This has been my morning:
5:00am – alarm I don’t remember hearing
6:00am – alarm I snoozed a couple of times before getting up, meditating, and making coffee
6:45am – crawl back into bed, mumble to J, “I don’t think I feel that great.”
8:00am – brief wake-up
10:00am – full wake-up
It’s weird, I don’t really feel like I have the flu or a cold. My stomach seems fine. I’m a bit achy but can’t tell if that’s just from my strength workout yesterday. I don’t feel particularly depressed. But for me to sleep like that… well, something’s going on!
So here I am, checking emails from my couch, and triaging things from my to-do list.
There was a time when I can remember I’d also be sitting here on my couch, kicking myself over not living up to a list of “shoulds”:
I don’t feel all that sick, I should just go to the office.
I should be able to get myself up and start the day.
I shouldn’t feel this way, I have no reason to be this tired.
I should feel worse if I’m staying home.
I shouldn’t have slept that late.
I should at least go for a walk.
I should still be able to get work done.
I should do some chores around the house since I’m here.
Instead, I am trying to give myself the break my body is obviously telling me to take. Yes, I am grateful for the luxury to be able to do that without ramifications. I don’t have to fake it, to push my way through, because of a pressing deadline or dependent children.
But that list of shoulds can incapacitate anyone. And no one is giving us this list, we are making it for ourselves. I would argue that, even if you think it’s coming from an external source, it’s most likely projection rather than the truth. We (or at least I) think that others somehow have a magnifying glass on our life. Guess what—they don’t, they are too busy holding up a magnifying glass on their own life. The result is, we add to our already stressful lives by creating so much self-criticism, self-judgment, self-expectation.
What would I tell a friend or colleague in this situation? Of course, I’d tell her to take care of herself, to listen to her body, to take it easy. I would never tell her, “Well, it doesn’t seem that bad, you should probably go to work, anyway, you lazy slob.”
I might tell her, “Literally no one cares.” Yes, on the surface, this sounds harsh. But this list of shoulds is in her head, and literally no one cares about them. Literally no one is vocalizing those shoulds to her. I mean that to be freeing, rather than harsh. If no one cares, then she can sweep those shoulds away and ask herself, “What do I want?”
So, what do I want? I want to enjoy the fact I can take a sick day, that I can cocoon myself in my sweatpants and set my laptop on my lap in bed, that I can give my body the rest it’s asking for, that I can turn my mind to what it can be doing in these restful moments to heal instead of becoming anxious over what it isn’t doing that it “should” be doing.