If you had to rate yourself from 0 to 10 on how well you are taking care of yourself, what score would you get?
Today I woke up tired. Actually, exhausted would be a more honest word. The reality is that I have been some iteration of exhausted all of this year. I do not like to complain but right now, I am experiencing some iteration of fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, chest pain, arm tingling and this still unidentified tremor. But enough about me, I am now skilled at putting myself last. A few weeks ago at work, we had the last set of performance reviews for new staff members that joined the company. One of the questions was on health and safety. As they rated themselves from 0 to 10, I could not help but think to myself what my rating would be. I slowly started to ponder all the ways that I was being hypocritical when I told the appraises to rest and find ways to relax.
I started off at a 5, then realized I pushed through my mid afternoon tiredness that whole week and that dropped it down to a 4. I also then remembered that I was not doing what I liked because of fear and that dropped it down to a 3. I then looked at my to-do list that had items that only exited because I said yes when I should have said no and that took it down to a 2. As I looked around, I started to wonder what happened to my life and how I ended up where I was.
It seems that the default mode of most people is to want to take. They take with no regard for that fact that daily human energy and capacity is finite. They wait for someone to step up instead of standing up with their own backbone. The assumption most times is that you will say yes and I really wonder why more people do not say no. It almost seems to others that you are being selfish when you say no especially when you seem to be not busy. It is perceived as though you are being lazy or unwilling to take on a new challenge. Though I am young, I can say with complete authority that it is neither weak nor selfish to put yourself first. I wish more people did it more often.
One of the joys and curses of being chronically ill is that you gather an awareness of the unpredictability of life. Depending on your situation, one day you may be healthy enough to walk and the next unable to move those same legs. In the midst of all that, those who are ill, still have to show up to life as if nothing is wrong. Showing signs of sickness is the first step to being perceived as incapable. One thing most relatively healthy people don’t think about is how pushing yourself to the limit for consecutive days in a row is a luxury. I too long for the days when I was healthy enough to abuse my body.
I found myself holding back tears after the performance reviews were over. I went back to my room, wrapped myself in a blanket and just sat there, numb. “What have I allowed myself to become?”, I thought to myself over and over. Over that week as I told people what to do, I could feel myself slipping away more and more. I felt the parts of me I hated most become more and more dominant. I had said things I did not truly believe. I was betraying myself.
Like I do everyday, I sat on my computer somewhere between gmail, slack, whatsapp, airtable, sheets and youtube. I watched 7am turn to 4pm as I continued to type and navigate my way online. Is this a life? Does the thing I am doing matter at all? What value am I adding to the world? I have sat at a computer everyday since I was 13. What has all of that typing and browsing done for me? Are your skills useful if they do not exist without a computer and the internet?
I sat back and remembered the lives I have lived like dreams that were too good to be true. They are but memories that I can no longer be revisit as those people, places and events are no more. They live on as distant memories of events that only serve to remind me that I have lived life. I have done many things. I have traveled to many places. I have eaten many strange foods. I have walked many streets and loved many people. All that to lead me to here and now where I contemplate the value my life has had. Have I ever really been alive?
With each passing day, I find myself drawing closer and closer to an outdoor life away from computers and smartphones. Away from streams of information that never end and friends have been reduced to likes and shallow comments. Interaction devoid of intimacy and empathy. We are connected in a way that leaves my body and soul feeling empty. We try to keep in touch but we can never know each other the same way again. We live in a time where idea of knowing is more important than knowing itself.
That was all a long way of saying that I know for certain that i am not taking care of myself. So then, what is the way forward? A vacation would be nice but coming back to the same place that takes from me more than it gives is far from ideal.
What is the son of man to do?