“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’”
~ Eleanor Roosevelt ~
I’ve spent more time on my back, unable to do anything, than I care to remember. The following song, to some extent, used to cut so close to the bone that it made me laugh and cry at the same time:
“Lump sat alone in a boggy marsh
Totally motionless except for her heart
She spent her twenties between the sheets
Life limped along at subsonic speeds
She’s Lump, she’s Lump
She’s in my head
She’s Lump, she’s Lump
She might be dead”
~ The Presidents of The United States of America~
After a while, feeling sorry for myself became a little tedious. When we’re too weary to be productive, but too sore or wired to sleep, we realise that something else must be done to pass the time—something that needs no external entertainment.
Lo and behold, the art of doing nothing is born!
It is vital on the road to self-mastery, but it seems most of us are terrible at it. It’s like there’s some great, unwritten moral obligation to be run off our feet, to not sit still for longer than about 15 seconds. Believe me, I understand.
Sitting or lying still, with the intention of doing nothing, can feel terribly awkward—specially when it’s our sole intention. We have to actually face the thoughts that crowd in, and contend with the myriad of feelings, pain and discomfort in our bodies. And in this situation, there’s nothing so magical as a little imagination. It goes a long way.
I often dreamed of putting on comedy dance shows, walking through Africa learning ethno-botanical medicine, or participating in community outreach programs. But it was not to be. Lying still in bed seemed the modus operandi for the day. I was left contending with the fact that I felt like a hamster on a wheel, unable to switch off and be one with the present moment in all its splendour.
And the present moment is full of splendour—even if our hearts ache and our lives seem bleak—because freedom is not a circumstance. It is a state of being.
Shifting into splendour when dealing with distress, excitement or busyness is no mean feat. It’s a rigorous exercise in shifting our attitude toward presence and surrender. But most importantly, it’s playfulness.
So, without further ado, here are some powerful lessons that people with chronic fatigue can teach the world:
1. Freedom is a state of mind
You can be trapped in your own body and still exude greater freedom than half the people on this planet. It might not be easy—but it’s possible.
2. A little imagination goes a long way
Invoke the art of play and watch the demons dissolve away.
3. It’s okay to not be okay, and to ask for help
Don’t wait until you’ve collapsed in the kitchen or parking lot because you’re too proud to ask for help. Be proactive. Take care of yourself by reaching out. No one is perfect. Perfection is perfunctory.
4. Non-doing is an art form, which this world really needs
Seriously. Despite saying this, tongue-in-cheek, it might well be. A holistic wisdom comes from being able to bear witness to our distress without reacting against it—politically, personally, ecologically, emotionally and spiritually.
When we stop feeding our beasts, they starve.
5. Humour is a sign that you’re winning
Search for it!
6. Your mindset is your magic
Keeping a positive mindset when one’s health is on tenterhooks is not easy. Ill health can affect your finances, family life, sex life, sense of purpose and self-esteem. Long-term ill health can completely lay waste to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. However, when the mind and heart work together to face those demons and develop self-mastery, the invalid becomes the oracle, the mystic, the soothsayer, the sage. Changing your mindset isn’t about frivolous positivity. It is about courage and conscience. It is about kindness, wisdom and discernment.
It’s about owning yourself, not having your mind own you.
7. The importance and sacredness of rest
Put sayings like “sleep when you’re dead” in the bin and leave them there. Rest is sacred. Get as much of it as you can!
8. The importance of self-care
– even when others don’t understand or judge you unkindly. It’s not worth worrying about what people think if it damages your health. People will judge you. They won’t understand. How could they, unless they experience your situation for themselves? Your health and well-being have to come first.
9. Everything you eat or drink makes a difference
Literally. Anyone with food sensitivities will know this to be true.
10. Courage isn’t always obvious to the outsider
Remember that, for yourself and for everyone you meet. Always look for the courage in others. It’s everywhere when you have the eyes to see. And that can bring you courage, too.
11. You are inherently worthy
Wisdom, insight, character, kindness and humour are greatly needed in this world. Our gift to the world, first and foremost, comes from who we are. It comes from the ways we move the hearts and minds of others, the way we bring peace, love, joy, laughter, and thought-provoking ideas to those around us. Our worth is not measured by what we do, but by how we make others feel. Of course, doing, when we’re able, is magic. I am a firm believer in action, when it comes from a place of mindfulness. No…wait…heartfulness. That’s a much better word.
12. Communication makes all the difference
So much suffering occurs simply because we do not or cannot articulate ourselves to one another. Explaining things without emotional charge makes such a difference and relieves so much unnecessary suffering. It’s really worth making the effort.
13. Sometimes, surrender is more effective than swimming upstream
With a little discernment and wisdom, we learn when it’s a good idea to keep going and when it’s best to stop, rest, and perhaps, even change course.