Disability changes and shapes how we see the world in every part of our life, and that includes how we much value we place on the importance of radical self care.
As a kid and teen and young adult with disabilities I decided that if I rested every time my body said to rest I’d never get anything done, and so for years I ignored all of the warnings and needs. But with my new disabilities I ignore my body at my peril, as I have come to learn the hard way!
So radical self care for me is no longer an option – it’s become a way of life. It means thinking about every bite of food that goes in my mouth and every time my heart rate goes above a very low threshold. It means choosing only the very most important, values-driven activities to spend and energy on – because there’s only a limited amount of energy available. It means that someone else has cleaned my house for the last year and a half and someone else – family member, friend or bus – is now responsible for doing all of the driving of my teenagers.
These are hard things to think about – hard things to let go of – hard things to ceed control over.
And this morning it means that after two extremely busy weeks, I have to stay in bed this morning while my family gets up and off to school and work. I have to cancel anything that might have been on my ‘to-do’ list and replace it simply with rest.
Depending on where you’re coming from that might sound divine or it might sound lazy or maybe self indulgent, but what I am discovering is that for me it is simply necessary – that any other course of action will result in there being less function and less capacity for whatever else life brings.
We’re all different – our bodies are different, our circumstances are different, our realities are different. What rest looks like for my husband, for example, may include a three hour run or a five hour bike ride. What rest looks like for one of my teens might include writing a song (or three) on the bus home from a long day, or for my other teen it might mean digging her bare feet into the still-thawing dirt while enjoying the full blast of the spring sunshine. I have friends for whom rest looks like sewing or drawing or going for a five kilometer hike, other friends for whom rest looks like a book and a glass of something cool and a lounge chair and silence and still other friends for whom it wouldn’t be rest unless they were surrounded by friends and laughter and food and stories and connection.
But regardless of what rest looks like for you, I guarantee you can tell – and the people around you can tell – if you’ve had enough rest or not. I guarantee that you function better when you have – that you can concentrate better, that you find your patience is better, that you can see others’ with more empathy and that you can tap into a deeper well of joy for your day – whatever it may bring.
So I’m not interested in trying to tell anyone how they should rest. But I do want to encourage you to embrace the value of rest for your life.
We were designed for work and for rest. Our bodies have valuable insights to tell us – if only we’d tune in and listen! So even if all you feel you can do today is take ten minutes to tune in to your body and ask “what do you need? Where are you at?” I would encourage you to do that. Who knows, it might just be the beginning of a beautiful friendship!