I’ve been ill since last I wrote. It lasted for weeeeeeks. A virus. Not Covid… officially… but a definite stepbrother or stepsister. First came the excessive tired, then the cough, the sore throat, the weak limbs… it felt like someone had pulled the bath plug out…
Then there was the chest infection, the reduced oxygen, the vertigo, the partial recovery thanks to some medicine but then once stopped, the relapse into sleeps like comas and back to hacking and feeling like my world was trying to annoyingly re-centre itself every time I turned my head too quick.
And of course, with being ill on top of having heart issues, there was the morbid and negative thoughts that overwhelmed the mind… would I ever again get well? How much longer could my body hold out on a hospitalisation? Was I dying?
At the beginning I’d try to get up for a few hours to do a bit each day, but the tank would drain like an over-zealous egg timer and 30 mins later, I’d be back in bed more tired than ever, my mom or dad having to take the reins with the kids and household management, God bless them.
Mother guilt (link here to previous post explaining same) of course made an appearance too, in fact roared, “Mother is lying in bed again???” And that was just me being horrified by it.
And of course, the emails, texts and phone calls kept pinging, dinging and ringing. But I couldn’t cope with any of it. And cruelly, I couldn’t face anything that might distract me from the worries either. I had no appetite for TV, radio, podcasts, music and only barely for conversations. And I couldn’t even read (my favourite pastime, taken out too by the virus… hath it no mercy???).. cue, more morbid thoughts, like I could hear “Sure when the reading went, there was only a few days left in her” being reported by one neighbour to another… thankfully only in my mind.
Pretty soon I realised my being ‘up’ wasn’t really what anybody wanted anyway, including my own body, when movement made me puke… cue even kids advising me to get back in bed with “Eh it’s OK Mom, I’d rather you didn’t puke on me so why don’t you just lie down?… Thanks!!!”
The only things sort of left in my day by then, when I wasn’t sleeping or making the odd trip to the loo, was silence and resting, two things I normally dream of getting more of, until I actually needed to have more of them… when instead I felt like there was something wrong with them… because of the guilt and anxiety of not being ‘up and at it’.
But this was punctuated a little by the view through the window from my bed, where the leaves moved skittishly, and clouds drifted by in the oft blue sky that can often reveal itself at this time of year. That view helped me feel calm.
With ‘busy’ being the modern mantra and practice in our society, taking time to ‘listen to the body’ though sounding bang on point, can, in reality, feel like a great inconvenience and missed opportunity to tick another, or many, of the daily boxes we tell ourselves we must fill to be living life ‘well’. The irony though is that the same practice, with the racing and stress it brings can make us unwell. I’m not saying that’s what caused my virus but that approach was certainly not going to help be get better.
I began feeling a bit monkish, in my bubble of silence, there in my monastic bedroom setting (the Orla Kiely version… I’m obsessed), like a back packer discovering the Amazon… of contemplation.
I’d sleep, watch the clouds and leaves, contemplate life a bit and sleep some more. And I noticed that with each passing day, the feelings of anxiety and guilt gently ebbed away, replaced dare I say it, by peace and sometimes even a spark of joy that I was out of the chaos, secluded from the pings and the dings, not having to deliver… well… a thing!
After a few days, my brain, a bit like a space shuttle, had finally made a full disconnect from the space station known as ‘dire consequences’ complete with its crew of fret, anxiety, guilt and shame.
I was now floating more with the “Que sera sera, whatever will be will be…” gang with me smiling and singing with Doris Day… once again, only in my mind, I hasten to add.
As a friend described it… “It sounds like you just totally surrendered”.
Ahh there’s a concept… “surrendering”.
Once upon a time I thought surrendering = giving up and thus repelled mere notion frantically. I was terrified of it, because in my mind it meant being defeated by illness, not fighting back, potentially leaving my kids motherless if I didn’t do all I could to survive. I thought survival hinged on pushing, doing, and pushing some more.
But over the years I have learned surrendering is not giving up, it’s knowing your limits and trusting that what lies beyond them will deliver too, not necessarily to meet your exact desire, but overall, what is for the best, for everyone e.g. in this case, the calmness, the unexpected peace and that previously daring spark of joy at being free of duties, I confessed to, all of which were actually better for my mind, body and spirit with being sick, than any attempt I might otherwise have made if I had had the energy.
“Ah yes, I hear you say, but how did this surrendering thing work for the kids?” Well, my mother and daughter got to enjoy playing cards downstairs, taking trips to and from school in the car, that most likely would not have happened had I been functioning, while my sons were in the kitchen more, cooking the dinner and chatting with their grandparents more as a result too.
It’s not that surrendering is all dreamy la-di-dah stuff, but it’s not all misery either. Of course new challenges can occur for ourselves and others by the act of having to ‘allow’ but won’t having to deal with them, ultimately strengthen us to???
Our society runs at odds with this concept of surrendering. It teaches us that progression, achievement, control and being busy are the ways to go and it feasts on our anxieties and guilt to compel delivery. So the scenario becomes all about ‘doing’, notching up milestones, promotions, steps, like each achievement makes you a better person than before it. It’s all about the hustle, the push, the ‘more is better’ life. Even recreational pastimes are often measured in metrics.
Which is why I suppose, we feel inadequate and like failures when we are not in doing mode, or able to clock up achievements, why the concept of ‘surrendering’ can make us break out in that cold sweat.
But the truth is, the practice of surrendering in our lives, not just when we are sick and have no choice, but of actively choosing it in some way in our every day, is surely the only way we can discover that life delivers beyond our ability and that we can have faith that it will continue to deliver without us having to kill ourselves trying to make it deliver.
And that surely is the best way to find real inner peace, trusting that regardless, things will be OK, rather than the temporary variety of peace we get in the moment we tick one of the boxes on our to do list, before it vanishes again when we think of the next thing on the list we have to do.
It’s a lesson I keep learning, forgetting, and having to re-learn. But my virus and recovery was a reminder, yet again that sometimes the situation is bigger than my ability to project manage it, but that that is OK, because in surrendering I’m trusting that life will still deliver some good stuff regardless, for myself and for others!
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