Giving Myself A Break--Literally!
Anyone who knows me at all will tell you I have a strong fear of complacency. Of being sidelined. Of watching the game from the safety of the bleachers. There’s this voice inside of me that constantly reminds me that we only get one shot at life—and it gets louder with each passing year. In a way, it’s a good thing, because it drives my “why not” attitude and encourages me to try anything and everything that interests me. But it can also be a bad thing because that passion can lead to over-scheduling, and a frazzled, harried lifestyle as I try to make space for everything and everyone I love.
A typical day will find me bouncing between my job as a writer, my job as a fitness and cycle instructor, and my responsibilities as a wife and mother. That’s why, when a recent cycling accident forced me to hit the pause button on my life, I knew that the physical part of my recovery would be tough—but it would be nothing compared to keeping my mental game strong. I had two choices: I could either throw a pity party or I could find the positives.
Ok—so that sounds great on paper—but in real life it wasn’t that easy. First, there’s the fact that I am a control freak who suddenly found myself in a situation that was hopelessly out of my control. Nothing I could say or do was going to change the fact that I had a serious injury, which required surgery, weeks of physical therapy, and a significant amount of downtime. Then there’s the fact that patience and vulnerability are not my strengths and I was in situation where I couldn’t even wash my own hair without help so….you see the problem.
I’m not gonna’ lie—the pity party was appealing. I am an extremely physically active person. I work hard to stay in shape and now I found myself unable (not to mention forbidden) to do any of the things I enjoyed. I was in more pain than I’ve ever experienced, and for the first couple of weeks I alternated between sleeping, crying, being pissed off at the world, and stuffing my face with the insane amount of sweet treats brought by even sweeter friends.
But then I realized that although I was powerless to control my situation, I did have the power to control how I handled it. I could charge forward with my usual stubborn determination, ignoring all advice, and setting myself back irreparably. Or, I could apply that same determination to accepting things for what they were and work on the inside while allowing the outside to heal. I decided on the latter, and it turned a big setback into an even bigger opportunity to grow.
Here are a few things that worked for me----and you don’t need to go out and break your collarbone to apply them to your own busy life. You just need to remember that it’s okay to hit pause every now and then. In the words of Ferris Bueller (which I watched more than once over the past few weeks) “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in
a while---you could miss it"
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help—Or Take It When It’s Offered
This one is a biggie for me. I’m an only child who has been fiercely independent since birth and I’d rather do it my way and fail than admit I can’t do it at all. That’s why I was more surprised than anyone when the first words out of my mouth in the ambulance were, “I want my mother.” Eight hours and 1000 miles later she was at my side. She washed my hair, cooked for my family, did my laundry, ran my errands—and I had no choice but to let her. She, along with my husband, kept things going----—and the world didn’t end. Letting people help you doesn’t make you weak—it makes you smart.
Indulge In Guilt-Free Guilty Pleasures...
I’ve never been someone who can just sit and watch television—until now. I let myself binge all the shows I’d heard about, and watch all my favorite movies---multiple times. I enjoyed some of my favorite not-so-healthy-foods, and read celebrity gossip mags---and I didn’t beat myself up for not being more “productive.” It’s okay to treat yourself to mindless activity every once in a while.
...But Don't Go Overboard
It wasn’t all watching Sex In the City reruns for hours and catching up on the Cardi B drama. I tackled the stack of books that have been sitting on my nightstand for months. I enrolled in an online nutrition course that I’ve been curious about. I cleaned out my closet by sitting on my bed while my mother held up items for approval, and listened patiently as I explained why I REALLY needed to keep that power suit from my first job interview 20+ years ago-----before throwing it in the “donate” pile. My point here is don’t focus on what you CAN’T do in a difficult situation---find the things you CAN.
If you are like me, you “connect” with your friends and family via texts, cram a month’s worth of “catching up” into an hour-long lunch, and send your phone calls to voice mail. So I think the best thing that came of this whole experience was connection. So many friends carved out space in between work, carpool, and their own crazy, busy schedules to simply come over and hang out for an hour or two. I spent hours on the phone solving the world’s problems with my best friend 1000 miles away. And one night when the pain was too bad to sleep, I curled up on the couch with my mother and had a Reese Witherspoon movie marathon until 2 a.m. I realized in those moments that I’m guilty of taking people for granted, and that although you may not talk every day, those friends and family members who show up for you when you need them—even when it’s inconvenient--—are what make life special. Make time for the people you care about and let them know they are loved.