While I was recently in San Diego, I managed to catch a particularly nasty cold. Feels an awful lot like the pneumonia did with strong, deep coughing and the occasional dizzy moments, but that’s about it. There were a lot more symptoms with the pneumonia. But the cold stopped me dead in my tracks. I’ve managed to miss two days of work, and an entire three-day weekend has gone without much of the household chores getting completed or even started. Days like these really bug me.
When I see days where no progress gets made, I get agitated. I like to make progress, even if its just incremental stuff. Forward progress is forward progress, even when its measured in millimeters. But sometimes I am reminded that moments of no progress are more than what they appear to be.
When I lived in Germany, I would take extremely long walks through the nearby forest, just behind Kapaun Air Station. Now known as the Gelterswoog, a protected nature preserve, the trails through these woods were some of my favorite places to be, particularly in the winter. After a long snowfall, the air in the woods would be very still, and the sounds would be deeply muffled by the fresh snowfall. At that time, I had a German Shepherd puppy in my life, and we would take very, very long walks during those times. I would carry a couple of cups of his dried dog food with us, along with three or four canteens of water, a compartmentalized bowl for him eat and drink from, a steel cup for me, and a compass, just in case we got lost. All of that went into a small ruck pack that I carried on my back.
From time to time, we would stop along the trails, where I would clear the snow from whatever bench we found, and we would take a short break. I would sit and talk to Patrick (the puppy’s name) about what had been going on at work or I would try and stay silent, so we could take in the sounds around us. We were near the warehouse on Kapaun Air Station, about three quarters of a mile, and we could hear the commands being broadcast by the outside speakers to other parts of the warehouse area. But when the speakers weren’t barking out the orders into the air around, we would listen to the sound of snow sliding off the branches and landing on the ground with a deep thump. We weren’t making any forward progress at those moments, but we were able to observe some of the sounds we would not normally hear when we were on the trail, and Patrick was busy running through the deeper snows to discover what was there.
Breaks are always good things. Even when you get those breaks enforced on you with colds, or weather that doesn’t allow you to do the things you need to outside. You find the time to deal with other aspects of life that just haven’t come up because of timing or what have you. Reading, writing, knitting, yes even watching the television or getting the sleep your body is requesting for healing (in terms of the cold you may have or the exhaustion that you feel). Just because you are not making the usual forward progress of yard work, or care repair, or gardening or whatever else you can come up with that makes you feel like a disappointment; that does not mean that you cannot find other less intensive things to accomplish. You might be sitting on the bench or rocks you found in the woods, not making a sound, but listening to everything else that goes on. Listening to all that auditory experience and processing it in your mind, let’s your mind relax a bit more than having long, drawn out conversations where you have to go through the extra motions of processing what has been said, and framing that into some manner in which you can respond and add to the conversation.
Some folks take these enforced breaks because they just cannot cope with the constant hammering of the world on their doors. They pull back from a mental exhaustion. I completely grok that. In some ways, I see my catching the cold as not being vulnerable to airborne viruses, particularly when someone infect knowingly brings such things onto airplane flights. Yes, I am well aware that the guy on the row just across from me on the flight to San Diego is where I caught this from. I could lay the blame directly on him, which I should, but I won’t. Because I also see my body’s weakness having come from the way I work. I am an all-effort or nothing type of person. Most of my work is mental, but I also internalize the failures and complications as well. That exhausts me and allows my body to be a little more vulnerable to illness and contagions. When I see friends post on Facebook about how they just want to hide from the world and not deal with anything, my internal comment is typically: “I grok you.” I will become the most exuberant cheerleader for them. Not because I want to be a rah-rah person for their life, but because I grok what they are going through. And that I know what a struggle it can be to get past that.
Instead of working your ass to the bone, take a break. if you feel the walls closing in on you, go to where you feel safe, and take a break. Tired? Don’t pass that bench and keep on walking, have a seat and take a break. And to be honest, use any help you can find. I tend to take long walks with my staff. I also tend to bring my staff to Pagan events as well. Its not just because I think my staff looks cool (it does), but because I need something to lean on. And there’s no shame in that whatsoever.