Last week I’d intended this week’s post to be about what I call “The Productivity Trap”. Sunday I spend time writing a draft, a little revising, then finalize on Monday and publish. Only here it is, Monday night, no post ready.
If I was still caught in the Productivity Trap I’d be writing feverishly, staying up much later and posting. Like I’d planned on. However, over the past couple of years I’ve been learning how to extricate myself from this hazardous behavior of overworking, exhaustion as a kind of bizarre status symbol.
Saturday we went to see a soccer match, we’ve season tickets for the Portland Thorns Football Club and they were playing a home match. Last year, after much convincing from multiple parties, I began to sit in the accessible seating. While I can make the walk up into the upper stadium seats, the hard benches, with uneven height (so often I cannot put my feet flat on the ground), and no back support would leave me in terrible pain at the end of a match. I’d need to remember my cane in order to get moving safely down the stairs again. Now I sit with better chairs and no additional stairs to climb, which usually helps the fatigue of being seated at an event.
If you saw me teaching a class how to do side planks or go up into a shoulder stand you might never guess that I own a cane to help me walk. I’ve lived for over 17 years with chronic pain, I’ve become adept at managing it and most people would never realize that I sometimes am unsteady enough on my feet, with unexpected muscle spasms that comprise my balance, that a cane is necessary. There was a time when I need my cane every day, now it is only on occasion of fatigue or injury.
Despite that, I still have days where the pain wipes me out. Saturday the moderate pain level during the game didn’t settle down. No walking or yoga helped much in any way and the pain began to move up to my shoulders and neck and down into my hips. With it, or perhaps from being out in the sun and a high allergy load during the week, came nausea. Although I knew soaking in a epsom salts bath would help with the pain, but I felt so miserable I just wanted to curl up in bed.
I woke up at 2am on Sunday morning because no position was comfortable enough, I was in pain all over and couldn’t lay in anyway that didn’t just throb with ache. On top of it, the mild nausea from earlier had turned into a shaky, queasiness that left me feeling on the edge of vomiting.
This pain/nausea combination is not unusual for me. I also get nausea when anxious. Because of this I luckily have a prescription for a medication that can be taken sublingually, so it is very fast acting. It is often given to chemo patients, but for me it is my go to solution for sudden onset of nausea. Moving around and taking gentle breaths also helped and I was able to lay down and get some more sleep.
However, I awoke Sunday feeling wrung out, almost hung over in the way I felt an all over ache. I was too sore to sleep any longer and, while less nauseous, I still felt like food wasn’t a good thing to try. I skipped joining our community at church and opted to have a restful day. I wrote a little bit about it online, but otherwise I didn’t feel up to writing about much else.
What I worked on most of the day was not falling into The Productivity Trap. I kept a mindful watch on the feelings of shame arising because I wasn’t writing what I’d intended, I wasn’t moving stuff around to shift a treadmill downstairs, I wasn’t cooking up a storm for the week, I wasn’t doing any of the things I’d planned to do. Instead I practiced being gentle with myself, allowing myself to just rest so that I’d feel up to teaching a new class on Monday morning as well as seeing a new client afterward.
It worked too. I’ve had the energy to take on a new client and a new class today as well as teach a pretty full class this evening. Allowing myself to rest after years of pursuing productivity feels like a radical act, as writer Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”