I don’t like to admit when I’m sick. In fact, as I start to feel less myself – lower energy, sore throat (it’s ALWAYS a sore throat) – the more deliberately active I become, overcompensating to prove that I’m FINE, really! I stubbornly carry on as normal, becoming more and more visibly run down until finally even I can’t ignore it any longer. At that point, my whole body shuts down in protest, and I settle into the sickness, visibly and, not at all dramatically, wallowing in self-pity as I’m forced to take significantly longer to recover than if I’d just given myself a break in the first place.
In college, my then-boyfriend referred to this process as “Steph-sick.” As in, “I know you said you’re fine and you want to go out tonight, but do you think it’s possible you might be Steph-sick? You’ve lost your voice and you just fell asleep while you were putting on your shoes.”
If all this sounds ridiculous, over the top, and unhealthy, I don’t disagree with you. I’ve gotten better, over the years, at realizing I need a break sooner, and I’m generally not quite so deliberate about ignoring my body and pushing through. However, the general practice of going until I physically can’t anymore has become my default. This isn’t the worst thing in the last stages of a marathon, but in my day-to-day life? Not ideal.
And so, this long, Memorial Day weekend, after getting over my most recent cough, I gave myself permission to just exist. To move at my own pace, to say no, to take time to eat, to write, to read, to bake – all the things that become more rushed and ignored when I’m trying to move a million miles an hour.
I retreated to Rhode Island where life naturally moves a little slower. The coffee is excellent, the ocean is ever present, and it is not unheard of to meet a friend for coffee and, four hours later, still be sitting in the sun talking as the little shop closes for the day. I spent the first half of the weekend catching up, catching my breath, and catching some sun.
I have trouble sitting still. It’s not that I can’t relax, but more that there are too many things I want to do, and see, and experience, but not nearly enough time. As a result, the past couple of months have consisted of me going full speed until I hit a wall, breaking down, taking time to only just heal, and then taking off at full speed again. And again. And again.
But this weekend? This has been perfection and the best reminder that even though I want to do everything, I can’t actually do anything if I don’t take care of myself first. It doesn’t matter how relaxing I find all my favorite activities; if I try to fit them all in all the time, I’m still going to burn out. Common sense? Sure. But I seem to have been absent (probably sick) the day they were handing out this particular variety of common sense, so I’m still learning. And if I have to learn by watching Rhode Island sunrises, breakfasting on homemade guava pastries, and drinking coffee from my favorite mug (the Disney princess one that fits my hand perfectly)? Well, maybe I could get used to this “rest” thing after all.