It’s taking a lot for me to hold onto my own advice right now. You know, the “listen to your body” and “don’t feel guilty” stuff. The “focus on what you can do” and “remember to pace yourself” words of wisdom.
It’s Boxing Day. I’ve been away with my fiancé since the Wednesday before Christmas having the most wonderful time with his family in Scotland, but the past 48 hours have been a real struggle – and I know it’s because I was trying to fight what my body was telling me. Always a fool’s errand!
Because the first few days had gone well, in fact brilliantly well, I’d convinced myself I was mended and could do as much as I wanted.
But on Christmas Eve morning I could feel myself fading. With hindsight, the clues were there.
I started finding the smallest things really emotional. A picture of my nana, who died earlier in the year, suddenly triggered a wave of feelings and tears as I thought about her. Perfectly normal, some may say, but the emotional response was disproportionate, and that is usually a reliable sign that my bucket is full and I should stop completely.
But, instead, we visited friends. And, just before setting off, my fiancé changed our plans slightly and I really overreacted. I felt angry and upset and hurt. Again, disproportionate.
Then, on Christmas morning, even the carols on the radio were really getting to me. I felt an emotional wreck, but I was holding it all in. Bottling it all up. By last night I was empty. From the top of my head to the tips of my toes, mentally and physically I had nothing left to give. I felt in pain, hollow and useless. I just needed darkness, quiet and time alone. My body and mind needed zero stimuli.
I also noticed I was increasingly stuttering as I spoke, grappling for words that just wouldn’t come to mind, or simply drifting from the focus of a conversation. It happens, but it’s not been this apparent to me for quite a while. And the effort to hide it only added to the drain on my energy.
So what have I learned from this Christmas? Well, it’s been simply brilliant spending time with my soon-to-be in-laws, sewing friends, going out for a meal, and spending quality time together.
It’s also been good that they know I need to pace myself, and going for a lie down and sleep each afternoon hasn’t been an awkward experience. They’ve all understood and I’ve felt able to just do it.
But I don’t think I correctly anticipated how much a variety of activity would have a cumulative effect. That each day’s events would add up and consume more energy than I was able to recharge and put back in my body’s battery.
In other words, I’d underestimated just how much all the joy and fun of Christmas would have on me.
But that’s okay – it’s all about learning.
I’m taking time to reflect on it all, and then remind myself that the next few days need to be low key.
I’ll still head out for a little stroll and get some fresh air, but I’ll also relish time doing little or nothing. It may be reading a book or listening to a podcast. But it may also be sitting or lying down and just noticing the world around me. The birds in the trees or the sound of traffic in the distance or the faint murmur of the children in the next flat having a wonderful time of it.
And that, I suspect, will be my New Year’s resolution.