When the universe tests you…

darling you are different in lights

At the start of the year I set the intention to listen to my body more. I spend a lot of time in my mind (as most of us do), but wanted to start really listening to me. Listening to what I wanted and needed, rather than my kids or anyone else – whether it came to activities, food, whatever. I have been always pretty good at putting other people’s needs before my own (classic woman/mum thing) and whilst I have got better at listening to my own needs, there is still some work to go.

when the universe tests you lights

In my embodied state where I listened to my body more I envisaged I would be more present, exercise in a way that felt good and challenging, really tune into my inner wants and desires, particularly in relation to a new career. I had listened far too much to what I felt was expected of me by society, my family, parents – usually what I had deduced, rather than was actually articulated – 2022, now, was the time to focus on me.

The process to listen more to my body than my mind has been evolving for me over the last 6 years or so. I have gradually been turning my awareness to learning about my habits, patterns and trying to course correct where necessary (I talk more on my observations/practices in the mind body spirit connection post). In January I also committed to my intuitive eating journey – another dive into listening to me, rather than following some diet or eating/exercising how I felt I ‘should’. It was all going ok. I was starting to tune in and felt that was getting into some sense of rhythm. But have you ever noticed that when you decide to really commit to doing something different, the world/universe/god/whatever decides to up the ante a bit? Make it a real challenge to really test whether you mean it?

child shouting into microphone listen
Listen to the whispers of your body before they become shouts!

And so (as it has for many millions of others) Covid-19 hit our family, one by one we got sick in very different ways (thankfully none seriously). I started with a terrible migraine, aches, fatigue etc, etc. I tried to carry on as I just thought it was a bad day, felt ok the next, but got gradually felt worse. Then my daughter started vomitting (sorry, not sure if you really wanted to know that). Totally random and different symptoms for me and her. She then tested positive so obviously that changed what we did as a family as we quarantined. Most noticeably for me, I realised that only when she tested positive did I allow myself to think differently. Ok, I am ill and need to allow myself to rest. I needed to follow the advice that I was giving her. Even when I did test positive a couple of days later (which part of me was happy to get to vindicate my need to rest), part of me did question whether I was really that ill or just lazy or getting old and hence didn’t want to do anything. I don’t think I have ever been bed-ridden for 6 days, but I was and part of me was scared that I might never regain the energy or desire to do anything other than watch Netflix (and the mindless Netflix crap at that). Was this how the menopause/real middle age was going to be? A steady decline until I am forever sitting in an armchair with a mug of tea and a crossword being my exercise for the day?

I was trying to fight it in my head, but my body wouldn’t allow it. I had to keep reminding myself to listen to what my body needed – rest, hydration, sleep. Not easy for someone who is very focused on getting stuff done and often measures their ‘success’ on the number of things crossed of their to-do list. And the rest did help (as well as the constant reminders from my family to do it!). And then a ‘good’ hour or two would come and I would do a few things and then feel rubbish again. Reminder – listen to your body. Rest again. Try again, reminder – listen to your body, rest. It is a work in progress this recovery, this listening to my body. I sometimes think that just because I have agreed to do something, it feels like it has been ticked off or done, but something like this is never ‘done’.

listen more scrabble letters

3 weeks on I am tuning into new sensations in my body that maybe I had ignored before, or maybe are just remnants of the virus. 3 weeks on, I still feel a bit off, lightheaded, weird, but better than yesterday. I know now that I can’t do too much or I will get exhausted and feel awful later/tomorrow. Patience. Listening. Resting.

And in the background there is another voice in my mind saying, that “Omicron is very mild and that many people have no symptoms or very mild ones (even the 95 year old British Queen for god’s sake!)”. But just because some people aren’t getting very sick, doesn’t mean we, or I, am not. A tough reminder that we are not all the same. We all get affected by illness in different ways. We are all so different.

This translates into anything. Just because an exercise regime, a food program, a book/film/podcast/meditation/activity works for one person, doesn’t mean it does it for me. I think we have accepted that for interests, but not for our bodies. We still think that one size/shape should fit all. Covid has been a good reminder for me to put my money where my mouth is.

darling you are different in lights

My body is king, not my mind, not the outside world. I need to keep paying more attention to it.

It has forced me to be really honest with myself and discern the messages it is sending me:

  • Do I want chocolate because I want chocolate or because I am tired and need a sleep?
  • Do I want to watch tv to rest or am I avoiding sending an email or having a phone conversation?
  • Am I ready to go for a walk or should I take it slow? I am now chuckling to myself as that sounded like I am in my 90’s and my mind is shouting, YOU ARE NOT OLD!
  • Am I writing this blog because I feel I ‘should’ be doing something semi-productive, or because I find writing helpful to me?

All of these thoughts and so many more require listening and really asking myself what I want and need. But most importantly I need to respect my one precious body, to focus on it still being out of whack and build myself back up. To cook healthy food that I don’t really feel like cooking, to sleep whenever I need to even if it feels ‘wrong’ to sleep in the day.

But I am lucky enough that I can write my own rules. I can choose to work when I want or need to. The world won’t come tumbling down if I don’t do much today or even tomorrow. I am a fortunate one. I can’t even begin to think how people with small kids and/or businesses to run manage when they are unwell without getting even more sick. That is in part why we need a community around us to support us and be able to ask for help when we need it.

But thankfully I have been supported a lot by my husband and not having to go out to work or study. I can feel bad or guilty about it or I can focus on what is here for me now and respond accordingly. What is going to be the best for me and my family?

peaceful field image with sunlight

So, my listening to my body ‘exercise’ has been very intense these last few weeks. This masterclass might last for some time more, it might get easier, but I have no choice but to take it a day at a time. My rational mind knows that in the grand scheme of things life can wait, I will get back to 100% at some point (I hope), just not yet. I am not looking for sympathy, I am just sharing how hard slowing down has been for me.

This listening to your body thing is a lot harder than I thought.

I need to sit still far much longer than I thought to be able to hear it.

How do you respond to your body when you are sick/out of sorts? Do you find it hard to stop and rest? How do you manage to respond to your own needs rather than always to your family/work/friends? I would so LOVE to hear your thoughts and comments below.

Images: Brett Jordan, Jason Rosewell, Varvara Grabova, Casey Horner on Unsplash

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