“For fast acting relief, try slowing down”. – Lily Tomlin
We’ve all heard the idea that life sometimes throws obstacles in your path to force you to slow down- and that the slowing down will serve a purpose. All right, sure. I’ll take one for the team here, so we can find out how much truth there is in that idea. For the last month, I’ve been living this particular lesson as I’ve been recovering from foot surgery.
Before I went in, someone told me they’d be interested to see what I learned from this time. I felt sure that it would offer me yet another lesson in patience. It did … but, as usual, my conclusion in that regard is that I still have a long way to go. I do not wait well.
After 5 weeks, as things begin to return to normal, I will tell you what I HAVE learned.
- I may sometimes wish for a break from responsibilities, but laying around, doing nothing for an extended amount of time is NOT as fun as it sounds. There are only so many books I can read, so many shows I can watch, and so many games I can play on my phone.
Lesson: Sometimes we’re overwhelmed, but do try to appreciate the fullness of your life. There are many things you’d miss if you were unable to do them. There are also many things that you wouldn’t miss if they disappeared… so consider that as you plan your days.
- I had a friend come and stay with me one afternoon in the early stages of recovery. The offer to help was lovely and generous… and very hard to accept. It caught me by surprise, how much I wanted to resist receiving help, even when I clearly needed it.
Lesson: It is so, so easy to offer assistance… and so hard to accept it. We have to humble ourselves, and that can be a very hard thing to do because no one wants to be seen as needy or unable to cope. If you want to help, don’t be turned away too easily. Sometimes you have to insist.
- I intentionally don’t live a crazy busy life- so I haven’t been “falling behind”. (Except at the gym. I’m not going to lie, it’ll still be weeks before I return, and it’s going to be a horror show.) My kids are old enough to be self-sufficient, and my husband has taken care of every need for our home and property during this time, so there are no real concerns there. There wasn’t even a work issue; I planned ahead and was able to start back very quickly even though I was bedridden. Things have gone quite smoothly on all fronts during my recovery.
Lesson: In the short term, no one’s world will fall apart without us. The things we represent in our family and friends’ lives are important, yes, and their long-term effects resonate. But if things aren’t done in the timing you expect or the way you might want, life still goes on. Try to keep that in mind when you’re overwhelmed and every task feels urgent.
- There are everyday things- things we hardly take notice of normally- that make our lives whole, and you miss them desperately when they’re gone. I want to run errands with my husband and visit with friends. I want to poke through a thrift store, putter around a garden, linger at a coffee shop, and spend time wandering around a bookstore. You wouldn’t think that such simple things have such a large effect on your happiness, but they do.
Lesson: Make sure you’re doing things every day that bring you joy. Too many of us lose sight of that concept or tell ourselves it’s selfish…or impossible. It’s not, but we get hung up because we have a hard time justifying time spent on ourselves. Think of it this way: can you commit to doing things for others? Yes? Then you can do it for yourself. I know it’s not always easy. For me, the challenge lies not in the expense (the things I love doing best don’t cost a dime), but in creating the space in my life to pursue what I enjoy.
Can you live without making that time for yourself? Sure. But I’m telling you, you’re cheating yourself out of some of the best parts of life. There should be joy, somewhere, in every day.
So, there you are: lessons learned. From here on out, if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather just voluntarily take time out to ruminate.
Most preferably while on a walk.