Three weeks ago, my mom underwent emergency surgery. She was sent to a hospital that we later learned only used one operating room in the evening, and her surgery kept getting bumped back for larger emergencies. After waiting for five long hours, my mom finally went under the knife. It was one of the most terrifying days of my life, and I’m sure one of the most terrifying days of her life, as well. (Nothing in life prepares you to receive directions from your mom on what you need to do if she dies.) When I left the hospital around 11 that evening, the check engine light in my car came on. After grumbling pretty much every curse word I know, I drove the five minutes home and went straight to bed.
The next day was hurried, but during my infusion on Friday, I spent a lot of time reflecting. When was the last time I checked my engine? When was the last time I checked in with myself? When was the last time I was exhausted and instead of pushing through, I stopped? When was the last time I didn’t feel like I had to be on?
As fate would have it, I did not have an easy recovery from my infusion for the first time in a long time. I spent most of my weekend in bed, and despite being in pain, the free time was glorious. I read, and I wrote, and I took as many naps as I wanted without being mean to myself. I watched Netflix, which had become kind of a luxury to me. I listened to my body for the first time in a long time.
Sound familiar? Here are some things I’m attempting to implement into my life to keep my personal check engine light from flashing up. I’m sharing them in case you need it, too. Because I feel confident that many of us are in the same boat.
1. Check in with yourself frequently. This is something I’m awful about. I get to a breaking point and then ask myself “HOW DID I GET HERE?!” Well, maybe it’s because that’s the first time I had checked in with myself in three weeks, and probably could have been avoided if I’d stopped, taken a deep breath, and scheduled some time for myself. Now I check in with myself at least daily. How am I feeling physically and mentally? If something hurts, how am I treating it and do I need to see a doctor before it gets worse? If my body feels gross, what have I eaten that I probably shouldn’t have? If I have too much on my plate, is there something I can delegate?
2. Take 20 minutes for yourself every day. Ultimately, I hope you’ll take more, but this blog is grounded in the real world and that’s not always a possibility. Typically I like to use this time to read, work on a writing project that’s just for fun, or catch up with my friend Katie on the phone. (I am such an introvert and I love time alone, but I always feel like a new person when I get off of the phone with her.) Sometimes I simply sit on the patio and watch cars drive by and enjoy the fresh air or take a really long shower just to enjoy the hot water.
3. Exercise. Regardless of how much I despise working out, exercise makes me feel so much better. I can be having the worst day of my life, but after an hour of hot yin yoga, there’s not an ounce of negative energy left in my body. Even something as simple as taking Francis for a little walk helps so much.
What are you going to do for you this week? And what’s your go-to when your personal check engine light comes on?