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.
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.
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.
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.
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.