I used to make myself sick.
Not on purpose. But because I was not paying attention.
They tell you in meditation and yoga to notice yourself, but I certainly did not understand what that meant at 21.
I used to fill every last minute. Time was a canvas to fill with activities. Great activities— like dancing and singing and environmental clubs and gardening— for sure! But a day was not a day if it was not filled to the brim with work and service and play and parties. This is how my college experience went.
On paper, all was well. I was engaging with people, places, and hobbies that I loved. I ate (mostly) healthy, I exercised daily, I loved my friends… But I was physically sick.
In my early 20’s the same patterns carried over to my “adult” life. I worked 3-4 jobs and volunteered at 2-4 more. My jobs were around food and agriculture, and my volunteer positions around dance, acupuncture, and yoga. On paper, my schedule was filled with all my favorite things… But looking back, I was a maniac.
There was little light behind my eyes. I would lose my voice all the time. I would catch every little cold that came around. I got to a point where I had headaches and neck aches every afternoon. I called it my case of the 3 PMs. I tried to drink caffeine at this time, but it stopped “helping” (which it was never actually doing anyways!). I would have to leave work and go home to nap. Sometimes I would sleep until the next day. Hopefully I would wake up headache-free.
I would work to make money to pay for the food I grabbed as I raced from one activity to the next (so much kombucha, so many brown rice chips!). I would volunteer in exchange for free acupuncture that I needed due to my hectic work and volunteer schedule. I would fill myself with caffeine and sugar to make up for the lags in energy I felt.
My thoughts were something like, “What is this lack of energy thing? I should go dance! Or ooh I’d love a chai!” And so on the outside my bubbly Tara-ness continued, but slowly the light from behind my eyes was fading.
I was tying myself in knots, chasing my own tail, and really digging my own grave.
And by some twists of fate, at 25 I could no longer ignore this. I got meningitis for a third time. I had doctors look me in the eye and ask me why I thought it was okay to get this sick again. I had doctors look me in the eye and tell me I wouldn’t bounce back so well this time. I had acupuncturists tell me I was so depleted, with a look of pity in their eyes like they were seeing something I just could not grasp.
Fierce grace. Yum.
They always tell you to live like life is short, but man I needed to hear that I could also live like life was long!
I had no choice but to learn meditation.
I had no choice but to slow down and notice myself.
And so I have. And so I continue to do, hopefully forever. I have noticed that I suffered from a case of the Busy Bee. That I was uncomfortable with inactivity. That caffeine is a band-aid for a life that won’t keep me healthy. That when I’m tired, I should nap! That it is okay to say no to people, to jobs… to anything!
Over the last two years I have slowed down. I have learned to watch as my habits of excitement build and build and build on itself and commit me to so many things there is no time for… me. For love. I have learned to sit in silence. I have learned to make time for space.
I even schedule in space now. I used to hate being early for things. It seemed like a waste of time. I now sit writing this as I am early for an acupuncture appointment— one that I am not running to in dire need of help, but one that is scheduled for the maintenance of my immune system… imagine that! (Formerly, I would run to chiropractors, acupuncturists— you name it— with a terrible headache desperate for any form of relief.) For those who have known me for a while, I am early to things now! (Sometimes.)
Most importantly I have learned to listen to my body.
Not to tell my body what I want, but to ask my body what it wants of me.
I notice when I am tired. I notice when I have energy. I notice when I could use a walk. I notice when I really just need a good glass of water! I notice my dear friend stress. I notice when a work environment is no longer serving my body. And I leave.
It is a slow process. But a sweet process.
I am learning a new dance with myself. The dance of my truth. And it can’t wait to dance with you.