Practicing Sick

It’s been a rough few weeks. I had pneumonia coincide with the biggest event of my year in San Antonio. Not surprisingly, I didn’t recover quickly enough to avoid coinciding with another not-as-big-but-still-significant Open Space in Chicago…but thought I was on the mend, really I did, to the point where I started to push myself in yoga practice, last Wednesday.

And immediately relapsed, coughing, etc, in time for my three-hour workshop on consent in local community groups out in Marion, Iowa.

On the one hand, I’m totally living my Pa-on-Little-House-in-the-Prairie dream of working myself to death.

On the other hand…maybe I shouldn’t do that.

Ah…Push It…Push It Real Good…

If ever there’s a time to note how unhealthy toxic masculinity can be, this is it. The dirty little secret of any practice is the sneaky way it slips into a goal-oriented “growth” mindset. Rather than It’s a beautiful day, I get to enjoy the way my body moves it becomes What’s my time for this kilometer? Can I maintain the pace? How’s my heart rate – better or worse than yesterday?

And there’s some value in that. I’m not saying the goals and measuring progress is inherently a bad thing. It’s just not conducive to healing a body that (as one medical friend put it) suddenly has, at best, 2/3 the lung capacity it had before.

You may, like me, try to reframe it: OK! The new mission is called “Operation Gray Get Better. We’ll measure it by hours of rest, and glasses of water, and your girlfriend will incentivize it with pinup pics sent for progress made towards…

Not good. Well, not terrible (I do enjoy pinups) but it’s still turning a natural healing process into an effort. If I’m not even having the energy to write a post for my blog (sorry about that, readers) creating a new project is not going to help rest.

Bringing It Down to Basics

I’ve had to face the hard reality that I’m simply going to be at a limited capacity for a while longer. This doesn’t mean that I need to give up my practices, but it means I need to be realistic about what I can do, what the results will be. Most of all I need to be more aware of my body, and when I find myself “pushing”, I need to stop.

Here’s the things that I can do:

  1. Yin Yoga (or, as I’ve been calling it, “laying on the floor like a slug” yoga, which is uncharitable). This is a form of yoga that can be challenging, but usually is more focused on long, supported, internal-awareness poses. YogaWithKassandra for the win!
  2. Breathing It’s always humbling when something you take for granted becomes something challenging. There are specific breathing exercises that have been recommended to improve lung capacity after pneumonia, and since yin yoga focuses on breathing anyway, it makes for a nice pairing.
  3. Find New Joys More than just from the illness, I’ve been fighting depression. A lot of the joy I’ve found in the work I do has seemed to vanish into bureaucracy or worse. After weeks of this, I suddenly came to the realization that the pneumonia has cut off one of my main ways of relaxing: cigars. Finding something that’s an alternative – that gives me as much interest and enjoyment – is a challenge.
  4. Practice Self-Compassion Most of all, I need to give myself a break when I’m not “producing” as much as usual. I’ve had some good support from my colleagues and loved ones in this, but that’s the easy part; the hard part is convincing my inner critic that time spent healing is time spent well.

Bringing It Along

At some point I know I’ll be better. I’ll have the capacity, again, to work and work and create and produce and feel that I’m a contributing member of society.

I hope I don’t.

I hope I can find, instead, a sense of inherent worth not based on what I can or can’t do, but rather on who I am – the same kind of unconditional love I would give others.

I wonder what it would feel like if my work could be for it’s own sake, rather than tied to a need to support my self-esteem.

What kind of world would that be?

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