Chronic Illness, Feeling Lazy, and The Drive to be Productive
Too often, we make the mistake of focusing so much on curing ourselves that our efforts become counterproductive and we end up wearing ourselves out, making our bodies retaliate and shut down even more. On the other hand, once we do manage to get well, we tend to be just as overly driven with our hearts set on doing anything and everything possible to prove, mostly to ourselves, that we are “good” enough. That we are “somebody” in society.
That we are successful. That we are productive (and in today’s society, we tend to confuse “productivity” with “busy” …and being constantly busy > stress > decline in health. I believe it was Tim Ferris, or someone he was interviewing, who said something along the the lines of “when someone tells me they’re busy, it actually means they have poor time management”).
Honestly, after years of laying in bed, how can we not have this urge? If you are anything like me, the thought that you are a “loser” or “lazy” and are doing “nothing” with your life has crossed your mind at some point, or many points, throughout those years. It is understandable, but it is simply not true. Tell me, can you relate to this? If you can, then the part of you observing the fact that you can relate to this is who you are at your core. The real you. The you that is content with simply being, and who never needs to prove anything to anyone.
The part of you that already knows you are somebody because despite external matters, you do still in fact exist. And while we are talking about external matters, that part of you, who you are at your core, will stay the same whether you are bedridden, famous, or anything in between. The only thing affected by these matters, the only thing that will change, will be your ego; and it will always be that way, because your consciousness, your soul, or whatever word you use to describe who you really are inside at a deep level will never cease to exist.
When I hit remission, the first thing I did was move to an entirely different state where I did not know a single soul to work at my dream publishing company. I went to live by myself and be independent in every aspect of my life in what was a foreign land to me, one I had never even visited, after not so much as spending a single night alone for years. I went to be all alone and entirely independent, after having a caretaker around 24/7 to depend on for the previous few years.
Was I crazy? Clearly. But more than anything, I was human. More than anything I was a 20 something wanting to be “productive”. Wanting to be SOMEBODY. It seems that with the return of my health came the resurgence of that particular, nasty egoic but very human state.
While sick, I only had so much energy to spare. I had two choices: use what energy I had left to focus on healing and my inner self, meaning the complete shedding of the egoic state which was always striving to be productive to an unhealthy degree, or cling to the identity of being “sick” and place all the energy of that egoic state into that new identity —into being a spectacular ….sick person? No. Not okay. So I chose to shift into a different state of being, having nothing to do with proving myself as some accomplished person who was super productive. Rather, I let go of that tiresome part, and shifted into a state of being rooted in mindfulness, in consciousness, in present moment awareness.
Perhaps it was never really a choice —to give up the idea that being sick meant I was lazy and I needed to be productive and proving myself to others (whatever that means anyway)—, but rather an inherent instinct to survive because the only way to do that was to drop the facade.
Either way, one thing is clear: whether or not I consciously made this choice to shift out of caring about appearances and into a state of present moment awareness at all times didn’t matter once I healed. Once I got well and got all my energy back, I also got consumed with the desire to be productive, to do 1,000 things at once, to go back into life full force rather than ease my way back in and pace myself. Basically, there was no gradual shift from bed bound to functioning human being. Instead, I went from bed bound to going 100 miles/hr all over again (focusing mostly on surface things …again… like I vowed not to go back to doing), which inevitably led to overexertion. Fast.
Pair that with the fact that I moved into a place infested with black mold, and BAM, within literally one week I went from feeling healthier than I had felt even before getting Lyme to gaining over 30 symptoms back (seriously, over 30, I know that sounds dramatic and hard to believe …and I probably wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t lived it. However, it’s the truth).
Thus, my dream job in the dream state moved to transmuted into an all around nightmare within 7 days, leading me to have to move back home as a completely debilitated person who had to undergo years of treatment once again. In the end, what was it all for? I thought it was “passion”, but looking back, I know it wasn’t. I am not ashamed to admit it was the humanness in me wanting to appear productive and as if I was achieving something great in life …when in reality, I now know the greatest achievement is here, right now, in this very breath. And the next. And the next. True achievement is found no where else other than in the breath, in the here and now. Everything else is just surface material, most of which is meaningless when it really comes down to it —and when you get late stage Lyme and other illnesses, it does REALLY come down to it. So, therein lies the lesson: be okay with where you are at in this moment, especially if sick.
Be kind to your body, to your soul, to your entire being. Be grateful for each breath, do not curse the present, craving a different life (usually one resembling those on your social media feeds…); because I can PROMISE you this: if given that other life you crave, you would still carry with you the very same breath you have now, the one and only tool that is a vehicle to your inner most being. And in that other life, you would for some reason, be craving a different life, and would eventually come to the same exact realization (if lucky) —the breath you are taking at this very moment is the only thing that matters, the only true thing, the only thing that never changes as long as you live, no matter how far you go, no matter how far your external circumstances change. Your breath is the doorway to your soul, and regardless of how fancy your life may be or seem, at some point something will bring you to your knees and you will come knocking on that door.
So breathe, be here now. Healthy or sick,