The universe will present opportunities for you to pause and take stock and care of your needs, and if necessary, do so in a very dramatic way.
I haven’t always been so mindful of my own needs. I was bogged down by a lot of external factors. I often felt cranky, defensive, exhausted, angry, and irritable. Then I found myself in active treatment for breast cancer, and suddenly granted this grand permission from the Universe to slow the fuck down, to get real with myself, and get completely immersed in self-care. Healing myself suddenly became my day job, and all else was secondary. My long term goals became about ways that I wanted to feel in my body, about specific experiences and sensations I would like to experience. My immediate needs were only about feeling as comfortable as I could within extreme physical and psychological discomfort. I quickly adapted to the rhythm of getting sick, chemo was like clockwork, the rhythm of the medicine working its way through my system on its 3 week cycle. I had the bad days and the good days and I could plan my calendar around them. Even if it was only in the ritual of picking up an ice cream sundae on my way home from my blood work appointments, there was comfort in the rhythm. There was comfort in the constellation of being sick, even in the bad days, when I would get really medicated and watch Project Runway. And even in the worse than bad days when I would announce that I couldn’t do it anymore, that I wanted to quit, I was promptly reminded by my wife why I should stay the course, and that was comfortable in its predictability. I went back in for each infusion feeling a renewed sense of resolution toward what was being put into my body, a mental preparedness for it to do its job and a willingness to cooperate, tune in deeply so that I could have my needs met. I learned how to observe my thoughts. I learned how to sit with my memories. I learned how to find peace and comfort in the midst of pain and uncertainty. I learned how to get really comfortable being really uncomfortable.
- A gradual healing after illness or injury.
- The period of time spent healing
Several months after treatment had ended, I was still going to a lot of medical appointments but I was more or less on my way to “life after cancer,”awkwardly ping- ponging around in my life, looking to find the elusive “new normal” that is often spoken about. Everything was different, and there was a sense of some expectation to bounce back from it, same as I ever was. My experience not quite integrated, I did my best to figure it out,utilizing the tools and medicines around hard core self-compassion. I often felt whiplashed from the changes that were happening and deep grief for the old self that was rapidly dying away. I had learned to set boundaries. I had learned to cut the fat very quickly. I had learned how to be a master of my own self-care, but it took time and diligence and patience and self-forgiveness for me to be able to integrate those lessons into my life post treatment. One day I ran into my next door neighbor outside in the driveway. She asked me how I was doing, if I was still “convalescing?” The word rolled around in my mind like a marble in a bowl. I had never given much thought to the word or even to the act of convalescence. That question stuck with me because she was specifically relating it to my recovery from recent chemotherapy and surgery. But there was something about the privilege of my convalescense that I was missing, that I was craving, as I tried traversing the old habits that were dying hard around the hustle of trying to return to a lifestyle that I knew before. I had made the incorrect assumption that once treatment was finished, I would just not need to get deep, soulful, intentional rest anymore.
Now that I have more control over what I put into, and how I utilize my physical body, I notice that I have a more mindful awareness of what my body needs. The upside to the “new normal” is realizing the necessity of convalescence on microcosmic levels. I have spent time studying my body’s rhythms in relation to the moon cycles, my sleep habits, my work habits, my desires. This has not come without repetitive illnesses and injuries showing up to remind me how to do it. I am five years out from my treatments and I am only just now integrating the boundaries and lessons around this. My body still taps out on me occasionally, giving me permission to put my needs at the forefront. The work that I have done around convalescence provides a framework to shift things around, omit and add things, behaviors and medicine to my life as needed. Checking in regularly provides the balance that I need to accept my body as it is in any moment. It provides the benefit of allowing my body and mind to rest long enough to take regular stock of my needs and goals. This should be an ongoing process,not just one that we do when shit hits the fan and we are knocked down in a dramatic way.
Next time you find yourself ill, injured, taken out of the game by some unforeseen or external circumstance, consider a bigger picture. Consider your situation a force of nature, asking you to heal something. Consider it an opportunity to take stock and rebalance. Why not use this opportunity to not only get the rest that your body requires, but to take a deeper look at what might need to be adjusted? Don’t beat yourself up about your habits or behaviors. This is not the time to scold yourself. This time calls for gentle assessment, compassion and self-love and a deep nurturing of the soul. Thank your body for demanding the rest that it needs.