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One of the best lessons I’ve learned in the past decade is the one I had to re-learn, the one our parents teach us from infancy: Take care.

living in gratitude©

I had to relearn to walk, but I also had to learn again to sleep.

Who needs to learn to nap?

A woman accustomed to working non-stop, traveling non-stop, in constant motion.

I had to learn to slow down, to become accustomed to a body that no longer moved the way my perpetual-motion mind did.

I had to learn, after years of taking it for granted, to pay attention to my body.

Once I learned to walk again, I had to learn to take care with each step. I still do. My disability means I often trip — lately, on the way to a business meeting, luggage in tow, flat-out on an icy sidewalk in rush hour in downtown Toronto. Right in front of the windows of an elegant hotel where I was meeting a friend. Luckily, he was facing another direction and missed my spectacular tumble-with-luggage. (I’m grateful to the three strangers who helped me up, including two men who ran outdoors without coats. Who says chivalry is dead?)

Doctors ordered daily naps when I left hospital, which wasn’t tough considering I was still flying on meds.

But later, combining school, work and internships with commuting in San Francisco, I was backsliding to my old ways of four or five hours of nightly sleep.

Take care.

I used to marvel at successful women friends who slept at least eight hours a night, once they had babies and were juggling motherhood with hot careers.

Now, I’m the baby, and if I don’t get my minimum eight hours, well, you don’t want to know me.

I also pay far more attention than I ever did to eating well. This is more than an organic, vegetarian diet; it’s actually keeping to regular meals, throughout the day. Pre-disability, my friends and family will tell you I often “forgot” to eat, and considered it a bother.

Take care.

I’m still in motion, but slower.  I stretch throughout the day — a formal routine first, then little “adds” — because my mobility depends on it.  I exercise daily, because my stamina and strength and mobility depend on it. (“Use it or lose it” is more than a silly jingle now.)

We travel a lot, so walk and walk and walk.  If I don’t have my daily walk in the forest (at our home in Portland, Oregon) or on a beach (less than an hour away), I feel as if something is missing.

With yoga, I am centered.  My body breathes and so does my brain.  When I’m kayaking, my muscles sing — and so does my soul.

If I’m not listening to the waves of the Pacific, I’m imagining it.  I use guided imagery (me, kayaking Georgia Strait or Lake Temagami or the Pacific Ocean), and meditation to calm my sometimes perpetual-motion brain.

Take care.

I’m still amazed to need to be so constantly aware of this most basic of life’s lessons, yet I’m grateful for every moment.

‘Calm, healthy and strong’: Read more.