On Tuesday, I got up early, went to work, and noticed a tickle in my throat that was causing a teeny, pesky cough.
Four hours later, I had to admit something to myself and everyone around me that I really, really despise admitting: I was sick. Really sick. Fever, chills, head explosion, no appetite, actually got a Lyft home sick. Sick like, took an actual four hour nap sick.
I don’t get sick very often. That’s a really spoiled thing to say. I pride myself on my commitment to keep my body healthy- I run, cook my own food often, and try to sleep a good amount. That’s a privilege to have time and resources. It also takes discipline and a firm no to sugar which can be very, very difficult (why confetti cake. why).
Hopefully I’ll be fine tomorrow, I told everyone at the office. Tomorrow turned into a scary trip to the Emergency Room and a doctor’s note. “If this is what I think it is, you probably won’t feel better until Saturday,” Dr. Chua said. At least I was now equipped with some medicine to fight the fever.
I did not go back to work the rest of the week. In fact, I barely looked at my email, read any of my books, or watched anything on TV. I ate some applesauce every few hours and trudged to the kitchen to fill my water bottle again. Obviously, intense physical activity was out of the question. I skipped Tuesday’s four mile run, then Wednesday’s eight mile, then Thursday’s four mile. No yoga, no strength training. Even though there was no way in heck I could have attempted to even walk down stairs not not faint, I felt guilty. And yet, I felt weirdly as if this really, really needed to happen.
Since November of 2015, I haven’t gone more than four days without running, even if for two miles. Before I started running, I don’t think I had skipped working out for more than four days in a row- and if I did, I would have worked out double on the fourth day. Working out has become part of my routine, and my routine doesn’t do well when not followed.
Yet somehow, seven days passed with no running. I let go of the guilt. Several people helped me. “Your body is telling you that you need a break,” a student said. “This is everything you’ve been stressed and anxious about coming out,” my mom wisely stated. I believe that. When others around me are sick, or fatigued, or overworked, I believe their bodies tell them, just as mine informed me. Sometimes we have to stop everything, literally everything, and just lay on the couch wrapped in a blanket like a human burrito.
I began to feel better by day six. I wondered to myself, “how much doing nothing is TOO much? What if I took another day? Should I try? What is the limit?”
That’s my question moving forward. When we take time for self-care, when do we know we’ve done enough? When are we ready to push forward? And what if we are wrong?
Today I ran ten miles because it was 59 degrees and sunny, and I needed a moving meditation. I ran slower than I have in a while, and felt parched after the first half. I could tell my body was not at 100%, but it felt good to sweat and pump my arms. I don’t know if I was ready- did it matter? Maybe there is no right answer, except that we know when we are not.