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Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Benefits of Having the Gunk

190 | 365 bedridden
photo by sweethardt

I have finally made it through one of the sickest periods of my life. I always thought that my child wouldn't be a germ factory like everyone else's kids. For the first year of my daughter's life, that was true! Then, suddenly, it was bam-bam-bam. All three of us came down with some awful cold a few weeks ago, and I had barely just started getting over it when I was hit with something else, something worse. It laid me out enough where my husband had to stay home from work one day and my in-laws came over the next. I was too out of it to be my normal mom self and take care of my child, which was a horrible feeling. I am not 100% better yet but am definitely getting there.

In talking with my business/life coach, Francoise Everett of Guilt-Free Mothering, during a recent session, we realized there are some positive things that can come out of being sick - things you don't usually recognize until after you're feeling fine again, because none of it seems positive in the thick of it when you can't breathe and your abs feel like you've done 250 crunches from all the sneezing and coughing you've done.

These positive byproducts are things I hope to incorporate more into my normal, everyday, non-sick life as well so that it doesn't always take being sick to remind me of them.

Being sick makes you unapologetic. 

I have long struggled with some incessant need to explain myself to people and justify my actions. I think it largely comes from a place of just wanting to feel understood, to make sure people don't have the wrong impression of me. What it took me a while to realize is that constantly needing to explain or prove yourself to people does not usually make you look better to people; instead, it can have the opposite effect of making you appear insecure. "Explaining yourself all the time actually weakens your power," Francoise says. "It chips away at your vitality and aliveness." And your sense of self. As she pointed out, being sick is an excuse unto itself why you can't do something that someone might ask of you. No more justification than that is necessary. If you don't feel up to doing what they're asking you to do, you simply tell them that you're sick and can't do it. 9 times out of 10, people will understand. You don't even have to say you're sorry; it's not like you can help it. This is something I want to get better at. Part of being confident is respectfully saying how you feel without feeling like you need to over-state your case, as well as saying no to things that don't feel good to you and knowing that you don't need to explain yourself for it. It doesn't mean you have a pompous attitude that says you do what you want whenever you want because you're the queen of everything. It just means you know how you feel and why, and you rest in that knowledge without fear of what everyone will think of you.

Being sick forces self-care and rest.

New moms probably have some of the weakest immune systems in the world. You rarely truly "rest." My version of resting usually involves reading for a bit after my daughter goes to sleep or intending to read and falling asleep with her. I do take small breaks when my husband is home and have gotten much better about carving out "me" time, time with my friends, etc. But it's still really hard for me. I don't mean it to be a martyr-y thing at all. It's simply really hard for me to be apart from her. Being this sick allowed forced me to rest a lot. I really didn't have much choice. I didn't like not being able to be her normal mom. But my body was telling me flat out that it needed rest and was going to take it whether I liked it or not, by God. I wasn't capable of much more than lying in bed in a congested stupor. I went to bed early every night. I rested during the day. Those are things I hadn't done in a long time. I want going to bed at a decent hour to be my norm when I am well too. In a morbid way, even though I missed my daughter so much because I was here but not "here," it was kind of nice to have an excuse to do a lot of being still and quiet, which is not something I get much of these days!

Being sick makes you weed out the unimportant. 

As I said, I wasn't capable of doing much more than resting. So I was not at all concerned about constantly checking email and Facebook on my phone like normal. I could've cared less what most emails had to say because I simply didn't have the mental capacity to process it, and I only dealt with ones I really needed to deal with and skipped over time-wasting email newsletters and sale blasts. Such small things that actually add up to quite a bit of the time people spend. Being sick also cured me for a while of wanting things. Who cares about a new pair of earrings you had your eye on when you start to question whether you will ever get out of bed and be seen in public again anyway? I'm not saying it's wrong to want things or waste some time farting around online here and there. But being sick taught me to try and keep those things in check better.

Being sick makes you grateful for things you take for granted.

Like breathing and other small victories. It also made me so happy when I became Normal Mom again and could play with my daughter and be silly with her again. Suddenly, you are grateful for air, for food tasting right again, for not waking up twelve times a night hacking, for being able to sit through a conversation and understand and participate because your brain isn't in a sickness-induced fog anymore. It just makes you more appreciative in general. And that, perhaps, is the most important thing we should get out of being sick: learning to live in a state of gratitude for big things and small.

Hopefully you can live vicariously through my sickness and consciously implement these four things into your daily life without having to go through the gunk part. And I hope to remain conscious of them as much as possible.

What is your biggest silver lining after you get well?

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