One of the hardest things I’ve had to come to grips with since becoming chronically ill is that I need to rest more. Growing up, this was never a problem. My mother, being a writer, understood the value of sitting down and just staring out the window. Her own mother had been puritanically the opposite, in a ‘devil-makes-work-for-idle-hands’ kind of way. And so, as a child, I got to while away the time, reading books and day dreaming. Except for epic forced marches in the Kerry mountains or on the beach, which for some reason were thought by mom to be ‘constitutional’. But, other than that, I perfected the art of doing nothing. My motto was “why stand when you can sit, why sit when you can lie down.” Wise words for a weak, sickly child.
I don’t know what happened. I suppose I ‘grew up’ and thought I had to act in a more adult way. Maybe it was the guilt of watching my parents work so hard to make do. I didn’t want to feel like a burden. And so I worked hard at the few jobs I could get. I did not want to appear to be a scrounger, a free-loader. I pushed myself until I broke.
So now, I get to stay at home while my husband works. I cook and I clean and I mind the kids. And I rest. Not as much as I should, but I try. And yet. And yet… When I hear my husband walking in, I jump up and start tidying. I must appear to be trying, to be in constant motion. I must try to justify an answer to ‘what do you do all day?’. I must not appear lazy.
To have value in society, we are taught not to be lazy. We are taught we must contribute. Otherwise, we are nothing.
But when you are chronically ill, there is much to be gained from being chronically lazy. We need to replenish our energy stores just to stay alive. Being lazy but alive is better than the alternative. This is a hard-learnt lesson.
And so, my prescription for health right now is to rest. Doctor’s orders. And it is so so hard. Adding to the guilt is the fact that a starved brain is a hyperactive brain. Sitting still and being sedentary is so hard. And what, exactly, does being sedentary look like anyway?
My good friend Amazonia wrote this:
Ideally, recovery looks like this. Wake up, eat a long leisurely breakfast while reading a book. Have a nap with your feet up. Have a shower, and then a snack or two. Have another nap. Lunch, while watching TV, feet up – then sleep for an hour. Get up to make a snack, and start washing machine. Have snack, and put washing in drier. Nap for an hour or so. Dinner, while watching a movie. Lie down for an hour, then make hot drink and snack – load dishwasher and start it while milk is heating. Have snack in bed, and fall asleep while reading.
She was writing in the context of recovering from an Eating Disorder, but I think it applies for any chronic condition. And so, while going through this particularly painful and tiring flare up, I’m using her words to guide me. I can only do the bare minimum, anything else is unnecessary to my survival, and I refuse to feel guilty any longer.
Because I choose to be lazy, but alive.
[black writing in a yellow background: why stand when you can sit, why sit when you can lie down?]