I started this year in quite good physical shape. That was what I thought, until I started coughing. A dry cough I didn’t know where it was coming from. Days passed, I did’t pay much attention to it. Then weakness. And a cold followed. Then sinusitis. After that, extreme exhaustion. What was going on, I asked myself? I’ve never had a coughing attacks. I’ve never had sinusitis before. I felt somehow outraged. Almost as if something was being delivered to me that was not in the contract I had signed. Hey life, that’s not what we had agreed! see. Our contract was about keeping me healthy,…Really? Then feelings of surrender came. Alright,…. I’m supposed to get ill, let’s do this.
Before you continue reading, I would like to share with you that I don’t convey the idea that illnesses have a reason for existing. I’ve had much experience in my family of no-sense illnesses, and I think this view can be very damaging to people suffering them as it might create guilt. And yet, I believe that we can learn something when illness visits us, goes away or stays with us. As we can learn from anything that we encounter in life.
So I tried to ease into it, and decided I would not take any easy route such as antibiotics or pills that would clear the condition quickly and unconsciously. As I did it, I took the opportunity to examine some of my relationships. Among others, my relationship to food. I realized that during the time of not feeling well, I had been eating without appetite. I was simply eating food out of habit. But if I listened to my body, it was not hungry at all. Another nuance about my way of eating was a presence of a low level compulsivity in how I ate, not paying attention to what I was ingesting. Inside this realization, there was the special chocolate chapter. My relationship to chocolate has always been an intense one, but since I became a mum a little more than a year ago, chocolate became something I couldn’t pass by. Yes, like an addiction. Not that I would eat huge amounts of it, but it was more about how I ate it. I would eat it in a compulsive way, trying to fill an anxiety, a void within me.
What was I afraid of? Everything and nothing. The answer I found closest to truth, is that while some of the fears had some reason to exist, with time, my body had grown accustomed to this way of eating and to a certain amount of cocoa and sugar, and not having it, was triggering what it seemed deeply engrained pattern.
Listening to whispers
Listen to the whispers before they become screams said my beloved teachers Joel and Michelle from Wisdom at Work while in a recent retreat with them. This resonated with me so deeply. In a way, it had been in the back of my consciousness for a while, “this way of eating is not right”. Now I could clearly see, that I was not taking the time to see the food I ate. Let alone express any sense of gratitude towards it.
So I started to listen to my body. And my gut needed to rest. I fasted for almost two days, with no signs of hunger, until the end of the second day. During this time, I got the felt sense, that something bigger and more powerful than food was holding me. It felt liberating.
Point of despair
After the fast, and starting to eat more consciously as well as taking herbal medicines, I assumed I would immediately feel better. Well, I didn’t. My condition persisted and even seemed to worsen. I connected with the mental construct of “I’m doing all the right things and I still will not heal”. Well, that’s the nature of things, I realized. We don’t have control, and life was showing it to me once again. I felt sad, frustrated and a bit desperate. Not easy to be around.
The moment I was about to throw the towel and take the pill route, I realized I felt slightly better. I got a little relief. I thought that some biological processes are slow. And decided to give myself some time. I’m currently still recovering. Grateful for how this mundane journey has given me an opportunity to learn about myself and transform some of my usual ways of being and relating. Now I’ve recommitted to listen to my body for what it needs. I’m considering food as a part of the earth that’s becoming part of us- what a sacred process! – and I commit I do it in a mindful way, feeling grateful for it. I’m also determined to continue to look anxiety in the eye as it emerges, and let it be as it dissolves away.
With this, here’s my invitation to a self-reflection for a whole week:
- What whispers (things you know but you don’t wan to hear) do you hear?
- How could you listen to them before they become screams?
- Where are the whispers pointing at that might benefit from more balance (your body, relationships, your work, family,…)? How can you take action to make this happen?