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photo-22Illness can be uncomfortable and messy.

Rest can seem boring. Before I reframed my thinking, when I was resting I felt sick. I had to rest, I could not carry on with whatever activity I was doing. I came face to face with the reality of the sickness.

We get scared, and we are scared of losing dignity, life, hope, purpose, independence, and respect.

And yet we are overcoming that fear every day we live with illness, or that we live as a survivor of illness.

We are so much more, because of overcoming all this; not less. The fact that we are still managing to keep on even with the struggles, the pain, the unwashed hair, the need for naps, the life that looks nothing like a glossy magazine – all that is something to celebrate not to hide.

Maybe our lives are uncomfortable, raw, real, messy and true. (Click to Tweet!)

We need to really slow down and let the reality of our lives in.

Living vs. Doing

I used to get frustrated as I spent so many years not being able to do things at all and I felt trapped in my body. Now I can do some things. I want to do them, all of them, right now preferably.

But life is about living and living is not synonymous with doing.

I had confused the two.

I want to enjoy my life, and to do good work in the world; to be able to do both of these things I need to rest. Don’t get confused, living is not working.

No matter what this government says, needing time to rest is not a sin. Needing to prioritise your survival over your ability to pay taxes does not make you a bad person and there are many more ways in which you contribute to our world than just by showing up at the office at 8:30 am.

Acting to Keep Out the Fear

We rarely talk about rest in health.

We talk about meditation, exercise, nutrition and all those are wonderful, but rest is often neglected in our empowering wellness journeys.

You know what? When I am drinking green juice, exercising and so forth, I am active and empowered and I feel like I am actively working towards my healing. I am doing and that feels good.

When I was resting I felt dis-empowered. I am just lying there, doing nothing.

I had 100 things to do. I needed to heal, to do my stretches, to wear the leg splints, and the new ankle splints, to do the osteopath exercises, to see the counsellor, the O.T, the doctor, the hospital. I needed to meditate, to manifest, to learn and research. I was scared and sick, I wanted to be well. It all floods in.

I know and need to feel and follow through on the fact that rest gives my body energy and space to repair, cleanse and heal.

What Are You Doing, Lying There?

We are all moving and working towards healing but at the same time there is no shame or weakness in illness.

We need rest, and acknowledging and claiming that is a step towards shedding any stigma and nourishing our bodies with peace.

Rest allows all the other things we do to work.

When we rest, our bodies digest the healing foods we eat – digestion takes energy.

When we rest after exercise our bodies and brains take that time to learn and remember the new healing ways of moving and re-write patterns.

Our bodies repair as we rest.

We all want repair, regeneration and wellness so let’s give our bodies one of the most important tools we can, and rest.

This post was originally published on bahtocancer.com. You can read Part 1 in this series here.

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Grace sitting outside with a cup of teaI don’t know about you but I need more rest. I’d write that I lack rest but really the problem is the over-fullness. What I am lacking is nothingness, space, peace.

I have been holding resentment around rest, and that makes it ineffective as well as unenjoyable.

Rest is not something which is spoken about much in our societies. Maybe resting isn’t as glamourous as planning out your dream life, striving towards it, overcoming odds or fighting for your goals.

But rest is essential, and it is in that space that the flowers and fruits of our labours blossom. (Click to Tweet!)

Attitudes to In-Action

Sometimes it can feel like the whole world is flowing on with their lives while we are stuck in sick-land. And how many people post on Facebook about their afternoon naps, after all? If we rest, if the biggest thing we can do today is change out of our pyjamas then how does our society, our friends or family see us?

How can we be wonderful empowered wellness warriors, living and thriving, when we are in bed all day?

People can understand why you are so sick and tired when you are going through chemo, for example, but what about after that?

I admit, when we took photographs of me, I used to edit out all the ones in which I looked sick. This is silly in many ways, although through vanity I would not want to post unattractive pictures of myself, was I denying the illnesses I live with?

What am I doing? Am I accepting society’s negative image of illness? Am I agreeing that to be sick means to be invalid (in -valid and in- capable?)

Breaking Their Boxes

Surely it would be more truthful to acknowledge that right now, I am sick. It may continue, it may not, but today I hurt, I am tired and yet with all that, I still do not allow it to define me.

I am still so much more than all of my challenges.

In trying to minimise the perceptions of my illness, to maximise my living, am I denying the strength and courage I use everyday to live my life?

Resting is actively improving my health and healing my body, so why is it so hard? All you have to do is lie there.

Perhaps it is because we associate it with bad behaviour, with laziness, with uselessness.

We link doing to being needed, important and meaningful.

Let’s recognise that being validated by society, being seen doing what others consider to be valid and fun, is not necessarily our reality or something that matters to us. I know that my job is healing and what’s more important than that?

Originally Published on Bah to Cancer.

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close up of large open book laid flatWhat do you do when you are sad or struggling? I read poetry. In fact I can’t understand why one wouldn’t read poems then. People tell me, ‘oh I don’t really get poetry.’ It baffles me. If you don’t have poems or prayers ,what do you hold onto when the pain gets to be too much? When you aren’t strong enough to hold on any more.

Poetry as therapy exists, and Bibliotherapy is even being piloted on the National Health Service

“The use of books as therapy in the treatment of mental or psychological disorders.” - Oxford English Dictionary

I’ve compiled my own bibliotherapy shortlist for you. Scroll down and find a poetic or literary ‘prescription’ for your emotional state.

Angry

Peaceful Heart – Haven Trevino

Annoyed

Twelve Things I Don’t Want to Hear - Connie Bensley

Anxious

All will be well - St Julian of Norwich

The Way We Live – Kathleen Jamie 

Bored

The Camel’s Hump – Kipling

Broken

Clearing - Martha Postlewaite

Confused

The Peninsula - Seamus Heaney

The Road Not Taken – Robert Frost

Critical

Wild Geese - Mary Oliver

Love - George Herbert

Depressed

The Lake Isle of Innisfree - W. B. Yeats

A Thing of Beauty – Keats

The Bright Field – R.S Thomas

Disconnected

My help is in the mountain – Nancy Wood

The Darkling Thrush – Thomas Hardy

Discouraged

Say Not the Struggle Naught Availith - Arthur Hugh Clough 

Sometimes – Sheenagh Pugh

Frustrated

Every New Morning - Susan Coolidge 

Grief

Postscript: For Gweno - Alun Lewis

Musee des Beaux Arts - W. H. Auden

Remember – Christina Rossetti  

Hatred

A Poison Tree – Blake 

Hopeless

Everyone Sang – Siegfried Sassoon

Hope Things with Feathers – Emily Dickinson

Insecure

Still I Rise - Maya Angelou

Lonely

One Art – Elizabeth Bishop

Misery

The End of Love – Sophie Hannah 

I pray to the ray from the window pain – Anna Akhmatova

Moody

The Guest House – Rumi

Leisure – William Henry Davies

Panic

Do You Imagine the Universe is Agitated? – Lao Tzu 

Rejection

Sweet Darkness – David Whyte 

Sad

i thank you god for this amazing day - e.e.cummings

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What are your favourite poems and books? Please share in the comments…..

Image courtesy of Bob AuBuchon.

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