In 2016 I learned that I couldn’t do everything by myself and perfectly. For me, the big sister in the family, this was a hard lesson. I prided myself on doing everything from scratch. It probably doesn’t help that my husband is the same way. The two of us are always saying things like, “I bet I could figure out how to make that.” Or, “Look at this backpack I made from an old pair of overalls, and check out how I lined it with an old Playmate cooler so it can keep your homemade lunch cold.” Just kidding. A little.
So, no cake mixes for me. From homemade bread, fermented veggies, gardening, knitting, and herbal tinctures, I did it all. Recently, I realized that I can’t make everything from scratch and teach and write and workout and take care of the house and do it well. Not all the time.
Duh, you say?
My wake up call was a nasty back injury. And three months into my healing and I couldn’t get better. One day, while everyone was out having fun, I was on my back, heating pad on high and feeling desperate about my long recovery. I asked myself some hard questions.
Is this my fault? Why is this taking so long? What if I’m never going to get better? If I had a do-over would I make the same choices? Would I change anything?
The answers to those questions came in an ironic flashback. This was not the first time I’d felt this way.
It was a health scare that got me writing in the first place. I was flat on my back then, too. It was Fifth’s disease, or Lyme, maybe. They weren’t sure, but for two weeks I couldn’t leave the bed and it scared me. I had little kids and a husband, a teaching career and a house that needed attention. Something about having everything suddenly out of my reach made me laser focused. When I was able, I jumped out of bed with a new determination. I was a little like Dorothy when she got back to Kansas, kissing everyone and declaring that life was amazing. I ran to my computer and started writing a book. The one I hadn’t dared to say I wanted to write. I also painted a mural on the outside of the house. I decided that my art was more important than things.
This time it was six months coming back, not two weeks. It’s the second time getting refocused this way and I don’t want to do it again while incapacitated. I vow to ask myself the hard questions frequently and while vertical.
I let my back be my barometer. It whispers to me when I need to do yoga instead of Metabolic Blast, it whispers when I need to breathe deeply instead of tense up. It tells me when I need to say something out loud.
Often it tells me to stop doing everything and go do the most important thing.