Seeing & Meeting Your Body's Need For Rest

Energetically, my body has come to a crawl this week. I'm tired. I am easily in bed for 9 hours and when I awaken, I go around aimless, lost. For significant parts of every day, I am amazingly unproductive and am having a hard time sorting out what my body needs. Tea? Hot or iced? A calf stretch or a psoas release? A cry or a walk? To be with people or to be alone?

It reminds me of when my cats were neutered as kittens and came home all doped up, stumbling around the bathroom, looking a little afraid, but mostly confused, having lost the ability to find their way easily in the world. So that is me, spending a part of every day a bit like a doped up kitten.

You might be concerned about this, perhaps thinking it's time to get me to a doctor, or at least a therapist. But I'm not concerned. I've traveled this road before. One year ago this coming weekend, my mother died after a short experience of brain cancer. So this doped up kitten who is struggling to find her way? That's grief.

I've been sitting with this feeling and noticing how much I want to bypass it. To just keep going. To avoid the emotional pain, because it's complicated and messy and I might see something I don't want to see. As I've been sitting with it, I've been noticing how much the impulse to just "skip over" also surfaces in body work. In Restorative Exercise™, an essential goal of an instructor is to teach you how to "see" yourself, so that you can effectively make changes on your own, moment-by-moment. But actually seeing yourself means letting go of how you want to see yourself. So you have to face up to your pain and your discomfort and the many ways you aren't as healthy or mobile as you tell yourself and how out of whack your lifestyle is with what your body really needs. Or said another way, most of us are deeply afraid of our vulnerability and we ensure never truly take a look at ourselves in order to avoid the chance we discover that doped up kitten underneath it all. We have little grounding in a bigger picture, we are misinformed about and mistrusting of our bodies, we have been indoctrinated in the ways of every possible type of dissociation - be it from our feelings, our bodies, our ideas, our needs - that we prevent ourselves from truly being present with what our bodies are telling us.

In my case, my body is telling me to slow down. To remember my mama. To grieve. To cross another psychic bridge of healing. I can try to override the system, to "buck up," keep moving at my regular pace, "work out" harder, do whatever the hell it is our collective culture keeps insisting is important. But then I miss the beautiful opportunity that is an anniversary, even an anniversary of loss. I have lived long enough to (mostly) remember that if I don't do the work now, if I don't take the rest, cry the tears, light the candles, gently move the body, then I will move into the next phase exhausted, depleted, anxious.

We live in a culture that pushes toxic body messages, whether it's the myth of "no pain, no gain," the idea that appearance trumps all, or the lie that someone with medical degrees is the expert on your personal wellbeing. But this idea of not stopping to listen? Not heeding what you hear? Never resting? This is perhaps the most toxic.

So I'm going to spend the next few days embracing my doped up kittenhood. I'll laze around and not get much done. I'll let my husband make me tea and I'll stare at the ceiling while I lie on the floor. I won't take any movement classes from my teachers or plan the weaning party for my son or try to repaint the kitchen. I'll lower my mileage and go for walks on softer ground. I'll do this because it's apparently what my body needs and because if I don't, I won't emerge out of this cycle as resilient as I otherwise would be.

I wonder if you can listen - truly listen - to what your body is calling forth in you, even if you don't like what you are hearing. Perhaps you need more movement, more action, more doing, more change. If so, how can you make that happen? In my experience, though, of myself and of my clients (both in this field and from my prior life coaching days) I notice that we are more comfortable with adding things in and doing more, but that we tend to get stuck when it comes to slowing down. Adequate rest is incredibly hard to claim for oneself in a culture that worships productivity and busy-ness and perpetuates the lie that consumption (be it of food, merchandise, experiences or media) suffices for restfulness and presence.

In light of that difficulty, I leave you with this quote from Clarissa Pinkola-Estes in her book, Women Who Run With the Wolves (trusting that the men among you will find yourself in her words, too):

And neither should we panic when we lose our momentum or focus...It is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when...For women, it is best if they understand this at the onset of an endeavor, for women tend to be surprised by fatigue. Then they wail, they mutter, the whisper about failure, inadequacy, and such. No, no. This losing of energy is as it is. It is Nature.

May you be willing to hear and to see what is true for you. And may you honor your body's own natural cycles.

I want to acknowledge Barbara Loomis, who recently made a simple comment to me about how nothing in nature is expected to be in bloom all of the time, words that cemented my understanding of this need for rest.