What is that?
I would be the first to tell you it isn’t in my vocabulary. I’ve always been go hard or go home. I know no other way.
If I don’t, I expect to fall into the extremity of: sweep the schedule under the mat and grin until it goes away.
Grinning ranges between two things. First: committing several Herculean tasks indirectly related to the main job and hoping somehow your diligence would make your real work disappear. But I can’t tell you that laundry or done dishes ever a paper handed in.
Second: compiling as many leisurely activities as possible to laugh your way to the deadline of the task.
Neither has done much good in the past. Although sometimes grinning gets the best of me, I generally try to discipline myself toward a goal.
At 6 years old when mama passed and saw the light on and said “Go to bed…”
My response was, “I’m studying.”
For what? I don’t know. I had no tests to prepare for at that age.
A messy room would make me uneasy. Even at 7; until my bed was made and my things put away, I was a tangle of nerves. A clear space made a clear mind.
At 11 when I shot hoops I had to make it every time. The ball had to go through the net.
I’m the girl who will still keep working unfazed by sickness. The work has to get done. Time waits for no man. All that jazz.
Some call it intense. I call it a pre-requisite for success. Passion and drive make things happen. Sacrifice comes in tandem. Like the great tennis player Serena Williams, I deeply fear falling short of being the greatest mom and falling short of excelling in my career. Falling short of being a supportive wife, falling short of keeping my home affairs running, falling short of maximising my skills, falling short in my relationship with Christ.
I am an idealist. I need things to function right and well on the same level. Anything less is failure. There is the idea ingrained deep in our Western society that if you don’t meet the strong, black woman quota, if you are not carrying the world better than Atlas, you are failing.
Other than a first child perfectionist syndrome, there has always been the natural need to do what it takes. And that applied to everything.
The only time I intended to rest, was to rest in peace when my journey came to an end in the distant future. But in my ambition I minimised the fact that by overtaxing your mortal body you reduce the distance between you and death.
Today I was reminded that my body has limits. That if you don’t put safety guards on your grind you will kill yourself. The severity of it has to ring in your head. You need to adhere, you need to listen. That breastfeeding with flu symptoms and sleepless nights while running ahead with your life as normal is ignorance at best and carelessness at worst. All of the above take your sustenance and I wasn’t refilling it. Today, when my body chose to collapse on the bathroom floor, it did not ask for my permission. It did not wait for me to calculate. I turned, light headed, then went down before I knew what was going on.
I’ve been here before. My body has snatched back several needs I have deprived it of. When I rob it of sleep, it plunges me into the depths of a slumber an earthquake can’t interrupt. Sometimes I get shakes. Sometimes I lose function in some parts. Sometimes I get unexplained pain. When you do not treat it well it will remind you that you cannot get anywhere without it.
I still struggle to strike the balance. INFJs, like me, are notoriously bad at self care. They will go to the ends of the Earth for everyone else but themselves with the ridiculous notion that self care is selfishness.
Self care doesn’t mean ignoring everyone and trampling on your loved ones for luxurious wants. It is a reminder that phrases which include “defying your limits” and “breaking boundaries” have their place. It is a reminder that, “you can do anything through Christ who gives you strength” has a specific context. It is a reminder that wisdom is the principal thing. Yes. Do better than your last. Yes. Always put your best foot forward. But while you are at it, charge your batteries when necessary.
I vaguely remember watching a video some time ago. Mark Zuckerberg’s sister Randi Zuckerberg declares that successful living involves choosing three priorities everyday. You can choose from work, sleep, family, fitness and friends. Friend… try and sleep when the night comes. Your body cannot function at its best without it. And don’t just sleep, rest.
I know what you will say. What about so and so? They get through without sleeping. I don’t want to be left behind. I never asked you about so and so. Stop depending on the image of someone’s work flow and replicating it as the reality of yours. You don’t know what their 24/7 is. It very well may not be what it appears to be. It very well may not work for you.
There are so many now, who complain about the concept of self care and equate it to idolatry. But I daresay, when you are dead and gone, life will only keep going on. You can’t save everybody from the grave. You’re no use to anybody there. You cannot be apologetic about your well being. Let me tell myself that: I cannot be apologetic about my well being.
I have to rest. By definition, I have to “cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength.” It makes me wince to think about. I sometimes don’t know how, but I gotta learn somehow.
I hope where I have written in past tense it is a sign of a leaving behind. I hope I have learned my lesson. I hope that I will drop everything when I am tired. I hope that I will learn to ask for help. I hope that I will admit to myself that I cannot do it all today. I hope that I know sometimes that doing it all is impossible. I hope that I will stop ignoring critical warning signs from my body. I hope that I will pay attention when my loved ones flail frantically, appealing that I slow down. I hope that I will break up my long standing relationship with burnout. I hope that I will put time aside for me. I hope that I will understand that by doing these things I am not failing. Sister, you are not failing.
Self made? That’s a myth. Douglass, Soujourner Truth.. they stayed with people who helped them on the way. The folks who pose on social media? They have nannies, and family members. They have paid teachers. They have help. There are those who even lean on younger siblings. Nobody is an island. We need people. There are those who have absolutely no help but they do their best. And doing your best does not involve playing with your limits. Take small steps at a time. Be patient. One, one penny will still put together enough for dutty dam to cross the Ganges. Slow and steady is better than living like Pepsi: living fast and dying young.
You’re still superwoman. Superman wouldn’t be able to save the day if he played with kryptonite. Stop playing around with what will weaken you. Yes my love. Stop saying there is no rest for the wicked. You are not wicked to take a day for yourself to rewind for a comeback.
Rest. It is what culminates a run on of sentences. It is the break on a busy page. It’s a mandatory stop. Take it.
Try. For the sake of everything and everyone I care about and love. For my sake. I will try. I will. Please promise me that you will too.
P.S. I know I promised a commission. But this happened unexpectedly. No worries, it will come.