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This past Wednesday night, as I arrived at my rehearsal for the musical I’m in, I was struck with a headache bad enough to make me also feel nauseous.  Accompanying this delightful development were some hot flashes, dizziness, and weakness.  I struggled through the rehearsal, then went home and collapsed.  I slept through most of the next day, and have been resting most of today as well.

Being sick sucks, of course, but as I’m getting better I’m getting some insights from it.  In particular, I’m noticing, not for the first time, how much better I am at listening to my body when I’m sick.  Sickness brings us down to essentials, to where not heeding the body’s messages results in dire unpleasantness, or is simply impossible.  Yesterday morning, my stomach told me not to eat.  My aching head bade me lay down and sleep, as no other position was comfortable.  When I woke in the late afternoon, I was more coherent, but only able to do certain things.  I didn’t ask too much of myself, and I didn’t feel guilty.

It occurs to me that most of the time, most of us don’t have this kind of simple symbiosis with our own bodies.  We don’t heed the messages they give us; we push ourselves harder than we should; we drive ourselves to exhaustion; we spend huge amounts of time doing things we don’t actually want to be doing.  Most of us sleep less than we should, eat more than we have to, exercise less than our bodies would like, and subject ourselves to constant stress.  Sickness is sometimes like a wake-up call: when we’ve worn ourselves down enough, an opportunistic germ steps in and takes hold.  Under its influence, we’re finally forced to listen to what our bodies have been trying to tell us: slow down.  Stop working so hard.  Get some rest.  Breathe.

It’s a hard lesson, and one I prefer not to learn by getting sick.  It’s a much nicer world when I’m taking good care of myself, getting enough rest, eating well, moving around a lot, and dealing with my emotions as they come up rather than letting them fester.  But as it is, I’m still here on the couch, just coherent enough to get these thoughts down.

Be well, everyone, and see you Monday.

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