Learning to Love Yourself–In Sickness and In Health

Relaxing my way to enlightenment
Relaxing my way to enlightenment

Sitting still is uncomfortable for me. I normally do yoga five to seven times a week, run three to four times, and walk one to six miles in a day (mostly because I’m unable to drive, but sometimes I walk instead of taking the bus because I have the time). I sit still when I meditate and when I write. I sit still when I play on the computer. But I recently had to just sit still for almost five weeks. During that time, I did meditate, write, play on my computer, and even watch a little television. But you can only meditate for so long, I can’t write for more than an hour at a time or my brain gets overtaxed. And I don’t really like watching television. So at some point fairly early each day, I would reach a point where I could no longer do these other things, and I had to just sit with me.

I had to sit because first, I partially tore a ligament in my knee, which really just made me slow down and stop going to yoga and running. Then, I got horribly sick with travelers’ tummy, which then turned into a tremendous swelling in my knees. It was not painful most of the time, but I couldn’t bend my knees, and I needed to stay off of my feet until it got better. So there I was, me, myself and my knees—just sitting. And thinking. And learning lessons, as always.

I’ve tired of the saying, “Everything happens for a reason,” as there are some pretty horrible things that happen and I can think of no reason for them. But I’m a huge fan of trying to find the lessons in things that happen to me. So when I got this bizarre knee-swelling sickness, I started trying to figure out what I was supposed to get from this.

Some of the lessons were easily uncovered. Three years ago, when I had a stroke, I committed to myself that I would never compromise on health care again. I had forgotten this promise and made some decisions that were less expensive in the short-run. But wasted trips to doctors who didn’t really listen or treat my issues with urgency led me to realize those decisions were unwise. Three health care crises in four days within two weeks of making this unwise decision sent me running back to my former doctor. I am now on the mend and working toward finding out what the heck is going on with my body.

During this time of sitting, I went on a fabulous women’s retreat. It had so many workshops in two days. I had previously chosen all the active workshops—yoga, Zumba, hiking, dancing workshops. But I was barely able to stand when I got to the retreat, so I had to pick more subdued workshops. I was comforted by the thought that I’d have some profound revelation in an introspective workshop; or maybe I’d make a connection that would be astoundingly meaningful. The workshops were definitely significant and I am still pondering things I learned, and I made some connections with quite amazing women who inspire me in different ways. It remains to be seen if those will be life-altering, but so far they are merely wonderful.

These don’t really seem like the reason The Universe gave me the “gift” of having to be still for such a long, miserable time. Some things did happen that gave me clues as to why I received this experience. I not only had to sit, I had to sit with my legs elevated, so wherever I went, I pulled an extra chair up and put my feet on it. I just knew everyone saw me as a lazy, inconsiderate slob. So I took every opportunity to tell each person about my malady, in order to change what she surely must think of me. I got reactions that ranged from simple acceptance, to a workshop leader who kindly told me I didn’t need to apologize for needing to put my feet up. I also remember how badly I wanted to tell everyone who walked past me when I was shuffling along on my legs that would not bend that I wasn’t really a person who could barely walk twenty feet. I was a very fit person who was just sick right now.

This brings to mind the saying, “What other people think of you is none of your business.” I used to be painfully afraid of what others thought of me, and I’ve made some progress on that, but this experience signaled to me that I have more work to do. Okay, I can do that!

The most meaningful lesson was that I need to watch what I think of myself! Today, I was able to walk “normally” again. I walked a ¼ mile over to the light rail station and caught a train to an appointment, then made the return trip. It felt so good to be outside again, moving around and being slightly active. And I was tempted to go for a run, or hit a yoga class, or do something to put at bay my fears of becoming fat and out of shape. There, I said it. From the moment I started taking care of myself with the torn ligament, to the moment five weeks later when I was able to walk a short distance, I have been more terrified that I would get fat than that I was having a health issue. You see, I was a smart, asthmatic, chubby kid, with all the shaming from others and self-loathing that being a chubby kid carries with it. And I’d be damned if I was going to be that person again!

When there was pain with these issues, I cried not because of the agony, but because I was frightened that I would not be able to do yoga or run again, partially because I actually do love doing yoga and running, but partially because I feared I would get fat. I am very proud to be a yogi and a runner, and a fit person. But the shameful truth is that I became these things because I never wanted to be the chubby kid again. And it’s sad to say that staying fit and active has previously come before taking care of my health.

So the lessons I’m working to incorporate today are that I need to worry less about what others and, even what I, think about me, and learn to value myself enough to take care of my health in all ways—by being active when that is appropriate, but also by being sedentary when my body and soul need that. Only in this way do I truly keep my promise to myself of not compromising on health choices.

Good health—both mental and physical—to you, my friends!

2 thoughts on “Learning to Love Yourself–In Sickness and In Health

  1. What a great post Laurie! It’s a very important message for all of us to remember, and you’re a great writer too!

    1. Thanks, Laura! I always try to find the lesson in the experience, and this was a doozy! So enjoyed getting to know you at the retreat!!!

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