually started its whispering campaign yesterday morning, slyly tickling my ears as I woke before dawn. It is the voice that warns of forced rest – illness – if not adhered to so I listened, agreed and half-heartedly promised I would rest the rest of the day after, that is, my morning hike. And so today, I wake up and the whispers are louder, irritating my throat with their incessant whines. Rest, they say, rest. I hear them, agree once more but still ponder how much I can do within the confines of “rest”.

I am fortunate in that I work from home. Moreover, I have no clients today so rest could be easy but then again, there is my volunteer job tonight… I really should go. They count on me, don’t they? I am well enough to go, truly, I am only tired, that’s all. But then that voice comes back, gnawing my lower back … shouldn’t you rest? Do you really want to get sick?

Although I am much better than I was a few years back, the temptation to ignore my body and follow the dictates of my mind is ingrained in my persona. The desire to push through, stagger on, blindly go where I will is a default philosophy that has, in fact, served me well. Sort of. I have done miraculous things on nothing but sheer will. A few years ago I was an avid hiker, runner, energy worker and wannabe vegan (you just eat veggies, yes?). I was also on the verge of emotional, physical and spiritual burnout because I wasn’t quite in touch with my body as I professed to be. I was so out of touch or shall I say, my willful parts were so strong that I completed a two-day solo hiking trip on what I later found to be minimal blood levels of B12 and iron. Hmmm… and I just thought it was normal to be so lightheaded and tired.

It is amazing what we do when our body screams no but our mind says yes. We eat food to which we have an intolerance; help friends move house when our back gives us trouble; and stay out all night when we have to work the next day. We are gluttons for punishment, or at least that is how our body must feel at times. Take today, for example. Why would I make myself go to work when my body says no? It is not so much that it is my mind who is taking charge but my codependent parts. And, as a person with a whack of recovering codependent parts, let me count the reasons why I should work today.

They need me
One of my more classic codependent responses: they need me. Uh huh. Need me for what? As soon as I start thinking myself indispensable, I am in trouble. I am feeding into the codependent parts that base my value on the needs of others. The only person that truly needs me in the full sense of the word is myself. I need me to listen to my body’s cry for rest, and to take time and space when I need it. I need me to be there for myself. And the ironic thing is that the better I take care of my needs, the more I can be there for others.

What will the staff think?
Yes, well, important as their opinions are, what others think of me is not always relevant. Once again, if I guide my actions on the basis of another’s beliefs I am falling into codependent territory. If another chooses to believe that I am a slacker for taking care of my health needs, then it is more about them than me – or rather their codependent parts that are unwilling to be self compassionate when they themselves need rest. I would rather have the staff think that I am a person who takes good self care rather than a martyr who comes to work and makes everyone else sick.

Which segues nicely into this one…

If I get sick they will see how dedicated I am
I love this one, the martyr in me sings out in praise at such a statement. I will sacrifice myself for the good of the cause! Jo(Ann) of ARC is my name and I suffer gladly for your sake. You gotta love it (and me). For that is what my codependent parts believe: I will only be loved, accepted, wanted and/or respected if I do for others. The truth, however, is that people generally dislike working alongside martyrs as they tend to promote such feelings as irritation and anger with some, and guilt and shame with others. What my codependent parts do not realize is that the more I take care of, love and accept myself, the more people will be attracted to me out of respect. They will see me as someone who will not drain them of energy but be capable of a healthy and fulfilling relationship. Moreover, in terms of dedication to my career or work, dedication, like love, respect and compassion, always begins with self. If I dedicate myself to a balanced and healthy lifestyle, my path, what ever that may be, will flourish regardless of any sick days I take.

I am such a wimp if I stay home
Being sick, tired and not up to snuff is the antithesis for what I have too long considered the goal of a strong and self sufficient lifestyle. To show my vulnerable side is to show weakness and to be weak is scary for my codependent parts. Growing up in a family that ridiculed signs of vulnerability I hid my vulnerable parts behind a fa├žade of strength. While that protected me to some degree, it also hid my authenticity. My true self is a composite of all my parts: tired, strong, weak, sick, sad, happy, angry and so on. To be truly strong is to embrace the whole kit and caboodle.

And finally, I need the money
While this didn’t apply to me in this situation, it is true that we all need money and missing work can put a dent on finances. But how many times have I gone to work tired and on the verge of being sick only to have to stay home twice as long with a nasty cold or flu because I didn’t take care of myself on that one day? And how many other people have I infected with a virus because I needed the money? And was I really knocking on financial disaster or was there another reason I went to work?

So, instead of going to work tonight I stayed inside, had a hot bath and cup of tea ….and wrote this article. In other words, I gently reeducated my codependent parts that life doesn’t just go on when I practice good self care but travels on in a healthier and happier way for all involved.

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