Yesterday I had a little victory.
It was one of those days when all you want to do is crawl into bed, dive into work, take that pill, watch a movie, anything to distract you from the pain of your own thoughts. Anything to escape from your miserable self. When the sitter arrived and I knew I had three precious hours, I thought about what I wanted to do with it. Go shopping? Take a bath? Get back to work? Crawl into bed? Gravity was pulling me toward bed… the creamy pasta was kicking in, it was cold outside, a hot bath would be nice… But the wisest part of me was whispering even more loudly, You need to move your body. You need to walk. This is the only thing that will offer real healing.
The victory was that I listened.
I took myself to a pretty trail I had never hiked, made sure there were other cars in the parking lot (so as to avoid a stressful, creepy walk) and I promised myself one thing: that I would walk until something shifted in me. And then, when it shiifted, I would keep walking even further until I was dog tired and red cheeked and I knew for sure that my cells had been rearranged.
As I walked I remembered how natural it is for me to do this kind of thing, how much my spirit needs this to stay balanced and happy, and how I had somehow forgotten this fact in recent years. When I was kid and lived near the ocean, I would walk every night by myself to the beach for sunset. When I was a bit older and got my first mountain bike, I discovered that you could bicycle along the hard sand at low tide and get to the next town. I would ride and get hot chocolate at the cafe, my secret alone adventure. In college, crushed out on a boy who was an avid mountain biker, I cycled several hours every day in the hills in Santa Barbara trying to keep up with him. I would return scraped up and bruised, sweaty and very happy. (I never ended up getting the guy, he was gay it turns out! but we had great times together)
In coaching training, new coaches would often say to their clients, get out of your head and into your body! I loved it when one of my teachers remarked that your head is actually attached to your body, and being in your head is being in your body. As I walked I could see the inevitability of this, how moving my body so rhythmically and deliberately was literally moving around the stuck places in my brain. It took only 20 minutes before I felt better, but I happily walked for two more hours.
What’s my point, right? We all know this.
The trick is that little victory I pointed to earlier. The victory was in choosing this over the other. It was choosing self-care over all of the things I ought to have been doing. It was choosing the variety of self-care that my heart knew I needed, even though I didn’t initially feel like it. My gremlins wanted me to stay home and pay the bills, clean the house, you’re paying good money for this sitter for goodness sakes! The saddest part of me that gives up when things are hard, wanted to crawl into bed and hide for as long as possible. The unconscious part of me just wanted the distraction of shopping or work or bad tv.
Self-care comes in many different forms. Sometimes the best thing actually is to go to work and to be distracted by something bigger than you (or just different than you) Sometimes a hot bath and a juicy book is exactly the right medicine.
I am learning about the right medicine for me, the right tool for the right job. As I go into the new year, I am hoping to listen more to that wiser voice, and in the clamor that is sometimes my head, to be able to discern which voice is truly the most compassionate.