There’s an odd sense of guilt that I experience when I am ill (as I have been recently), that somehow, despite barely functioning physically and mentally I should be maintaining an “effective public presence.” In sideways conversations over cuppas I’ve discovered that other people feel this pressure too. It is not just on social media that we try and hide the clunky bits of our lives, it is in our conversations with acquaintances and colleagues. We down-play our dark days and try to skip through recuperation as though our soul and our heart can rebound to the pace of the paycheque. I know one woman who keeps the symptoms of her bowel disorder even from her husband. Why do we do this to ourselves?
We invented clocks to help us manage things we want to do but somehow we’ve lost control of the idea of time. Now time is a commodity and we humans must work feverishly under the relentless ticking. Things inside us must be allowed to be a bit slower. We have these tides. The sun comes up but part of us is still in yesterday or last year, or in the moment our life changed forever. We sometimes struggle to honour where we’ve come from and still have enough left to get out of bed. Some people have an internal commanding officer, a big yeller in them who gets them going. They mean well, when they share these yelling people with you, but they don’t work for everyone. The phrases I remember most from my mum while I was growing up are “pull your socks up” and “we’ve all got to do things we don’t want to”. These never made sense to me, and then once day I discovered that that’d become part of my unquestioned -ness. The system that runs me that I’m not consciously aware of.
So when there are times that staying functional in the world is a challenge, the internal edict I hear is to not let it show. To be sad or weak or worn out is to be a failure. Tick tick tick tick! Every tiny tick a hammer-blow of judgement.
This time, I tried to do it a bit differently. I let those metaphorical socks flap around. I did things I needed to do and then just rested. I took some time off from being that me and the ticking. It took longer than was comfortable and the guilt and self-consciousness about that became a topic for another round of gentle reflection and learning and resting.
Six months is not so long in a life. I consider it a good investment.