I am usually the first one to tell somebody else to take care of themselves. I believe in taking care of our bodies, minds and spirits to the full extent to which we are able. It is no secret that I believe this way. And this past week, well, I finally started treating my own body, mind and spirit with the kindness it deserves. You see, I must confess that all my life, instead of taking time to rest and repair when I would first begin to feel run-down, I would just barrel on ahead, full steam…until I inevitably pushed beyond what my body was ok with and got sick. But now, in my 60s, I have corrected this error.
And a major error it is! I owe my reluctance to care for myself partly to”the way of the world”…the world of work. I was first introduced to this world when my father announced “Susie, you are 12 years old now. You are no longer a child. You will get a job and pay your mother a weekly amount in order to continue to live here. If you don’t comply, you may go elsewhere.” Yea…a real softie! LOL. Bless his heart. Of course, I had no idea what an empty threat that was since I was wayyy under 18! So, I entered the world of work at 12, answering the phone and posting bills for my Uncle Billy at his air conditioning and heating business. When I was 16, I was one of the lucky kids in Central Florida who landed a job at Disney World. At that time of blatant political incorrectness, this had as much to do with the fact that I fit into the 3 range size of the “costumes”(uniforms) Disney provided fresh daily for its worker bees. But still, I felt like I had arrived. I was proud to be among the Osceola High School students who were favored by the Disney gods. I brought with me to that dream job this fact of life of which I was quite sure by then. You just don’t call in “I-will-crash-and-burn-if-I-don’t-rest”, you call in sick. So, of course, I would wait until I was actually sick to grab some down time. Repeating this behavior over the next 46 years caused the idea that you just don’t slow down and take care of yourself until you are sick to firmly take hold in my mind and express in my behavior. This twisted principle was at work over the last 2 chaotic beyond belief weeks of my life. I just ran and ran. Whoever said retirement would be restful? Not for a seasoned self-deny-er like me!
But at least I dropped out of the race this time, and this brings me to what I want to share with you, my friends. I was feeling the effects of a breakneck pace and several disturbing events ( including the hurricane bearing down on my home state where I still have beloved friends and family) for 2 weeks, with no downtime whatsoever, so I decided not to do one of my usual outreaches this week. Just one…I planned totally on doing the 10:00 church service as usual, but skipping the outreach, because it requires that I get up at 5:00 AM and do some fast and furious driving to accomplish this twice a week thing I have been doing for the past 2 months. No way. Even I knew it was time to scrape something off my plate! Since it was the only thing that nobody, human or animal, would go hungry or un-cared-for if I didn’t do this, it had to go. I called up my Cherry Springs “liaison”, Patty, a resident who has become both friend and mentor. I told her I had to shave this off the cob, so to speak. Patty not only understood , she applauded me for (finally) having the good sense to take care of myself. Yes, there had been hypocrisy there, or at least a double standard, because I have become known for putting myself dead last. She not only thought it was a great idea to lose that obligation, but that I should also not do the service itself! Well…I had to think about that. Still, I do not ever choose a mentor lightly, and to disregard this would have been to disrespect her. She even said “Susan, I give you permission to stay home. Do you hear me?” At this I smiled to myself and thought “Once a teacher, always a teacher” because Patty has had a very long, giving, and wonderful career as both a public school teacher and a university professor. I stayed home.
It was hard at first, but I knew that I had to master this self-care thing. In my long years as a nurses aide and later a social worker in long term care (nursing homes), I certainly have seen the effects of not taking care of yourself…up close and personal. I dove in. I stayed right at home. I rested in bed. I read. I ate good food. Sunday morning my back went out. All the way out. I couldn’t even straighten up. Agony. What now? I alerted my Acupuncture Physician son in law that I would be needing an appointment. I rested some more, going out and doing things only when absolutely necessary. I laid on the heating pad. I prayed to recover. And I asked my pain why it had come.
Clearly, my pain had come to get my attention, so I thanked it and dismissed it in the name of Jesus. This morning there was pain still, but far less. By 8:00 AM, my pain was gone. It cost me the outreach, both of my Sunday services, Cherry Springs and the Basement Chapel. I was even too wiped out by the all-consuming pain to write my blog, something I rarely ever miss, on point of pride. But no amount of pride would dissuade me yesterday from doing all I could to get better while leaving all of these commitments temporarily by the wayside. Just the thought of sitting here at my keyboard and writing a blog filled me with dread as the searing pain held my entire body hostage. That pain came for a reason. When I allowed myself to hear it’s reason, like any good messenger, it left, going on back where it came from and giving me my life back.
Funny, I was going to speak and write about surrender in the Basement Chapel (and blog) message. Instead of speaking and writing it, I guess I had to live it, so I did. I see now that surrender was a huge piece of both what I experienced and the subsequent healing. At the Cherry Springs service, I was going to talk about the drip, drip, drip effect of keeping on keeping on with all of our attempts at listening to and living from the wisdom of Spirit. I had to live that too, I just never knew, not on a deeper level, that scraping things off my plate could be a greater obedience to that Divine Love than running my body into the ground! Well…it was, and it is! Remember the days when we used to say “Take care ” to each other as a parting expression? It became overused and passe’, but in it was a humanity and compassion that seems to have been swept away by the confusing darkness that now whirls about us like a lethal storm sweeping our country. We hold the key both to the storm and the calm. Let’s do remind each other to take care! When we take care of ourselves first, as Our Creator would have us do, we can do this in complete honesty. Just like the flight attendants tell us every time we take an airplane ride…if the cabin loses pressure, put your own oxygen mask on first, then assist others with theirs!
But the news about Jesus spread all the more, and great crowds came to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses, yet He frequently withdrew to the wilderness to pray.