Dear Friends —
You know the kind of sick where at first you think, I’m not getting sick and then before you reach for the bottle of Advil, you are REALLY f***ing sick. Well, that is what happened to me this week.
It all started at an early evening yoga class last Thursday night. Midway through the class, I realized I was not able to move my body. I’m not sure why it took me so long to tune into this humbling fact, but I guess as yogis would say, I wasn’t fully present. I was going through the motions pretending to do yoga — exactly what you are NOT supposed to. My mind was full of future obligations — Christmas shopping, work commitments, you know, end of year sh*t. Again, a total yogi no-no!
When the mind wanders, the gurus often suggest, without judgment, bring awareness back to the breath. I tried that a couple of times, and instead of practicing non-judgment, my mind was saying, what the f**k is wrong with you? Why can’t you move your body? Why aren’t you embracing this yoga moment? Downward dog felt like downward dying dog with severe hip dysplasia. This was when it hit me. I was in the first phase of grief, the grief of getting sick — DENIAL.
I head home. Take a long shower and get into bed thinking, I’ll feel better tomorrow. Tomorrow arrives and I’m full-on sick — runny nose, aches and pains, get-out-the-humidifier type of sick.
I’m quickly ushered into the second phase of grief – FULL ON ANGER. Or as I like to say, I’m pissed off. I immediately jump to fear mode — really? Seriously? The week of Christmas I get sick? Please GOD, no! I’ve got so much to do! This can’t be happening to me! PLEASE, NOOOO!!!!
Well, as fate would have it, I remain in bed for the next two days. I don’t really begin to feel much better until Monday afternoon. I was invited to a holiday get together at a close friend’s house that night. I was excited to see everyone and catch up, but if I was being totally honest with myself (not my best quality!) I knew I shouldn’t go. I was still feeling very weak and not 100%.
As luck would have it, my good friend texted me late in the day and said, “Are you going tonight? Can I pick you up?” I stare at the text for a good thirty seconds and an intense internal negotiation begins. Of course I can go. It’s a small gathering. I won’t drink too much. (I didn’t pull out the “I won’t drink at all” card, I’m not that far gone!) I’ll leave early and it will be totally fine. Yadayadayada.
I jump in the shower with a renewed sense of self. I’m empowered. I’m clever. I’m social. I’m cool. I’m feeling alive again. I’m a woman on a mission! (Bey would be proud.) Yep, you guessed it — I am now in the third phase of grief –BARGAINING.
We arrive at the festive gathering and I can’t deny — I had a great time catching up with old friends, laughing so hard my throat was on fire, discreetly coughing – you know the way we teach our kids to cough — elbow up to mouth hoping no one realizes I’m sick kind of cough.
The party gets a second wind and I realize it’s 11:30 pm. I’m in awe over my stamina, almost cocky. I see my phone light up with messages from my husband, “Where are you? Are you okay? You said you were coming home early.” I laugh it off and think, what a lightweight! It’s Christmas, jackass. I’m living it up down the street with my friends sick as sh*t. What’s the problem? I text him back the vague, yet informational “Be home soon.”
I instantly receive back a simple “?” Well, that said it. My husband is naturally a man of few words but I know when only a punctuation mark shows up as a response to my text, he’s pissed. It’s his passive-aggressive way of saying: “F*ck you, come home.” Thank God we have been married so long and I can read between the lines.
At that moment, my friend motions to me that it’s time to go. I get in her car and ask her, “How many glasses of wine did I have? She softly says, “Well, E, I know you were drinking the Santa Margherita and there were two bottles when we got there and they are both empty now.” I ask, “Did anyone else drink that bottle with me?” And she sheepishly replied, “I don’t know.” Her lack of knowledge revealed the truth — I’m drunk. I’m sick. I hate myself. Needless to say, the ride home was silent.
I get home, shower, cry a little, and crawl into bed next to my sleeping husband. I start to pray. Please God, show me mercy. Your Holy Son turned water into wine. He gets me. Show me grace. PLEASE GOD. I fall asleep.
I wake up around 3:30 am feeling like death. My heart is racing – too much wine. I’m sweating profusely – too much wine. My nose is stuffy. My head hurts so badly it feels like there is a brick between my eyes. My body hurts, even my hair follicles hurt. I feel like Scrooge being tormented by the ghost of SICK. I sit in my bathroom and cry which just made me feel worse, of course.
In the morning I awake to the next phase of grief — DEPRESSION. It’s official. I’m depressed. I’m ashamed. I am beating myself up that I went to the party. I am back where I started — feeling worse than I did after yoga class. I decide right then and there to be perfectly still. I begin to breathe and before I know it, I fall back asleep. I wake up three hours later and I see a small amount of light peaking through my drapes. I sit up and I start to breathe a little easier. I take a sip of water and say to myself, I am going to be okay. I need to forgive myself and let go. (Oh, there’s that phrase again.) I realize I am now in the final phase of grief –ACCEPTANCE.
I feel better. I am letting go and accepting what is. I sit up, grab my phone and see that I have spent a full week expending my precious energy negotiating with sickness. Hmmmm I think to myself, why did I make this so difficult? Why was I in such resistance to what my body was telling me?
So, what’s the moral of the story?
I guess it’s pretty simple. If you are sick, then BE SICK. I’ve been talking about letting go all month. I realize I’m not practicing what I preach. I’m holding on to the idea that I can do it all, that I can be everything to everyone, that I can be super human. Well, I’m not. You’re not. The silver lining in all of this is being sick allowed me to stop, to listen to my body, to take inventory. I was able to dissect the essential from the non-essential, to see the truth.
My Let Gos:
- My Christmas cards are not going out before Christmas day.
- My friend gifts will not be dropped off at everyone’s doorsteps this year.
- My kids will most certainly be receiving fewer gifts under the tree than usual. (I truly see this as a blessing.)
- My nieces and nephews who live out of town will now be getting new year’s gift certificates.
- I’m not hosting Christmas dinner this year. I can’t and I won’t.
What if we allowed ourselves this grace everyday? What if we didn’t expect so much out of ourselves? Could that be the very reason I got so sick, trying to live the unattainable life of meeting everyone else’s needs but my own? What would that life look like?
Well, I can tell you I’m just now getting my first taste of it and it feels really good. I’m still here. My kids are still excited about Christmas. And, all the people I was sure I disappointed seem to be just fine with the new me.
Breathe in. Breathe out. I’m free.
Now where’s my Santa Margherita? Not all behavior needs to change — it’s time to celebrate!
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
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