It all started last Thursday morning as I was making my way to the grocery store after having kicked in 30 minutes on work. I'm making a mental list of what I'm going to do after I've been shopping, actually keeping it fairly reasonable, trying to take it easy on my shoulder. As I get close to the grocery store, said shoulder starts making its presence known - not screaming, just grumbling - and right there, on the sidewalk, I had a minor epiphany. An epiphanette, if you will. Namely that my shoulder should decide what I do, not my mind. It could be argued that I've claimed to learn this lesson a few times, but this one felt like practical learning.
I went home, shoulder felt okay and I decided to do two small things, easily done within half an hour so I didn't set the timer. The next time I looked up it was an hour and 15 min. later and my shoulder was as tight as a drum. At which time I engaged in several minutes’ worth of yelling at myself, which may have involved unladylike language, thoughts of banging my head against the wall and/or employing a dominatrix to crack a whip at 30 min. intervals.
Right. Park time. Sit in the sun and bake, letting the heat penetrate deep into my bones. And this is where I had another epiphanette. When there was about 20 minutes left before I had to be somewhere else, I turned off my book and just sat with my eyes closed, listening to the wind and the world. And realized that I need to take time to do just that, because if I'm always listening to a book, there isn't time for my brain to slip into free association mode, the state where the brain makes connections and leaps, where ideas bubble up from beneath and where there is enough mental space to figure things out.
And it wasn't long before one of those leaps… erm… leaped. Because I started to think about partners. About how my body is my partner in my life and I need to treat it as such (yes, this again, but with a slightly different slant). I thought about my other partnerships, be they of love, of friendship, of family or of work and what I do if a partner in one of those relationships tells me they're tired, that they can't do, that they have to stop. I respect that, I even encourage it. Then I thought about respect, about what it means and went home to look it up, finding this definition:
deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment
I don't do that with my body. Don't consider it to have a right to which I should defer. Instead, I ignore its requests, hate it for making them and not only do I not give it a veto, I don't even give it a voice. And this was big enough to make it all the way to an epiphany, something I thought about the rest of the day, kept thinking about for days, actually. I throw these words around, discuss the idea of working within your limits, of respecting your limits, but I never sat down quietly and thought about what respect means or what respecting my body's right might look like.
Over dinner, I held forth about the epiphanies of the day, going on about this concept of respect and how I'm good at it with the other people in my life, but horrible with myself, talked about working within my limits and David opined that my definition of this seems to be to work right up to my limits. And this is when it gets ridiculous and a little sad because this statement triggered an epiphany of such proportions that I still have aftershocks.
Do you know the Spoon Theory? It's a way of explaining the energy requirements of having a chronic illness, assigning units of energy/spoons for different tasks in your life and taking away your spoons as you go through your day. A field of light bulbs or viewing it as a bank account with a positive or negative balance make more sense to me (my math isn't good enough for only 12 spoons), but whatever. The point is that until now, my interpretation of working within my limits has been exactly that - working within them, but being so close up against them that at the end of the day I have maybe half a spoon left, but more often none or I'm deep in overdraft. As a sidetrack, maybe I need to change how I speak of this, because language matters and working within your limits and respecting your limits are two entirely different things. And – back to the main track - in tying together one epiphany to another, if you respect your limits, you ought to go through your day in such a way that you have two, maybe even three spoons left when you go to bed. Or, making it personal, I ought to do this.
How much less pain might it be in if I lived like this? And taking a look at how I work in the context of this, what kind impact might it have if I stop not when it hurts, but before it hurts? Okay, so there'll always be pain, but maybe it would be manageable pain instead of the kind that requires me to spend the evening applying ice packs and taking codeine, too exhausted to do anything but watch TV.
And then came another idea, something equally revolutionary and mindblowing. Because it occurred to me that going that close to your limits, zooming right past them and leaving them in the dust ought to be reserved for really important events, not for your everyday life.
I'm still reeling. Still thinking about how to apply it. But I think this may be the moment where I choose another path.