The body speaks.
Today it is asking me to slow the heck down, for goodness sake.
It has been telling me this for a while now.
I’m not good at listening.
Since I was eighteen I’ve had patches of poor health. These tend to grow out of patches of overwork, though it’s taken a long time to see the pattern.
One of the contributing factors is that I don’t like to let people down. So when something new begins, I tend to try and carry on with what was there before as well. This leads to being overloaded. Which leads to a need to shed things. Which leads, ironically, to letting people down…
When I started teaching I continued with my church ministry. I looked around and saw other people doing lots at church. I figured I should be able to as well. I didn’t factor in parenting a young person with an autistic spectrum condition, managing a fragile marriage, or, what’s that? Self care…A week after the end of term we flew to visit my friend in Canada, in all the photos I am red-eyed with a heavy cold, I came back exhausted…
At the end of that year I experienced strange symptoms, right sided weakness, dizzyness, excessive tiredness. The diagnosis was a small stroke.
Forward a few years. The fragile marriage is over. I’m a lone parent looking to support my children and improve my career prospects. I need a way to work which will earn enough without requiring too many hours work (because I need to stay healthy dammit). So I’m teaching and studying. I’m back in church ministry too. Oh yes and on the side I’m running a healing business, because that’s what I wanted to do when the marriage ended and I don’t want to let it go. I end up shaky every day, with constant palpitations and not sleeping. I resign my teaching post and try self-employment.
A while later I’m back working in a school. It’s what in the UK is called a specialist provision, this one for young people with ASC. I’m the Senco and the government systems for monitoring SEN have just changed. There’s plenty to do… When I stopped working for myself I held on to a couple of pieces of private work. Maybe it was an insurance policy. Maybe, again, it was so as not to let folk down. After a full working week working in school I spend Saturday morning teaching and then go into a local school in the afternoon to do assessments. These result in 8000 word reports, which get written in the weekday evenings….looking back it was a truly insane way to live.
At the same time my faith is unravelling. The certainty and hope that has kept me going is finally disintegrating, there have been signs over the past seven years or so, but now it’s in full out free fall. I am looking for anchors but drifting uncontrollably. I begin to get symptoms. Mostly dizzyness. Weakness. I find I can’t drive. I can’t get to work. There is no sick pay policy so in the end I have to resign. I cannot walk properly, occasionally I need to use a stick.
Things fall apart.
But I am cussid if nothing else. Or wilful. Or maybe, occasionally, resilient. I begin tutoring again, manage to find some assessment work. I pick up threads and start to try and weave them into something coherent. It’s a hotch potch macrame mix but I figure it will have to do.
Throughout my adult life I have worked with a spiritual director. A mentor or guide. Ever since my early twenties I have believed I have choices, that we always have a choice. I have sought to act, not to sit back and bemoan circumstances, to take what is at hand and get on with it. I wonder sometimes about the idea of the “life of dreams” because it feels more like a “life of consequences”.
Transition. Change. Unplanned. Unexpected. Necessary. And I see this pattern. The pattern of trying to hold on when things shift. The band playing on while the Titanic lists and plunges. Whistling while Rome burns.
I do not see it as wisdom anymore.
Because it doesn’t acknowledge the ending, or leave space for new beginnings. If I carry on regardless the season won’t match. I will be planting seedlings in the cooling temperatures of autumn, or trying to create an English country garden in a sub-tropical climate. It won’t work. Old wine, new wineskins, as the Bible has it.
So I don’t allow the rest space where there can be recovery, I have begun with the new before the old is ended…
What happens if I just stop this time? This change above all feels so huge, it is like one path simply ended, in a cliff-fall plunge, a clear track and then the void. What happens if I really do listen, if I take each day as it comes, if I stop trying to rebuild the path out into nothing? What happens if I accept the ending and stop to take in my surroundings?
I am surrounded both literally and metaphorically by the evidence of a life. The desire to serve others, to serve God/dess, to bring healing, to make things better. Evidence of mothering and teaching. Evidence of hobbies and interests. I am not sure what to make of any of it. If any of it fits or can come with me…the externals look like seeds, tufted, and floating into the blue. I can’t catch them, or put them back in place, reconnect the seedhead’s tidy globe with glue and tape…
Maybe, though, I can wish on them, set them free, to see where they land, what they grow…and meanwhile stand barefoot on the earth, learn how to breathe, drink tea, find the rhythm of my soul’s life in the body’s wisdom…