When I go into the doctors office I often tell him with exuberance that I am doing great. That I am dancing, hiking, working. He often smiles almost sadly and nods and says, but how is your pain? I shrug and say it doesn’t matter, and he says “so not so good, then there is room to improve and we will keep working”. The truth is the pain is almost always there to some extent, its just a matter of whether or not the pain is bearable. If its at all bearable then I do whatever I can, almost frantically because I know in a matter of hours I can be rendered immobile by pain.
I have very fortunate circumstances, a family who understands my limitations, awarding jobs that give me some flexibility or are only a few hours a day at the most, and I tend to go out alone, that way I don’t disappoint anyone else if I can only stay out 40 minutes, or even have to go home before I even leave the parking lot. I also know I am able to over extend myself for brief periods of time, because I will have the freedom to recover the week after. So I allow myself occasional art festivals, or teaching summer camps.
Sometimes I manage so well I forget that I am not healthy. I volunteer at the gallery and then take a dance class on the same day and I feel invincible. I teach an hour and a half class and make a meal and I start thinking I am nearly recovered. (from an illness I can’t recover from).
Over extending myself doesn’t just lead to exhaustion but also to secondary issues. I can manage a weekend long artshow by myself but then I will be exhausted for days, and not just that but my weakened immune system seems even more compromised. So things like infections and flus start piling up. I tend to fall down more often. For days or weeks even I spend less time “living” and more time existing.
Yet I am fortunate to be able to over extend myself for short periods of time and the rewards are so worth it. Take this week for instance. I am teaching a half day summer art camp. I get to be an important part of the lives and education and self expression of some amazing kids. I wake up early, make sure I am all in order for the day, try to eat some healthy fuel, and start the day with an excited smile. I have a great time with the kids and being sick never crosses my mind, and if I feel sick I push the thought deep enough that it doesn’t bother me while I am teaching. Then the kids leave. And I clean up…usually dragging a bit by this time, hopefully I don’t have to do anything too strenuous like scrub floors but sometimes I do and that’s just part of the job. Usually by the time I get in my car I am exhausted and by the time I get home I can hardly make it upstairs to bed. I spend most the day in bed often just in a half aware mode, staring at the same webpage for an hour and it not registering or zoning out to the tv. I fall asleep early and wake up with just enough energy to get me through the next day. I can keep this up for four to five days. Which is great because that is how long my classes last.
Besides being able to do some awesome things by over extending myself for short periods of time I get another gift. The repercussions make themselves so clear that I am left feeling always grateful. Grateful that I am able to work at all, that I am able to sometimes dance or spend an hour in the woods, that once or twice a week I can lovingly make a meal for my family, that I can touch the lives and be touched deep in my soul by amazing and talented youth, that I have the time to create. These things give me so much material for happy thoughts when I can do nothing else but lay in bed and live in my own head.