Recently, I was relegated to rest because of a severe case of shingles. Not only was the pain unbearable but also the entire feeling of being ill was as well. What started out at the beginning of October as a short-lived illness ultimately lasted the entire month plus some. Consequently, October flew by and with it went the column I didn’t write, the foliage I didn’t get to see, and the family reunion I didn’t attend. Recovery has been slow but steady and as debilitating as it was, having shingles provided me with some much needed insight.
While I was lying in bed, I thought about the folks I might be letting down as well as all the responsibilities that had to be left undone. I considered the dishes, clothes, and floors that needed to be cleaned as well as the correspondence that had to be addressed. The only energy I had was just enough to assure my two constant feline companions that stayed with me throughout the ordeal were taken care of.
As I was mulling things over and considering the important people in my life such as my children and grandkids, some other ideas crept in along with the guilt-ridden ones. I started to reflect about things I had wanted to do but did not because of commitments, time restraints and procrastination. I thought about the violin lessons, sculpture classes, and oil paintings that did not materialize. I considered the bookcase in my living room that was stacked with beautiful books that I had not read along with the manuscripts that were not mailed. The imbalances in my life became more apparent, and I wondered if I would have time to take advantage of my new found awareness.
It occurred to me that the advice I had given to others who were overwhelmed was lost on me. I suddenly remembered what I was taught during graduate school in that taking care of oneself was paramount to being able to help others. By putting off those things in life that added to my well-being and feelings of happiness, I was not living up to standards of care as a mother, teacher, friend and as a therapist. After my enlightenment, I vowed that I would start implementing those things that not only would give me joy but also would add to my mental and physical health as well.
My advice then is to take some time each day and to be good to yourself. Even if it is just ten minutes, doing it each day helps to give enjoyment and purpose to life. It doesn’t have to be spectacular – just a walk around the neighborhood might be in order or maybe listening to a favorite piece of music or painting a chair. What matters is that it brings a smile of contentment and helps those endorphins (happy neurotransmitters) expand and circulate. Shingles brought impressions to my body that I hope will fade in time but also to my spirit that I pray will remain.