I feel it too, the passing of time. The frustration of physical limits. Mounting achievements by your friends and loved ones, when simply getting out of bed feels like climbing a mountain to you.
I know you want all those good things – love, joy, fulfilment, achievement and that’s why on any good day, in any space, reprieve or opportunity you get, you launch. It feels like you haven’t got the luxury of slow-and-steady so you run at life in any moment you can, pushing, pushing, pushing to achieve those long held goals.
When we are doing we feel momentum, we feel like we are making change, we don’t have to love (or even accept) where we are now, because it doesn’t matter really, does it? As we are changing it right now and it will change, it will, I know it. Ah, I know it too. And I also know from experience that pushing doesn’t always bring us to what we seek.
We may have worked ourselves ill, but we can’t always work ourselves well.*
And many of us don’t know anything else to try, as trying hard is not just what we do but who we are now, after all this time.
We all need time to rest. In this busy world we are said to be human doings more than beings.
But I need to be.
To be with the sunshine, the morning dew, catches with the dog and a strong heart.
I reject the hungry ghost, always consuming, but never full. We don’t need things as much as we need to use what we have.
To enjoy what is here now and to love.
Rest is essential. But when things get hard and rushed it is the first thing that we give up, that we relinquish – sleep, time off, time together. We give up these necessities all to get work done, to strive towards the joy, the peace the fulfilment we crave.
The secret is: it is ours for the asking the moment we ignore the clamouring voices, turn away from the hustle and bustle and stop.
Joy comes in rest, the things we crave, we need, we hope and pray for can only blossom when we stop pushing for them.
Rest is enoughness, radical trust that things will be ok, if you let the world take care of itself for a time.
Let go. It existed before you and will after you.
We are waiting for you on the other side where it is peaceful. Ease your responsibilities down, circle those tense shoulders. Let your breathing deepen. It is time.
Rest is celebration, we don’t notice joy, magic, the tiny gorgeous moments of new bird song, crazy kitty or dog or child antics, funny smiles and sunrises if we are looking forward all the time.
Rest is that second when your heart lifts in sheer joy at the glory of our world and your own humanity.
Rest is mindfulness, it is being fully alive, fully present. Not on your iPhone or thinking about making the dinner next week. Here and now and the peace within this moment.
Rest can be a cup of tea and a moment of release after a long day. A deep breath before a difficult journey. A phone call with a loved one. An extra half an hour in bed, warm soft and sleepy.
Rest can be half an hour with your journal, an afternoon on your project, on painting your toe nails, time spent on something, which will not earn you income, actively heal your body, tone your thighs or gain you another qualification, but will bring you peace.
Rest is not a time in which we are prohibited, it is a retreat, an oasis, a guarded time of solace, to be.
Your creative spirit cannot be fuelled unless you feed it. Nourish your soul with space, gift yourself rest.
What are your favourite ways to rest? Let me know in the comments below.
* This is not meant as a judgement on me or anyone else. Simply a comment on how my own type-A tendencies were not helpful or healing during the onset of a fatigue illness.
Disability and fun can seem incompatible. How can you have fun when you are stuck in bed all day (and not in a good way)? What ways are there to laugh and smile when you are preoccupied with pacing, worrying about benefits, dealing with all the well-intended recommendations to drink more water/eat healthily/try chia seeds and oh yes, the actual chronic illness you are living with every single day? It’s hard, I know.
I really do know as I’ve lived with chronic illness for the last thirteen years. But I’ve also danced in firelight on the beach at sunset, shared my heart on stage with hundreds of people, groomed the horses in milky December light, celebrated my 21st birthday with a long-distance princess party (tiaras and glitter included). I’ve sent lemon cake to my literary agent, had breakfast with San Francisco, road tripped across the country shooting black and white film, held a party in the woods with champagne flutes and silver, starred in a fashion photo-shoot, fallen in love and written endless letters with scrawled handwriting and Rose Maroc scent.
It can feel like life is an endless round of pills, doctor’s visits, resting, struggling, symptom management and oh my goodness it’s time to wash my hair again.
I know there’s an idea that if we try/manifest/push hard enough we can be happy all the time. And if we haven’t reached that yet it’s only because we aren’t evolved enough and are still hanging onto ‘judgments’ or ‘limiting beliefs.’ To me, that sounds like perfectionism. I think life includes joy and sorrow and I don’t believe that illness or suffering is in any way a punishment. Instead, I think of the delightful times of life, like moments of light. They shine through, and even when they are past, their glow still suffuses me with joy and peace.
Joyful moments can contain fun and ordinary moments can be made fun. For example, I don’t like taking some of my medicines, and I agreed to take it only if I could have a shot glass to slam after swallowing the disgusting stuff. So now I have a set of pink shot glasses and morning medicine becomes an opportunity for smiles. The medicine doesn’t work well for body shots though, just a warning.
It’s tempting when you have a good day to want to do all the things. I mean all of them, now. It’s like being kept under house arrest and suddenly and unexpectedly allowed out. You don’t know where to go, what to do, how long your freedom will last and quite frankly the pressure of it all is making you close to passing out. I believe that if we can create joy every day then there is not much pressure on wanting to do all the things on our good days.
I’ve made a list of suggestions of ways to create joy in the everyday:
You don’t have to eat at the table (or in bed). Why not try…
Drawing room picnic – Pack a picnic basket and head out into the wilds – or the next room – of your home. We use a special, green blanket for our picnics. It’s perfect to lie out anywhere. Have a seat, look at nature books, imagine an exotic place or enjoy your favourite picnic foods from your childhood. Crust-free, triangular sandwiches and pink lemonade, anyone?
Midnight feast or 7:00 pm brunch – Change things up! Topsy-turvieness every so often can be a great way to add some spice. Have a feast at midnight (think raiding the tuck box). If a midnight feast isn’t feasible, do brunch for dinner; a long, leisurely meal in your pajamas? Talk about energy conservation and luxury!
Book a virtual breakfast date. Nothing starts a day right like a friendly face on Skype or Facetime.
Pick really cool sandwich fillings or salad dressings for the next week.
Have tea from a proper teacup.
Bathing and Beauty Rituals
When you have pain or chronic fatigue bathing and dressing can be such a bore. Let’s make it into an opportunity for self-care instead!
Spa day – If showering/washing is an effort, transform the task into a spa day. Have your beloved wash your hair, and imagine yourself under a waterfall. For years, we have lived in a house with no shower. The only way to wash my waist length hair is for Linus to pour jugs of water over it for me. We’ve made it a romantic ritual, one that is pleasing for us both. Mani/pedi, massages, and homemade lotions and potions all add to the ambiance.
Wear a tiara. In bed. Just because.
Put on a nice dress, or a bright t-shirt.
Put in earrings.
Wear mascara so you are less likely to cry. Cry first.
Cut up magazines to pick a style that works for you.
Paint your nails turquoise, or teal, or copper.
Use lovely hand cream.
Magic up a face scrub from oats and almonds and vanilla. Put it in a glass jar with a lovely label.
Add ginger and fennel to sugar in a huge jar for a super scrub for toning legs.
Wear a fluffy jumper.
Wear something on your head; a hat, a tiara, flowers, it changes the mood.
Resting and Pacing
It’s essential, and it only counts if you are lying still, so I’m told. But here’s the secret – if you are lying still in a darkened room but your mind is roiling with frustration and anxiety, then I’m not sure how much that counts as rest and how much good it’s doing you. Why not try these gentle activities for a period instead?
Paint to music – Get out the paints, put on some music, and paint whatever’s incited by the sounds. Or close your eyes and paint in your mind….
Try a school or method of exercise made to work with your body, like Feldenkrais or yoga.
If you are up to going out but worry you’ll pay for it later, try these alternative modes of travel.
Explore your neighbourhood in the dark – When I was very ill, going out during the day was just too much for me. People? Ack! Sunlight? Gah! But the fresh air was still a wonder drug. So we’d go out at 4 am. Take it from me, the very early morning hours are a marvelous time to explore a city (too late for drunk people, and too early for workers. Good and quiet!) Bear in mind, of course, that if you’re in the country, where there are few streetlights, this game should be adjusted – dusk or dawn is better.
Visit museums (in person or online) – Many museums are free and accessible, and when they aren’t, online tours often are. Get Googling!
Get out of the house, in your mind or physically. Go for a trip, on your feet, in your wheelchair, or through photographs online.
Get in the garden, or grow one with a seed packet and a windowsill tray.
Connect: Ring a friend, actually call them on the phone in person. If you haven’t got a friend to call email someone you admire and set up a Skype date. Try to find someone who makes you feel positive rather than someone who can drain your energy. If no one’s available, try Samaritans or a similar group.
Read something completely different – ask the librarian for a recommendation. If you’re housebound, try giving your local library a call or an email.
Make a playlist of your favourite happy tunes.
Photograph every third thing you see.
Write the introduction to your memoir, why not?
Buy some rainbow sharpie pens, play with them.
Find a new radio station, go pink, or classical, or rave.
Have a go at a huge canvas, or a tiny one.
Vintage TV shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer anyone?
Favourite children’s books, reread them.
Read through the archives of your favourite blog.
Turn off Facebook.
A single delicious indulgence – a magazine, something from your wish list, a massage.
Paint it out, embroider and turn your down day into art.
Micro-volunteer and turn your struggles into hope for someone else.
Make a list of things you’re grateful for / happy for.
Get your favourite things together and just ‘play’ with them. Favourite music, books, clothes, letters from loved ones etc.
Compile a ‘Happy Box’. Maybe treat yourself with something from the shops, a collection of items and put them all in a box. When you need it, open it up and take something / everything out. Or let us make one for you at Happy Healing Boxes.
Be aware of the engrossing effects of things like television, computer procrastination etc. and try to avoid prolonged, unstructured sessions.
Choose a new scarf.
Write, just keep moving your fingers, see what appears.
Re-read all your favourite authors’ books back to back.
Look at a map and learn about new countries, capitals and the world.
Learn to say hello in another language.
Write a poem.
Make a ‘zine.
Sweeten Your Space
Make Change – Some say a change is as good as a break. Trying out an often unused furniture throw, bringing in some plants from outside, maybe even wearing a nice coat or shoes around the house can put us in a different mindset. My vote is for the glitter gold stilettos or the vintage 30s sequin pumps my friend in Alabama sent me.
Put the lamps on to brighten the room.
Pick fresh flowers from the garden.
Burn geranium or rose oil to lift your spirits.
Put a posy of sweet peas on your bedside table. If you can’t get flowers, get bare branches or evergreens from the garden. No garden? No problem – make your own blooms.
Pin up glow in the dark stars on your ceiling, you can even get pink ones you know.
Make a new cushion cover and embroider with radical feminist embroidery.
If you’d like further support, ideas and inspiration check out my lists:
This is a love letter from my healing heart to yours.
Paper hearts and rose maroc, old stories and tears, shared along with heart-scars over cups of tea, it’s all here.
We are, facing each other across the internet, from my screen to yours, be my virtual valentine?
I have something very special to share with you…
A Love Letter to Your Healing Self.
You are brilliant.
You don’t have to look the part, or feel it. You won’t reach a time in your life when your day to day reflects what you read online or what you imagine your idols’ lives look like. The beauty you see is created and in that realisation know that you have the power to create that beauty every day. In fact, every day means today, now, as you read this.
I am so very tired. I don’t want to wait any longer.
We need your superpowers activated, and I’m getting impatient because I love you, and what you have to offer so very much.
We have a beautiful world in front of us and one hundred thousand opportunities. Yes, we do. You don’t really think that the people you see being successful don’t have struggles too? There may be emotional pain, business fears, money struggles or out of control plumbing issues happening behind the scenes. Just because no one shares those in their instagram photos doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
We have choices every single moment, and I trust you to make those that work for you.
Accepting yourself is starting where you are now, not when the debt is paid off, or when you’ve lost 10 lbs. Not when the business is launched, the children are grown up, or you have finally mastered ballroom dancing and bought a juicer. Now.
In all the piles of washing, work deadlines and aching joints is the glory of this moment.
How do you do this? Darling, I am here and we can do this together.
I want you to hold an Appreciation Celebration.
Sometimes healing and changing our lives can feel so overwhelming. We read or see all the things we need to do. Sometimes I have felt like I could drown under a big sea of healing things, or get crushed by a book avalanche of as-yet-unread healing books!
We need to acknowledge and celebrate all the healing things we are doing right now.
It sounds simple but it is so easy for amazing, powerful, healing acts to become routine, and background and cease to be acknowledged as the brilliant life changing superb wellness affirming miracles they are.
Do you have a gratitude journal? I have one and I love it and write down all the things I am grateful for. I start small: I am grateful to have nice socks on, I am grateful that we have lovely food for dinner, I am grateful my sister is calling later.
But you know in all that I wrote, I do not think I once wrote how grateful I am for all that I am doing for myself.
Thankful for Linus? Yes, my journal has pages and pages devoted to him, but I had not written about how grateful I am for the choices I am bravely making for my body and my healing everyday.
Well, no more. Now I am recognising all I am doing for my wonderful healing process of a body.
This is recognising the good we all do for ourselves every day.
So each time we get up, that is a good choice, and I know we have to, but sometimes the pain and getting dressed are seemingly insurmountable challenges, and getting out of bed is a huge thing to manage.
So every day that you get out of bed it’s a choice you are making, and it is healing and it is a victory.
There are healing actions I haven’t taken yet, there always will be. There are not enough hours in the day to do everything, and I have a life to live.
What I am doing is fabulous; I drink my green juice every morning, I meditate and do adapted yoga, I am vegan, we have a chemical free home, I eat organic, I can sit up and write this, I am happy, and I can take most of my pills without throwing them up again.
Each time I manage any one of these wonderful healing actions I am doing good for my body. I am actively healing.
We are acknowledging and celebrating all we do, rather than worrying about all the things we could do, or all the things we are not doing yet. So now each time I drink my green juice or choose salad over toast Linus tells me how much good I am doing for my body and reminds me to celebrate and to visualise how much of what I am doing is helping.
If you are reading this site and want kick-start your healing, that’s brilliant for you, but please take a moment to notice all the good you are already doing in your life. For a start, reading this site and turning Trail Blazer! How amazing is that? Gold stars to you!
Today is a celebration day rather than guilt-I-haven’t-done-it-yet-day. I expect you do lots of things, but you are so used to them they have become part of your life and habit. We forget but today re-focus on the benefits of all we do and be kind to yourself.
Share your Appreciation Celebration with me in the comments below.