It started on Friday with a tickle in my throat. “It’s just allergies,” I rationalized, shrugging it off. I went about making my spring break plans and did the best I could to ignore the creeping feeling that I was coming down with something.
Next came the stuffy nose. Then the crushing fatigue. By Saturday night, I was hugging the porcelain throne and fighting back tears while my sweet kitty Wednesday comforted me with nuzzles and purring.
As someone with chronic digestive upset, anxiety, and mental health struggles, I know quite a bit about being unwell. I mostly resent being sidelined from life without my consent, and although I put on a brave face and carry on as best I can, I sometimes find myself thinking about what my life would be like if I didn’t have to grapple with illness.
During the past few years, however, I’ve chosen to embrace the spiritual lessons that periods of illness have to teach me, and I thought I’d use this latest sickness as an opportunity to share what I’ve learned with you. Every cloud has a silver lining, and it turns out this one is especially bright.
Being Sick Forces You to Slow Down
I’m a schemer, a planner, a dreamer at heart. I’m always bouncing ideas around in my brain, and sometimes it can get exhausting. I go for long walks and meditate to consciously give myself a reprieve, but that often only lasts as long as the practice.
When I’m sick, however, my scheming brain simply shuts down. I just don’t have the capacity to think critically, so I take a forced hiatus from planning for the future. My mind relaxes and lets go, and I’m able to just kind of be.
Being sick forces me to slow my body down as well. There are things I simply don’t have the energy to do, so I must sit, rest, and leave them undone. As the moon cycle teaches us, action and effort must be followed by inaction and rest, and this isn’t something our culture seems to value or prioritize. When I’m sick, I remember how important rest is. I remember that rest is necessary to live a healthy, happy life.
Being Sick Brings Me Into the Present Moment
When my body’s in pain, I am right there with it. I’m feeling what it’s going through, and even though it’s unpleasant, there’s something meditative about just accepting where I am and telling myself that I’ll get through it.
It’s really easy for me to flit from the past to the future and back again without taking time to hang out in the present moment. When we let ourselves inhabit the present, our suffering over the past and our anxiety about the future melts away, revealing a sense of blissful connection.
Strangely enough, it’s sometimes easier for me to feel this blissful connection when I’m sick because my body literally brings me to my knees and compels me to face where I am in the moment. With nothing to do but weather the proverbial storm, I’m freed of stress and anxiety and my purpose becomes simple and clear.
Being Sick Reminds Me of What’s Truly Important
When I’m sick, I set myself up on the couch downstairs, turn on a good series, and just chill with my family. Because I lack the energy to chatter, I listen. Because I feel crappy, I care less about how clean the house is or what we’re eating for dinner or what anyone is doing. I relinquish my leadership role in the household and leave my family alone, and this frees me up to simply enjoy their company.
In my vulnerable state, I also let them help me. I reach out for extra hugs and cuddles, and they’re happy to oblige. I honor them for who they are and simply love them without agenda. It feels comforting and beautiful and reminds me that so much of what I think is important really isn’t.
What’s important is this:
Connection. Presence. Love. Trust. Clarity. May you receive each of these gifts, my dear!
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