As it warms up in south India I migrate northwards. Leaving the dizzy-making heat behind me, my body starts to recognise itself in the cooler climes; enjoying the cool nights, snuggling in a hoody and socks. I’m starting to feel the healthy impulses to carry out my small daily routines that were disrupted in the heat where my body just flopped. A pit stop in Delhi, the gateway to the mountains ahead.
I’ve stayed for one month in the security of a home where I have had no demands on me, as I move out of that security I know it is important I put into practice all I am learning about my energy fluctuations to keep me walking the middle path, to avoid hitting the edges where the risk is high I might fall off. It is safe to stay put, stick to the security of what I have established, but only by moving on will I get to experience the wonders the world has in store for me and to explore further how to balance my energy and look after myself.
I’m learning that it isn’t actually true to say that I don’t have energy, I’m learning that tiredness isn’t my problem but just my symptom. I realise that I do have quite a lot of energy but the way I have learned to live my life gobbles up that energy. For most of my life I’ve lived full-time not taking care of my needs and boundaries; I’ve never learned how, I’ve only learned how to put other peoples needs first and my good friend tiredness has come to my rescue to force me to rest, but far past what has been healthy.
Now, post burn-out, my tolerance levels are zero; as soon as I forego rest or food thinking I’ll catch up later my body screams. As soon as I sacrifice my own needs and start my codependent caring and people pleasing my soul wails in pain. This does not mean I can no longer care for others or offer my energy to others. Caring for another from a place of genuine generosity that comes authentically from my heart, that is different, and I seem to be able to offer my love and care and attention and receive energy in those situations. But the times I do things to make someone else happy when I actually don’t want to do, the sacrifices we make in the name of social etiquette, these are off the menu for me or I am on a fast road to bedrest again.
In my life I have met a number of people with chronic fatigue and the talk behind their back goes something like this: “Well if she has enough energy to do this［fun activity of her choice］why hasn’t she got the energy to do this［obligation/chore/activity of someone else choice］?” The assumption is that the person in question is lazy and/or spoilt, using chronic fatigue as a handy excuse to get out of anything she doesn’t want to do. I now find myself in the same position, yes I have the energy to do things, help out, visit people, go places, but only exactly what I want, with who I want and on my terms. When someone else makes what they might consider a very reasonable request of my energy, but something I just don’t want to do, suddenly my tiredness turns up again. Tiredness has been a friend in my times of need, debilitating tiredness was the only way I knew how to get rest, have my own space, recharge my batteries. But I see now that it is not tiredness or a lack of energy that is the problem but the fact that I have not been able to say “no’ when I’ve needed to.
“NO” is a complete sentence, it doesn’t need justification or explanation.’
We all recognise the pressure of feeling like we have to do things for others; doing things so as not to hurt or offend others or doing things out of obligation, duty or repaying or pre-paying unspoken favours. Most of us can make these sacrifices in the name of social etiquette, but after burn out, I can’t, it’s like I’ve become allergic and can’t fake the social game any more.
I understand why we have a social etiquette of I scratch your back you scratch mine, I wont rock the boat then my boat might not get rocked in the future; it is to give ourselves a structure of security in life. But I believe when we give of our energy because of expectation, obligation and duty we are actually lying, we are not being truthful. We are saying with a smile, yes its ok I’ll do that, go there, help you with that, but looking deeply you are not giving with love from your heart but giving against your will due to social economics and politics.
Giving truthfully is when we give from our heart, we give with love, unconditionally, we give because we are moved to give without any expectation of getting something in return. This can be giving in the form of material things, time, energy, listening. If we cannot give what someone else needs we can explain this to them; they may not understand, they may feel hurt, but actually we are giving the gift of love and honesty in setting the boundary that is truthful to ourselves. In my experience when I have managed to formulate myself and set a loving honest boundary it has been met with more understanding and appreciation than I would have ever imagined. Playing games and making excuses to get out of doing things is what causes pain, doing things when it is not coming from your heart also causes pain; when it isn’t authentic and from the heart we do things with bad grace; however big the smile on our face and however convincing we are to say we are doing what we want the underlying lie is still there. My smile and convincing words even had the wool pulled over my own eyes all these years, knowing what is authentic for ourselves isn’t always as easy to spot as we might think.
I’m grateful to my tiredness for teaching me in no uncertain terms what my truth is and what living authentically is for me. I feel like Pinocchio, every time he lies his nose grows. Every time I lie with my energy my tiredness puts me back to bed.
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