ADVANCED LOLLING ABOUT
I’m from a generation of women who grew up believing their worth was in what they produced. I remember a writer friend saying she felt judged by her family if they came in and found her lying on the couch. “I’m writing in my head,” she explained. But why did she need to justify the appearance of lolling about?
When I did the interviews for Smart Women and my book Chronic Challenge, I noticed a recurring pattern. The women entrepreneurs put everything ahead of their wellbeing. The people with invisible diseases did as well. The only way they could justify taking the down time they needed to re-create and rest was under a physicians order to do so. They literally made themselves sick so they could justify what they considered lolling about.
There is a school of thought that women’s menses is nature’s way of giving them downtime. I haven’t quite bought into the theory, as my parents never allowed me to test it. They expected me to perform at 100 % no matter what ailed me. Suck it up and get the job done was my Dad’s motto.
My lolling about began as lying about when illness made functioning normally impossible. My hospital bed formed my world, and when I returned home, lying about was all I could handle. Nobody expected me to leap up and produce. I got a pass.
Living with a chronic disease, I learned the life-saving skill of listening to my body. Until I mastered letting my inner voice dictate my needs, I pushed past my limits many times and paid for not listening with a major setback. Being productive proved greater motivation than good health. I jumped back on the treadmill and ran until I slid off backward and landed on my butt — that being my payback for not listening.
More frequently, I recognized the damage incurred when I forgot the script lines. I heard the whispered cues reminding me, “back off and rest.” Once I started remembering my lines, I found a balance between meeting my need for productivity against harnessing my energy, so I didn’t run out. Taking an afternoon nap became acceptable — to me. I was the only one judging.
Occasionally, in a low energy period I took a day off, did whatever I wanted. I occupied myself with what felt right in that moment and moved from making a puzzle, to reading, or watching TV, maybe going for a walk. Over time spending a day this way became acceptable, even preferable as I felt the benefit in improved health of body, mind and spirit.
As I am just energy within this mortal form, of course my energy level ebbs and flows depending on how much I put out. A battery used long enough must be re-charged. The sensible thing, then, is topping up my battery before it runs dry. Lolling about is the way I power up.
I am now at the point where I take the day without justifying it is good for my health. I loll about because it gives me pleasure. There is a freedom in enjoying whatever occupation I choose in that moment. I do have one rule when I give myself the gift of a day or a few free hours. If I take it, I must relish it fully. I can’t fall back on feeling guilty, chide myself for being lazy, judge myself as wasting time. Incapacitating illness taught me time is precious. Use it well. Fill it with joy.
My friend called the other day and expressed guilt that she’d given herself the morning off, when a huge project glared in unfinished rancour from her desk. She used the time to nurture herself, but received no enjoyment from doing light housework, taking a walk, having a meal, because her inner judge kept telling her she should be working. “I’m really good at lolling about,” I told her. “It comes with practice and it feels great! I have an advanced degree.” I hope she signs up for an online course.