“I lied and said I was busy. I was busy; but not in a way most people understand. I was busy taking deeper breaths. I was busy silencing irrational thoughts. I was busy calming a racing heart. I was busy telling myself I am okay. Sometimes, this is my busy -and I will not apologize for it.” ― Brittin Oakman
I all but shut down for about ten days. My body decided to throw one fit after another. I tried to fight through it, get things done, but after a while, I just couldn’t fight it anymore. I gave up or I gave in. I’m not sure which. You win body. You win. The white flag has been raised.
I posted my apologies and lay my head down on a pillow. I closed my eyes but I didn’t sleep. I tried to rest but my mind kept spinning. I tried to distract myself with Youtube videos, movies, and social media (we all make mistakes) but there was a nagging voice whispering softly.
The voice was so quiet, I couldn’t hear what it was saying but I felt its intent. Guilt. Laziness. Quitter. Not to be a smart ass but, technically, only one of those is a “feeling word.” The others are symptoms of other emotions. Things we don’t want to feel or admit we feel so we find other words to compensate. It doesn’t matter, though, because I feel them the same way I feel happy, sad, silly, or contrite. They hit the same spots, poke at the same wounds, and draw the same blood.
Lazy. Quitter. Guilt. Shame. Regret. Real emotions mixed with a queasy, restless, drive that feels like fire ants are crawling through my veins. It burns. I can’t settle down. I want to cry. I feel like screaming. If I could pull my skin off my bones and let the little buggers out, I would but they’re nothing more than an illusion created by a turbulent mind.
Or, I’m being overly dramatic and way too hard on myself, which wouldn’t be new for me.
Ten whole days, I didn’t accomplish that much at all. Getting up, having a shower, and making breakfast became a productive morning. All those plans I had, promises I’d made, were pushed aside. Abandoned but not forgotten. The people on the other end were kind and understanding. Of course they were! I wasn’t choosing to let them down or abandon them in their time of need.
Yes, I hear how dramatic that sounds but it’s a mood so I’m rolling with it. All moods are welcome here, as long as they are accompanied by a little kindness. That’s not too much to ask for, is it?
So, I shut down, but that didn’t mean I let it all go. I hate letting people down. Every time I have to call in sick for something I feel the ants doing laps. If I say I’m going to do something, I want to do it but sometimes my body or my mind play up and I have to let people down. I apologize. Profusely and repeatedly. But every word feels like an excuse when I’m just trying to explain.
If only my words would come out how I intend.
Maybe if I talk faster and forget to breathe? Do you think that will get the point across? Well, it can’t hurt to try. Oh, the art of the over-explanation! The more I talk, surely, the closer to understanding they will get, and then I won’t feel the ants doing parkour in my spleen.
For some odd reason, the more I try to explain, the further from an explanation I get. Maybe my GPS is faulty? Damn Apple maps. The last time I used that app, it told me to cross an international border three times if I wanted to get to a location thirty minutes from my home. A location situated firmly in my country. If that ain’t goofy, I don’t know what is!
I’m a Mac lady, but Bud you need to sort out your maps.
While you’re doing that, I’ll try to figure out how to calibrate my emotional compass. It seems to be leading me in the wrong direction. I’m not sure where my passport is and there are travel restrictions. If I let it go on like this, I might end up violating international laws. Unintentionally, of course, but there’s no reason to risk it. Maybe I need to turn off my compass, count to ten, and then turn it back on. Do you think that will help?
It doesn’t work like that? Well, damn, now I’m really screwed.
Oh, speaking of screwed! These last ten days have been really difficult because I’ve had to cancel numerous plans and commitments. I was sick, my insides decided to throw a tantrum, and then, just as I was healing, I had a really bad allergic reaction. My body took one hit after another and it was struggling. Taking a break, resting, staying home, and watching stupid stuff online was the right choice but the fire ants wouldn’t let up.
Am I the only one who feels the ants? This constant drive to show up, perform, be productive, and social. Don’t let up! Not even for a second. Rest is for the weak. Quitting is for losers. Push, push, push harder and harder. Never quit. Never say no. Never take a minute to breathe. Don’t take a minute for yourself because that is giving in to selfishness and that makes you, pathetic.
Anyone else hear those words rattling around in the middle of the night? It’s quiet. Sleep is hiding in some dark nook. It’s just you, the fire ants, and your thoughts. I hear them loud and clear. Sometimes I hear them during the day, in the middle of a large crowd, when I look around and see others just getting on with it. Living life. Getting things done.
I should be like them but I’m too much like me.
I think it’s, in part, culturally ingrained in us. In school, we work all day, learning valuable lessons, and then we’re given a mountain of work to do at home. Rest? Playtime? Self-care? No, keep working hard to become smarter, stronger, faster.
We grow up, and with every milestone, we’re asked what’s next. Celebrate the accomplishment? Take a minute to appreciate how far we’ve come and how hard we’ve worked? Well, take a bow and then tell me: What’s next? We’re constantly being challenged to go, not just the extra mile, but the extra ten, twenty, a hundred miles. We’re never enough. We’re never complete. We’re never allowed to stop growing for one day because if we do, we fall behind? We won’t measure up? We’ll disappoint…Who?
Oh, and don’t forget about all the people telling us that self-care is important. I agree, it absolutely is! All the way, I’m with you on this one. Self-care is important but when we do take time to care for ourselves, there’s so much guilt coming at us from all directions. We try to justify ourselves or give an adequate explanation, but it’s never enough and we become overwhelmed.
Is it more overwhelming than the guilt from within? I suppose that answer is personal to each of us.
I feel guilty, so I try to make them understand my reasons and then I apologize profusely. Over and over. Long after they say it’s okay. I can’t help myself. It just keeps coming but what if I stopped trying to explain myself?
What if I leave it at the apology? What if I just said no and then said nothing else? If I say, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that right now.” Then leave it at that? Do we really owe anyone an explanation? Can our explanation be a courtesy and nothing more? Validation, forgiveness, understanding are wonderful things but what if we let those go and were okay, saying no?
I needed these last few days of recovery and I probably need a few more, but that’s tomorrows problem. The days I did nothing weren’t wasted. I took care of my needs. I gave my body what it was asking for and what it needed. Taking care of myself without thought of others, while selfish by definition, did me a world of good. I know it makes me a better friend, daughter, sister. It makes me a better writer. It makes me a better version of myself. It helps me become a person I like and, one day, it’ll help me become a person I love.
I think it’s especially important for those of us with chronic illnesses (mental or physical). We expend a lot of energy dealing with things few people will understand and that leaves us with very little strength for other things. Things like: taking a breath, taming our fire ants, or hunting for sleep. Keeping up appearances, looking like a functioning adult, or fitting in takes all the strength we have. Living, simply living, is hard enough, and yes, we have responsibilities on top of that.
On top of a body or mind that betrays us over and over again.
Sometimes I need to be a little selfish so that I can recharge, find balance, and reset. It’s healing. It’s freeing. It gives me the energy to turn it around, reach out, and be there for others. Sometimes being selfish is the kindest thing we can do for ourselves and for the people we love.
We could spend our whole lives apologizing, and I’m sure, most of us do. I do! I must’ve said I’m sorry at least three times today. I’m not sure what I was apologizing for but it’s become a gag reflex. What if I stopped apologizing for not hitting my marks? For not being strong enough today. For needing some time to breathe, still my mind, and slow my heart. Is that even possible?
What if I start saying thank-you, instead of I’m sorry? Thank you for understanding. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your kindness. Thank you for asking despite all the times I’ve had to cancel. Thank you for thinking of me. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for your well wishes and positive energy. Thank you for seeing me.
On Friday, I was kicking myself for not pushing on and writing something. I was feeling guilty. I didn’t want to let you down so, there I was, saying how sorry I was. But you wonderful people were so kind. You understood! You told me to take care of myself. You thought of me. You said a prayer for me and sent good vibes. You were so kind and that meant a lot to me.
So, I’m not going to apologize one more time. Instead, I’m going to say thank you! Thank you for your kindness, your understanding, and taking a minute out of your busy lives to wish me well. The fire ants had no idea what to do with the warm feelings drowning them out.
Maybe they were sipping cocktails in coconuts, bobbing along on the tide, and having a nap. Wow, that sounds amazing! Lucky fire ants.